Do you remember small details about 1999’s The Matrix? How about the two other live-action Matrix films released in 2003? If not, prepare to be lost! This film is first and foremost fan service to the most die-hard fans. For the majority of us that saw the films and remember bullet time, Keanu, and Carrie-Anne Moss, there are a lot of head-scratchers. The film runs 2:28 so there is plenty of time to touch on all the lore from the previous films, but should this movie have done that?
Keanu and Carrie-Anne are back, plugged into the Matrix and living in a special simulation. There is a specific term, but I have already forgotten what it was, much like the rest of the film. Keanu is a video-game designer, who designed a hit video game called The Matrix, which is based on his experience through the first three films. He visits a psychiatrist, The Analyst, played by Neil Patrick Harris, who keeps him convinced he is confusing the video game for his own life experience to keep him plugged in.
The central plot revolves around pulling Neo, Keanu, out of the Matrix, and then doing the same for Trinity, Carrie-Anne. As you might expect there are fight scenes throughout the journey. Part of what made the original film so good was the novelty of the CGI being used and ‘bullet-time’. It was groundbreaking for 1999 and was emulated endlessly in the twenty-two years since. There are a few new tricks in this production, but a lot of it feels like a straightforward modernization. There are lots of jump cuts during the fight scenes. We all know, based on John Wick, that Keanu can perform masterful fighting choreography. It is a shame that it is not wielded with the same precision here.
One high point, that was also true of the original film, is the diversity represented in the cast. Agent Smith was intentionally cast as a white male as a symbol of oppression. The diversity within the rest of the cast fits this broad commentary on historic control. While the cast in 2021 is not as groundbreaking, it does push boundaries further with non-binary inclusion and keeps the diversity that made the original film so good.
This film was released day and date in theaters and on HBO Max. I watched it at home and appreciated being able to take breaks and pause the film. I had to look up references to the original trilogy multiple times to get a better understanding of the film. I also do not believe the film deserves its 2:28 run time. There could have been multiple edits to make the film more approachable and cut the run time down to under two hours. At times watching this felt like homework and it was enjoyable for others. I would not risk exposure to Omicron to see this, but I did not feel like my two sessions at home viewing were a total waste of time. Not a ringing endorsement, but still a reasonably good film.