Updated: Mar 14
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
(1&2) Keanu Reeves (Neo/Thomas Anderson) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity/Tiffany) return for the fourth installment of The Matrix. (3) Most of the nighttime shots in downtown San Francisco were filmed with practical effects to keep the resolution at the highest level.
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“THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital; 2022; R for violence and some profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: 30-minute “Resurrecting “The Matrix” featurette (disc & digital)
FOR YEARS, co-star Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity/Tiffany) was quizzed by friends and people on the street, asking if there would ever be another “Matrix.”
Her response was always the same, “No, absolutely not. Not in a million years.”
Then one day Keanu Reeves (Neo/Thomas Anderson) received a text from writer/director Lana Wachowski, “How’s it going, I’m thinking about…” Moss also got a call, “You’re never going to believe it, but I’ve written this script.”
Moss was so taken by the news she rushed home and told her husband. “I think I started crying. I was just so excited about the possibility,” she says during the 30-minute “Resurrecting” featurette.
Wachowski never intended to return to the trilogy. “I thought when it was done, it was done,” she says. Filmed two decades ago in Australia, “The Matrix” was revolutionary, winning four Academy Awards in 2000 – Best Sound, Sound Effects, Film Editing and Visual Effects. The Chicago Wachowski Brothers (Larry and Andy) orchestrated the futuristic cyber adventure and two sequels, “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” in 2003, receiving mixed reviews, but still earning a combined worldwide gross of $1.1 billion.
(1-3) British actress Jessica Henwick plays the blue-haired young captain Bugs, a true believer in the legend of Neo. She and Sequoia played by Toby Onwumere, watch Trinity’s escape inside the simulation Modal. (4) Bugs is captured by The Agents and Smith-Morpheus played Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
Since then, both brothers became transgender sisters Lana and Lilly. The two lost their parents before COVID-19, as Lana continued to struggle with gender and the “complicatedness of being a transgender person,” she says. But in the middle of her grief, “My brain, one night, just resurrected Neo and Trinity.”
Her imagination and stories have always been a comforting agent and, with the birth of a fourth Matrix, “it was instantly soothing. Art is like that; it can really soothe us in times of pain.” And, for the first time, Lana would direct without her sister Lilly.
Since 2003, Warner Brothers has pushed for a sequel, but the Wachowski’s kept saying, “No. no. no. Not interested, not interested.” In early 2019 when Lana assembled the “Resurrections” co-writing team of novelist David Mitchell (“Cloud Atlas”) and Aleksandar “Sasha” Hemon (Netflix series “Sense8”), they were determined to keep the studio’s undercurrent demand as a storyline subplot. “The realness of that inside the fakeness of The Matrix became exciting,” she says.
The trio first wrote plot points onto cards, and a week later, “I began to get the itch to turn these cards into scenes,” says Mitchell. The opening sequence starts as a video game – the Modal – where we enter with a curious, blue-haired young captain called Bugs (Jessica Henwick, “Love and Monsters”), who detects something that looks a little like code from the beginning of the Neo story. “A mythical, legendary, quasi-messianic story,” says Mitchell.
(1) Thomas “Tom” Anderson is the world-famous game designer of “The Matrix Trilogy of Games.” He discovers something wrong within the Modal. (2-4) At the Simulatte coffee shop, he’s introduced to Tiffany and her two sons. Their handshake triggers a memory. (5) Tom’s boss Smith (Jonathan Groff) quotes from Agent Smith, “Millions of people just living out their lives... oblivious...” and tells him Warner Bros. wants a sequel to his “Trilogy of Games.” (6-9) Tom meets with his therapist (Neil Patrick Harris) at his hillside office overlooking downtown. Tom struggles at times to separate reality from his dreams. His therapist prescribes him blue pills to suppress the occurrences, which he stopped taking.
The author of ‘Modal’ is the world-famous game designer Thomas Anderson (Reeves), based on his big hit “The Matrix Trilogy of Games.” “It’s essentially a run-through of our first encounter with the Matrix world,” Mitchell says. Reeves considers it “self-referential or self-referencing. This idea of memory, fiction, and when does memory become fiction and does it matter?”
Anderson works for Deus Machina software in San Francisco, while in recovery from a suicide attempt with an unnamed therapist (Neil Patrick Harris). He meets Tiffany, a wife and mother who loves motorcycles, and their handshake at a coffee shop triggers a memory.
The new cast includes the dynamic Henwick, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as Morpheus/Agent Smith, Jonathan Groff as Smith, Neil Patrick Harris as Niobe, Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Sati and Reeves stunt double from the Matrix, Chad Stahelski, who directed the “John Wick” series as Tiffany’s husband Chad. Jada Pinkett Smith and Lambert Wilson reprise their earlier roles as Niobe and Merovingian.
“Resurrections” still plays as a love story between Neo and Trinity with a metaphor of capitalist exploitation, while hitting points of trans-politics, crypto-fascism, and plenty of gunfire and stunts. Five months were spent polishing the story. The green palette is toned down compared to the original Matrix.
