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The Matrix Resurrections

Year: 2022
Studio: Warner Bros
Director: Lana Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski/David Mitchell/Aleksandar Hemon
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Christina Ricci, Lambert Wilson

When the trailer for this film came out I was struck by how ordinary it looked. Even if the two original sequels to the iconic 90s franchise were so derided, you can't deny that they – like their predecessor – were full of visual zing and arresting trailer moments like the burlyman brawl and the freeway chase.

If Warner Bros and Lana Wachowski had picked out the moments in this film they thought would really pop for the trailer, it didn't bode well for the rest of the movie. There was a bit of driving, a bit of fighting, a bit of slo-mo and that was it.

Unlike the Gen Yers that came after me I was never the most rabid Matrix fan, but I can only imagine how disappointed many of them must have been, because I was genuinely saddened by how flat, uninteresting and visually drab this whole exercise was.

The climatic car chase is a perfect metaphor for how unimaginative the whole thing is. As Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) ride around the city on a motorcycle with the zombie-like hordes closing in on them firing guns and trying to knock them off with cars, Neo does his trick of holding his hands up to stop them with his magic Matrix forcefield thing... again, and again, and again. Couldn't Wachowski had brainstormed a few more action moves for the sequence?

In fact it seems the only real cleverness she applied to the script was the meta nod that sets the whole story up. Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is a successful game programmer who had a big hit years before with a game called The Matrix. The gag is that the machines have somehow tricked Neo into believing the world he's in is real when he's just trapped in the Matrix again.

He drifts through life, still feeling there's something missing, seeing a smug therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) who supplies him with the infamous blue pills to ensure he doesn't get wise and keeping him terrified of another of his 'breakdowns'. But he also keeps seeing a woman in a local coffee shop he's sure he knows in the form of Tiffany (Moss)... he just can't put his finger on where.

Meanwhile in the real world (and in the latest tiresome incantation of 'passing the torch' as an excuse to include a younger, more dynamic, better looking cast), a gang of self styled mercenaries led by Bugs (Jessica Henwick) have come to believe Neo is still alive somewhere after the events of the machine war. When Anderson, in the Matrix, deploys game code Bugs and her crew recognise, they set about finding and extracting him.

They figure out that after Neo and Trinity presumably died at the end of the events of The Matrix: Revolutions they were somehow preserved, plugged back into the Matrix, their memories of who they really were erased and their life force pressed into service for the machines all over again.

Somehow (because I found both the way certain characters fitted into the story and the plot as a whole dreadfully confusing) they resurrect Morpheus as well in the form of Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, even though the one we know died years before. It's also not the only head-scratching choice to use a younger actor to play an existing role with Jonathan Groff playing Neo's business partner Smith – who turns out to be the latest incantation of Agent Smith played by Hugo Weaving in the original.

They execute their daring plan and bring Neo to Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), who's vastly older and explains that 60 years have passed since the machine war. They've not only built a new city called Io after Zion was destroyed, they've forged a truce with the machines and now live in peace.

So the central quest turns from defeating the machine armies to finding Trinity and convincing her of who she really is. So Bugs and her crew of rebels who disobey orders and make up their own rules (because that's never happened before) break Neo out of his new confinement despite Niobe forbidding them from going.

In the real world they have to return to the specialised pods at the centre of the machine city that were built to keep Neo and Trinity in close proximity because their love generates more electricity (or some such crap). In the Matrix it means Neo has to return to the coffee shop to convince Tiffany to come with him, even though they're surrounded by heavily armed cops and she has her (fake) husband and kids tempting her to stay.

It sparks off the big chase sequence and while I'd hesitate to describe it as 'dull', it wouldn't have been particularly groundbreaking even 20 years ago when the original came out.

There's nothing as visually interesting as bullet time or the sickly green cast inside the Matrix and nothing as narratively interesting as the original conceit behind the whole franchise. And with Reeves' acting perhaps the worst we've ever seen from him – and that's saying something – it reminded me of Bill & Ted Face the Music, another long-belated sequel in one of his classic franchises that should never have left the first development meeting.

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