Director: Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jessica Henwick & Priyanka Chopra Jones.
Review by Damocles
Red pill or blue pill? I’m going blue, because I wished this film never existed and I was happy in that world where it never came out.
I’ve seen my fair share of “artsy” films. Most of them are French, because only they seem arrogant, pretentious and talented enough to pull it off. They make strange films that take you along for a ride, with gorgeous visuals of the European coastline and cities and strange dialogue that is both whimsical as it is poignant.
However, the difference with these films, and something like the Matrix Resurrections, is that you can tell they are thought experiments. They’re not designed to break box office records, but give you a different experience and perhaps dazzle with the filmmaker’s mastery of the cinematic language, whilst saying absolutely nothing at all.
But when you have a franchise as unique and ground-breaking as The Matrix, you need to come in with different sensibilities. The first film married high sci-fi concepts, novel film-making techniques and classic Hong Kong martial arts in a highly enjoyable package.
The sequels were evidence of diminishing returns, perhaps a sign of things to come with this latest film, considering the concepts only got more and more philosophical, whilst failing to provide any meaningful answers.
In Matrix Resurrections, there are simultaneously too much going on and too little. There are a lot of intriguing concepts, as there are normally in a lot of bad films, but just like a B-movie, they don’t bother expanding or explore those ideas.
Perhaps the worst sin that this Matrix film performs, is the constant callback to the previous films in the franchise. Footage plays constantly from previous films, whether in the flashback format or to accentuate what is going on currently.
Beyond being very distracting and disorienting, as these flashbacks only last blinding seconds, they also have this unwelcome effect of reminding just how much better those films were in comparison to the swill you are watching now.
Especially in the first two thirds of the film, the constant sense of deja vu elicited by seeing the familiar, only made a lot worse with cheap sets, costumes and poor aesthetic choices, made you question why did they even bother with making this film.
Dialogue is a particularly troublesome issue, with a lot of it being extremely unsubtle, ham-fisted, awkward and exposition heavy. It didn’t help the cause when a lot of the actors seem to be phoning it in, with so much of the delivery being flat, toneless and clunky, due to a strange lack of direction by Lana Wachowski.
In particular, the line about Warner Bros forcing a sequel to the trilogy, seemed like a strange protest, considering that the franchise was never high art, despite the visuals desperately trying to give that impression. Film-making, especially in Hollywood has always been a marriage between large corporations and artists. It is what makes the films over there unique, in comparison to the endless smaller fare of Europe, India or Asia.
Larger and more ambitious projects are allowed to be what they are, because a corporation agrees to the risk of financing it and creating a spectacle. For the film to protest against corpos, seems disingenuous to me, when they should be all too aware of the system and mechanism put in place to support such a film being created. After all, it is this unique situation of corporations investing … gambling, heavily in arts that makes Hollywood …. well, Hollywood.
So it is strange watching this hollow shell of a film, knowing that one of the original creators wrote, directed and was the creative force behind this film. So much of what defined the original trilogy is absent here.
The famous action sequences that once featured so much kung fu and gun-fu … is now neutered and flat, with gun-fights lacking any intensity and creativity, and kung-fu now being replaced by … Keanu’s jazz-hands.
Here you have, one of cinema’s greatest action stars, a veteran in the industry, a man who is committed to stunt training, choreography and has proven, even at his age, he can kick arse with the best of them and you make him do jazz-hands, sport the same look as his John Wick character, sans style and male grooming and rob him of any agency throughout the whole film.
To the action sequences were disappointing, would indicate that I expected them to be good. I didn’t and somehow I was still disappointed. Not even Shang-Chi let me down this hard when it came to action scenes and martial arts choreography.
Speaking of style, I struggled to find any in this film. What made the Matrix so undeniably cool was the strange BDSM-inspired outfits that emphasized sleek lines and the black and green tinge to the world. I thought the incorporation of today’s awful trend of wearing searingly bright colours did nothing to match the oppressive tone of what the Matrix was supposed to represent.
For example, the agents have always been defined by their plain, anonymous suits, accentuated by sharp sunglasses. In contrast, Trinity’s sleek, leather outfit causes her to stand out yet blend in with her environments. Neo’s long coat showcases a humility and monk-like approach to his title as The One. Morpheus’ style is old-school, a representation of an aging fighter, just still powerful and mentorly. His long coat, unique sunglasses, vest and tie shows that he still treats his role like a job but still showcases his individuality from the ones who haven’t seen the real world.
In this film, Smith wears bright, fashionable clothes. Morpheus is always bedecked in colour, from head to toe. Jessica Henwick’s character has blue hair. The Matrix outfits worn by the secondary characters are just more or less modern trends that tend to violate fashion styles instead of adhere to them.
There is nothing to differentiate these people from each other. What they wear in the Matrix is the same as the people who are still asleep in the Matrix. What make these people different?
