The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Director: Lana Wachowski

Running Time: 148 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Jada Pinkett Smith

Since its 1999 release, The Matrix redefined a genre and became a prevalent part of pop-culture. Such popularity saw the series expand into sequels, video-games, and an animated spin-off, although that wasn't enough as Warner Bros wanted more instalments. Faced with the threat of a young Morpheus prequel without the original creators involved, Lana Wachowski returned to this world and used the opportunity to take a route far more interesting than expected.

After the deaths of Neo and Trinity in The Matrix Revolutions, the story follows video-game developer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) who has trouble distinguishing dreams from reality. After crossing paths with a woman named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), he must choose whether to follow the white rabbit once more.

In the spirit of Wes Craven's New Nightmare, Wachowski uses this chance to deliver a meta-commentary about behind-the-scenes drama and how unsavoury types have interpreted the previous films. She also offers a scathing commentary on legacy sequels and the way nostalgia can be weaponised as a shortcut to win over audiences, feeling like the antithesis to the likes of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Free Guy.

What's impressive is how such ferocity is balanced alongside genuine warmth, as the middle-finger directed at nostalgia-bait arrives alongside the comfort of returning to this sumptuously crafted world and its characters. As original cast-members return to embody how passing time has changed them, the steady handling ensures it feels earned in ways other nostalgic returns did not.

Driving this story is Neo and Trinity's relationship, the franchises beating heart which is wonderfully conveyed by the performers. Reeves and Moss capture their longing, happy to be together even if its them against the world, while redressing a balance the sequels did not offer. Joining them are spirited new inclusions who threaten to steal the scenes, particularly Jessica Henwick as the audience surrogate, a delicious Neil Patrick Harris relishing his role, as well as Jonathan Groff and Yahya Abdul Mahteen II clearly having a blast.

When the action is a large part of the series, it's a shame these scenes here feel lacking as the wire-fu is sorely missed. One could argue this is an intentional choice to mirror the action depicted in modern blockbusters, although that point could be made without falling into those same trappings. What's left has potential for further instalments, yet this would be a satisfying place to close off the series. As an addendum to the original trilogy, it resembles both a warm embrace and a punch to the throat while delivering something far more interesting than audiences could've imagined.

The Matrix Resurrections is available in cinemas now and on HBO Max in selected territories