Fans will be in denial long after the first viewing of "The Matrix
Revolutions," the final (thankfully) chapter of the "Matrix" saga. It's
nice to think the original concept is still fresh after five years and
that all of the lose-ends will find a spouse before it's all over.
Faithful reader, I ask you to see this film and then report back to me if
you can think of one war-movie cliché that doesn't surface in
"Revolutions," and just try to tell me that the Zion command center
doesn't scream STAR TREK!
I enthusiastically embraced "The Matrix Reloaded," the second film and
the one that took the original concept and stretched it with mind-blowing
special effects and story progression that truly showed the maturity of
the Wachowski brothers. I awarded it an "A-" and proudly defended it
against moviegoers who didn't understand it. I enjoyed preaching to the
dissenters how brilliant the 'rave scene' was; how we were given this
concept of inevitable destruction; impending doom, and the only thing
that the citizens could do to get it off their minds was to celebrate in
a massive orgy. It proved how risky the Wachowskis were willing to go.
"Reloaded" introduced us to marvelous new characters and endless
possibilities. "Revolutions" has none of that.
By now, those of us following the trilogy understand the basics of the
plot. Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his sidekick Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are
still trying to save Zion from its destruction that is only 20 hours
away, and they are still led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the
patient leader who seems to have less to say this time around, although
Neo continues to question everything. "Why?" he ponders, over and over
It would be no revelation of mine to inform you that Keanu Reeves isn't
the best of actors, and his portrayal of Neo has gotten more mundane
since we last saw him. Or maybe it's his character that is getting
stupider. Granted he has a lot to learn and the fate of all civilization
rests on his shoulders, but how long after we figured it out does it take
for him to realize that Agent Smith has occupied the body of one of the
human crew members? Apparently the "Mr. Anderson" phrase doesn't ring
any bells, nor does the fact that his former partner has just threatened
to slice open Trinity's throat.
Neo is still after Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), the rogue villain who gets
a little stronger every time we see him. Now that we know he's a human
and not a program, we anticipate closure to his story. Please don't ask
what that is because I along with everyone else have never learned it.
Link (Harold Perrineau) and his wife Zee (Nona Gaye) are still having
marriage problems as the possibility of Link dying in battle (cliché #12)
is never good for their relationship.
"Revolutions" has two acts; the first is the city of Zion's preparation
and eventual defense against the nasty machines. Seeing the sentinels
breach Zion's outer wall is one of the better parts of the film. This is
where the humans operate their machine-like androids and try to blast the
sentinels out of the sky. But this is also when "The Matrix" becomes a
war movie and the clichés kick in. And they hurt. The captain can't go
two sentences without sounding like a drill sergeant; Jesus this, damn
that. "This is my ship!" he yells after refusing to listen to the
returning Niobe's (Jada Pinkett Smith) winning strategy. While he's out
with his crew, the command center back on Zion looks like the Star Trek
getup, complete with flashing monitors and a commander who stands with
his hands folded behind his back.
When the leader of the ground troops gets sliced up by the penetrating
sentinels, he stutters his last directive (cliché #08) before falling
limp to the rookie supply technician who has just proven himself worthy
by fixing his jammed ammunition cartridge (cliché #15). While this
dialogue exchange is going on, the hectic war going on in the background
freezes (cliché #29) because we know that characters taking part in
crucial dialogue must never be disrupted. Only "Saving Private Ryan"
avoids #29. The rookie will then takeover as the pilot of the machine
and charge with full force while yelling a heroic one-liner (cliché #32)
The second act is the material we're all familiar with; the infamous
duels between Neo and Smith. What leads up to the final battle, after
four years of waiting, can only be described as a copout; Neo confronts
the machines and actually negotiates the end of the war with the machine
leader. This is not a spoiler; telling you if the contract holds or
falls through would be a spoiler.
The action is separated by scenes of dialogue that fails to scratch the
surface of our imaginations. Whereas at least "Reloaded" confused the
hell out of you if you didn't follow the jargon, "Revolutions" just
throws out high-school-level philosophy like the idea that love is not an
emotion, it is just a word.
