The last time I saw a movie that made me feel like this was Space Jam: A New Legacy, also from Warner Brothers. In that one, it was like a whole bunch of Warner Brothers executives got in a room with LeBron James’ people and decided to make a movie filled with WB IP, James, and little else. This time around, Lana Wachowski, one of the co-creators of the franchise, decided to forgo the partnership with her sister and “resurrect” it with this movie without a clear idea of what should be done.
As the movie opens, we are treated to almost an exact re-creation of the opening scene from The Matrix (1999), but rather than use footage from that film, Wachowski re-creates the scene with look-a-like actors. We’re introduced to “hold onto your butts,” “Bugs,” as in “Bunny” to quote the character. Bugs is a human captain who, with her operator Seq (short for Sequoia), observes the re-creation. Eventually, Bugs and Seq realize that what they are watching is not what happened to Trinity in the original, and we’re off to the races.
Though Wachowski didn’t use archival footage in that scene, there is liberal use of scenes and intercuts from all three Matrix films as she and co-writers David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon try to lay a foundation for this film. However, it never really quite works. Much of it is a retread of the previous films. The writers have gotten rid of many of the devices from the earlier films. As one character noted, “you don’t have to get to a phone anymore.” So, we’re left with setups for fight scenes, followed by the fights, and let’s keep it moving.
Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return. Reeves appears as Thomas Anderson, a programmer who wrote “The Matrix” as a series of three video games and, yes, the movies of the trilogy were actually video games. Moss is Tiffany, a somewhat modern-day Mom, with a husband, Chad, and two kids. Tom and Tiffany meet at a coffee house named —wait for it— Simulatte and discuss how much Tom based the character Neo on himself and how much Tiffany looks like Trinity.
I don’t know if they were asked, but Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving had the common sense not to re-up for this film. Instead, we get Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus and Jonathan Groff as Anderson’s business partner named Smith. Their performances are serviceable, but kudos to Neil Patrick Harris, who appears as The Analyst, who we learned has rebooted The Matrix after inheriting the duty from The Architect.
Frankly, it’s all very meta and derivative, unimaginative, and vacuous. With all the advances in filmmaking since 1999, I don’t understand how the original film’s effects are better than the effects in this film.
I can’t recommend spending $21 a ticket to view this film in IMAX; however, if you have two and a half hours and HBO Max, it’s probably worth your time. The three original films are currently streaming on Hulu; so, you can get the whole Matrix experience in your own home and reduce your exposure to Omicron if you happened to have dodged it from going to see Spider-Man: No Way Home.