Matrix Resurrections: C (No Spoilers)
Two words: Jessica Henwick.
When I saw the first trailer for Matrix 4 I was like: eh, blue-haired chick. Cool cool, whatevs. Then she started to look familiar, and then I realized: that's Jessica Henwick!
Not ringing a bell? Here's another photo of her from the movie:
Still no? Maybe? Getting warmer?
Jessica Henwick was practically the only good thing about the 23-hour regimen of intense psychological torture I once endured called Iron Fist. She's beautiful, she's an excellent actor, and she brings a very capable and authentic physicality to her fighting scenes. In terms of both acting and cinematic fighting abilities she far outshone what her Iron Fist castmates were bringing to the table.
I am super pleased to see her land a top role in Resurrections. I was also very pleased to see a number of Sense8 actors again.
So how was Matrix Resurrections?
Going into the film I'd heard some secondhand comments that M4 was "too meta". I envisioned that meaning some mind-bending concepts and was okay with that, but now I see what they mean, and I agree.
Early on we find out that the exact events of the first three films have been essentially published as a work of fiction within the Matrix. That work of fiction is called: "The Matrix". That then enables dialog along the lines of "Warner Brothers wants us to make a fourth Matrix", "People want a big twist", and "No, they want shoot-em-up action and bullet-time". Despite the movie providing a flimsy technical excuse, practically and emotionally speaking the characters totally bust through the fourth wall and make "meta" or self-referential comments and observations that break the suspension of disbelief.
We don't even get a break from that back in the real world outside the Matrix. Some time has elapsed since the events of the third movie and a historian makes comments along the lines of "Yeah, there are all these crazy theories about the relationship between Neo and Agent Smith".
Give me a break! I don't want to hear the characters in my Matrix movies talking about bullet time and fan theories about Neo and Agent Smith!!
To make it worse, there are several bad guy characters who very flippantly throw around some of these same "meta" concepts, such as bullet time. In fact I would say my biggest disappointment with the film is that the bad guys aren't well-done at all; they're all just shallow, glib, two-bit characters that you can find dime-a-dozen in any other film.
At least half of the film is played as a straight, gritty drama, which saves the whole thing from being a train wreck. But still, just imagine Matrix 1 only the characters wink at the audience every few minutes and Agent Smith is a stereotypical bad guy prone to frivolous banter and you start to get a sense of Matrix 4.
And then the end of the movie... what hell is up with that? I can't go much into it without spoilers so I'll leave it there. I'm not saying "bad ending" but it is all a bit bewildering in several ways.
Bottom line: the story is decent overall and there is some good old Matrix drama and action along with some cool new sci-fi concepts, but that's all self-sabotaged by weak villains and a thick coat of self-aware, self-referential dialog. Worth watching once if you're a fan but don't expect to be wowed.