For some time, I have considered the Wachowskis to be similar or on par with George Lucas or Zach Snyder as far as their skillset is concerned. Now, obviously they are all different and have very divergent backgrounds and experiences that influences their work; however, while they all may work in different manners on varied projects tackling differing themes and issues, for the most part they all have the same, seemingly, issues when it comes to actual execution. Lucas, Snyder, and the Wachowskis are all by every bit of evidence good directors, decent human beings, and fine bosses/employers who managed to wrangle talented people across the board onto their crews. As well, they all have distinct styles and themes their works explore. That being said, they all, also, share the inability to execute and deliver consistent quality of narrative, themes, dialogue, etc. in their works. Frankly, some of the best stories of both Matrix and Star Wars were done by other talented creators being allowed to play in the sandboxes Lucas and the Wachowskis made. (Snyder has the opposite problem where he does best when he just directs action films with simple themes that someone else has written or constructed most of the narrative for him)
With that, my expectations of Matrix Resurrections were kind of low. And somehow it still didn’t meet them.
To be fair, the 4th installment of the franchise was better than the previous two films, but still far below the first movie. And even then, it was still subpar on the action sequences and choreography, but the themes and story and lore were better explored and discussed. Still that was also dependent on entirely too much exposition without much, if any, visuals to support the exposition or lore or themes being mentioned, at least with no real substance. Looking back at it now, starting to think that my lowered expectations of the film led to its higher ranking than the previous two.
The central issue that I have, and one that appears to be commonly shared, is that it is unclear who this film is intended for. If it was made to cash in on Matrix fanbase and nostalgia, then the lack of adequate fight scenes with Neo and Trinity and meta commentary concerning fandom was a horrendous choice. If it was made as a middle finger to Warner Bros. and fans begging for more from and in this world, then the shifts in focus in narrative and setting in the “real world” of Ion and continuation of the survivors outside the Matrix are, again, a very odd choice. If it was made as a huge “F U” to those that bastardized and misread the original films for their own biases and purposes, then it was slightly more successful, but also didn’t differentiate in who it took shots at. Honestly, it seemed more like Lana Wachowski (as her sister, Lilly, did not join her for this reboot sequel) wanted to both tell one final story and burn down significant portions of the Matrix as she did. And if that was the intent, still not actually completed.
The lack of clear intent is made more questionable and inconsistent by the abundant meta commentary found within the film. And, good fucking lords, I need creatives of all stripes to fully understand and internalize the fact that making something meta does not inherently make it smart. Hell, if anything it really is just lazy and shows the audience you are aware of the discourse concerning your art. However, unless you are actually going to say something with your meta criticism, it just comes off as sarcastic, whiny, and/or lazy which a lot of the topic discussion in the film definitely felt like.
The most frustrating part is that there were several interesting and intriguing elements found in the film that, had they been the focus, would have made for an excellent film and potential for more story in this universe though probably outside of the creators’ hands. The introduction of Bugs (played by the enigmatic Jessica Henwick who was easily the highlight of the film) and her crew as parallels to the survivors and crew of the Nebuchadnezzar from the first film were genuinely fascinating, in particular how she chose of her own accord to leave the Matrix without intervention from the outside world after witnessing an accidental glitch involving Neo. The notion and philosophy of the post-War Matrix and what that meant for humanity as they were presented with the choice of reality and fantasy and what they chose and the impact that had on both Zion and the robot’s civilization should have had way more exploration and story. The fallout of losing power sources and how it led to a robotic civil war and what that implied for AI individualism and evolving beyond programming and original purpose deserves to be a God damn HBO Max series. Realistically, the backstory exposition was far more fascinating and deserving of a well made and executed film than what we actually ended up with.
Ultimately, Resurrections was divisive. Obviously, I cannot say whether your opinion or thoughts on the film are right, wrong, or supported by the film. And on some level, having a work of art be divisive and generate conversation is usually a good thing, but not when there really is not even a consensus as to whether the work of art was good or should have been made. Every piece of art will have fans especially in the modern connected world. But when the majority of the conversation that positively discusses the film merely states that it was good that the director got to make the movie and not on the actual film itself, that is probably saying something. And, it is disappointing that is the case because, as stated above, there were some genuinely great elements in the movie that would make for riveting continuations and narratives in this universe, and, most likely, due to the financial and critical reception, they most likely won’t come to pass. At least, not for a while and that is unfortunate.
Cheers to what could have been.