After 18 years, Lana Wachowski has returned to direct the fourth Matrix sequel, The Matrix Resurrections, and we finally know if it was worth the wait. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions have their fan base, but most would agree that neither film was a satisfying follow-up to the 1999 classic. While The Matrix Resurrections isn't perfect by any means, it's a definite step up from the previous two sequels and more worthy of the Matrix name. The film is packed with great performances, extensive nostalgia, and satisfying action. More importantly, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss slip back into their roles in a way that's so seamless, you'll have a hard time believing it's been nearly 20 years since they donned the black trench coats.
If you're not a big fan of The Matrix, the fourth installment is not for you. It's fueled by nostalgia with meta jokes that never slow down. For the most part, the humor works, but there are some cringe-worthy moments amidst the gut-busting ones. The jokes include in-canon callbacks as well as references to how fans have reacted to the franchise over the years. There were moments that evoked similar feelings brought on by X-Men: First Class (a high compliment) while others felt like they were spit out by the Warner Bros. algorithm from Space Jam: A New Legacy (not a compliment).
If you're wondering if you should rewatch all three original films, we would highly recommend it for the jokes alone. However, when it comes to the plot of the film, Wachowski does an excellent job of reminding you what's important from the previous movies, and you should be able to follow along pretty easily without doing your homework.
Parts of The Matrix Resurrections are a little confusing, but would it really be a Matrix movie if you completely understood everything on the first watch? For a film that needs to explain how its two dead, main characters are alive again while recasting other fan-favorites, things are surprisingly clear. The additions of the new Agent Smith as well as Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus are unexpectedly effective. It never feels like the movie is struggling to justify why Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving aren't playing the roles they originated. While it's hard not to miss their magnetism, every new actor shines.
Both Jonathan Groff and Neil Patrick Harris are extremely well cast. You can't help but wonder if Wachowski purposely chose two Broadway stars and told them to go all-in on the boisterous talents that give them such stage presence. Jessica Henwick is the perfect embodiment of the new Matrix generation and one can only hope her career continues to take off. The return of Jada Pinkett Smith is not only fun for fans of Niobe, but the star's five-hour make-up transformation to make her appear older paid off. The biggest upset on the casting line-up is Christina Ricci, who is only briefly onscreen during one scene. If her casting had not been announced, she would have been a fun cameo, but instead, her lack of screentime just resulted in disappointment.
Ultimately, fans come to see The Matrix for some mind-blowing action, and Resurrections delivered. Nothing will ever top the original because it changed the game, but the new effects felt true to the 1999 film without overdoing it. Technology has obviously advanced quite a bit over the last 20 years, and Wachowski does a great job of utilizing what's available while making it flow with what came before. Also, if you love explosions, the final showdown will have you cheering in your seat.
For some folks, the biggest draw of The Matrix Resurrections is the return of Reeves and Moss, and their chemistry hasn't waivered a bit over the years. Reeves previously teased that the movie leans heavily into their romance, and he wasn't exaggerating. For a huge portion of the film, Neo is just longing for Trinity from afar, and even that will be enough to appease shippers. The groundbreaking action and the creative storytelling have always been the crux of what makes The Matrix popular, but it's the love between Neo and Trinity that gave the original trilogy heart and soul.
While The Matrix Resurrections has its flaws, it's a great return to a world that shaped so many film fans. Wachowski delivers a sequel worthy of the Matrix name that's fun, funny, and romantic.
Rating: 4 out of 5
The Matrix Resurrections hits theaters and HBO Max on December 22nd.