Synopsis: Neo. Trinity. Morpheus. They and other heroes stand on the brink of victory or annihilation in the epic war against the Machines in the stunning final chapter of the Matrix trilogy. For Neo, that means going where no human has dared – into the heart of Machine City and into a cataclysmic showdown with the exponentially more powerful renegade program Smith. For writer-directors the Wachowski Brothers and producer Joel Silver, that means soaring beyond the amazing visual inventiveness of the first two films. The revolution is now: The Matrix Revolutions.
eyelights: the final duel between Neo and Mr. Smith. the soundtrack.
eyesores: the cultural stereotypes. the universally wooden acting. the triteness of dialogues. the derivative wall-to-wall action.
There is no spoon-est.
If one were to describe the second sequel to ‘The Matrix‘ and direct follow-up to ‘The Matrix Reloaded‘, perhaps the best way to go about it would be to point to the post-apocalyptic nightmare of ‘The Terminator’, the Power Loader fight of ‘Aliens‘ and the CGI pomposity of the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. This is cloth from which ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ is cut.
Although ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ was already ‘The Matrix’ after a cocktail of steroids and speed, ‘Revolutions’ double -if not triples- the dose. Where ‘Reloaded’ was bigger and louder, ‘Revolutions’ is biggest and loudest – to the point of utterly overwhelming its audience and even its already thin and tenuous plot contrivances.
Quite frankly, ‘The Matrix Revulsion’ could be a more accurate title: audiences for the trilogy’s finale dropped dramatically after opening weekend and it became the smallest-grossing picture of the series. Complaints were that it left behind much of what made the original appealing and that it was an unsatisfying end to the story.
It’s funny, for all my complaints about its predecessor, a part of me prefers it to this one. And yet ‘Revolutions’ is arguably a more well-rounded picture than ‘Reloaded’: it doesn’t delve into so much abstract mumbo-jumbo that neither the writers nor the audience can make any sense of it, and it’s not as jarring a jump since the last picture.
But it’s kind of dull, déjà-vu. And done far better.
‘Revolutions’ begins abruptly because it’s a follow-up to ‘Reloaded’; you have to see the previous entry for it to make entire sense. And yet, I mistakenly had started watching it first, having not paid attention to the interchangeable titles and covers; it was only at the halfway mark that I realized that it was building to a climax. That’s just how trite it is.
It begins with Neo stuck in limbo for a reason no one knows and which will never be explained. It’s kind of a boring sequence, but at least it allows the film to build from there, whereas ‘Reloaded’ made the mistake of starting with non-stop action and being forced to subject us to longer stretches of non-stop action to make up for it. You can only improve on watching Neo sitting there.
Unfortunately, it continues with the previous entry’s knack for insulting audiences’ intelligence with its out-dated cultural stereotypes – unless the characters are black or white, and from North America. Otherwise, they are given accents or abilities that play into long-held beliefs that should probably be reconsidered by this point in our history.
In this case, while Neo is sitting there at the train station (a.k.a. Limbo), he meets a family of Indian origin who are waiting for the Trainman to take them to the Merovingian. Naturally, they are soft-spoken, peaceful and friendly types. And they have accents, because they wouldn’t be “Indian” if they couldn’t shed their accents when speaking English.
Even in the matrix. Grrr…
The same happened with the Merovingian, who is designed as an outrageous Frenchman – a villain, in fact (to continue playing into Americans’ notion that the French are despicable, furthered at the time in the shadow of 9/11). French actor Lambert Wilson, who played the part, was himself dissatisfied with the Wachowskis’ demand that he overplay the accent.
“Eet eez my beezness to know”, as the Merovingian says. Give me a !@#$ break.
A friend suggested that perhaps the matrix is fashioned around what little the machines know about humans, and that this is why even virtual beings feel the need to have flashy sports cars, …etc. I don’t buy it. If anything, the machines would have a very different perception of reality; it wouldn’t be rooted in human “ideals”. Their behaviour may even seem alien to us.
In any case, the train station sequence is drab and filled with pseudo-philosophy. For good or bad, it’s one of the last times we’d be subjected to this drivel, as the rest of the picture is comprised of wall-to-wall action, leaving very little room for “contemplative musings”. In fact, this sequence is broken up by Trinity, Morpheus and Seraph having a requisite gunfight.
But there is another: Neo and The Oracle have a Luke and Ben moment, when he asks about contradictions in her non-answers. The Oracle gets away with her lies by explaining that it just wasn’t time for him to know. It figures. This was one of my biggest grievances with ‘Reloaded’: this inability for the filmmakers to provide clear answers to direct questions.
The rest of the picture is concerned with Smith’s power matching that of Neo’s, as both seek control of the matrix – Smith for his own sake and Neo to end the war between humanity and the machines. The film is split into three parts: with Neo and Trinity going to the Machine City, Morpheus and crew trying to get back to Zion with their EMP, and Zion fighting off swarms of Sentinels.
Guess who wins? It’s not the machines. Or Smith.
Honestly, when I started watching ‘Revolutions’ I couldn’t stop laughing at the risibly-wooden acting on display (other than Keanu, I mean): David Roberts is BAD, Jada Pinkett is all numb-faced and expressionless, and Fishburne is boring as heck as a humanized Morpheus. Carrie-Anne Moss is the only decent actor in this thing, broaching Trinity various sides with finesse.
