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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