[Screen It]


(2021) (Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss) (R)

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Sci-Fi: A game developer wrestles with the question of whether he's real or just a construct of a game he developed and must contend with others who try to stop him after he discovers the truth.

Thomas Anderson (KEANU REEVES) is known for being the programming whiz who created the game The Matrix and he currently works for the gaming company Deus Machina run by Mr. Smith (JONATHAN GROFF).

But Thomas is troubled by visions of having been in that game himself as Neo -- where artificial intelligence robots have created the illusion of normal reality for humans who are actually unconsciously held in pods as power sources for the robot world -- to the point that he's seeing a psychiatrist (NEIL PATRICK HARRIS) who tries to assure him that everything is okay.

In reality, though, he's right, and others who can transport themselves into the Matrix from the outside -- such as Bugs (JESSICA HENWICK) and Morpheus (YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN II) -- have discovered an anomaly that has them troubled. Unaware of any of this is Neo's former battle colleague Trinity (CARRIE-ANNE MOSS) who currently doesn't recognize Neo and believes she's a motorcycle builder.

But as Thomas/Neo is brought up to speed, other past warriors, such as Niobe (JADA PINKETT SMITH), are asked to help as the robots do everything in their power -- and in their created illusion -- to prevent Neo and Trinity from thwarting them again.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10

As is the case with many things in life, sometimes it's best or at least wisest to go into something new or novel with zero anticipation or expectations. Granted, often that's difficult to do -- people being people with desires and other emotions and hearing how others have reacted -- but expecting little to nothing of what you're about to encounter can often result in fun discoveries and experiences.

That's certainly the case with movies where -- whenever possible -- it's better if not outright best to sit down cold to what you're about to see. It's rare to do so in my line of work, but back in the spring of 1999 at an old and not particularly state-of-the-art theater, I managed to do just that. And was then blown away by the plot, themes, action, and special effects and figured the filmmakers -- who had previously helmed the terrific thriller "Bound" -- were the next great creative types about to rule Hollywood.

That movie was "The Matrix," and while firmly believing there was zero need for a sequel (but understanding the financial desires of the studio and the filmmakers wanting to deliver more to the fans), I looked forward to the follow-up, "The Matrix Reloaded." Alas, it didn't compare, although it was certainly far better than the travesty that was "The Matrix Revolutions" just a few months later.

With other films done by the Wachowski siblings, Lana (formerly Larry) and Lilly (formerly Andy) -- "Speed Racer," "Cloud Atlas," and "Jupiter Rising" -- being creative misfires, and with the bad taste of "Revolutions" still lingering, I had no reason to expect anything from the fourth installment in the series. But the trailer for "The Matrix Resurrections" got me hook, line, and sinker and I went in with high expectations that maybe, just maybe, Lana -- flying solo this time around -- got it right.

Well, the lesson learned is that just as is the case with cream cheese when applied to various types of food, you can make pretty much any trailer better with Jefferson Airplane's terrific "White Rabbit" commanding those few advertising minutes. But just like that cheese if it's left out too long, the resultant full-length film can go bad and this one does after an initially intriguing opening that unfortunately can't save the flick from racing downhill into the creative abyss.

Written by Wachowski and co-scribes David Mitchell & Aleksandar Hemon, the film kicks off with a big action scene inside, natch, the Matrix, but things are different than before as Trinity no longer looks like Carrie-Anne Moss and Morpheus definitely isn't Laurence Fishburne.

Those things are quickly explained, with the twist here being that Thomas, a.k.a. Neo, doesn't recall the events from before, at least directly. He's seeing a psychiatrist (Neil Patrick Harris) about his sanity after seeing and experiencing odd things, while having younger fanboy coworkers where he's employed viewing him as something of a legend for having created -- yes, you guessed it -- the Matrix video game.

Then the fun kicks in, at least ever so briefly, when the flick goes all meta on itself with talk of sequels, Warner Bros. involvement in them, and more, all of which makes the story fold in on itself and creatively make things more complicated in a good way.

Alas, that doesn't last, and the film then bogs down in its story, heavy-handed themes, and way too many callbacks to the previous films (including actual footage lifted from them). And whereas the first film had exciting action and special effects, here it feels rote and far too heavily edited, and certainly pales in comparison both to the original film and the action found in Reeves' "John Wick" flicks.

Being a big fan of Keanu, I could watch him in almost anything, but I have to admit that I literally had to fight to stay awake at various moments in the film. That's never a good sign, and some of that could possibly be attributed to simply being exhausted. It's more likely, though, that most was due to me being tired of good sci-fi being watered down by too many repeat trips to the well, each time less tasty than the last.

And then there's the fact that I stupidly went in with high expectations that almost certainly would never be met. Perhaps if you go in figuring you'll hate it, you might find some level of entertainment. That wasn't the case for me and thus "The Matrix: Resurrections" rates as only a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed December 8, 2021 / Posted December 22, 2021

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