A recurring trend in the ever-expanding enigma that is social media has been 2000s nostalgia, where Gen Z-ers reminisce on their favorite pieces of pop culture from their childhood. Videos following this trend mainly feature clips from old Disney Channel sitcoms and pictures of Ring Pops with captions along the lines of “Things only 2000s kids remember” or “POV: It’s 2013.” Besides acting as a quick trip down memory lane, the trend exemplifies one of the most effective and easy ways to garner an audience: exploiting nostalgia.
It seems every year now, some old TV series earns a reboot, a beloved video game receives a remaster or some obscure childhood toy gets a newly-revamped model – all because nostalgia is more profitable than originality. 2021 received one of the most anticipated continuations of all time: The Matrix Resurrections. Directed by Lana Wachowski, Resurrections was the sequel to 1999's The Matrix that fans had been dreaming of.
Unfortunately, Resurrections fails not only as a sequel, but as a movie in its own right. Although it captured the world’s attention with the return of Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Resurrections forgets its roots and fails to remember what made the series so famous in the first place. If there was anything that Resurrections succeeded at, it was polarizing its core fanbase.
The most glaring issue with Resurrections is its love-hate relationship with the original series. With numerous jokes about series tropes such as bullet time and the trilogy’s obsession with kung-fu, the film condemns the original series at some points and praises it at others.
Love-hate relationships are a recurring theme in the film, affecting numerous cinematographic aspects. For example, Resurrections recasts famous characters such as Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff), who were originally played by Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving, respectively. Although this wasn’t by any means a downgrade in performance, including a re-casted Morpheus for 10 minutes of total screen time just makes you wonder – why bring him back at all?
If the recasting of beloved characters wasn’t enough, Resurrections decides to further alienate diehard fans by replacing another essential part of the series’ DNA – the well-feared Agents – with soulless zombies. It’s not like the Agents don’t exist in the movie, though. Resurrections just underpowers them so much that any of the new characters can fight them with ease.
The Matrix Resurrections’ main issue is that it’s messy. The film spends so much time debating on whether or not it actually liked the original series that it forgot to be a movie in its own right. All of the time that the film takes to reference the original series could have been used to develop a completely different story and cast. It initially introduces audiences to a new Zion and presents a great potential protagonist, Bugs (Jessica Holdwick). But as it goes on, Resurrections barely offers any screentime to this new material, always introducing a new concept briefly before making some lame-ass meta-joke about the state of the series.
Ironically, all of Resurrections’ problems revolve around this soulless fanservice. Resurrections has the backwards idea that pandering to the fans means unnecessary recasts and reintroductions as well as self-deprecating jokes. In reality, every moment that the movie doesn’t spend to positively represent the original series, it ruins its reputation. Resurrections’ poor handling of old material just makes the 2 hours of runtime more painful than rewarding.
A sequel that perfectly handles old and new material is The Legend of Korra. Korra, the sequel series to the hit 2000s Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender, strays far from its predecessor – revolving around new characters, conflicts, and locations. The show is smart. It’s aware that its audience are the fans of the original series, but it knows to refrain from making too many references. Sure, there are moments where the show reintroduces old characters and locations, but it’s all balanced out by the plethora of new material. Unlike Resurrections, Korra only makes references when it knows it can nail them. It preserves the old material as much as possible because it knows that poor execution can easily deter an old fan. Say what you will about the writing, but I’d take Korra over Resurrections any day.
The Matrix Resurrections is a testament to the ability of corporations to milk dollars from Gen Z-ers through nostalgic content. Countless film studios have recently tried to revive old IPs, but most of those movies suffer creatively and financially. It’s not that audiences are tired of these series – they just don’t want to watch the same movie again. Rather, they want something new that adds to their favorite movies. The Matrix Resurrections is a mediocre movie at best. If you’re like me and wanting to relive some childhood memories, skip this film before you find yourself furiously yelling at the screen.
Thumbnail image courtesy of Ryan-Matrix licensed under CC BY 2.0.