Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is the designer of The Matrix, a popular video game set in a virtual reality. His bosses have ordered a sequel; at an ideas meeting, his colleagues throw around a few ideas. PVC. Guns. Trans allegory. There is much winking and nudging in Lana Wachowski’s follow-up to the groundbreaking sci-fi films she co-created with her sister Lilly. Wachowski understands that in the 20 years since, their legacy has been boiled down to a catalogue of memes with lucrative franchise potential. Yet her newest chapter manages to be self-aware (at times overly so) without being entirely cynical.
Those foggy on the details of the trilogy’s plot will benefit from the exposition-heavy first act. Plagued by memories of his past, Anderson – also known as Neo – must once again choose whether to take the red pill offered by hacker Bugs (Jessica Henwick, whip-smart), and wake up, or continue to swallow his current reality. Carrie-Anne Moss’s Tiffany, a motorcycle mechanic and mother of two whom Neo remembers as Trinity, has a choice to make too. The romance between them has always been the molten core of the Matrix films; their power as a duo is what drives the story forward.
The actors’ chemistry remains flammable. “I’ve had dreams that weren’t just dreams,” he tells her. “You mean dreams that come true?” she replies. The film is a utopian riff on the apocalyptic source material, a Technicolor reimagining flooded with light and optimism. From the sun-dappled cinematography to the primary colours worn by Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), this world feels liberated from the oppressive green of computer code associated with the original.