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WHAT'S ON: Matrix Resurrections — more sleeping pill than red pill

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A computer programmer is once again given the choice between living a lie or discovering the truth about his existence. Digital editor Dan Jensen takes a look at the newest chapter in the popular Matrix series.

★☆☆☆☆

MATRIX RESURRECTIONS is the fourth chapter in the film series that began with 1999’s revolutionary The Matrix. That film was followed by two sequels (Reloaded and Revolutions) in 2003, both of which were met with mixed reactions, particularly the third film. Therefore, it came as a great surprise when writer/director Lana Wachowski found a way to continue the story here in 2021, particularly when the trilogy had been wrapped up with a solid conclusion.

This new story sees the return of Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Ann Moss as Trinity, along with Jada Pinkett Smith returning as Niobe. But aside from those three, this Matrix is filled with a cast of fresh faces. Despite 18 years passing since we last followed the white rabbit, Resurrections manages to capture the feel of the previous two films, but whether or not that’s a good thing is up to the viewer.

Both Reloaded and Revolutions were criticised by many for eschewing the wow factor of the original, along with its deeply layered themes, for a convoluted story that left many viewers confused and bored. That being said, there were some who held such a deep love of Matrix lore that the entire trilogy was cherished — and it’s those fans who will likely find much to appreciate in Resurrections.

But if you’re on the side of those who found chapters two and three far too confusing to enjoy, you’re likely not going to have much fun with this new one. Once again, Lana Wachowski has created a story that feels like it wants to be something far more clever than it actually is and really has no point in being told. Resurrections feels like a blatant cash grab, especially when it tells its audience directly that that's basically what it is.

The story this time finds Thomas Anderson (Neo) as a game designer who has developed a trilogy of games called The Matrix. The games are metaphors for the first three films and Warner Bros comes knocking asking for the developers to make a fourth game in the saga. This gives our characters plenty of chances to deliver dialogue that is so meta, they may as well be turning to the camera and winking. It’s a joke that is funny at first, but is then dragged way too long throughout the film to the point where it becomes cringeworthy.

Neo is eventually approached by a new version of Morpheus, this time played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who offers him the choice between the red pill or the blue pill to discover truths about who he is and the world in which he lives. Sounds familiar? It should, because it’s a plot derived straight from the original film. This is enhanced by far too many flashbacks of footage from the previous trilogy, sometimes appearing projected within the scenes themselves so the characters are actually seeing it and serving no purpose other than trying to ignite nostalgia in fans.

This time around, Neo’s main purpose is rescuing Trinity and helping her to understand the truth about her own existence. And… that’s pretty much it. Resurrections doesn’t have any of the stakes that the first film held. There’s nothing resembling the fascinating journey Neo took in The Matrix to discover his power over the digital world that enslaved humanity and his quest for freedom.

It takes hardly any time for Neo to remember that he’s invincible and can stop bullets in mid-air, which removes any danger or threat to his character. But worst of all, the 2.5 hour run time is bogged down by a lot of exposition. Sure, there are plenty of action scenes, but whereas the original trilogy delivered visual effects we’d never really seen before, Resurrections offers nothing new.

To its credit, the film does have a fantastic performance by Neil Patrick Harris in a central role that can’t be talked about too much without spoiling the plot. But he steals every scene he’s in. The cinematography looks great and fits with the previous films. Costumes, make-up and production design all look interesting enough.

But unfortunately, unless you’re a die-hard Matrix fan who can’t get enough of the intricacies buried within the world created by the Wachowskis and are patient with heavy dumps of exposition, there’s not much to recommend here.

Matrix Resurrections opens in cinemas today.

You can follow digital editor Dan Jensen on Twitter @danjensenmovies or check out his YouTube channel, Movie Talk with Dan Jensen.

Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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