It is these small details that doesn’t add substance to the poor plot. Neo as a game designer, creating a trilogy of games that emulated the events of the first three movies? Struggling with mental issues, thus warranting an awful insertion of the White Rabbit song? It’s all desperately trying to be creative whilst recycling the greatest hits of the first film.
There are many cringe-worthy moments, from the game development sequence, to the performance of Neil Patrick Harris as the big bad. All of it, in service of a film whose plot meanders constantly, doesn’t have a good flow in between scenes and do away with big changes in the world through clunky dialogue.
Worse, the cinematography doesn’t do anything. We live in an age of Dune & Blade Runner 2049 which pushes the envelope of reality when it comes to CGI. Here, the CG is as equally ear searing as the costumes worn by the characters and look so cheap compared to the original film. How could a franchise that developed and pushed the envelope of CGI, fall into the same trap that so many other film-makers do constantly … use CGI as a crutch instead of a means to tell a story.
I need only look at the random inclusion of a Tokyo train to hate on this film. Nothing about the set nor the CG backdrop is convincing. Everything has a cheaper feel to it, and it shows on camera, especially when the cinematographer is not really trying. Gone are the steady camera that defined the HK action cinema. Now it has been replaced with quick-cutting, blurry footage that shows how lazy the choreography is and the poor CG effects.
Such a shame.
So if characters are horrible, cinematography bland, plot confusing and bland, and the costumes are ick … how about the music?
To sum up in one word: non-existant.
Nothing about the score is in my mind. Not a single note, melody or hum. I cannot remember any of it. Was there even a score? Where was the iconic electronic score that used to punctuate every action scene? Who even made the score? I got no idea, nor do I care. It was that blended, that invisible that I don’t think it ever existed.
On all levels, Matrix Resurrections fails to engage. It never delves deep enough into the rabbit hole it has created to explore its’ theme and story beats, and so much of its execution is lacklustre.
When are people going to learn to leave a franchise with a conclusive ending alone?
Why chance a loss a the box office for mediocrity?
Enough with the things we know, it’s time for the unknown.
A scene to recall: Was I blinded by gunfire sparks? Yes. Was I also blinded by Jessica Henwick’s blue hair? Yes. But only a second, because … there was nothing in this film. Absolutely nothing.
THE CRAP LIST (SPOILERS AHEAD!)
This list seems to be a recurring phenomena when I discuss bad films, so from now they shall be referred to as the Crap List. Spoilers will be everywhere and will categorise all the personal gripes and issues I’ve had with the film.
- To start the film in the same way as the original, but with a lot less atmosphere and flair already puts a sour taste in my mouth.
- The scene is very confusing to start with, and only ends with more confusion as characters throw around terms that have no explanation nor any obvious connotations. What the hell is a Modal? Why is Trinity played by someone else? What happened to that Trinity anyway?
- Why are the Agents so lame? They don’t do anything in the film …. gone is the menace. If they have been replaced by this “swarm” mode … what is the point?
- I thought humans were batteries for the machines, so why would the Matrix waste their batteries with a “swarm” mode? Seems a bit superfluous innit?
- If the Matrix can just fucking resurrect human beings … you would think their technology wouldn’t need human batteries anymore.
- Bugs, as a name … isn’t very good. Neither is Bunny, but then … why would you name your main character, the audience’s eyes and surrogate after a cartoon character. I would find it difficult to salute a Captain “Bugs”
- Morpheus as a fucking Agent does not make any goddamn sense at all. Why introduce him as one, only to have him, minutes later, turn into a good guy? It would have been fun to see an evil Morpheus take on the of Neo and Trinity, as a spin on the original formula.
- Do people just carry goddamn blue and red pill everywhere? They just seem to whip them out whenever its convenient.
- I’m a big gun nerd, so to see Bugs whip out a pistol, empty it … note that the slide is locked to the rear … then release the slide and then aim at Morpheus … as if it was loaded …. confused the shit out of me.
- For so much gunfire at the beginning, it sure as shit seems like no-one can hit anything at fucking 5 metres away. You would think Agents with superior programming can hit something …. and multiple AR-15s firing at 600 rounds per second.
- The idea of doors opening everywhere isn’t very …. interesting. It only makes things more confusing.
- I did not understand a single word between Morpheus and Bugs. Their conversation was nonsensical.
- I felt that Neo’s introductory shot should have been either more heroic or more depressing. It was smack bang in the middle, which is something I dislike. As the hero of the story, he deserves more than that. The first look at a character should always make a strong impact.
- Smith …. Smith … Smith … what a shitshow. A parody of a legendary performance by Hugo Weaving and I disliked immensely how casual he sounded when addressing Neo. “Tom” this, “Tom” that … he’s meant to be robotic, machine-like … there shouldn’t be any human traits to him. You take one look at his ridiculously modern outfit with his loafers, burgundy colours and slick style and he seems more human than Neo.
