The Matrix Revolutions
directed by The Wachowski Brothers
starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne
“Everything that has a beginning must have an end.” Truer words have not been uttered in cinema history. In the case of The Matrix Revolutions it is true…sort of. Yes, it has an ending and yes, it answers questions. However, it also raises a veil of uncertainty and obscurity as well.
When we last entered the Matrix, things were a mess. Zion was close to doom, Neo was incapacitated and Morpheus was a man wrestling with his faith. Things looked very dark indeed. The Wachowski Brothers made sure we left the theater mystified, numb and curious. The Matrix Reloaded was indeed an atypical second film; it transgressed all the rules of the sci-fi action genre. It had heady gobbledygook, deep philosophy and a car chase! Very few were prepared for the all-out intellectual assault laid before them.
Now, they’re at it again. “The Matrix Revolutions” picks up where the last film left off and runs with it. Simply, it’s a philosophical, mythical, epic love story with layers of content, nifty martial arts and thousands of digital effects. In short, it is relentless.
The film centers on the struggle for existence touched upon in the second film. It’s a theme that covers each of the films’ plotlines. Humanity continues its war, fending off extinction by the Machines. The Machines instinctively fight to annihilate humanity. Their Sentinels are advancing in huge numbers, drilling towards Zion. All of this goes on as Agent Smith, the rogue program, expands his power beyond The Matrix. Between all of this is Neo, struggling with both his responsibility as The One and his sense of duty to mankind.
The plot is not too complex. Humanity’s fate revolves around the last stand at Zion. Meanwhile, Neo must continue his path of discovery, escape from a digital purgatory, defeat both the Machines and Smith, save his friends and keep the girl. In the midst of all of this, we encounter smaller characters (many of whom were introduced in Reloaded) who become enmeshed into the framework of these struggles.
There is a lot to digest here. The film is mythic. Neo is a modern day Odysseus; he is a wanderer, a searcher and a witness. He is the catalyst for humanity’s hope for survival. The newly reincarnated Oracle continues to guide Neo and offer him wisdom. Neo must strike a balance to keep everything from unraveling. Smith is his antagonist; however this time around he is much more diabolical and sadistic. He has managed to cause upheaval in the Matrix and the real world.
Moviegoers who were resistant to the intellectual concepts of the second film will be dismayed to know that these concepts again rear their head throughout Revolutions. Quasi-Zen ideas of destiny, hope, rebirth, faith, survival and choice are abundant. Also prevalent is a sense of myth. The film is heavy-handed in its lifting of Greek mythology.
Once again the Wachowski brothers borrow elements from Hong Kong films, comic books, classical mythology, Westerns, Cyberpunk and hard science fiction. They have made an apocalyptical film that, despite its bleak, gothic, metallic dark tapestry, is uplifting and hopeful. They again capture the essence of what drives humanity, the concept of choice.
In fact, Revolutions continues the Wachowski’s proclivity for veering off the path of the conventional. Stylistically it looks amazing. The film is set in a world of wonder, and we experience this while the film assails our senses. For example, the wide shots of Zion and the Machine City recall images from Blade Runner or City Of Lost Children, but with a more desperate texture. The sets remain gray and claustrophobic. The tone is still desperate with little bits of hope and optimism under the surface. Despite the familiarity though, the movie looks like none before it. Its sets and backgrounds are eye candy. Clearly, the digital technology launched in 1999 is expanded on.
Revolutions also features a great ensemble cast. While he can’t really carry an action flick alone anymore, Keanu Reeves is ideal for Neo. He has put every fiber of his being into this role. Neo is again played as a curious, calm, balanced and self-assured hero. The heroine, Trinity, (Carrie-Anne Moss) is again assertive, forceful and cool under pressure. Laurence Fishburne mixes it up a bit this time by portraying the usually confident Morpheus as a man who is not sure how to deal with his crumbling belief system. It is sad though that he really doesn’t have all that much to do in the third film. Jada Pinkett Smith returns as Niobe. Her expanded role breathes some life into the film, bringing in some fire at moments when it is dragging. One bright spot is Collin Chou (Seraph). Chou, the replacement for Jet Li (who turned the role down), is given much more to do in this film. His early fight scenes propel the film’s action. Nona Gaye plays Zee, the wife of Link. She does a great job of being a heroine who sucks it up and helps defend Zion.
The Matrix Revolutions does fail in that characters from the second film such as Bane, Persephone and Merovingian for example, really are nothing more than unfinished bit players. They were never really fleshed out or developed. Furthermore, they bring in a lot of new detail here that is superfluous. It would have been a better film if there was not so much going on. There are too many layers to this onion to really get a grip on the story. It suffers from being too epic.
Despite the terrific ensemble cast, the film’s bread and butter is action. As with the two preceding films, most of the final quarter hour is pure adrenaline. There are big battle scenes, chases and a major fight scene between Smith and Neo. It is a knockdown, drag out affair that delivers all the special effects anyone could hope for.
However the biggest flaw of Revolutions is that between the philosophy, gunplay and punch-outs things sort of just don’t click. The plot, while interesting, oftentimes isn’t really rationalized; plotlines hang there flimsily, and explanations are miniscule. This could be a plus or minus depending on your opinions on exposition. It is great to theorize and think about what it means, but at times you are literally grasping at straws.
The Matrix trilogy will undoubtedly change how films look. The trilogy will leave a legacy that impacts science fiction films for the foreseeable future. These movies will change filmmaking. This change will be through a lack of noteworthy character development, understandable storylines or clear black and white explanations. These are films that mirror the Internet culture we live in. It’s fast, dark, sleazy, agile, nimble and glossy.
Revolutions doesn’t have a cut and dry happy ending. It actually sort of just stops, which is detrimental to rounding out a series like this. The film though definitely ends on a somber note, with an inkling of hope. Somehow, after seeing this you don’t feel uplifted or hopeful. You are just sort of numb and overloaded.
What is the Matrix: http://www.whatisthematrix.com/