The social media embargo for The Matrix 4 reactions has lifted, and now the official full reviews are live as well. And the overall consensus? Well, there kind of is none, except that this movie is going to probably prove divisive. Don't worry about spoilers here, though, we're staying away from those. But the early reactions kind of tip off the nature of the film we're about to see.
To use a word that has become the buzz word of 2021, The Matrix Resurrections sounds supremely meta. Some may see that as a good thing, others as a bad thing. As someone who just saw (and loved) Spider-Man: No Way Home, I can say that meta isn't always a bad thing. It's about how it's handled.
So, let's dive into the early Matrix 4 reactions, to help gauge our expectations for the film before it arrives this week (are you ready to watch The Matrix Resurrections online?). Oh, and if all of the reviews have you worried about The Matrix 4 confusing you, check out our guide to The Matrix movies explained.
The Matrix 4's negative reviews
Over in The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw gave The Matrix Resurrections a 2-out-of-5 star review. And his negativity flies early with the declaration that it's "a heavy-footed reboot which doesn’t offer a compelling reason for its existence other than to gouge a fourth income stream from Matrix fans."
And while I wasn't expecting any innovation, it is sad to hear The Matrix 4 "doesn’t have anything approaching the breathtaking 'bullet time' action sequences. Even more crushingly, he notes that "Resurrections doesn’t do much to remove the anticlimax that hung like a cloud over the cinema auditorium at the end of the third film in 2003.
This movie is set up to initiate a possible new series, but there is no real creative life in it." As someone who just watched The Matrix Revolutions, this is disconcerting. Bradshaw's positives are minimal, such as "ingenious touches (a very funny name, for example, for a VR coffee shop)" and being "a degree of charm as a love story of middle age."
At The Hollywood Reporter, John Defore explains that The Matrix Resurrections is "the kind of sequel Hollywood wants most — practically the same thing as the first, with just enough novelty to justify its existence — albeit one that thinks it can have it both ways, both bowing to and sneering at the industry’s need for constant regurgitation of familiar stories."
The Matrix 4's positive reviews
Over at Polygon, Joshua Rivera writes "The opening act of The Matrix Resurrections is wonderfully confounding, a delicious way to recreate the unmooring unreality of the original to an audience that has likely seen, or felt its influence, countless times." So, yes, this praise doesn't exactly sound like the most ringing endorsement. But it's another line from Rivera: "On top of all that, it is also a kick-ass work of sci-fi action — propulsive, gorgeous, and yet still intimate — that revisits the familiar to show audiences something very new," that shows off a love for the film.
Entertainment Weekly's review by Joshua Rothkopf gives the film a B+, and it's mixing praise with concern, with the line "It's a do-over without a full share of wonderment, but still a lot of fun." If you're here for romance, you may be the happiest member of the audience, as Rothkopf notes "But Resurrections does eclipse its predecessors for full-on, kick-you-in-the-heart romance: Reeves and Moss, comfortable with silences, lean into an adult intimacy, so rare in blockbusters, that's more thrilling than any roof jump (though those are pretty terrific too). "
The Matrix 4's early negative reactions
Let's get the hate out of the way. Film critic Kevin Lee called the film "very flawed. Long, plodding, and exposition driven." Which, as a ticket holder myself, is concerning.
Dave Chen also was annoyed, writing "#TheMatrixResurrections was a disappointment." And while he wasn't entirely negative, this is the line that has me concerned about the film: "But the movie's lack of stakes is deathly & even worse, its plot detracts from what was accomplished in the OG trilogy."
#TheMatrixResurrections was a disappointment. Some cool visuals & a handful of interesting ideas that expand on the Matrix universe. But the movie's lack of stakes is deathly & even worse, its plot detracts from what was accomplished in the OG trilogy.A huge missed opportunity. pic.twitter.com/PSG8uK9FPsDecember 17, 2021
More dislike came from Walter Chaw, who needed fewer words, declaring the film to be "hot garbage."
The Matrix 4's early positive reactions
Don't give up hope, though. Movie reviewer Rendy Jones called it "the 22 JUMP STREET of Matrix sequels," which is as weird and unexpected a comparison as any. That said, he also praises it as "cheekily meta, hella violent, and in its core, has a beautifully romantic plot," and Lana Wachowski's "best sci-fi romance flick yet"
And this sets up my expectations for the film, and helps me understand why the negative reviews may have been that way. Meta movie making, especially in this world where Spider-Man: No Way Home's cinematic universe-shattering casting is possible, and other films practically shatter the fourth wall, isn't everyone's cup of cinema.
Oh, and worried about rewatching all The Matrix movies first? Jones didn't, said the film "caught him up to speed," in a separate tweet where he noted "It's great actually. Ugh. I loved this so so much."
#TheMatrixResurrections is the 22 JUMP STREET of Matrix sequels. It’s a high octane thrill ride that is cheekily meta, hella violent, and in its core, has a beautifully romantic plot. Lana Wachowski might have just made her best sci-fi romance flick yet. #FilmTwitter #Matrix4 pic.twitter.com/J7bHUKEkm1December 17, 2021
Similarly, there's a since-deleted tweet (posted before the social media embargo broke) from Jacob Knight (via Reddit), where he — positively — compares The Matrix 4 to ... Wes Craven's New Nightmare. Why is it similar to the super-meta 1994 horror movie (which has an 80% Rotten Tomatoes score) that you may have forgotten? Knight said it's "a meta mirror for a culture that'd demand/dissect an IP-driven rebootquel to revolutionary sci-fi cinema. Appropriately gorgeous, messy, corny, romantic, and contains at least three chill inducing moments." And then he uses a bit of profanity to declare how emphatically he "loved it."
Now, I don't know about you, but there are some things in that very positive reaction that sound like (again) a film many won't want. It almost seems too meta, and that seems far too complicated.
But Knight enjoyed it, so it sounds like Lana Wachowski has threaded the most complicated of needles. We look forward to watching The Matrix Resurrections on HBO Max (one of the best streaming services) next week.