Much of the production was filmed throughout the Bay area, including Chinatown, North Beach, and the downtown area. Seventeen days in they had to shut down due to the pandemic, and resumed during the summer of 2020. City Hall and Castro Theater in San Francisco were lit in green for its U.S. premiere last December. Critics and fans gave it a modest approval, hitting in the low 60 percent range on the Rotten Tomatoes site.
(1&2) The Jefferson Airplane’s classic “White Rabbit” plays during a montage as Tom and his co-workers develop ideas for the video game sequel. (3) Tom keeps crossing paths with Tiffany. (4&5) Bugs discovers a program embodying Morpheus and helps free him and they attempt to rescue Tom from the Matrix. SWAT guards search the building for Morpheus, and an explosion is set. Tom thinks he’s hallucinating.
The enclosed Blu-ray houses five featurettes. “Resurrecting The Matrix,” highlights the writing, casting, design, cinematography, and shooting in the Bay Area and Berlin. It features interviews with Wachowski, Moss, Reeves, and other cast and crew members. Wachowski and Steadicam operator/co-cinematographer Daniele Massaccesi were inseparable. Massaccesi replaced John Toll, who opted to not return due to family health issues.
Most scenes were captured in 20 to 30-minute continuous takes, to stay in rhythm and within the moment. Plus, the director would drape herself onto Massaccesi’s back as he maneuvered the camera. “We became sort of a four-legged creature and loved being able to be that close to everything to make adjustments,” she says. In the previous films, she watched the performances from a distant monitor. Now, the romantic scenes between Neo and Trinity are deeper and truer.
The other featurettes are much shorter as the cast and crew try to recount the full story of The Matrix trilogy. They assemble everyone’s comments into one answer. “It’s about a guy, a tall guy, black jacket, sunglasses. I remember Trinity in the air, slow motion kicking the cops. …I’d never seen that before. I thought it was the coolest thing…” Reeves and Moss reflect on their nearly 25-year journey as Neo and Trinity; the members of the resistance and the new nemeses are introduced, as is the reunion of the original cast and crew members.
“The Matrix changed our lives, and it taught us something really profound about making art. Making art is transformational if you bring your heart and everything in it. It changes you.” — Lana Wachowski, producer/writer/director
(1&2) Tom remembers a previous suicide attempt, and Bugs stops the memory as she tells him how he saved her from the Matrix. (3&4) Neo was presumed dead, but Bugs and Morpheus trace him to Anderson and extract him from the Matrix. Bugs takes him into a portal located on a Tokyo-bound train and then into an abandoned theater, where they find Mnemosyne’s crew and Morpheus playing Neo’s old memories of the red and blue pills.
Mastered in TRUE 4K, this is one of best looking 4K discs ever. Captured on Redcode 6K and 8K digital cameras mounted with anamorphic lens (2.39:1 aspect ratio) the visuals are superb, with exceptional clarity and bold contrast levels. The uptick over the 1080p presentation is obvious during the many close-ups and nicely framed wide shots. Fragments from the original heavy, green-toned “The Matrix” appear throughout.
Wachowski winged it on a daily basis, without storyboards or a shot list, filming on the streets of San Francisco at night without green screen backgrounds to give the action a greater sense of reality. The HDR10 and Dolby Vision are graded with deep, deep blacks, and outstanding highlight levels controlled and detailed from the radiant lighting style sourced from sunlight. Facial toning is natural without any color shift, while the rest of the color is well-saturated all coded on a 100-gigabit disc. A slight bummer, most of the VFX shots were mastered in 2K, while the practical effects kept the resolution at the highest level.
The 4K disc, digital, and Blu-ray are all coded with the eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The physical discs feature a higher bitrate for a fuller and deeper bass response within the soundstage. The digital sounds flat. Sound effects fill the room from front to back and above. One highlight is Jefferson Airplane’s classic “White Rabbit,” also the score from German co-composer Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run” “Cloud Atlas”) and Australian Johnny Klimek. They reprise some of Don Davis’ iconic electronic/modern score from the action-oriented original.
Overall, it’s an entertaining watch, not in the same ballpark as the original, but with reference 4K visuals and first-rate sound, it’s clearly worth a spin in your home theater.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1-3) Neo awakens in a Matrix pod and machines sent by Bugs retrieves him and transport him to the Mnemosyne where the crew attempts to nurse him. (4&5) Morpheus takes Neo inside the Construct. “In between everything and nothing,” says Morpheus. “Could be this is the first day of the rest of your life. But if you want it you gotta fight for it.”
(1) The Mnemosyne enters the city of IO, where Machine and humans live in peace. (2&3) Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) is the leader and tells Neo that it’s been 60 years since the end of the Machine War. (4&5) Bugs and her crew help Neo find Trinity. They are intercepted by Smith and other exile programs. The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) an old program within the Matrix has become even more unhinged.
(1&2) Neo and Bugs find Trinity working on motorcycles in her shop, and the scene suddenly repeats and time slows when the therapist appears. (3-5) He reveals himself as the Analyst, a program designed to study the human psyche. Neo makes a deal with the Analyst; he will return to his pod if he fails to convince Trinity to come with him.
(1-4) The practical effects shot was filmed on Pine Street near the corner of Battery Street in downtown San Francisco. Neo and Trinity try to escape on a motorcycle as a large swarm corners them atop of a skyscraper.