By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
In 1999, my siblings and I rode around in an RV with our parents, going on weekend trips to Ocean Shores and down to Oregon regularly. To pass the long hours driving and also to unwind before bedtime, we would exhaust the hell out of our copy of “The Matrix,” which at the time was a DVD in a plasticky sleeve with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss on the cover.
I was totally obsessed. We must’ve watched that movie like, 50 times in one year alone. We also watched all of the behind-the-scenes featurettes and watched the movie with commentary—which may have been my first introduction to Reeves being a really cool dude. It may have been where my adoration of this man started, which I know is not novel because only monsters don’t love Keanu.
What I loved about the original “Matrix” was not the sick fight scenes or the awe-inspiring-for-the-time special effects. It was the story—this idea that ordinary people can actually do extraordinary things (like dodge bullets and be savior of human species), and also this idea that we are possibly all living in a false world of just-enough comforts to keep us complacent, but really we are robot-food—just cogs in the machine.
That concept is even more resonant these days, right?
That’s why “The Matrix Resurrections” comes at a particularly appropriate time, more than two decades after the first film was released. This fourth installment of the franchise tackles the same themes as the first—staying faithful enough that it almost feels like a retread.
But that’s actually what I really enjoyed about it. It’s been a hot minute since most of us have watched “The Matrix” trilogy probably, so a fourth adaptation that requires deep knowledge of previous films would’ve really flopped. I am also lazy. I didn’t have it in me to plow through over eight hours of content just to prepare myself for this review.
Turns out I didn’t have to! “The Matrix Resurrection” feels like a really cleverly done remix. It has a lot of flashbacks that serve as glitchy callbacks to the earlier films, kind of purposely hand-holding viewers along the way. You don’t have to watch the other films to enjoy this one (though, of course, it certainly helps).
Just how Asian is Keanu Reeves? I spent some of the movie deliriously wondering this. When I watched him do martial arts, I was like, “Oh, pretty Asian!” But I looked it up. He’s an itty bit Chinese and he’s far more Hawaiian—about a quarter. But you know, this question is kind of splitting hairs at this point. Reeves is so freaking cool, so we should definitely just welcome him into our tribe with openest of arms. We should broaden our definition of ‘Asianness’ for sure. And he’s self-identified as a person of color in past interviews, so it’s clear that the dude totally wants to be one of us.
What is perhaps more noteworthy is Jessica Henwick, who plays the prominent role of Bugs in this fourth installment. Henwick is Chinese British, and her character is the one who gets things moving in the movie. She’s the one that ‘wakes up’ Morpheus and pulls Neo out of the Matrix (again). She is young and optimistic, serving as this counterpart to world-wearing characters who have been fighting their subjugation and oppression under robots for way too long.
She is also this meta counterpart to the audience of this movie. We’ve been fighting a pandemic for way too long. We’re also tired. It is actually kind of soothing to watch a character just freaking believe, so much, that it’s gonna work out.
This update was directed by Lana Wachowski, who directed the rest of the franchise with her sister Lilly (who didn’t come back to co-direct this fourth installment). I am so glad Wachowski came back to direct this instead of some rando that the studio hired just to soullessly make big bucks in a market saturated with reboots and sequels. She gave this film a lot of love, and I appreciate that.
“Resurrections” is probably also the funniest or more humorous of all “Matrix” installments, because Wachowski gets what it means to come back to a film franchise after a couple of decades. And I enjoyed this about her. I imagine that some of the more hardcore fans of the original will not like that. But really, these are the same people who get annoyed that people age, that people aren’t forever 30 years old and unchanging.
I’ll be honest with you, I am probably not going to rewatch “Resurrections” 50 times. Part of it is that I’m older and different and just don’t have the time to be having that much screen time. Another part of it, though, is that where “The Matrix” felt mind-breakingly new and genre-making, “Resurrections” actually already feels a bit old—nostalgic.
But it’s a fun watch for just one time—maybe two times because sometimes the plot is hella convoluted and it’s kinda hard to completely follow. Watch it for the dose of much needed nostalgia. Watch it for Keanu.
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at email@example.com.