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Murray Close/Warner Brothers Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

“The Matrix Resurrections” is part ’90s cyberpunk (remember “Hackers,” “The Net” and “Johnny Mnemonic,” which also features our beloved Keanu Reeves?), part zombie flick and part ’20s bracing critique of internet corporate overlords like Google, Amazon and Facebook. Much of the new entry retreads the Wachowskis’ trilogy circa 1999 to 2003, with a few exceptions: Smith, here played by Jonathan Groff, is now, rather than Terminator in the computer simulation, a Musk/Bezos/Zuckerberg-type tyrant and business partner of Thomas Anderson/Neo (Mr. Reeves), who deliberately articulates in early scenes his disdain for Warner Brothers’ decision to revive “The Matrix” with or without its creators – which perhaps explains how Lana Wachowski only begrudgingly came onboard.

A ragtag of rebels in the real world, led by Bugs (Jessica Henwick), rescues Neo from this Matrix reboot. Neo is convinced that Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is still in the simulation, prompting the group to repeat the rescue mission. Though Smith and other agents remain obstacles, Neo must also face off with The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), his therapist from the simulation who apparently controls more than just his mind. Overall, the film is solid. But much like the previous two installments, “Resurrections” slightly underwhelms for not breaking new ground as the original “Matrix” did.

In his anticorporate diatribe, Neo bemoans the retelling of the same stories. “Resurrections” emphasizes that sense of déjà vu with visual quotations from previous films as inserts or projected in the background. But in addition to recasting Hugo Weaving’s part, “Resurrections” has Yahya Abdul-Mateen II playing Morpheus, a role previously held by Laurence Fishburne. You simply can’t effectively stoke nostalgia with replacements. Although Lilly Wachowski is missing, the most glaring absence is actually Yuen Wo-ping, who choreographed fight scenes in all previous installments. Action sequences here seem to lean too heavily on special effects.

Bill Pope’s cinematography is also sorely missed here. Lensed by Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll, “Resurrections” lacks the visual clarity of the previous films. The rebooted Matrix simulation looks like scenes from “In the Heights,” which breaks off the consistency of the franchise’s aesthetic. The frames feel cluttered. Sci-fi flicks typically allow us time to bask in the alternative universes the filmmakers have painstakingly created, but for some unbeknownst reason Ms. Wachowski decides to deprive us of that pleasure; perhaps she’s still mindful of blowbacks from the extended rave scene in “The Matrix Reloaded.” The end result feels routine; perhaps that’s her whole point, but it’s also not particularly exciting to sit through.

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