Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Priyanka Chopra, Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lambert Wilson, Jessica Henwick, Toby Onwumere
Director: Lana Wachowski
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Arriving on our screens a little under two decades after Revolutions (2003), which ended with the death of Neo and Trinity, The Matrix Resurrections not only revives the two beloved characters but also delivers new avatars of Morpheus and Agent Smith and, steeped in a heightened sense of what 1999’s The Matrix stood for, seeks to extend the legacy. Does the leap work? It does regardless of a misstep here and a wobble there.
The Matrix Resurrections, directed by Lana Wachowski from a screenplay written by her with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon, is a straggling, overreaching, complex, explosive and sometimes befuddling sci-fi adventure epic that bids fair to heal a world on edge. Is that even possible given all the techno-babble at the heart of the film? The Matrix mayhem still yields insights that are not to be trifled with.
The return of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who are trapped in a pod in the Anomaleum by a new enemy driven by the malevolent aim of bringing humanity to its knees, to the thick of the action (both in the actual world and in the simulated reality of the Matrix) is a sort of salve for the wounds that humanity has sustained in the time that has elapsed since the first film of the Matrix trilogy was born. It looks for hope and renewal in the Neo-Trinity reunion amid growing fear and despair.
In the first quarter of the 150-minute film, Neo is prescribed the blue pill by his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris). Soon thereafter, a new version of Morpheus, who has to reckon with his own set of challenges as he attempts to rediscover the purpose of his existence, offers him the red pill, which throws the Matrix open once again for Neo.
Reeves and Moss are still as well equipped as ever for the job at hand and the chemistry between the two (the actors and the characters) continues to be of the highest order as love and longing draw them back to each other amid an evil conspiracy to manipulate the energy that their magnetic pull is capable of generating.
Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff) have new faces and bodies. The explanation for the change they have undergone is embedded in the plot although it isn’t ever staring us in the face. Indeed, there is nothing in The Matrix Resurrections that is obvious, which necessitates unceasing information dumps, some of which tend to get in the way of the unalloyed enjoyment that the superb action sequences and the emotions stemming from nostalgia offer at the surface level.
Talking of change, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) is now a wizened woman behind prosthetic wrinkles. It is six decades in the real world since the last Machine War. Zion, the last human city, has been wiped off the face of the universe. It has been replaced by Io, a city with a simulated sky. Is General Niobe battle-ready to mastermind another foray against the Machines (some have defected to the human side and aren’t adversaries anymore) and the bots?
She does indicate that she isn’t all that hopeful. “We thought a world without war was possible,” she says to Neo. Another denizen of Io rues: “We wanted to be free, but now it is different; we gave up. But is that really the end of the rebellion?
Fans of the Matrix franchise may have felt that Neo’s story was well and truly over. He is now is only Thomas Anderson, a game developer who is back to doing what he is famous for. But stories, as somebody points out to Tom, never really end. The Matrix Resurrections is proof of that. The sequel has all the ingredients that makes the exercise consistently intriguing and entertaining.
For Matrix enthusiasts in India, the new film has Priyanka Chopra Jonas in the guise of Sati (who was played in Revolutions by Tanveer K. Atwal). She gives a solid account of herself in a role that makes an impact despite its limited length. The character, who has every reason to throw her lot with the rebels, guides Bugs (Jessica Henwick), the captain of the Mnemosyne, and her team led by the operator Sequoia (Toby Onwumere), to mount a sortie to reunite Neo and Trinity.
The emotional traction inherent in the café scene in which Neo meets Tiffany/Trinity is unmistakable. They do not recognise each other but the instant affinity that they feel powers the rest of the mind-bending story as the two struggle to regain freedom and the power of flight (here, there is a nice little twist in the climax that changes the game substantially and promises to be an altered launchpad for future instalments of the story if they are at all in the works!).
The times have changed – the fact is underscored by more than one character, including the febrile Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), who gives Neo a mouthful and, in the guise of what sounds like outright gabble, laments that books, films and art were much better back in the time that he surfaced in the second part of the Matrix trilogy. He isn’t far off the mark.
In a way, the Analyst, too, defines what is wrong with the times that we live in. People are willing to “believe the craziest shit”, he says. In its own mega meta-ness, The Matrix Resurrections has one character claim that reboots sell and another theorises that the Matrix worked because it ‘effed’ with the minds of people.
The imprisonment of minds and the loss of the collective ability to discern between reality and fiction is complete in an era in which algorithms have free human will. The fight to break away from mass manipulation has, therefore, never been more urgent. It seems unlikely that fans will stop hoping that Neo and Trinity will keep going. It wouldn’t be surprising either if they demand more from Morpheus, Bugs and, perhaps, Sati too. Wouldn’t that be worth the wait?