Its central conceit (“From womb to tomb, we are bound to others. Past and present”) and thesis (“by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future”) resonate, but marring the former’s clever edits and easter eggs are some discomforting cross-racial transformations and one can’t help but wonder if the thrust of the latter would’ve been stronger with a chronological narrative. As it is, some stories sit better than others (Ewing’s white saviour arc underwhelms; Cavendish’s caper is a hoot).
“The thing about stories, they never really end do they? We’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, faces.” A great meta quote that ends a probably overly meta scene (the WB mention is too much) but kicks off the film’s fascinating re-examination of narrative truth and fiction, identity and choice, binaries and in-betweens in an old but new world. As the plot picks up it stumbles though; the story mechanics are convoluted and the stakes feel strangely low.
It’s slow to load, with its first half marred by lifeless fight scenes (see the Chinatown fight which Neo just leaves after a while) and too much talking about who knows what (see the convos with the Oracle, Hamann), not to mention that over-indulgent dance/sex scene. On the freeway things pick up speed; the chase sequence is incredible and the final talk actually lands some philosophical punches (see Morpheus’ wind knocked out: “I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream has gone from me”).
A few glitches (some dated VFX, a cheesy romantic arc), but nothing major to make me not want to take the blue pill and escape my reality for a couple hours. The simple premise is juicy steak-scrumptious (see the breathtaking first wake-up scene), and the script walks with sunglasses-cool perfection the line between fun action movie and philosophical sci-fi laced with emotion (see pre-rescue: “[He] believes in something.. I understand that now.. because I believe I can bring him back”).
The self-discovery journey has a passive and bland protagonist, the space politics plot is interesting but confusing, and the shallow romantic arc feels purely obligatory. Nothing works, and the serious tone, poor dialogue (“I love dogs”), and mediocre turns and VFX don’t help. With the ending repeat of Jupiter’s life on earth I almost forgave it all as a weird character growth metaphor, but then wolf-man boyfriend comes zooming in again on his sky skates and he’s grown wings now and.. yeah.