Review by Paul Stathakis | 2003

The final showdown

The Ora­cle to Neo: “Every­thing that has a begin­ning has an end. I see the end com­ing, I see the dark­ness spread­ing. I see death.”

Chap­ter 1 was all about “The Matrix”. It was the intro­duc­tion to Agent Smith, Neo, Mor­pheus, Trin­i­ty, the pro­grams, the ques­tions, and the nev­er-before-seen spe­cial effects. It start­ed there, with birth as the main theme. Chap­ter 2 was “The Matrix Reloaded”, the sequel that stretched the sto­ry a lit­tle far­ther than Chap­ter 1 did. It was about life but it seemed like it was more about the effects than any­thing else. And now we arrive to Chap­ter 3, “The Matrix Rev­o­lu­tions”, which con­cludes the tril­o­gy and ulti­mate­ly deals with death.

”The Matrix Rev­o­lu­tions” respect­ful­ly picks up from where “Reloaded” left off. The machines are on their way to Zion, the last human city, for what is to be a big bat­tle between man and machine. Of course, there is still the sit­u­a­tion with Agent Smith (Hugo Weav­ing), who some­how found a way to mul­ti­ply him­self infi­nite­ly in “Reloaded”. The same hap­pens here. The sec­ond install­ment left us with Neo (Keanu Reeves) uncon­scious, lying on an exam­in­ing table, after pour­ing all his ener­gy into destroy­ing four Sen­tinels while, appar­ent­ly, “out­side of the matrix”. On the exam­in­ing table beside Neo rests Bane (Ian Bliss), anoth­er “unplugged” sur­vivor. But he is not real­ly who he appears to be. Do not for­get that Agent Smith man­aged to pen­e­trate Bane’s body in “Reloaded”. That means Bane isn’t real­ly Bane any­more. It’s Smith. That is how the Wachows­ki Broth­ers left us hang­ing. How­ev­er, this time, Bane awak­ens from his comatose-like state, seek­ing noth­ing but revenge and more pow­er.

I didn’t enjoy “The Matrix Reloaded”. It didn’t siz­zle like its pre­de­ces­sor. Instead, it spent most of its dura­tion pitch­ing philo­soph­i­cal ques­tions of all sorts about cause and pur­pose with rea­son and inevitabil­i­ty. The char­ac­ters spoke so elo­quent­ly, in big words that most view­ers couldn’t fol­low. The sec­ond part was made for the die-hard Matrix fans. No doubt. I even recall a woman telling me, “I made an effort to lis­ten to the Archi­tect and his the­o­ret­i­cal expla­na­tions. I just couldn’t fol­low.” This is the kind of movie that demands close atten­tion and good lis­ten­ing. It demands effort from view­ers, efforts to open their minds to the unimag­in­able cre­ativ­i­ty of the Wachowskis. They are genius­es, to say the least. They know how to tell a sto­ry and this tril­o­gy is the proof, no mat­ter how much “causal­i­ty” talk was packed in the sequel and no mat­ter how much the Archi­tect ram­bled on. Even with the effects aside, there is a pro­found sto­ry. After all, with these direc­tors, every­thing sup­pos­ed­ly has a rea­son, a pur­pose, and a mean­ing.

In this third con­tin­u­a­tion, Neo also awak­ens to rejoin Trin­i­ty (Car­rie-Anne Moss) and Mor­pheus (Lau­rence Fish­burne) in their efforts to save Zion. Only Neo also has a per­son­al score to set­tle with Smith. If you’re half-inter­est­ed in “The Matrix”, then you’ve cer­tain­ly heard about its ties to reli­gion and how it’s more or less a sci-fi illus­tra­tion of the Bible. Well, this is the prob­a­bly the most reli­gious of all three films. I say this pri­mar­i­ly because of the char­ac­ters in “Rev­o­lu­tions” and their pur­pose. They are dri­ven to suc­ceed and come out tri­umphant, to save lives, to cor­rect what is wrong and to clear­ly estab­lish what is right, in this case, for human­i­ty (mean­ing, every­one in Zion) and for them­selves. But it’s not fair to say that the writ­ers told the sto­ry entire­ly in accor­dance with the Bible. This is a sci­ence-fic­tion film, which means that a big part of the sto­ry relies on “fic­tion”: fic­tion­al­ized char­ac­ters, events, images, and out­comes. Keep that in mind.

