‘The Matrix Resurrections’ is a worthy trip to familiar spaces

Eighteen years after the last installment of the original ‘Matrix’ trilogy surfaced, Neo and Co. return to the big (and small) screen

Brad Keefe
"The Matrix Resurrections"

Once more down the rabbit hole, right?

It’s been 18 years since the conclusion of “The Matrix” trilogy, and a few more since the original felt so revelatory. The distant memory of the “whoa” moments in the first film are still foggy. Remember the goosebumps that Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” brought at the end credits?

The sequels brought a fuller vision of the imagined world and plenty of bloat. It was a wild ride, but not one I’ve had much desire to revisit since.

“The Matrix Resurrections” is a journey through the good and bad, alternately thrilling and nostalgic, gleefully self-aware until it’s not. “Resurrections” plays off our own memories of the original, rehashing a famous scene from a new angle and under a new(ish) light.

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In this world, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is the developer of a hugely popular video game trilogy under pressure to deliver a fourth installment. Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) is a mother of three who meets Mr. Anderson (ahem) in a coffee shop with a moment of “don’t I know you?” deja vu.

We know they’re Neo and Trinity, even if they don’t.

We also know we’re going to once again explore whether our reality is a mental construct, whether free will is an illusion and whether you can reinvent the action sequence in fresh ways.

Director Lana Wachowski does seem to be having a genuine blast returning to the world she and her sister created decades ago. And the first 45 minutes had me just as enthralled with a fresh, winking take on the source material.

The winking meta-ness of the video game sequel construct makes for sharp satire on the film industry, gleefully playing with an audience that has seen these tricks before and knows at any moment Wachowski will pull the rug of “reality” out from under us.

The sheer nostalgia of seeing Reeves and Moss on screen together again is a delight, compounded by them meeting as strangers. But just as we’re reminded of what made the original trilogy good, we get an equal dose of what made it… not good.

Clever to a fault, “Resurrections” again meanders into thinking it’s deeper than it is, even as it winks at admitting it can’t be as groundbreaking as the original. It is a neon-bathed feast for the eyes, even as it openly admits that it can’t reinvent the wheel it reinvented in the first place.

Series newcomers Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (a new version of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus) and Jessica Henwick bring fresh blood, both in what should be star-making turns. Keanu’s return is a bit less thrilling since he’s already had his “John Wick” renaissance. It’s Moss whose return is most welcome if underutilized.

But the cumbersome 150-minute runtime also recalls some of the bloat of the original trilogy, as does the philosophizing that feels less deep than it thinks it is. Like Joe Rogan, sometimes the movie opens its mind so wide its brains leak out.

All that said, it’s certainly fresh enough to warrant its existence, more fun and essential than either of the previous sequels, even as all of them chase the legacy of the original.

While my first impressions were mixed, it’s an easy enough pill to swallow, and reason enough to revisit the world of “The Matrix.” 

“The Matrix Resurrections”

Now playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max

3 stars out of 5