Richard L. Haas III’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Nothing comforts anxiety like little nostalgia.”
This certainly was a movie. It's pretty fine— actually, it's fairly decent until perhaps the Merovingian. Overall I saw the film getting— notch by notch— progressively worse every twenty minutes or so. I really struggled to rate this one because I'd be lying if I said I wasn't at least enjoying the first half. It's certainly the worst Matrix film, it's just under Reloaded for me, and I want to give it praise for the things I thought it did well... but the more and more I think about it... the more I feel a sense of lukewarm disappointment. It's unfortunately a bloated mess.
Eric Voss of New Rockstars says it best: "Whether you found [it] to be artfully self-aware, or your feelings were a bit mixed— as all Matrix sequels are pretty much coded to make us feel... this film was crafted with fascinating attention to detail..." That is completely true. But the detail struggles a balance between lore, subtext, and meta-ness. And it's the meta stuff I personally struggled with as well. I like many of the subtle nods, but any time it hit you in the face à la 22 Jump Street I found myself continuously getting antsy for it to wrap up. Nods I did enjoy were mentions of previous things from the films in the first 15 minutes or so. As a lore junkie, it was cool to just watch and point like that Leonardo DiCaprio meme especially when it was just simple references. Once we meet Neo, that enjoyment drains a bit. The Matrix trilogy being video games irked me the wrong way. I'm okay if you are being subtle with referring to past projects in a meta way, but this became all-out "WARNER BROTHERS FORCED US TO MAKE THIS MOVIE!"
It was further cringing that they felt the need to show scenes from the previous films and A) try and pass them off as video game cutscenes when we know all too well the only full scene that could pass for that was the "Burly Brawl" from Reloaded, and B) show them during scenes when characters say the same thing or thematically do a similar thing— seriously, let the reference stand on its own.
It's a shame because all of the lore and thematic details were actually pretty great like the company being named Dues Machina (the machine overlord was named Dues Ex Machina), or the heavy blue and red motifs (Trinity was often seen in blue; moments of realization or understanding have shades of red). The latter of which was an interesting choice because it tried to build upon a notion that was largely ignored in the other sequels in favor of showcasing green coding through a green tint like it was color-graded by Steven Soderbergh. While stylistically different, I kind of welcomed that change. Another thematic callback I enjoyed was them trying to connect back to the trans allegory. There's actually a lot of moments, so I won't list them all, but a great one was at the end:
I took that as a reference to an LGBTQ+ accepting society. If anything, I think that was a good retcon from the ending of Revolutions where it seemed to say that they just have to exist in society until they want out. This seems a bit more inclusive.
The Analyst: "You think you hold all the cards because you can do whatever you want in this world. I say, go for it... Paint the sky with rainbows..."
Trinity: "I kind of like the 'paint the sky with rainbows' idea."
Neo: "Just remind people what a free mind can do."
Other things I liked were the concept of synthients working with the humans (another inclusivity thing; it's not "us" vs. "them"), mirrors replacing phones to escape the Matrix, Neil Patrick Harris' casting, and adult Sati, having the handsome basic dude be named Chad (test I know that was really John Wick director Chad Stahelski), and while the inclusion of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" was a bit on the nose, I welcomed it.
I think I liked how they handled Morpheus, but I'm not all too sure. If they were following the events of The Matrix Online, having the real Morpheus be dead makes sense, but since they loosely changed the canonicity of that game I think they could have just invited Laurence Fishburne back as they did with Jada Pinkett Smith... which, look. I'm glad that the CGI in this film looks like it will hold up longer than that of its predecessors, but why'd it come at the cost of the makeup not holding up? Jada's makeup is absolutely terrible. It barely even held up watching in the cinema. There really isn't any reason that it couldn't have just taken place 20 and change years later and got Laurence, Jada, and you know what, I'll throw in Hugo Weaving as well because the new Agent Smith sucked. He was able to kind of get Hugo's cadence in the beginning but lost it when he supposedly remembered who he was. Hell, Ian Bliss' performance as a Smith-infected Bane was way more on brand than Jonathan Groff's work here. Also... "Tom"? What happened to the iconic Mr. Anderson"?
Okay, so the story was shakey. Could we forgive it like Reloaded and even Revolutions because of the bad ass action? And to that I say... what action? The only good action was in the prologue sequence with characters we didn't know (who were actually the best parts of the film... seriously, Jessica Henwick smashed it). Any good action died in that key shop. It was actually pretty kung-fu lite. Everywhere after we just have Keanu continuously Force pushing like he's auditioning to play Darth Revan in an upcoming Star Wars film. That was apparently Lana Wachowski's answer to people's frustration that Neo was an OP Superman in the other sequels. We also got what is basically a redo of hundreds of Agent Smiths with hundreds of bots. Even setting aside the questionable decision to outright abandon Agents after the prologue in favor of bots, this was just incredibly silly. Like The Happening-level silly. I was fucking howling with laughter in theaters.
"Turns out 60 years have passed and there was this whole machine civil war and some of the machines sided with humans."
"Wow. That actually sounds like a really interesting movie."
"Right? Anyway, back to this one."
— Ryan George, Screen Rant's Pitch Meeting
People are saying the most offensive thing about the film is the post-credits scene. And sure, while that was pointless and a slap in the face, I think the most offensive thing in the movie was Neo using two verticle monitors in his office. All kidding aside, yes, the way Matrix media often portrays suicide is extremely problematic. You get that a little with The Animatrix short Kid's Story, but you get that a lot in Ressurection.
At least Neo and Trinity are canonically alive? Yay? Sure it ruins the martyrism of Revolutions... but Yay, they're back? I will say, at least they handled the concept of a dyad way better than the Star Wars sequel trilogy did.