Perhaps we should not have pursued the white rabbit.

Nostalgia sceptics are frequently ready to dismiss remakes, reboots, or long-lead sequels. They’re dubbed “blatant cash grabs” or “cheap tentpole projects” that exist simply to capitalise on decades-old passion. Statements like this are easy to ignore, yet fans who were dubious of another Matrix sequel were proven correct with The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4).

Of course, there are some highlights. The reunion of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo and Trinity is a dream come true, and the newcomers are charming additions to the group. Jonathan Groff’s Smith swallows up every scene he’s in, while Jessica Henwick’s Bugs could be the greatest part of Resurrections. And the strange form of Morpheus depicted here definitely wouldn’t work if it wasn’t Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in the cartoonish outfits.

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In fact, I’d claim that The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) is virtually only composed of solid ideas. The issue is that it isn’t an excellent film. It’s a lot of unique cool ideas packed in a trench coat like a group of kids attempting to purchase an R-rated movie ticket. At practically every step, cleverness is met with hilariously awful execution. As an example, consider the story’s metaness. It appears to agree with the aforementioned nostalgia sceptics, and you can tell it wants you to know that since The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) inform you at an amazingly irritating rate that reboots are dumb.

What is supposed to be self-awareness becomes a figurative Kool-Aid man. Are you enjoying your scene? Allow me to break through the barrier and tell you I’m not like other sequels; I’m a cool sequel.

This effort at “deep” meta criticism appears to come at the price of the battle sequences, which the franchise was previously known for. Given the superb combat choreography of the John Wick trilogy, we know Reeves still has the skills, and all the new characters included in Resurrections have showed on-screen fighting ability. So, why is this massive piece of The Matrix’s DNA absent from the sequel? The fighting scenes that are present are brief, cluttered with effects, or substituted with shock-and-awe antics.

The film’s extension into franchise lore and Neo and Trinity’s unending love story are maybe the only really successful storyline aspects in The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4). The future that the couple sacrificed themselves for in revolutions was certainly worth fighting for, even if Neo finds it difficult to believe at first. Trinity shines at the very end, but Resurrections makes it tough to celebrate this victory considering how bad its last act looks and how long it took to get to what’s supposed to be a favourable moment.

Speaking of lengthy films, they can be fantastic! Of course, they must justify their length. That is not the case in The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4). Overly meta sequences and flashbacks consume the most of the two and a half hour running length. Fans who didn’t have time to re-watch the franchise before going to the cinema needn’t worry: you’ll be shown all you need to know. Then you’ll be shown things that you surely recall. Then you’ll be shown the same thing repeatedly! Lana Wachowski may have intended for this to feel like an imprisoned in The Matrix atmosphere, but it was primarily simply monotonous.

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Reloaded, yet nothing repeated 

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The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) soars by reiterating an old theme. Knowing The Matrix and its sequels comes in useful when entering the recent film, since the first problem Wachowski, Mitchell, and Hemon attempt to resolve in Matrix 4 is rescuing Thomas Anderson — better known as Neo — from his destiny in Revolutions. Slowly, they disclose how Neo, who appears to have died with his love and lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), may or may not have survived to reincarnate as Thomas Anderson, a blank slate who can’t discern what’s real and what’s not.

This Thomas Anderson is also a programmer, but he is also a game development rockstar, having created the most successful video game trilogy ever: The Matrix. These games are essentially the same as the Matrix film trilogy, which tells the narrative of a man named Neo who realises he is living in a dream world ruled by machines, and that he will help humanity destroy them.

As a result, as Thomas goes about his business, his world takes on an M.C. Escher-esque obfuscation. Was the Matrix trilogy a set of games created by him? Or did they truly happen, and he is now a Matrix prisoner once more? Why is there a lady named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) in this reality with him, a woman who has a striking resemblance to the deceased Trinity of his fiction?

Wachowski weaves these issues in a confusing montage with voyeuristic views, portraying Thomas’ supposed reality with just enough distance to make the audience uncomfortable and wonder, as Thomas does.

