How ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ Stacks Up Against The Original Trilogy

Despite being a big fan of Keanu Reeves and his latest projects, like John Wick, I’m a little nervous about The Matrix: Resurrections.

I loved the original film, thought the second one was okay, and can’t really remember much about the third other than viscerally disliking it.

It sounds like Resurrections will fall somewhere in the middle.

As it stands, Resurrections and Reloaded are neck-and-neck on Rotten Tomatoes. The fourth film has a 71% “Fresh” score (which could easily change by a few points up or down in the coming days) while the second film has a 73% “Fresh” score.

The original Matrix has an 88% “Fresh” score—which frankly seems low given how groundbreaking and awesome the movie was—while Revolutions sits in a league of its own, with a Rotten 35%.

It’s kind of cute that the Wachowskis went with an “R” word for each of the three sequels. I’m just not sure that The Matrix needed sequels in the first place. As a stand-alone film, it’s a pretty perfection action/sci-fi outing. It has a mysterious and exciting story arc, lots of great characters, the innovative “bullet time” effect and a perfectly fine resolution at the end (perhaps someday we’ll get The Matrix: Resolutions).

Instead, we had to go deeper into the AI network and its bizarre lore that I still don’t think makes a lick of sense. This computer simulation designed to trap and feed on humans has no need for Oracles or other NPCs. It’s just weird and half-baked, though I prefer the heady half-assed philosophy of Reloaded to the dud of a revolution we got in #3.


What Are The Critics Saying?

Some critics are coming out swinging with deeply negative reviews and tweets. But most of the negative reviews are quite mild, noting that Resurrections doesn’t have much to offer. That far from resurrecting the Matrix franchise, it feels more like a tribute to something that’s already over.

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times writes:

““Matrix Resurrections” is a great-looking film and Reeves and Moss remind us of what an iconic team they made in the trilogy, but the themes of finding one’s identity, free will, taking leaps of faith in order to serve the greater good, humans against machines — we already hashed all that out back in the day, and ultimately this feels more like a warmed-over tribute to the past than a bold and fresh new chapter.”

Adam Graham of The Detroit News bemoans the action sequences, writing that while “earlier installments could be leaned on for cutting-edge action sequences — even the second chapter had that bananas freeway chase — the action here is mostly ho-hum, been-there-done-that recreations of earlier stunts. Even when characters run up and across walls and come back down to fell an opponent, which happens a lot here, it’s nothing special, and it’s never shot in a way that makes it a wow moment. It’s mostly an “oh, OK” moment. 

Still, many critics have had positive things to say about the movie, though just like the negative, the more glowing reviews are full of caveats—words like “bumpy” and “uneven” and “hollow” abound.

“The Matrix Resurrections” may be a bumpy ride but it’s still a trip,” writes Jake Coyle of the Associated Press.

“Resurrections suffers from an identity crisis, going from being supremely fun and knowing to weirdly pedestrian,” writes Empire Magazine’s Alex Godfrey. “It’s a slippery mish-mash- entertaining in big bursts but ultimately a little hollow.

Some critics hedged their praise much less, however. The truly adoring reviews praise the film’s sincerity and social messages.

“This could have been a purely cynical attempt to part us from our cash,” Charlotte O’Sullivan of the London Evening Standard writes. “Or, just as bad, an exercise in self-congratulation. Wow! Watch Lana dodge those bullets.”

IndieWire’s David Ehrlich agrees. “A devastatingly sincere movie about how love is the best weapon,” he writes, “we have to make sense of a world that fills our heads with the white noise of war and conflict on a forever loop.”

FORBES reviewer Scott Mendelson enjoyed the film’s themes and comedic touches more than the action, writing:

The Matrix Resurrections is, at its skewed core, a deeply personal romantic comedy, one that cares far more about the fates of Neo and Trinity than the world-at-large. I wish it were a better (or less of an) action movie, but the scenes where folks talk to each other and detail the aftershocks of what came before are as fascinating as hoped. It’s less a continuation and more of an epilogue, and it’s a weirdly light and jolly movie about a hopeless future. In Matrix Resurrections, there’s little time to save Hollywood, let alone the world from the forces we couldn’t muster up the collective strength to beat back. So why not ride it out with the people most important to you? It’s the end of the world as we know it, and Lana Wachowski feels fine.”

As you can see, this will be a divisive film, with some hating it and some loving it, and many just liking it for what it is while not feeling too strongly at all—sometimes for the same reasons, sometimes because everyone goes into a film like this with wildly different expectations and priorities.

It will not be universally loved or hated, though I suspect that when the audience score lands—and this is just a guess—it will probably be lower than the critic score. I say this for all sorts of reasons including culture war stuff, but I could always be wrong. Critics and audiences may be mutually mixed on this one, and that wouldn’t surprise me either. Critics and audiences both loved Spider-Man: No Way Home (and, I mean, how could you not love that movie???)

MORE FROM FORBES‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ Review: The Best MCU Movie In Years

The Matrix: Resurrections stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss as Neo and Trinity respectively. It hits theaters and HBO Max Wednesday, December 22nd. I’ll have my own review up in due course.

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