Reviewing this film without spoiling anything will be nearly impossible, but I'll try.
So let's just say The Matrix Resurrections closely follows the plot of the first film. But there's a larger point to this, unlike the fan service of, say, The Force Awakens. Repeating the same story over and over only gets you so far. Eventually that hamster will want to get off the wheel.
What makes this new film so special is how distinct it feels, how purposeful. Early on, a character is told point blank that a sequel to a popular franchise was getting made with or without the people who started it. But it's a literal feedback loop for the creator, who keeps being told to ditch the philosophy and just make things look cool. Lana Wachowski and her co-writers once again find a way to effortlessly blend both.
The film brings together new characters and updated versions of old characters in a way that feels organic to this story. Jessica Henwick is clearly the breakout as Bugs, whose loyalty, independence and persistence will be familiar to any fan of the series. Other standouts came from the Wachowskis' Netflix series Sense8. The interconnected stories from that show – and especially co-writer David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas – are an even bigger influence on this film than the original trilogy.
One of the masterstrokes of the film is in casting Neil Patrick Harris and Jonathan Groff. Using their boyish good looks and nice guy personalities for the most devious characters is tremendous. Some of Neo's other nemeses return, but weaker than before, as if the programs have been left to rot for decades.
But the real MVP is film editor Joseph Jett Sally. Weaving in footage from the original trilogy as flashbacks or false memories (depending on the context), it's goes a level deeper than mere callbacks. Everything in the film is like that. Lana Wachowski could have approached this as a cash grab and just phoned it in, regurgitating pseudo-philosophy and delivering a cool set piece or two. Hell, she's earned it. But she once again boldly went her own direction, stripping down the original trilogy and remixing it to the music in her head.
Big swings like that are bound to alienate some fans, just like Reloaded and Revolutions did. But this sequel is better than both, delivering on all the things that made the original film so special.