Yes, bugs are in the system 

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The first act of The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) is delightfully perplexing, a delectable method to reproduce the original’s unmooring unreality for an audience that has seen or felt its effect many times. However, as it duplicates, it diverges. As the hacker Bugs (Jessica Henwick) points out early on, this is not the narrative we know.

Bugs is our window into what’s new in Matrix 4, a young and fearless woman determined to locate the Neo that her generation only knows as a myth. Her zealotry lands her in hot water with her elders; outside of the Matrix, humanity has eked out a modest but thriving post-apocalyptic existence, based on the tense truce between man and machine that Neo forged at the end of the first trilogy.

Bugs’ persistent hacking into the Matrix to discover Neo jeopardises that calm, but it’s a gamble that Bugs and her motley group believe is worthwhile. Because, despite the fight fought to liberate humanity from computer servitude, a large portion of humanity continues to choose to remain in the Matrix. That the actual world exists is insufficient motivation for anyone to awaken from their slumber.

However, the prospect of saving Neo is only half of the story. Halfway through The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4), Wachowski introduces a stunning reversal that emphasises a focus change from individual freedom to human connection: The Resistance discovers it may release Trinity again, although through hitherto unseen ways. It’s an unlikely quest, but in this weird new world, it’s the only one worth living and dying for. Matrix 4 expands on the first film’s message by switching to a quest to save the mythical Trinity. It is not enough to liberate your mind; in fact, it is useless if you do not disconnect in order to connect with and love others around you.

This second half swings into something a lot more basic, and it whips. It’s The Matrix reimagined as a heist film. Because of this genre shift, the action in Matrix 4 differs from that of its predecessors. While there are still significant, dramatic martial arts standoffs, they aren’t the focus of the picture, as “Thomas” and “Tiffany,” played by performers 20 years older and a touch more constrained in their choreography, are. Instead, The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) dazzles with stunning wide screen set-pieces, massive brawls, and visual effects that amaze while appearing astonishingly genuine.

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Wachowski and her co-writers divide the climax as Bugs and her team — who don’t get much screen time but all make an amazing impact — race to uncover where their heroes may hide in the real world, while “Thomas” seeks to rekindle their love. All the crazy theory that these movies are known for is placed into real and true action, as the machines show off how they’ve changed the entire Matrix in order to not only prevent a Neo from saving a Trinity, but to jail him once again.

The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) revels in being a lighter, more self-aware picture than its predecessors, a film about enormous sentiments presented brilliantly in this moment and throughout. Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer’s music reprises classic elements from original Matrix composer Don Davis’ work while incorporating shimmering, recursive sequencing, a sonic echo to go with the visual one. While famed cinematographer Bill Pope is also absent this time, the combination of Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll brings a more painterly style to Matrix 4.

Warm hues pervade both Matrix and real-world situations. The latter seems more colourful than ever without the blue hues that defined it in the original trilogy, yet its digital version has now evolved to where it’s achingly lovely, a world of bright colours and sunlight that is impossible to leave.

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Is the System in Control?

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The original Matrix films were about falsehoods we were told, but the new Matrix is about lies we select. Despite its flaws, 1999’s The Matrix is predicated that there is such a thing as aim truth, and that people would want to see it. On the eve of 2022, aim fact is no longer agreed upon, as pundits, politicians, and tech titans each offer their version of reality and aggressively promote it to the populace. So, whatever you choose to call our current predicament, that’s what it is. All you have to do is pick a side in the war: one to be us, and one to be them.

Lana Wachowski returns to the universe she co-created with her sibling and makes a concluding argument that she may not get the last word on. The Matrix Resurrections (Matrix 4) is a bouquet hurled with the ferocity of a Molotov cocktail, the desire to fight balanced by the decision to spread compassion. Because, as the oppressive constructs in the Matrix point out, feelings are far simpler to influence than facts, and feelings persuade us. So what if Neo responds with a better story? A new narrative to transcend the cultural war?

It does not have to be a daring one. It may even be something you’ve heard previously. About a man named Thomas who can’t get rid of the feeling that there’s something wrong with the world around him, that he’s alienated from people in ways he wasn’t supposed to be. And when others eventually tell him he’s living in an illusion, he doesn’t believe them — at least not until he sees something, someone, for himself that reminds him of what he’s missing: that he used to be in love.