There’s a viral clip of opening night audiences responding to the reappearance of characters from previous iterations of the franchise in the new Spider-Man film … an equivalent for the new Matrix movie might show audiences scratching their heads to puzzle out if they’ve seen folk before, idly remembering that ‘oh yes Jada Pinkett was in the Matrix sequels’ or going ‘not that fucking guy again’ when Lambert Wilson’s Merovingian pops in to keep up the ranting.
With Lana Wachowski now at the helm of the franchise – assisted by David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon on the script but with the other Wachowski (Lilly) shuttled off into other realms – this begins like a self-conscious reboot as the opening of The Matrix is rerun but messier and an onlooker muses something about ‘why use old code to make a new thing?’ … and then we get into twenty minutes of meta material that’s pretty interesting as a musing on why a creative might be obligated to go back to a world they thought they’d abandoned (the name of Warner Brothers is invoked) as we find glum, bearded Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) has been persuaded by a chatty shrink (Neil Patrick Harris) that what we saw in the earlier films was a psychotic break modelled on a successful computer game trilogy Anderson designed … which is now being sequelised thanks to a smooth corporate boss (Jonathan Groff) who’s also a reboot of Agent Smith and with the creator sat miserably silent in meetings where no-talent bubbleheads witter on about the new project and give their own reductive version of what the old Matrix meant. Anderson is struck by the resemblance of Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), a bike-loving Mom, to his character Trinity and is urged to chat her up in a coffee shop thopugh she turns out to be married to some plank.
It’d be radical in a Wes Craven’s New Nightmare sort of way to carry through with this but then Resurrections turns into another bloody Matrix sequel with wafflegab and gobbledegook from talking head characters between large-scale action scenes in several levels of reality. A new inciting figure (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is supposed to be a mash-up of Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus and Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith – but kind of seems like punishment casting to replace actors who – unlike Reeves and Moss – have aged at a normal rate. New on board is Bugs (Jessica Henwick) – as in bunny and listening devices – who is a Trinity Lite and a raft of other characters a lot less vivid than those in The Matrix (or Bound, come to that). One criticism of the franchise is sort of addressed – as doubt is cast on the whole business of a chosen one and Ultimate Trinity is allowed to soar after she has shucked off her deadweight imaginary family … but the elephant in the room is the adoption of the premise of the films by alt-right conspiracy nuts, which informs a few bits of language (the Analyst refers to ‘sheeple’) but isn’t really addressed in any interesting way.
Christina Ricci has a tiny, bizarre cameo – when she smiles, I always get Addams Family Values flashbacks. Lana W still has enigmatic characters deliver soliloquies that turn to hypnotic mush before each plot development or action scene – and, though those game designers seem aware that a reboot of this property needs ‘a new bullet time’, what we get are a few chases that seem derivative of Inception and a great many dark, crowded, weightless brawls.