Release Date(s)2021 (March 8, 2022)
Studio(s)Village Roadshow/Venus Castina Productions (Warner Bros. Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A+
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B-
In many ways, The Matrix Resurrections is both a sequel and a reboot. As the film opens in San Francisco, we meet an older Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), the present day developer of a wildly successful video game series called The Matrix. It seems that fame and fortune have left Thomas jaded and unsatisfied, numbed by the pills that his analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) prescribes to treat his difficulties in sorting dreams from reality. But when Thomas sees a woman at his local coffee shop—who looks just like one of the lead characters in his video games—he becomes obsessed with figuring out who she is. It turns out her name is Tiffany, a married mother of two and unlikely motorcycle builder. But it’s not until a strange young hacker named Bugs (Jessica Henwick) tracks him down in a dark moment that Thomas begins to know the truth: The Matrix isn’t a game, it’s reality. He’s not its programmer, he’s Neo, somehow resurrected from death and still trapped within it. And the key to the entire mystery is Tiffany—who’s actually Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss)—also resurrected and trapped in the system, ever so near yet always just out of his reach.
The idea to resurrect the characters of Neo and Trinity, and to continue their story, was motivated by Lana Wachowski’s personal experiences in the years since the original Matrix Trilogy was released. Warner Bros. had been trying for years to get Lana and her sister Lilly (formerly Larry and Andy) to return to this franchise, but it wasn’t until both of the Wachowskis transitioned and then lost their parents that Lana felt a need to bring the characters back (Lilly chose not to be involved). Lana’s reasons were two-fold; first, it was a comforting way to process her grief, but it was also a way for her to process the impact that making the previous films had on her life. The resulting story is a “meta” construct, in which the world Thomas finds himself is analogous to Lilly’s own experiences. That’s clever, and as valid a reason as any to create something new. Unfortunately, the in-world justification for this story to exist is a bit tenuous, more intellectually interesting than emotionally resonant. That’s a problem, given that this is meant to be a love story. What’s more, the story itself feels like a “greatest hits” collection of beats from the previous films. Nevertheless, the returning leads are quite good, the supporting cast of mostly newcomers is mostly solid (though Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving are sorely missed), and the cinematography represents a nice visual evolution upon the green-tinged artifice of the previous trilogy.
The Matrix Resurrections was captured digitally by cinematographers Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll in the Redcode RAW codec (at 6K and 8K) using Red Komodo, Red Monstro, and Red Ranger cameras with Panavision Panaspeed lenses. The film was then finished as a native 4K Digital Intermediate at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its release on Ultra HD, Warner Bros. presents the film graded for high dynamic range with both Dolby Vision and HDR10 options available. They’ve also had the good sense to release this film on triple-layered BD-100 discs to allow for less compression and the highest possible video and audio data rates this format has to offer. The result is nothing less than spectacular. The image is crisp, clean, and highly cinematic, with abundant fine detail and refined texturing. The brightest areas of the frame are just eye-reactive, while the shadows are deeply black, yet pleasing detail is retained on both ends. Colors are bold and accurate—much more naturalistic in this film than the more stylized and oppressive look of the previous trilogy. The lighting is more directional too, with abundant highlights, background fills, and more frequent use of natural sunlight in exterior scenes, all of which works with the 10-bit color depth, and the high data rate to create a magnificent sense of depth in the image. This is a reference-quality 4K image.
Also very good—through not quite reference grade—is the film’s primary English audio mix, presented here in Dolby Atmos format. Clarity is excellent to be sure, with clean dialogue, and nuanced staging of objects and sound-sources around the listening space. Movement is smooth and natural, and the overall stage is medium-wide and immersive, with nice overhead completion in the height channels. But the mix isn’t quite as aggressive and muscular as one might wish, especially compared to the previous films in 4K (reviewed here, here, and here at The Bits back in 2018). The dynamic range is still pleasing, but the mix is definitely less bombastic. (Though it’s also fair to say that there are simply fewer action sequences in this film than in the earlier entries—and when the action does kick in, the bluster is still plenty satifisying.) Meanwhile the score—this time by composers Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer—is less showy and more subtle than Don Davis’ work on the previous films. But Resurrections certainly deserves points for a use of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 hit single White Rabbit that’s so clever, it’s hard to believe they waited until the fourth film in this series to include it. Additional sound mixes include English Descriptive Audio (US and UK), German and Italian Dolby Atmos, English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian 5.1 Dolby Digital, and German Audio Description, with optional subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, German for the Hearing Impaired, Italian for the Deaf, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
There are no extras on Warner’s 4K disc, but the package also includes the film in 1080p HD on a Blu-ray that adds the following features:
- No One Can Be Told What The Matrix Is (HD – 8:52)
- Resurrecting The Matrix (HD – 30:44)
- Neo x Trinity: Return to The Matrix (HD – 8:16)
- Allies + Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed (HD – 8:27)
- Matrix 4 Life (HD – 6:19)
- I Still Know Kung Fu (HD – 4:56)
- The Matrix Reactions: Echo Opening (HD – 5:34)
- The Matrix Reactions: Deus Machina (HD – 4:45)
- The Matrix Reactions: Welcome to IO (HD – 5:17)
- The Matrix Reactions: Morpheus vs. Neo (HD – 4:00)
- The Matrix Reactions: Exiles Fight (HD – 5:20)
- The Matrix Reactions: Neo vs. Smith (HD – 4:11)
- The Matrix Reactions: Bullet Time Redux (HD – 4:34)
- The Matrix Reactions: The San Fran Chase (HD – 7:32)
- The Matrix Reactions: The San Fran Jump (HD – 7:56)
Some of these featurettes are pretty good, while others are more cursory and promotional. Resurrecting The Matrix, Neo x Trinity, and Allies + Adversaries are the best of the lot, offering revealing insights on Lana’s reasons for returning to the franchise, the actors’ perspectives on what the characters mean to them, and various crew perspectives. No One Can Be Told What The Matrix Is is fascinating for a more unexpected reason; the actors are each asked to summarize the plot of the previous Matrix films and… well, the results are pretty amusing. The Matrix Reactions clips are short glimpses behind-the-scenes on the production itself, focusing on the making of key scenes, sequences, and stunts. Sadly, there’s no audio commentary here, but you do at least get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
While The Matrix Resurrections is in many ways a better and leaner film than either The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions, it feels more elective than truly vital or necessary. But if you loved the original trilogy, it’s still nice to revisit this world for a little while. The film certainly leaves Neo and Trinity in a more positive place. And Warner’s Ultra HD release definitely offers a reference-quality viewing experience. It’s therefore recommended, if only for diehard fans and 4K enthusiasts.
- Bill Hunt