The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections ★★★★½

Review by David Ehrlich

It’s fitting — maybe even fate — that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” should be the biggest and virtually only movie in the world on the week that “The Matrix Resurrections” is released. Both are mega-budget, meta sequels that feed on our collective familiarity with their respective franchises. One is a poison, the other its antidote.

One is a safe plastic monument to the solipsism of today’s studio cinema; an orgiastic celebration of how studio filmmaking has created a feedback loop so powerful that it’s programmed audiences to reject anything that threatens its perfection (and to clap like seals for anything that reaffirms it, even if that means cheering for the “unexpected” return of heroes and villains they were once eager to leave behind). The other is a jagged little red pill of a blockbuster that exhumes its intellectual property with such a pronounced sense of déjà vu that the comforts of its memory start to feel like the bars of a cage, and the perfect circle of its feedback loop blurs into a particle accelerator spinning faster and faster in order to create something new and romantic. One is a crowd-pleasing testament to the idea that even (or especially) the biggest fictions can shrink our imaginations. The other is a fun, ultra-sincere, galaxy brain reminder that we can only break free of the stories that make our lives smaller by seeing through the binaries that hold them in place — us vs. them, real vs. fake, corporate product vs. personal art, reboot vs. rebirth, etc. vs. etc.

If “No Way Home” is the snake eating its tail with such reckless abandon that it fools itself into thinking it’s full, “The Matrix Resurrections” is the rare blockbuster that dares to ask what else might be on the menu. It’s the boldest and most vividly human franchise sequel since “The Last Jedi” (if also messier and more postmodern than Rian Johnson’s miraculous addition to the “Star Wars” canon). It will likely prove the most divisive as well. Doubling down on the “Alice in Wonderland” spirit of its franchise, “The Matrix Resurrections” is a movie that will only appeal to fans interested in seeing how deep the rabbit hole goes; anyone simply looking for more “Matrix” isn’t just shit out of luck, they’re in for an experience that will toy with their expectations for more than two hours without fulfilling a single one of them.