This has probably been one of the hardest films I have chosen to review and it after seeing it on its release I needed to time to process the experience because it left me feeling in a way, I honestly had not expected nor imagined I would feel. I had many questions heading into this film and somewhere answered and some were not. The problem for me is that some of those answers left me asking one question after I had seen The Matrix: Resurrections.
That question sadly is “Why did I not just see Spider-Man: No Way Home for a second time instead?” and it is one I am still asking now two weeks after seeing The Matrix: Resurrections. I did not enjoy this film and going by social media that is a feeling shared by far more than those who did enjoy the film. When it was announced that the series was being brought back after the original trilogy was resolved which left many fans either satisfied or disappointed. Now 20 years since The Matrix Revolutions closed that trilogy, I was intrigued to see how this universe could be refreshed for a whole new generation because I always felt it could as a fan of the original films, the video games and the animation and books that followed the story of The Matrix.
So, for me the question was never “why we had a new Matrix film on the big screen” but more how it would come back and how the original story could move forward enough to make it work in 2021. Naturally it also had to answer how it has brought back two main characters who died at the end of the last film with both Neo and Trinity shown in the trailers alive and well but back in the Matrix once more. To be fair to the story, their return was not only explained and justified but it made a lot of sense but the cost of it sadly led to why this film just threw me completely out of any immersion and left me not just disappointed but a little angry too.
That anger came in the form of the self-awareness that either made you wink back at the obvious attempt of the writing to acknowledge the criticisms of the original films or if like me, cringe in your seat and eyeroll for a good portion of the film. Being “Meta” is not always a bad thing especially in a film series based on enslaving humanity by making them believe the digital world their minds are in is the real world but here it just went so far past the “on the nose” limit for me personally. I can accept that Neo, now back to being Thomas Anderson has been made to believe that he is a video game designer responsible for creating The Matrix trilogy of games whilst believing he is still recovering from a mental breakdown where he believed The Matrix was real….like I said, you do give them some rope on this one. But where I had to draw the line was the moment, they mentioned Warner Brothers who wanted to make money from having a new Matrix Trilogy of games and Anderson being forced to work on them because “they will make them without you” anyway.
I was immediately thrown out of the story and the all the nods to what folks complained about with the original films just stuck out far too much to be able to get back into the story and highlighted all the elements of this new film that failed to work for me as well. Maybe it was a mistake to rewatch the original films before seeing Resurrections and remembering what I did love about them because I was made to feel stupid for doing so thanks to the film mocking “bullet time” on more than one occasion and the part of the film and story where this could all be allowed, as Anderson’s “Game developer team” discuss the original “games” with most of the winking to the audience taking place here, just carried on far too much.
There was also no wow factor to any of the fight scenes, and having watched this in IMAX 2D, none of it just blew me away as it had done previously and certainly not helped by the change in filming style of quick cuts instead of long set pieces for the action which though the fights are not boring, they just left me rather flat as did the musical score that just lacks what the original films in the series had. The story itself comes down to the love between Neo and Trinity more than anything else, though it has a twist to the end that you can see coming from the halfway point in the film, and for all the story does explain there are still elements clearly left hanging to justify another sequel.
Despite not really enjoying nearly three quarters of the film, it does have some redeeming elements such as the new cast which certainly refreshes the character line up. Neil Patrick Harris is just superb in his role as The Analyst, the therapist working with Thomas Anderson, and he has a great sinister edge to his performance that leaves waiting to see what this character’s next move will be. Jonathon Groff as a returning Smith with a new look which isn’t explains satisfactory was a return, I felt was not necessary, whilst Groff brings a new take on the character, the story featuring Smith once again just fell flat for the most part. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as “Morpheus” for me is the weakest element just as having a returning Smith, having a “Morpheus” back just for the sake of having a constant reminder of the original character but not being the original character, it just does not work for the story makes it perfectly obvious that Neo only needs Trinity so by the end of the film, new Morpheus is forgettable.
The highlight is most definitely Jessica Henwick, who many may recognize from Colleen Wing from Netflix’s Iron Fist show in the role of Bugs, and her action scenes and introduction to the universe is absolutely the best part of Resurrections and gives me hope that the, should there be one, next Matrix film and story may work far better than this mess of exposition and recreating an origin story for two characters in Neo and Trinity that already served their purpose. This is a story that spends too much time passing commentary on the reception of the first films as well as trying to be so meta and self-aware of how bringing the film series back after so long will have fans reacting to it.
Overall there is enough that should this be the start of a new trilogy of Matrix films that the issues with this reintroduction could be fixed and a focus on new characters to drive the story could produce something good for fans but Resurrections has too many failings to justify a recommendation to go to the cinema and pay ticket prices to see it rather than watching it on home on your streaming service of choice, US had the chance to see this on HBO Max for example. I came away not enjoying it as much as I hoped to, perhaps summed up by what felt like a middle finger salute to the post credit scene of MARVEL MCU films as well with a right at the end of the credits scene that was simply lifted from an unfunny scene earlier in the film with a very unfunny joke that neither teased what could be next or helped send those who waited and hoped for something more home happy.
So, the answer to my question of “Why did I not just see Spider-Man: No Way Home for a second time instead?” is simply….I wish I had.