The Matrix Resurrections reviewed: is the comeback a hit or not?

Keanu Reeves reprises his role as Neo in the long-awaited new Matrix film, The Matrix Resurrections.

The film is directed by Lana Wachowski, who helmed and wrote the previous Matrix movies with her sister Lilly.

The first Matrix film debuted in cinemas in 1999, followed by The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

The new instalment also features Priyanka Chopra-Jonas, as well as Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick and Christina Ricci.

As one of the most-anticipated releases of 2021, PA’s film critic Damon Smith delivers his verdict:

When Lana and Lilly Wachowski hardwired cinema audiences into The Matrix in 1999, the rush of blood to the head from “bullet time” was intoxicating.

They supercharged a hyperkinetic style of filmmaking that was pillaged relentlessly by pop culture.

The franchise suffered cardiac arrest with the bamboozling second chapter, The Matrix Reloaded, then flatlined a few months later in 2003 with the tortuous conclusion The Matrix Revolutions.

Contrary to its promising title, The Matrix Resurrections turns off life support and unplugs itself at the mains, reuniting principal cast members Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss for a nonsensical and nostalgic exercise in chest-puffing self-aggrandisement.

A blitzkrieg of old footage nods and winks at an art-imitating-life-imitating-art conceit that invites one character to verbally reference “our beloved parent company Warner Bros” and another to exit limply from the fray with the sign-off “This is not over. I will see you in a franchise spin-off.”

If box office takings are brisk, I fear their threat may be prophetic rather than pathetic.

Action packed

Directed solely by Lana, the fourth picture has a dongle wedged so far up its USB port that it fails to realise the only people laughing at the in-jokes are on screen.

Action sequences are breathlessly choreographed, recycling key motifs including bullet casings tumbling in slow motion, but a night-time car chase fails its MOT and looks strikingly similar to the zombified automotive carnage in South Korean horror sequel Train To Busan Presents: Peninsula.

The plot

If seeing is believing then Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is now an award-winning designer of The Matrix video game trilogy.

Based in San Francisco at the company he co-owns with business partner Smith (Jonathan Groff), Thomas makes regular visits to a kindly therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) after a failed suicide bid and blithely swallows prescribed blue pills to calm the voices in his head.

“Don’t make this film Keanu,” they mouth. Unheeded.

When a renegade operative called Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and a new iteration of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) persuade Thomas to pop a red pill, humanity’s saviour takes another tumble down the rabbit hole with a motorcycle enthusiast called Tiffany (Moss).

The verdict?

The Matrix Resurrections is too meta to matter beyond the curiosity value of Reeves and Moss, both in their fabulous 50s, defying gravity again in sunglasses and billowing trench coats.

Regrettably, they share insufficient screen time to rekindle molten screen chemistry while Abdul-Mateen II is a lacklustre substitute for Laurence Fishburne’s theatricality.

Henwick is a spunky if woefully underwritten addition.

At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, exiled program Sati asked the Oracle if they would ever see messianic Neo again after his self-sacrifice in Machine City.

“I suspect so, some day,” intoned the sage.

For once, I wish she was wrong.

The Matrix Resurrections will be in cinemas nationwide from December 22.