"Are you the one who hacked my modal?"
Only Keanu Reeves can make a line like that work. And The Matrix Resurrections is brimming with all the dorky cybersquawk you love from the original. Race with Neo and Morpheus (and a new pal, Octocles!) though the dangerous Fetus Fields to rescue Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from Anomalium! You can either throw up your hands and say, "What?" or you can plug in and enjoy the ride.
There's a good chance that your opinion of the Matrix trilogy mirrors mine, and goes like this: The 1999 original is one of those locked-in classics where everything hums, and feels more perfect each time you see it. The Matrix Reloaded bit off more than it could chew, but still has its share of extraordinary action sequences. But The Matrix Revolutions is an absolute catastrophe, a lumbering bore bogged down in pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook and endless CG fight scenes in which characters you don't care about fight dull robots.
If so, well, I have some good news. To get the most out of The Matrix Resurrections, it's worth rewatching the original three again on HBO Max. And when you do, the rotten taste in your mouth from Revolutions will make the latest picture seem all the more better. Everybody wins!
Luckily, even if you come the the new chapter with only vague memories, it's still an entertaining movie. Yes, it's still crammed with half-baked ideas that no amount of good-willed rationalizations can explain. But it's also got a sense of fun, wit, and adventure. It knows that an action movie can still be mind-expanding without ignoring its principle goal: to be entertaining.
There is a lot that's crammed into Resurrections' running time, and to summarize it all would be impossible. The key framing is that when we meet Neo again, he's back as office drone Thomas Anderson, only it is "now," not 1999. Turns out he's a game designer, slugging away on a new product called Binary, but he'll forever be known for his groundbreaking Matrix trilogy. And those games are what we in the audience remember as the movies.
His corporate overloads Warner Bros. intend to make an additional entry to the series whether he is involved or not (as was the case with actual Matrix co-creator Lana Wachowski) so he decides to get involved. That's when his already tenuous sense grip on reality begins to weaken.
Of course, he's actually living in fiction, and the real world, like last time, is one of hovering ships battling malevolent machines and computer programs. Anderson/Neo dips in and out of realities, and realizes that he'll only win the day by tapping into the power that is true love. Neo needs his Trinity, and we need to see them zip around a dark city on a motorcycle (in cool outfits with sunglasses, naturally.)
These are incredibly broad strokes, and within each scene (when there isn't a chase or martial arts battle) there's still plenty of mind-scrambling talk about causality, theology, individualism, and all that other weird Matrix-y stuff. Since the original trilogy was released, the creators have since come out as transgender, and there is much in here about rejecting social constructs in the quest to present publicly in one's true form that will likely resonate with that audience. (Much of this has been coded in the text since the beginning, but it is more explicit now.)
While there's plenty to chew on in Resurrections, it still doesn't measure up against the first Matrix as a movie. In that picture, every frame really does look like like a comic book panel, and there's never a dull moment. That's not the case here. There's a dojo fight with the reborn Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) that just collapses when compared with the original opposite Laurence Fishburne. It simply doesn't snap together the same way.
Still, considering how poorly this project could have been (it's only got one Wachowski sibling involved) I think most will be pleased with the result. It's good to plug in again.
TV Guide rating: 3.5/5
The Matrix Resurrections premieres Wednesday on HBO Max and in theaters.