Thankfully, the action is put together well enough, because otherwise there would be no other reason to watch this picture. The performances are laughable, the script is vacuous and (mostly) predictable, the ideas are unoriginal, and the outcome is predetermined – so there’s to look forward to. But the Wachowskys acquitted themselves of the action clichés arguably well.
In particular, I liked the final duel between Neo and Smith; it was like watching a superhero film – a Superman film, in particular. I quite liked that. It made more sense given their powers. Frankly, if I had had to sit through another gun battle I would have flung myself out my window (which, given that I live on the main floor, wouldn’t amount to much).
‘The Matrix Revolutions’ looks and sounds good. Oh, sure, the CGI shots, especially the landscapes, look like video games, and there’s so much CGI that’s it’s overwhelming. But if one is into that there’s plenty to sink one’s teeth into. And the soundtrack, which is supported by Don Davis and Juno Reactor’s music, is absolutely phenomenal, with terrific bass rumbles.
But, in the end, I was left unsatisfied and with many lingering questions and doubts:
- When the movie started, Neo was lying down on a medical table, in a coma of some sort. When Trinity and Seraph get him out of limbo, he says he wants to visit The Oracle again. After his visit, he’s unplugged from the matrix. But… wasn’t he already in the matrix, even if he was in a coma? Why did he have to wake up and plug into it conventionally, then?
- From the start of the series, I wondered about the violence with which the characters are jacked into the matrix. Here, it gets worse. You need to see the machine jack Neo into the matrix at the end to believe it: it’s bad enough that the plug would technically protrude through their mouths, and the physical trauma they would experience would be horrific.
- At one point, Neo and Trinity’s ship shuts down. Naturally, her first thought is that maybe it’s a fuse and that she should go change it. Makes sense. Wait-a-minute! A fuse? Really? They still use fuses in the future? In their monstrous flying contraptions, no less? Why not go see if the squirrels on the treadmill have stopped running while you’re at it?
- Trinity is thrown down a hatch by an adversary, legs first, and yet she doesn’t break a leg or get hurt in any way. Oh, she’s stunned (who wouldn’t be?). But she’s made tough. TOUGH.
- So Zion is under attack from the machines and it is literally swarmed by Sentinels. So they bring out their arsenal of Armored Personnel Units to fight them off. I was already amazed that this hidden human race was able to construct such an elaborate underground city given how few resources they have and to do it under the machines’ noses. But this? Really?
- The Captain leading the APU charge totally loses his $#!t while fighting the Sentinels: he basically just screams incessantly and fires all over the place, like a madman with an endless supply of ammunition (which, again, I wonder where they get). This is their trusted leader? You’d half expect the guy to be cool, calm under pressure – not a bleeding lunatic.
- There’s a cheesy clichéd subplot about a kid who looks up to Neo and wants to help the war effort but is poorly-trained and slightly accident-prone. Naturally, he redeems himself. It’s so touching and inspiring, that I forgot how trite it was. I was genuinely moved…. to grab myself a bucket. Could this possibly have been more heavy-handed? I doubt it.
- Eventually, the Sentinels kill the screaming Captain, but somehow don’t destroy or even damage his APU; it remains fully functional! They also don’t hurt or kill the kid who was right behind him, leaving him to redeem himself a second time! How convenient!
This has led me to conclude that the Sentinels are ‘The Matrix’ serie’s Stormtroopers: incompetent and incapable, and only worth something in great numbers. For instance, when someone goes through a hatch, it’s as thought they’ve suddenly become invisible – the Sentinels never try to follow them, or break through the hatch. Out of sight, out of memory chip.
- As they near Machine City (I wonder how they named their other cities – or is it the only one on the whole planet?), Neo and Trinity are chased by thousands of Sentinels. Thousands. But once they crash their ship in the course of their escape, they’re alone, are forgotten by the Sentinels, and have all the time in the world. Really? How useless are the Sentinels again?
- Meanwhile, Morpheus and friends return to use their EMP on the Sentinels – which in turn shuts down all of Zion’ defenses. So… um… no one had the training or even considered that, if it affected the machines, it would also affect the humans’ technology? Really? Wouldn’t it be on the user’s manual (i.e. For external use only. And, most of all, don’t use in Zion!!!)?
- But seriously, why didn’t the machines simply gas/poison Zion and then pick off what was left of humanity afterwards? Seems like a simple solution, it’s cost-effective, and it’s probably quicker than doing a full-frontal assault. They could simply have filled their HUGE drills (which were likely designed specifically to attack Zion anyway) with gas and gotten it over with.
- Speaking of which, why is this place called Zion? Since it’s generally a term associated with organized religion, as another name for Jerusalem, what were the Wachowskis trying to say? Or were they using the term in a more abstract way, like the Rastafari movement does? It’s such a loaded word that I find it unusual that it was used here.
- I know that I’ve discussed this very issue before, but when they jack into the matrix, where do they appear exactly? Throughout the series, this is never made abundantly clear; they just show up. But when Neo jacks into the Matrix at the end of this picture, all of the Smiths are waiting for him. How did they know exactly where he’d appear?
Let’s face it: ‘The Matrix Revolutions’ is an over-indulgent CGI/action extravaganza. It’s almost as over-indulgent as this blurb, even. It’s mind-numbing to watch, but people who are very keen on non-stop action will be most satisfied. Alas, anyone who wants something more substantial will be left wanting, as the film is devoid of any subtlety. Or freshness.
Honestly, I’d stick with the first picture, and leave it at that.
Date of viewing: November 22, 2014