‘The Matrix Resurrections’ is the legacy sequel that Hollywood has needed

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Jackson Piercy
CONTRIBUTOR

Neo (Keanu Reeves) in his fighting stance. Photo from imdb.com.

Let me clear up some things here by defining what a “legacy sequel” is. That being, a sequel to a property that has not had a new installment in an extended period of time. With this, we’ve got our new “Star Wars” sequels, the recent “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” and I would argue an indirect example in “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” It’s a tricky undertaking in following up what IPs have enough artistic merit to stand the test of time and are accessible enough to have a sizable audience who would want to see a particular follow-up. From what I’ve seen, these films can be both faithful to the source material and a film that can stand on its own merits, but I would say that the majority of these have been cases of studios identifying a potential moneybag and taking that to the bank. If you have read the title, you can evidently tell what I think of this new entry.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a successful game developer who is riding on the coattails of his ultra-popular “Matrix” video games. He makes regular visits to his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) about his mental episodes in the wake of a failed suicide attempt. All the while, he sees the world through this lens as we’ve known it, in a slightly more realistic light. Trinity is just a woman Tom has a crush on named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), Agent Smith was just a projection of his feelings on his boss (Jonathan Groff) and Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is just a program in another one of Tom’s games. That is until Morpheus, not a program, but living flesh, confronts Tom and gives him a familiar choice. Will he go down the rabbit hole once more? Judging by the promotional material for the film, I think it’s quite apparent.

I introduce this “legacy sequel” idea at the beginning because this is a movie that is in many ways about making a follow-up to a movie after an extended period of time. Executives keep hounding Neo about making a new Matrix “game” like it’s as simple as putting together a new Lego set. Neo isn’t about to just make a new game willy nilly, but they move forward nevertheless, putting us in Neo’s shoes in seeing brainstorming sessions that are quite thinly veiled attempts at understanding what makes the first “Matrix” so great. It does help that we get one of the original creators of the original “Matrix” films, Lana Wachowski, back at the helm to really flesh out the ideas of the original films into a new lens. The tactics of the machines have changed, but the questions remain the same. In this picture, we get a story that not only stands on its own, but one that I would say is the perfect companion piece to the original trilogy.

If this was 2008, I would find it very easy to metaphorically dunk on the then-maligned sequels “Reloaded” and “Revolutions,” but they have done the impossible in becoming much better with age, and I do recommend watching the original trilogy before seeing “Resurrections,” as they complement each other like a fine Pinot Noir and a nice Gruyere. You can philosophize about these movies as much as your heart desires, and you can also just turn the brain off and enjoy the off-the-wall action — these movies are the best of both worlds!

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