Review: “The Matrix Revolutions”

The first Matrix may have been cliched but it took those old elements and reawoke them in a superb flick driven by an inherently interesting concept and good story dynamics. “Reloaded” had its moments of brilliance but to get to them one had to wade through many yawn-inducing fights and endless monologues about the nature of choice vs. fate. It was a very different film and all up a disappointment. Those hoping for answers in “Revolutions”, or at least a worthy follow-up to the original film, are going to be left short changed again sadly.

Had “Revolutions” come out sooner, say July it would’ve been in better company for what you have here is a Summer blockbuster – and an very average one at that. The money is all onscreen, the FX from a technical point of view are utterly tremendous and visually it can’t be faulted. However the scripting & dialogue is terrible, action scenes drag on well past the point of numbness and the cardinal sin of the whole thing is that by the end the audience is left feeling very cheated. Take away the pretty pictures and you have a film as equally problematic as other crap sequels this year ala “Bad Boys” and “Charlie’s Angels” but without the playful sense of fun.

For all the complaints about ‘Reloaded’ being too high brow, the opposite is true with ‘Revolutions’ – there’s almost no depth here. The first half hour is also the worst. If you haven’t seen the first two films then don’t bother trying to understand, hell if you haven’t seen the second one again very recently its still going to be a tough slog at the beginning. From a family of programs in a train station limbo, to a new Oracle who gives her role dignity but lacks the quirky sense of humour so signature of her predecessor – its a class in exposition 101 with endless talking albeit very little said.

When things move to the S&M Club Hell (an interesting, albeit overly theatrical place), we once again meet the Merovingian – gone is the dangerous man with a taste of eccentricity, replaced by a Bond-esque olive-sucking baddie complete with trophy wife with just one line (although Monica Belucci’s cleavage in this is the most impressive FX shot of the whole film). From there on things fall apart. Most notable is that the main stars of the movie go missing.

Maybe we’ve been spoiled by TV or films like “Return of the Jedi” or “LOTR: The Two Towers” where there’s constant cutting between 2-3 separate subplots but its an effective storytelling method which helps keep the pace moving and add tension. Yet, for an hour or so in the middle of the movie we watch the defense of Zion – that’s it. Sure Morpheus’ head appears at times and Jada Pinkett puts in a far better turn this time out, but they’re the B-story to what is one of the longest non-stop action sequences on film.

Yes its random faces (such as the overly eager kid and the old warhorse general) in CG tonka toy gun suits shooting non-stop at squids. Its fierce and furious to be sure, and impressive but also exhausting and unrelenting to the point it becomes tedious. Zee and her butch army buddy (such a Vasquez wannabe) fire rockets and more rockets, the council ponders, the shooting continues, someone gets killed by the squids, something random crashes and falls over, on and on and on.

Eventually we get relief from this and go back to Neo, Trinity, the machine world and of course the much advertised dual of Smith & Neo in the rain. The exteriors of the machine world look superb, likewise there’s a nice moment in this when Trinity sees a natural wonder for the first time in her life and comments on it before it slips away. Yet it also precedes a moment of the film that whilst designed to be emotional, in actuality comes out laughable in the extreme for both what is said and how long it drags out.

Whilst the Neo/Smith duel again looks visually impressive, its also overly inflated. These guys can’t hurt each other yet they continue on and on in bigger and bigger ways to the point where you are very much like – get it over with already boys. Indeed if there’s one thing this whole sequence does well is that it inspires you to think about possibilities – not about what’s happening on-screen but rather how cool would a Superman movie be using the filmmaking techniques used here. The ending I’m not going to even comment on, suffice it to say it renders the point of pretty much everything before it moot and cheats the audience – its a stop gap measure at best and leaves open way too many sequel possibilities for a film that it was claimed would always be “the last”.

So is it worth seeing? Well for fans I guess. Whereas the action felt cartoonish in the second film, it does have more weight here and by setting things in the real world it does give it a bit more brutality and an effective sense of desperation at times – its interesting to see a movie where the idea of people hoping for a better tomorrow comes off sincere (for the most part at least).

Bruce Spence has a nice little turn as a wild-eyed hobbo program named the Train Man, and Hugo Weaving does arguably his best baddie work yet as Smith. The main compelling reason though is eye candy – this is what $200 million and a whole lot of CG workstations can buy and filming techniques employed in these scenes will probably never be used again so for cinematographers and filmmakers of varying expertise who have a thing for visuals – Revolutions is your wet dream.

Sadly its just wet for the rest of the audience. Those who found ‘Reloaded’ not “sci-fi actiony” enough for them will get into this more – indeed its designed as more of a crowd pleasing film than the last one. Yet I honestly prefer “Reloaded” myself and think with the failure of many of this years crap sequels its been shown that people are getting tired of these bloated blockbusters with little or no point. Don’t believe any of the talk from the producers that “this is actually the second half of one big movie” – tone and look wise this feels very different to the other two – far more glossier and vapid best sums it up. A fancy hollow ending to a film series which should’ve just ended at the first movie.