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The Matrix Resurrections (15, 148 minutes)
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched 1999’s The Matrix. I never tire of it.
Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the two style over content sequels that followed so I approached this latest film with more than a little trepidation.
So what a relief to find that director/co-writer Lana Wachowski has created a far more satisfying addendum to the story than any discerning Matrix fan could have hoped for.
Of course, there was one problem that had to be surmounted right from the off – the small matter of both of the main characters being well and truly dead at the end of the trilogy.
Not only is this feat pulled off admirably, but one of three brilliantly constructed subtexts plays on the idea of exploitative commercialism (by Warner Bros, no less) as a mentally fragile Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) wrestles with having to create a fourth instalment of his best selling computer game The Matrix – an adventure in which the world as we know it is merely a construct created by sentient machines.
Sound familiar? It should.
The use of flashbacks is an all too often abused method of filling screen time for a screenplay incapable of carrying the story alone, but in this case, those references to the previous films are so quick, they are almost subliminal as memory and game collide with characters and avatars interchanging.
But we fans know (and make no mistake, this film is NOT for novices) the war with the machines ended with Neo and Trinity’s sacrifice, so what’s going on?
Enter subtext number two about the fleeting nature of peace and how without an enemy to fight, a defeated force will turn on itself to create another version of “us and them”.
But these machines are nothing if not adaptable, and a new villain of the piece with an added understanding of humanity sees the advantage of manipulating the machines’ greatest threat for their own ends.
So if Neo lives, albeit on a diet of prescribed blue pills, then does Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) too? And if so why? Surely Neo, as THE ONE, would be the machines’ only concern.
And there lies the crux, not only of Matrix Resurrections, but of the whole 22-year quadrilogy. It’s the deeper pay-off that we felt somehow robbed of in 2003.
There’s still plenty of action sequences, but the groundbreaking special effects from the first film have long been superseded by CGI, bringing the concept of a matrix even closer to reality.
The years have certainly been kind to both Reeves and Moss, but we do see something not previously witnessed – out of the construct, with shaved head and no beard Keanu actually begins to look his age.
This is a triumphant, multi layered return that more than makes up for the bloated biblical pomposity of Reloaded and Revolutions.