Time to get your mind fried again! In the fourth installment of the highly talked-about Matrix franchise, we pick up some 20 years after the last movie, Matrix: Revolutions, and see what has happened to our world, Neo, and the A.I. machines.
If you remember what happened in the final movie, Neo (Keanu Reeves) sacrificed himself to the A.I. machines to save Zion, the last human refugee home, brokering peace between them and the simulated Matrix world (our ‘fake’ world that we know of) controlled by the machines. But in a crafty, very meta way, the evil A.I.’s went and reinserted Neo/Thomas Anderson back into a new, re-imagined, upgraded Matrix, retooling his memory, making him think everything that happened to him was all just a highly popular video game that he created, including cut-scenes from all the movie franchises and talk of Warner Bros. Studios interfering! Wild!
Thomas, still having delusions that it was real, seeks counsel from his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) for help. He even sees Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) in a coffee shop, but she’s a mother of two named Tiffany who doesn’t remember any Neo. Could all this really be in his mind? Suddenly, like the first movie repeating itself, a younger, bio-version of Morpheus shows up (Yahya Abdul-Mahteen II) with the ol’ “red pill/blue pull” choice. Thomas goes for the red pill and bingo! He’s once again yanked from that icky-gooey pod, but by some new saviors: blue-haired Captain Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and her motley crew of the hovercraft, Mnemosyne.
Neo is brought to the new human city of Io and meets an old friend, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith, reprising her role), who now runs the place. Not satisfied with staying put, Neo and the Mnemosyne crew want to rescue Neo’s one true love, Trinity, but there’s a snag. The new Matrix has a new architect called the Analyst (N.P.H.) and he’s determined not to have Neo and Trinity get together, as these two are what’s keeping his new utopia going so well. So much so, he keeps sending Agent after Agent after Neo and his friends in countless fights, including an Agent Smith reboot (Jonathan Groff).
Luckily, Niobe has a trick up her sleeve, and her name is Sati (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), an exiled program last seen in Matrix: Revolutions. Can they pull an Oceans 11 and free an imprisoned Trinity from her liquid pod while Neo negotiates with the sinister Analyst? Will Neo and Trinity ever get back together again? What about that new Agent Smith and Deju Vu the cat? How will the Matrix ever be the same again? Remember how confused you were with the last two movies? Well, you’re about to be confused all over again!
Director Lana Wachowski and two novelists, David Mitchell and Aleksander Hemon, have penned this fourth installment in the franchise and Lana hasn’t missed a step in the 20 years hiatus. Even though the story does cover old familiar ground and tends to repeat tropes and plots from the original movie, it spins this new movie in such a clever, unique way that it seems fresh. It even makes fun of the “bullet-time” moniker that was so over-used at the time! LOL! If only it wasn’t so damn long! At over two and a half hours, it starts to get old with the constant chases and fistfights. Yeah, it needed some serious trimming. Still, I have to argue some of the fight scenes were amazing and well-choreographed.
Keanu Reeves, looking very John Wick-ish, and his counterpart, Carrie-Ann Moss, look like they haven’t missed a beat either, even though I wish Moss had more screen time here. The new kids (Henwick, Mahteen II, Jonas, etc) are great, and you can’t go wrong with N.P.H. in his role as the Analyst. The film does move at a nice clip with cool-looking SPFX and for all you fans out there, plus it’s nice to see several call-backs to the old franchise movies.
**Now showing in theaters and streaming on HBOMax
The Matrix (1999)
The one that started it all, this bleak sci-fi movie devels deep into the world of computers, A.I., and our own mortality while being a showcase for some of the most cutting-edge CG effects ever shown, and introducing “bullet-time” photography to the big screen. Oh, and did I mention all the kick-ass fight scenes? Yeah, there’s that, too!
Required watching of the Japanese anime, The Animatrix, would help, as a pre-story tells of our world relying so much on A.I. robots that they eventually took over. In an effort to stop them we stupidity scorched the atmosphere and, in the interim, made the A.I. stronger. It’s now the future and the machines (computer) have created the Matrix; what we call day-to-day life, but really it’s all one big massive computer program made to harness our “battery life” as we are blissfully unaware of this fact. . . that is, unless you’re Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), a resistance leader of real humans that go hunting inside the computer-simulated Earth to free captured minds. Their target today? A computer hacker named Neo!
Neo, aka Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), is contacted by the legendary Morpheus and, with the help of Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), they rescue Neo from the several Matrix hit-men, led by the sinister sunglass-wearing, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Given a choice (the red or blue pill), Neo’s eyes are opened and he discovers the truth: he’s been an unwilling pawn (one of billions) that’s been hooked up and kept alive to ‘feed’ a computer. Freed from his tethered bonds, he’s brought aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, a ship carrying Morpheus, Trinity, and many others to Zion, the last refuge of human life inside the Earth. BUT! Feeling that Neo is “the One” (the chosen one, like Harry Potter), Morpheus takes Neo to the all-knowing Oracle (Gloria Foster), who can’t quite give an answer to this question.
As in all movies like this, there’s always a rat in the group willing to sell out the others and that guy is Cypher (Joe Pantoliano). Betraying his friends and Neo, he throws Morpheus under the bus, who gets captured & tortured by Agent Smith. Neo & Trinity make a heroic rescue, but in the middle, Neo gets shot and killed! But, is he really dead? Neo, in an act of pure defiance and sheer will & determination, “sees” past the Matrix’s code and becomes one with the computer world, effectively attacking and beating Agent Smith and his cronies. Yaay!
Written and directed by the (then) Wachowski brothers, this started the whole Matrix franchise, spawning two more sequels, each one getting more confusing as they kept introducing SO much bizarre double-speak as far as how and why the Matrix was created (the Architect’s speech alone in Matrix: Reloaded was nuts!). But through it all, the Wachowski’s never disappointed with their unique and unusual camerawork. Just look at how they filmed the chase scenes, the fantastic fight choreography, and their signature ‘bullet-time’ slo-mo. No one had ever seen anything like this before!
Needless to say, it made major box office bank! Reeves, coming off the very hot Speed (1994), showed off his fighting skills that would make him a super-star later on down the road for his John Wick movies. He plays it sullen, confused, unsure and, at times, the anti-hero. Moss is the one that brings Neo to his full potential along with Fishburne, who are both outstanding. Again, it’s the ensemble that shines here: both Marcus Chong as pilot and program-loader, Tank and his big brother, Dozer (Anthony Ray Parker) are cool, and even irritating Mouse (Matt Doran) is fun. Pantoliano, for the short time he’s on-screen, is awesome as usual. But let’s not forget Hugo Weaving’s distinctive vocal cadence of saying “Mr. Anderson”. It’s chilling!