What I can say about the sto­ry is that it comes real close to tying all knots togeth­er, but it doesn’t. It ends on a very philo­soph­i­cal note. “The Matrix Rev­o­lu­tions” is a risky con­tin­u­a­tion that plays more like a Shake­speare­an tragedy this time around. I say it is risky because of the impor­tance of the tril­o­gy. A series of this mag­ni­tude can’t and won’t please every fan out there and that is the truth. I sus­pect many fans will be dis­ap­point­ed. I sus­pect oth­ers will leave the the­ater sat­is­fied and refreshed. I found myself stand­ing in between, where I knew I enjoyed the film for its action and sto­ry­telling-beau­ty but didn’t bow to its inef­fec­tive con­clu­sion.

Enough about the sto­ry though. Let’s talk action. In terms of spe­cial effects, “Rev­o­lu­tions” achieves aston­ish­ing results, far beyond my wildest expec­ta­tions. It’s not like “Reloaded”. Sure, the sec­ond includ­ed the now-famous high­way chase but there was this zing that was miss­ing from the sequel that made “The Matrix” a delight: that soft bal­ance of nar­ra­tive and action. With “Rev­o­lu­tions”, the Wachowskis gives us back that struc­ture.

They arranged this one so smooth­ly with so much pas­sion and pre­ci­sion, with dig­ni­ty and grace that it’s impos­si­ble for any­one not to leap into sheer exhil­a­ra­tion when action comes knock­ing. In case you’re won­der­ing just how much action is packed into this third one, there’s the bat­tle of Zion, which is a splen­dor of a bat­tle that words can­not even describe. You’ll just love how Niobe (Jada Pin­kett Smith) and Mor­pheus find their way in this bat­tle. When it comes to spe­cial effects and sound, not even George Lucas could reach such per­fec­tion with his CGI bits in “Star Wars”. Let us not for­get one of “Rev­o­lu­tions’” piv­otal moments, the bat­tle between Neo and Smith which the com­mer­cial gen­er­ous­ly revealed. Both men stand at oppo­site ends of a long street while chunky rain­drops drench them. They stand strong between two line­ups of copies of Agent Smith, who watch on like us, spec­ta­tors, with­out tak­ing part in the fight. Neo and Smith exchange a few words before giv­ing it their all in a man-to-man-type quar­rel of epic pro­por­tions. The Wachows­ki Broth­ers tru­ly offer us some of the best action sequences in recent mem­o­ry, even when they ease off the whole “bul­let-time” idea. These scenes are real treats, real­ly stun­ning.

I will refrain from dis­cussing plot any fur­ther or what hap­pens in “The Matrix Rev­o­lu­tions”. What’s impor­tant to know is that the Wachowkis leave cer­tain ele­ments unan­swered. This is not a fin­ish with solu­tions. It doesn’t give itself away, com­plete­ly. It holds back on a few cor­ners. If you judge “Rev­o­lu­tions” only on its char­ac­ters and what the writ­ers have decid­ed for each of them, then chances are you will not be sat­is­fied. What the Wachowskis do here, on a tech­ni­cal lev­el, seems to work bet­ter than in did in “Reloaded”. I, along with many fans, con­sid­er “The Matrix” a mas­ter­piece, a mag­num opus. Know that the first can nev­er be topped, no mat­ter what. It is too strong. It was too new, too fresh, too unex­plored yet. With “Rev­o­lu­tions”, when you come to under­stand that every­thing that had to be said about the sto­ry was almost said, you get a hint at where the writ­ers are now stand­ing. And the end­ing is more unpleas­ant than it is reward­ing, con­sid­er­ing the fact that we patient­ly wait­ed some months for an explo­sive expla­na­tion and a unique wrap-up. But then again, it was “sort of” all inevitable and as humans there is noth­ing we can do about that.

 

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