The Matrix Resurrections review: After an 18-year gap, it's time to get red-pilled again
All that's old is Neo again. But before we dive back into Matrix mythology for this belated-but-welcome sequel, it's worth recalling what a lumbering mastodon the sci-fi-action genre had become by the late-1990s: Phantom Menace dullness and two killer-asteroid movies. In its moment, 1999's The Matrix vibrated with ideas, not merely "bullet time" but internet paranoia, hacker fashion, and (whoa) kung fu. Even if the movie's two sequels cribbed too much from the messianic-hero playbook, the good work was done.
Less one Wachowski (Lana directs while Lilly steps away), The Matrix Resurrections could never be as radical as the original. But credit a meta screenplay by Wachowski, David Mitchell, and Aleksandar Hemon for finding an inspired way in: Today's Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) — older, salt-and-pepper-bearded, and lent the extra indignity of lanky Belushi hair — mopes in his San Francisco office, a game designer past his prime. His corporate overlords (Warner Bros., showing good humor) want a sequel to his classic Matrix trilogy.
Already we know something's off, even as the clues pile up: Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic "White Rabbit" on the soundtrack; a smarmy therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) prescribing blue pills for anxiety; flirty looks from that cute mom in the Simulatte coffeehouse, Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss, just as fierce two decades on). Soon enough, another dapper Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) strolls out of a stall in the company bathroom and we're zooming into — out of? — a different reality.
It's a do-over without a full share of wonderment, but still a lot of fun. Wachowski retains a singular eye for shiny plasticity and sharp edits, even if you miss the verbal tartness of OG cast member Hugo Weaving (Hamilton's bitchy King George, Jonathan Groff, does what he can with a new antagonist). And like many of today's epics, there's an expositional sag in the middle.
But Resurrections does eclipse its predecessors for full-on, kick-you-in-the-heart romance: Reeves and Moss, comfortable with silences, lean into an adult intimacy, so rare in blockbusters, that's more thrilling than any roof jump (though those are pretty terrific too). Their motorbiking through an exploding city, one of them clutching the other, could be the most defiantly sexy scene of a young year. B+