The Matrix Revolutions (2003) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: R for violence and brief language
Running Time: 129 min.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Laurence Fishburne, Mary Alice, Ian Bliss, Sing Ngai, Lambert Wilson
Director: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Screenplay: Andy and Larry Wachowski
For eye-candy fanatics, of which the majority of fans of the Matrix films typically consist of, The Matrix Revolutions will be seen as ending the trilogy with a bang. To those who actually expect to see good storytelling, rich characterization, genuine emotion, or at the very least, for all of the loose ends to be tied up, Revolutions will most likely end with a shrug. It's commendable to see that the Wachowskis have attempted to give us one hell of a pay off, with a cataclysmic finale of earth-shattering proportions that is befitting a series with the scope and popularity that this one has enjoyed. In fact, there would have been no other way to end it. Where the Wachowskis have stumbled is by not understanding that a pay off of this magnitude requires a an equally magnificent build-up, the kind of which the first Matrix had done so well, and which Reloaded and most of Revolutions have all but completely evaporated.
Revolutions picks up from the moment Reloaded left off, which is what you'd expect, since this is really one sequel split into two parts, regardless of what the studios want you to believe. The machine horde are on the verge of storming the Zion threshold, and the human race seems to be facing seemingly insurmountable odds. Meanwhile, attempts are made to rescue their supposed savior, Neo, while Agent Smith continues his quest for domination of both worlds.
The best thing you can say about Revolutions that you couldn't say for Reloaded is that it actually is a much more focused effort. Its predecessor gave us a smorgasbord of completely needless supporting characters and padded action pieces, while this one stays the course of the war for Zion and Neo's messianic quest. Interestingly, Morpheus is reduced to a secondary supporting role, while villains like Agent Smith and Merovingian are largely absent for most of the running length. Few lines are given to characters that took up much screen time previously, such as The Architect and Link, and Monica Belucci's Persephone has seen her character's function dwindle down to just being cleavage in the background.
By the same token, this also means that the clutter of Reloaded's side stories and attempts at widening the Matrix mythos are left unresolved. One could make the argument that they are unimportant to the overall story, and there is certainly no argument there, but if indeed the Wachowskis had a fully conceived vision from the outset, they should never have introduced all of these elements to begin with. One could also argue that at two hours and nine minutes, Revolutions just didn't have time to deal with everything, but there's little evidence that an earnest attempt was made. At least thirty minutes is dedicated to the war between the Zionites and the Squids, cramming lots of noise and chaos, and little dialogue or character development, save to watch a bunch of men wincing and howling, while firing their weapons without respite.
However, this battle is also the first time things actually become interesting. The entire first hour of Revolutions runs like a sixty-minute sci-fi soap opera, complete with love angles, mushy sentimentality, and showcases of cartoonish villainy. Whereas Reloaded was rife with sexuality, Revolutions is curiously devoid of it, choosing to concentrate solely on a sort of deeper, almost platonic, form of love. While it's an admirable direction, introducing such an element at this late stage of the game proves to be futile, as the characters have never been much more than superficial representations of coolness. One can only view such outward displays of emotion as a feeble effort to bring poignancy and pathos to the trilogy, but without previous attempts at character development, it rings about as hollow as all of the rest.
Where the first hour is mostly a touchy-feely talk session, the last hour is an action extravaganza, filling every inch of the screen with dazzling displays of light and dark, and causing every speaker in the theater to reverberate with ground-shaking explosions galore. It's actually stunningly rendered, a marvelous fireworks tour-de-force that, if all the cards were played right, could have brought down the house, leaving all mouths agape. However, it's only because of the special effects that you will be interested, lulling you into paying little attention to the fact that this intellectually enigmatic action saga is supposed to be riveting for a completely different reason, that is, putting all of the pieces of its intricate puzzle together at the end. I audibly laughed when one of the characters yells out near the end of the film, "This doesn't make any sense!", as if he were reading the mind of anyone in the audience not engaged in mindlessly drooling during the seemingly never-ending barrage of grandiose pyrotechnics.
Now that it's over, I can only view the series as three separate entities. The Matrix is the original vision, fascinating in its concepts, exhilarating in its execution. The Matrix Reloaded is the Wachowskis attempt to broaden the Matrix-verse, hoping to expand the movies into a multimedia franchise that would see video games, books, and DVD spin-offs that would keep the money rolling in for the rest of their lives. The Matrix Revolutions is the failed cinematic, show-stopping Aria that explodes with dynamic sound and fury, placating the audience with gripping confrontations, while coyly keeping the entirety of the Matrix mythology completely enigmatic. In one fell swoop of genius, the Wachowskis have doled out the explosive goods to the fanboys, while simultaneously keeping them fished in for the onslaught of Matrix-related novels, games and television series that are sure to be coming soon.
Even if the Wachowskis haven't really closed their book shut with this "final" chapter, I'll still rest easy, because I have. Goodbye, and good riddance.
©2003 Vince Leo