The Matrix Resurrections

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The Matrix was the coolest thing around in 1999. Its reputation took a massive hit, thanks to two subpar sequels that were panned by critics and dismissed by audiences, save for the most hardcore fans. Perhaps recognizing that only the devoted really care at this point, director Lana Wachowski has made The Matrix Resurrections, a movie that can be appreciated – and, more importantly, understood – solely by people with a deep, bordering-on-obsessive knowledge of The Matrix.

Things start off promisingly. Keanu Reeves returns as Thomas Anderson, the world's most famous video game designer, known for a popular series called, appropriately, The Matrix. His business partner, Smith (Jonathan Groff), tells him that Warner Bros. is demanding a fourth installment to the trilogy. (Warner Bros. produced the Matrix movies, so you can feel the meta approach kicking in here.) Anderson is a little hesitant. Then he meets a woman in a coffee shop. She is Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss). The two sense that they've met before, that there's some connection between them. He begins trying to make sense of the weird feelings he's getting, with the help of his psychiatrist (Neil Patrick Harris).

I cannot describe what occurs next. The Matrix Resurrections is roughly 80% exposition telling you what's going on, and I still didn't understand a damn thing that was happening in this movie. A version of Morpheus is back to see Anderson; he's played by Candyman's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II rather than Laurence Fishburne. Anderson is also visited by Bugs (Jessica Henwick), a young woman who seems to be studying the Matrix, or looking for patterns in it, or something. She pulls him back in, leading to an effort to save Trinity (a.k.a. Tiffany) from whatever danger she's supposed to be in.

If you have not seen the three previous Matrix pictures, or if you do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of them, The Matrix Resurrections will make zero sense. Literally everything here depends on a thorough comprehension of the mythology the franchise has laid out. That makes it inaccessible to casual viewers and newcomers. Wachowski and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon could have done much more to recap for audience members who haven't devoted their lives to studying the tiniest milieu of this fictional world.

Even if you find the movie impenetrable, it's clear that the story simply doesn't work dramatically anyway. The majority of scenes are about bringing back an element from the previous chapters, then explaining in elaborate detail how they tie into this chapter. When virtually the entire running time is spent on exposition, little opportunity exists to create suspense. Sequence after sequence is, "Look, here's a thing you'll remember, and now we'll spend five minutes telling you why it's important today." This isn't a story, it's a recitation of Matrix lore.

Surprisingly, the action is disappointing, too. We've already seen "bullet time" and characters running up walls while firing guns. Not much new is included. And because the plot is so weak, the stakes during the action scenes feel lower than they should. Being able to follow the events transpiring onscreen is essential in generating tension. Only the visual effects impress. They're pretty amazing, making the picture nice to look at, if nothing else.

People who are obsessed with The Matrix may well love The Matrix Resurrections, due to its non-stop self-referencing. If you aren't in that category, do yourself a favor and avoid two-and-a-half hours of soul-crushing boredom and confusion by seeing a different film instead.

out of four

The Matrix Resurrections is rated R for violence and some language. The running time is 2 hours and 28 minutes.