It would basically be impossible at this point to review The Matrix Revolutions without also reviewing the two previous films, so here’s a recap of what I had to say about The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded at the time:
The Matrix - “[The film] creates a fictional cyber-world that is staggering…There is a feel and a mood to this picture that comes from the cutting-edge quality of the visuals.”
The Matrix Reloaded - “Writer/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski seem a little too in love with their own creation. Instead of developing a story that you can get involved in, they simply obsess over the minutia of their creation in clear techno-geek fashion…It endlessly revels in its own weird philosophy…I was not only confused but also deeply annoyed. I wanted to see an action movie, not get a science and philosophy lesson.”
Quite a change from one movie to the next, huh? And here, right in the middle, sits the third and final part of the trilogy. Not as good as the original, not as bad as Reloaded. Picking up right where the last chapter left off, we now find Neo (Keanu Reeves) stuck in a netherworld somewhere between real life and the Matrix. He is rescued, naturally, by lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and mentor Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne). Neo then decides the only way to possibly stop the warring machines that are quickly approaching the underground city of Zion is to make a pilgrimage to their land. There, he intends to talk to “the Source” to see if there’s a way of negotiating peace. Trinity accompanies him while Morpheus and Naobi (Jada Pinkett Smith) launch a counterstrike against the machines in Zion’s central docking area.
Also making return appearances are the Oracle (Mary Alice), who knows all yet still speaks in riddles that would befuddle Yoda, and Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving), the bad-guy program now capable of copying himself. Making a mercifully (!) brief appearance is the Architect who, as we all remember, delivered a seemingly endless dissection of the Matrix in the previous film, thereby lulling many moviegoers (myself included) to a near-sleep state.
The Matrix Revolutions dispenses with all the pretentious techno-babble that ruined its immediate predecessor and focuses more on action, which automatically makes it a somewhat better film. However, I remain let down by both sequels. My main problem with this movie is that Reloaded so badly botched the story that I no longer care about any of it. Yes, the special effects are dazzling and the action scenes (particularly that assault on Zion’s dock) are attention-grabbing. But so what? The whole idea of the Matrix has grown cumbersome. We’ve been beaten to death with explanations about what it is, and what it does, and how it operates. Following the story has become less like watching a movie and more like taking a science mid-term. When the second part of the trilogy chose to be a fanboy’s paradise – by endlessly and repetitively examining itself – a large portion of the audience tuned out. That includes me. And you know what? It’s too late to get us back. The Matrix Revolutions is certainly more fast-paced than Reloaded but it couldn’t get me reinvested in the series.
That belies the real problem with both sequels: they are essentially a betrayal of what the original Matrix was. There was mystery to the original film. The Matrix was unknown, which made it alluring. Sure, there were awesome special effects, but they were part of the mystery. Reloaded blew the roof off the Matrix and laid it bare, thereby robbing it of its subtle ability to intrigue us. In other words, the Matrix was fascinating when it was mysterious, boring when it was exposed.
Both Reloaded and Revolutions are also miles away from the original in terms of approach. What started off as hip, cool, and intelligent has become loud, bombastic, and stupid. The second and third film are both overblown special effects extravaganzas, lacking any of the subtlety that made the original so inviting. In the history of cinema, this is bound to go down as one of the great missed opportunities in the genre of sci-fi/fantasy. When the last scene faded to black, I realized that the whole enterprise had been underwhelming. There are still unanswered questions, and the answers that are provided are strangely unsatisfying.
To reiterate, I found Revolutions more tolerable than Reloaded, and I guess that’s a small blessing. It’s not enough for me, though, to recommend the movie. I know from reader response to my review of Reloaded that there are plenty of people out there who want to revel in every last little detail about the Matrix. They want to obsess over the minutia. If you’re in that group, more power to you. Enjoy it. But this review is not for you; it is for those of us who recognize that this massively hyped series never lived up to the potential we all knew it had.
( 1/2 out of four)
The Matrix Revolutions is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some sexual content. The running time is 2 hours and 9 minutes.
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