Smart Movie Review: ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ re-energizes a franchise

Published 8:00 am Sunday, January 16, 2022

By Ian Omar Smart | Guest Columnist

Now streaming on HBOMax, “The Matrix: Resurrections” re-energizes a long-dormant franchise with a radical reinvention that comments on its own legacy while giving you something completely new. 

The original Matrix film was a shock to the system of popular culture; completely upending what most thought was possible in a mainstream American action movie. The sequels (while less successful critically) continued this trend of pushing technology and action spectacle to the absolute limits. 

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All of that paired with a deep philosophical underpinning made those films singular and important despite the mixed reception near the end of that original trilogy. “Resurrections” finds Lana Wachowski, 22 years later (sans her sister Lilly), taking the bones of that franchise, breaking them, and mending them into something that favors her current attitudes on culture and her personal ethos on collaboration. 

Whereas the original matrix was something of a Rorschach test that reflected back at the viewer whatever meaning most spoke to them, Lana uses “Resurrections” to firmly orient this film’s story into one about love, connection and courage. The courage to fight expectations and fear to emerge as a person capable of being your complete self with the person you love. That’s who the Wachowskis are; women who push the boundaries of their stories beyond what most audiences seem to want these days.

“Resurrections” begins with a semi-recreation of the opening of the first film that is being observed by new character BUGS (“as in Bunny”), played by Jessica Henwick. What follows is her disrupting this recreation and rerouting the scenario in an entirely new direction. 

This opening teaches viewers how to engage with this new “resurrection;” take something the audience recognizes, place an unknown variable inside of it and transform the entire story into something new. What follows is a self-referential story involving Neo (Keanu Reeves) attempting to determine reality from fiction. With the help of a “new” Morpheus (played by Yahya Abdul Mateen II), Bugs helps Neo find his footing and escape the matrix. Afterward, they plot to rescue Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) Neo’s true love, still trapped inside. 

The story of “Resurrections” is fairly straightforward, but the execution is what sets it apart. The look and action is drastically different from the game-changing set-pieces of the original. Photographically more vibrant and digital, the action more choppy and tactile. The forward-thinking aspects of this film involve challenging mainstream story expectations and commenting on modern parameters of pop art. 

While the original Matrix Trilogy was about expanding the boundaries of what action cinema could convey, “Resurrections” acts as a critique of how narrow those boundaries have become. So much so, this film actively rebukes everything audiences assume a matrix film should be. Even the story’s resolution favors interpersonal triumphs over stopping world-ending threats.

Very few pieces of art grow with you and meet you where you are. Lana has taken this world that exploded my imagination as a child and centered it on issues of aging and partnership that is compelling to me as an adult. This film exudes sincerity and chaotic energy that had me vibrating in my seat. Check this out, and go in with an open mind. I absolutely love this movie, and with the right expectations going in, I believe everyone else will.

Ian Omar Smart is a graduate of Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University with a degree in architecture. When he’s not drawing buildings, he’s probably at the movies. Smart can be contacted at isiansmart@gmail.com.