"The only way you're getting through this door is over my big dead
ass!" "So be it." -- Seraph about to lay the digital smack
down on one of the Merovingian's thugs.
Everything that has a beginning has an end, the Oracle says in "Revolutions".
And, the "Friday the 13th" series aside, that includes blockbuster
The Wachowski brothers, who stunned the sci-fi and action worlds with their
philosophy-doped kung-fu masterpiece "The Matrix," bring their trilogy
to a climax with the loud clatter of... inevitability. Picking right where "Reloaded"
left off (with the machine swarms just hours from Zion, Agent Smith infecting
everyone in the Matrix with copies of himself, and Neo in a coma after exhibiting
odd new abilities), "Revolutions" describes the end of the war between
humans and machines. With this third film we'll learn about the mysteries of
the Matrix, see an epic battle for the fate of entire species, finally understand
the allegory that has informed the entire Matrix multimedia empire, and feel
ultimately satisfied with the Wachowskis' brilliant postmodern mythology for
our technology-suffused but spiritually bankrupt world. Right?
Well... maybe not.
Is that it...?
It's a little hard for "Revolutions" to be anything other than a
little disappointing. The buildup for the two sequels was so intense, and the
letdown after "Reloaded" was so devastating, that this third installment
didn't stand a chance of living up to everyone's expectations. Besides, how
DO you wrap up a trilogy that started as one of cinema's most mind-bendingly
cool explorations of the real, the unreal, and the just plain butt-whooping?
Apparently the answer is, you end it with a hell of a lot of sci-fi action
cliches in your giant climactic fight scenes. Only a few of the innumerable
questions raised throughout this franchise are answered here, with most of the
cool neo-Zen philosobabble replaced by a mixture of subtle and not-so-subtle
allegory. It's as though the Wachowski brothers forgot that the cool fight scenes
were only PART of what made the "Matrix" films so cool, that the real
draw was the entire "if this isn't real, then what is?" self-questioning
of what was going on. Because while "Revolutions" wraps things up
with a serious bang, I wanted MORE.
Not more action; long pauses aside, "Revolutions" definitely has
enough action. The final battle between the machines and the humans of Zion
is an anime-slick slam-bang showdown between dozens of machine gun and rocket-armed
giant robots and an insane number of swarming sentinels. It's chaotically kinetic,
breathtakingly tense, and grittily brutal, the sort of thing that ought to make
George Lucas wet his pants (and then go sob jealously in the corner). And the
showdown between Agent Smith and Neo is the greatest superpowered fistfight
since Supes threw down with the Phantom Zone criminals in "Superman II"
-- and its visual effects blow that 1982 flick away. The sheer SCALE of it all
is enough to leave you exhausted and drained in your stadium-seating theater
The problem is that "Revolutions" is a lot hollower than it should
have been, than it NEEDED to be to wrap up this trilogy. "Revolutions"
gives us a conclusion, but not much of a resolution. Just what WAS Neo? How
were his Matrix powers able to affect the "real" world? Did his final
choices really change the course of the war, or was it what he was destined
to do all along? Is that IT for Neo and Trinity? What about the Merovingian
and Persephone and the Twins and their purpose in all this? Do ALL programs
have such humanlike lives, like the Indian family at the beginning? What was
Smith really planning? How did Morpheus deal with his shattered and then restored
faith? And why is Commander Lock such a PRICK!?
Those questions are destined to remain forever answered, I guess. "Revolutions"
told us what we all wanted to hear about the big questions, like the war between
the humans and the machines and the fulfillment of Neo's destiny. But it left
all those little things hanging, casting an unfortunate sense of dissatisfaction
over the otherwise grippingly cool events that climaxed the "Matrix"
trilogy. Don't get me wrong; I really liked what I saw on the big screen. It
just seemed so... incomplete.
Still, if you can set aside your disgruntlement over the transformation of
the Zen-fu masterpiece that was the original "Matrix" into just another
special-effects-laden military sci-fi action flick, there's still a lot in "Revolutions"
worth seeing. For one thing, it's a really GOOD military sci-fi action flick
-- more "Aliens" than "Starship Troopers". And Hugo Weaving's
Agent Smith is gleefully nihilistic, the worst kind of homicidal bureaucrat,
totally incapable of understanding humanity but perfectly eager to wipe it out
because it just won't... conform. His exchange with the new Oracle is the best
scene in the entire film, and his gleefully malignant laugh still gives me shivers.
And while "Revolutions" is not as original as the first movie, the
concepts and characters swiped from other movies are at least GOOD concepts
and characters, and handled very adeptly. I'll admit I was often able to predict
what the characters were going to say before they said it (sigh... I miss lines
like "there is no spoon"), but the final resolution of the war between
machines and humans took me entirely by surprise. That by itself pretty much
redeemed this entire flick for me.
"The Matrix Revolutions" is absolutely crammed with intense sci-fi
battles and epic neo-religious themes. It's thrilling, emotional, and gives
things a hopeful but not irrevocable conclusion. It's a brilliant movie.
It's just not a good "Matrix" movie.