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Oh, boy. Here we go. The Matrix: Resurrections is basically The Last Jedi of Matrix movies. If you hated The Last Jedi, then you'll probably hate this for much the same reason. Similar to The Last Jedi, The Matrix Resurrections is all about the creative pressure to live up to toxic fandom expectations, and it's predicated on a twist that a lot of fans might consider to be "unfaithful" to the original trilogy.

Personally, I liked The Last Jedi much more than most. I think it's the best film in the sequel trilogy, even if it does make a lot of very hard missteps. And the stuff that I liked most about The Last Jedi happened to be the stuff that most other people were most offended by.

Despite the similarities, I doubt that The Matrix Resurrections will be received with the same level of vitriol as The Last Jedi was. For one, we've seen a lot of these sort of cynical deconstructions of fandoms and sequel expectations since The Last Jedi released, and so I think a lot of the public is desensitized to it now. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, The Matrix Resurrections doesn't commit as fully to its cynical view of the franchise. While that might appease many fans who just want to see another "Matrix" movie, it's probably the biggest reason that I felt disappointed by The Matrix Resurrections.

Personally, I enjoyed the first half of the movie, but was immensely disappointed with the second half.

The Matrix Resurrections - sad Keanu
© Warner Bros., 2020.
The Last Jedi - jaded Luke
© Disney, 2017.
The Matrix Resurrections reminded me a lot of The Last Jedi, but without the guts to commit to its polarizing twist.

This review will be pretty spoiler-y, as I will be talking about the plot twist. So consider yourself warned, and watch the movie before reading further if you don't want to have it spoiled. Though at this point, just telling you that there are spoilers at all is probably already a spoiler, so what's the point of the warning?

...

If you care enough to not be spoiled, have you watched the movie yet? If not, then I'm assuming you don't care. OK. Good. Let's continue.

...

First of all, why the hell didn't Warner Brothers call this "The Matrix: Rebooted". That would have been a perfect title with dual meanings that ties directly into the story being told, and pokes fun at the idea of the movie being a "soft reboot" of The Matrix franchise. Just like a computer can be rebooted, so is The Matrix simulation. Did Warner Brothers think it would be confused with "Reloaded"? Did they think it was too on the nose?

After being disappointed by the lame title, I was actually disappointed that Resurrections doesn't completely commit to the bait-and-switch.

All these reboots of 80's and 90's nostalgia franchises feel the same: put a bunch of half-baked original ideas in the first half, make some jabs at the corporate executives who keep milking these franchises dry, then spend the entire second half retelling the original, but rushed and not as good, and full of shmaltzy nostalgia crap. The Force Awakens, Jurassic World, Alien: Covenant, and both Ghostbusters reboots all did this. That's what I expected from The Matrix: Resurrections. And that's kind of what Resurrections is, except not really.

The Force Awakens
© Disney, 2015.
Jurassic World
© Universal Studios, 2015.
Alien: Covenant
© 20th Century Fox, 2017.
Will The Matrix continue the trend of soft reboots hurriedly rehashing the original movie in the 2nd half?

The first half of the movie is built upon a clever and surprising notion that the original Matrix trilogy is a work of fiction within this movie's fiction. Keanu Reeves' character is the creator of that fictional work who suffered severe mental illness as a result of the fame and notoriety that he received from it. He's now suffering another psychotic breakdown under the pressure of being forced by corporate overlords to create a sequel to that masterpiece that he considers "finished" and from which he wants to move onto new projects and ideas. He is broken, tired, depressed, and wants even less to do with The Matrix than Luke wanted to do with the Jedi in The Last Jedi.

Resurrections takes the "jabs at corporate executieves" that we've seen from other soft reboots of 80's and 90's franchises, and cranks it up to 11. This movie hates Hollywood executives, and it hates sequels, and it especially hates Warner Brothers. Like The Last Jedi, it also points a finger squarely at the audiences for our complicity in perpetuating these cycles of sequels and reboots of familiar properties. We keep saying we want new, original IPs, but we refuse to put our money where out mouths are, and instead keep giving money to these retreads of tired ideas. Of all the cynical nostalgia soft reboots, this one is by and far the most cynical and self-deprecating, but like, deliberately and smartly cynical and spiteful towards the studio; rather than being cynical in the sense that it feels like a soulless corporate cash grab.

I loved it.

The Matrix Resurrections - game pitch meeting
Copyright: Warner Bros., 2020.
I loved the cynical criticism of corporate overlords, and the stress they put on creators.

It also deviates from the typical formula by not simply redoing the original movie in place of having a second half for this movie. Instead, the second half of Matrix: Resurrections is kind of a "greatest hits" tour of both Reloaded and Revelations, yet it conveniently forgets about all the stuff in which the Matrix had already been reset dozens of times, and where Neo was given actual magic powers in the real world too.

But this is where Resurrections lost me. It backs off from its clever bait and switch and turns into just another Matrix movie again. All the pretense and thematic resonance of the first half falls away to reveal a dull, "rescue the damsel" story.

The original Matrix trilogy is loaded with philosophy and metaphysics. They ask serious questions about identity, free will, the nature of reality, and (with the gift of hindsight) threw in a poignant metaphor about coming out as trans-gender. The first half of Resurrections does these things. It asks questions about the nature of reality, identity, and free will, but this time from the completely different perspective of someone coping with psychotic mental illness.

The second half of Resurrections drops all of that. It's very simple and straight-forward. This would be fine if the action were good enough to get me over the finish line. But the action sequences just aren't that good. It could very well be that I'm desensitized to action scenes by 20 years of CGI-heavy comic book movies. The original Matrix was on the cutting edge of action choreography and special effects -- very much the Star Wars of my generation. Resurrections has far more tools available to it, but it comes off as lacking the imagination and creativity of the original trilogy.

The Matrix Resurrections - dull action
Copyright: Warner Bros., 2020.
I largely lost interest when it just turned into a "Matrix" movie again.

With underwhelming action, and all mystery and pretense gone, The Matrix Resurrections just kind of limps along to a dull finish.

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