And the dialogue-bug affects everyone. Even the once loved Agent Smith
can't shut-up in his moments of glory. Then again maybe he's just
patient enough to explain everything out to Neo who is still--if you can
believe it--clueless about everything. In his defense, it doesn't help
when the Oracle (Mary Alice, replacing the late Gloria Foster) offers
little wisdom because she must first explain her new physical appearance,
which sort of goes to the tune of "I made a choice, and had to give up
more than I wanted." OK, but what about the matrix? That kind of goes
like "I don't know what I don't understand. Thanks for stopping by."
After each major battle, the leaders of the Zion army face
court-martialing in front of the wise counsel (cliché #18) of a dozen or
so elders. Hearing them question the controversial decisions like the
one to allow Neo to fly one of the vessels into the Machine City reminded
me of "Star Wars," and I scanned the panel of judges expecting to find
Jar Jar Binks, or at least Samuel L. Jackson offering his wisdom.
"Revolutions" introduces a few new concepts to us but fails to expand.
We learn of the Trainman (Bruce Spence), but he fades from the picture as
soon as he becomes interesting. I wish to divulge more information
about his character, but doing so would spoil one of the few positive
aspects of the film.
Remember in "Reloaded" how we were introduced to The Twins? Remember
looking in awe at how they could disappear and fly through solid objects?
Remember how they self-healed their flesh wounds through instant
regeneration? Instead of those guys showing up for this party, we get
the return of Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), the arrogant Frenchman whose
only progression to the story is that he owns the Trainman's design. Had
the Trainman's story been more developed then there might have actually
been a need for Merovingian. Also back is Persephone's cleavage (Monica
Bellucci's cleavage) whose only progression to the story is that her
outfit is smaller, tighter, and consequently more revealing.
The final duel between Neo and Agent Smith falls well short of triumph,
despite the technical beauty of its setup; Neo and Smith emerge in the
pouring rainfall as thousands of Agent Smiths (completely defunct) look
on as spectators. Then they clash. They punch. They kick. They fly
back when punched. Now repeat the process…a few dozen times. They fight
in the air and their movements create an impressive wake of water as they
dance and tumble against the forces of gravity. But then the special
effects begin assaulting our senses and we are soon presented with a
clash of computer effects that make it hard for us to follow what's
happening. It was not nearly as good as either the 'burly brawl' or
'highway chase' in "Reloaded." And if you thought you saw glitches in
"Reloaded," then prepare to tear apart the special effects in
"Revolutions," as it couldn't be any more clear that the mid-air shots
were done in front of a blue-screen.
A slow-motion shot of Smith getting
decked in the face looks cool. It's slow enough for us to see the
raindrops that divide Neo's hand and Smith's face. This is the money
shot; the one time when the movie comes to a standstill so we can marvel
at this accomplishment. And when it's finally executed, we think back to
the more impressive scene when Agent Smith crushes a car traveling on the
highway as he lands on the hood in slow-motion back in "Reloaded."
I give the Wachowskis much respect for what they've done, but their
accomplishments end with the "Reloaded" credits. It's been five years
since the release of "The Matrix," and after such time has passed little
has been answered. As bad as "Revolutions" may be, my criticisms end
with the understanding that the entire trilogy was a revolutionary
rebirth of science fiction. In a collective set, the "Matrix" trilogy
is brilliant. And even though the final film is weak, it is necessary to
bring "The Matrix" to an end, and thankfully it came not too long after
the last installment.
Simply put, "Reloaded" was worth the four year wait. If you disagree,
then you're in for a disappointment with "Revolutions." Everything gets
worse. The acting is so noticeably bad that I wondered if Keanu and his
pals figured that what they set out to do was accomplished two films ago.
The special effects, which should have at least been at par with the last
film, actually get worse, and I think it's because the Wachowskis wanted
to do too much. They wanted to do better than "Reloaded," and wound up
blowing a fuse in the process. Had we waited four years for this, the
fans would have rioted.