- Morpheus … Dorpheus … Orpheus … Seashells by the Seahorpheus …. Hannibal Burress was a better depiction of the legendary character than the character seen in this movie. It wasn’t even necessary to make these 2 characters the same as the original.
- The game designer element of Neo was strange. It didn’t really go anywhere nor add anything interesting.
- The game company’s aesthetic is something that I fear, on a deep personal level. I hate all those garish colours and bizarre choices that are synonymous with contemporary tech companies like Facebook or Google. The forced nature of these bright colours is so hypocritical and false and when I saw it, in the film, an irrational fear overtook me.
- Equally terrifying was the depiction of the Matrix’s sequel game development group. Their buzz words and brainstorming elicited an equally terrifying reaction from me. I will never work in the corporate world if there is anything like this in reality.
- The therapist played by Neil Patrick Harris was a bizarre choice for a villain. His blue glasses were annoying, as was his overall demeanor. I felt like there were too many villains in this film and did the main one REALLY HAVE TO BE THE ONE WITH THE CAT????? Look what you did to Mr, Bigglesworth!
- I don’t think I have cringed and hated a scene as much as I did, when I saw the recreation of the iconic blue/red pill scene in a dark-lit, stormy room with a mirror. The sheer pretentiousness and artsy presentation of the set was enough to make my skin crawl. To have Neo walk between curtains playing the scene from the original movie, being projected onto them, was so distasteful. It was so bizarrely fourth-wall breaking and modern art that I think I reflexively tried to banish it out of my mind.
- We REALLY keep retreading same old material here, don’t we? Another unplugged moment, only a lot less interesting because it’s the same thing done twice.
- The reveal of IO was done rather poorly. In addition did they really just chop off “Z” and “N” off Zion to give this new place a name? Was there any real reason why we couldn’t go to Zion?
- At any point, were the real humans in danger? I didn’t recall any scenes explaining why they had to hide and scurry away from the Machines.
- Strawberries …. filmmakers’ favourite fruit after fucking apples. I hate this cliche.
- ROBOTS are helping humans now and these weird magnetic projections. You could have chosen to film that part, where machines and humanity fought and an easy peace was established. Just like Terminator Salvation (2009). It could have been great. Interesting. But instead we get a lame flashback and an exposition dump. To quote David Lynch and a million others: What the hell?!!? ….
- So they just bust outta Io, that easy huh? Great security for a place that is supposed to be hidden. Also great job still allowing a mutinous crew access to their bloody ship. Slow clap. Slow … fucking … clap.
- ANOTHER poorly filmed fight scene, only this time they bought another character from the archive and made him shit … again! The Merovingian deserved better than this.
- The callback to the original fight between Smith and Neo is amazingly forgettable due to poor camera work and well … it’s the same shit but dressed in a clown outfit.
- The atrocious overuse of bullet time/slow-mo looked awful. NPH’s smugness made me laugh more than anything else.
- Swarm mode …. reminded me more of the F8’s zombie cars and that wasn’t good. It was bad in F8 … it was worse in Matrix. Also, it completely nullifies the concept of Agents so why have them in the movie? It would have been more intriguing to see this bot swarm attack faux-Trinity and Bugs at the very beginning.
- I still cannot believe that the whole movie boils down to Neo wanting his old flame back …. why the hell would the other characters help him for that? There’s no promise of a better world with Trinity back …
- It’s amazing that film-makers these day still rely on aging old actors to carry a film … and simultaneously rob them of any agency and magic that made them special, thus creating a shit sandwich.
- Where did this Indian chick come from and why do I not care anymore …
- Also her plot to get Trinity back is needlessly convoluted.
- The finale …. held in the coffee shop was meant to be symbolic. I thought it looked fucking cheap and weird with so many people in it.
- You call THAT a fight scene!?!?
- Oh God …. Smith’s entrance to rebel against the Analyst was so lame.
- What is with the finale …. just a lame getaway to a roof top!?!!? Also, if this swarm mode was that vicious there would be people throwing themselves at the pair all the way to the top.
- Trinity being the one to fly … was just uninspired.
- I hate this ending. Their costumes look cheap, shit and bland. Their lines are equally terrible.
- Rainbows …. Fucking Rainbows.
- My final thoughts: I can’t believe critics are praising this film. Please stop being pretentious and buying into this Warhol mentality of “trash = genius.” If you make something intentionally craaaap guess what? IT’S STILL FUCKING CRAP. THERE’S NOTHING GOOD ABOUT IT. Do you want to intentionally poop? Do you think a pile of shit is popular because it’s surrounded by flies? Intentionally making something bad isn’t something to be lauded over … it’s to be shamed. It’s the equivalent of public defecation. Lock them in a brig and shame them forever.
- Fucking nihilists these days man. Depreciating art with their crap attitudes and praising stupid decisions.
- Crap is crap. Stop giving the Wachowskis money to make movies. They’re terrible directors.
- I can’t believe this was the last movie I watched for 2021. A shit film to end a shit year. Poetic, really.