The Matrix: Resurrections (2021) Review: Few Revelations, Mostly Regurgitations

Arriving over 18 years after the last Matrix installment, The Matrix Resurrections is a film that’s determined to have its cake and eat it too…all while proclaiming that the cake is a lie.

This 4-D balancing act is admirable, but too contrived given the ultimately simplistic and rehashed ideas it delivers. In many ways, its core themes around balance and not thinking in binaries are already present in the subtext of The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. It just replaces the indulgent sincerity with sardonic self-deprecation – a tonal shift that undermines the series.

If the original film gave the finger to the establishment and resolved to obliterate it, the sequels tempered its young angst and gave space to the notion that there could be such a thing as peaceful co-existence. It’s hard to see how The Matrix Resurrections meaningfully expands on this idea. If anything, it just recontextualizes it in a much more “meta” way, adding real-world baggage around the film coming into existence. While some may feel this adds to the fun, it often feels like a cheap way to curry favor from the audience.

The finger is squarely pointed at the audience this time

Many critics are applauding its self-awareness as something novel. Films like 22 Jump Street (2014) had more fun being meta and never bordered on self-loathing. What’s worse is that many are excusing even its objective faults under the guise of “irony”. The most glaring example is the action scenes, which are downright bad. They’re lazy, blocked sloppily, and shot haphazardly. It’s the antithesis of The Matrix. While subverting what we expect around an action movie could be captivating, doing a shitty version of one isn’t the way to do it.

Part of what made The Matrix (1999) mermerizing was that it took itself entirely too seriously. It channeled its teen angst into starry-eyed zeal. It’s not unlike Star Wars in that regard – it requires ultimate conviction to fully register. It’s silly at its core and trying to be in on the joke only makes it the butt of one. The Last Jedi (2017) made similar misteps and undermined itself in the process.

The Matrix Resurrections replaces that necessary conviction with awkward bashfulness. Ironically, if it spent more time developing its ideas and less time apologizing for itself, it would ultimately have a lot less to apologize for. Because sometimes it’s ok to play it straight, particularly if the ideas are strong enough. Because aren’t those the types of movies worth living for? Aren’t those the types of movies worth waiting for?