The Matrix Revolutions

The Matrix Revolutions

USA, 2003. Rated R. 138 minutes.

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Mary Alice, Collin Chou, Harold Perrineau, Lambert Wilson, Ian Bliss, Clayton Watson, Nathaniel Lees
Writers: The Wachowski Brothers
Original Music: Don Davis (score)
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Producers: Grant Hill, Joel Silver
Directors: The Wachowski Brothers


Grade: C+ Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

I f you're expecting The Matrix Revolutions to be bad, good. It is. If you're expecting The Matrix Revolutions to be good, bad. Forget about revolutionary action sequences and deep philosophical meanings, abstract concepts and bullet-time, Neo and Trinity—any of the main characters—and the promise of more Monica Bellucci.

The Matrix Revolutions is far from being The Matrix, far from being even The Matrix Reloaded. If you cannot bring yourself to imagine The Matrix Revolutions is as bad as the cutting reviews have said, the first fifteen minutes will do the job for you. Here Neo (Keanu Reeves), trapped with a family of programs in a pearly white train station, waits impatiently to be removed from the cyber limbo between the Matrix and the machine world. To rescue him, Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss), and program Seraph (Collin Chou) fight their way through Hell—not actual hell or figurative hell, but Club Hel, a bondage club controlled by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and Persephone (Bellucci)—in a minute-long gunfight. The ordeal ends with Trinity saving Neo from imprisonment, complete with a banal slow-mo shot of Trinity draped in her glossy vinyl coat, stunning blue eyes revealed, running to embrace her relieved lover while high-pitched strings wail in the background.
Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reaves as Neo in The Matrix Revolutions.

And this is in a Matrix movie.

What's the problem? The Matrix has become synonymous with cool. It's a seductive universe free from Hollywood convention and schlock, a paragon of intelligent action. The Matrix Revolutions is nowhere near the quality and appeal of the original. The writing isn't as tight, nor the dialogue as slick. If you want stylish action, go someplace else. The action does advance the plot, as opposed to the pointlessly indulgent sequences in Reloaded, but it is not innovative or particularly interesting—that is, inside the Matrix at least.

The thing about Revolutions is that it rejects what makes the Matrix series cool (which, ironically, is the Matrix itself) and spends most of its time in the vulnerable and unglamorous real world. It is this anti-Matrix quality that is partially why Revolutions works. Stripped of the razzle-dazzle of tight leather and kung fu, the characters are open to all sorts of ugly and irreversible injuries, and sometimes death. The danger of sentinels, who rip through flesh more brutally than they do metal, is far more potent than that of exiled programs doing cartwheels on the ceiling. But this vulnerability is, for the most part, left unexplored. There seems to be no obstacle the characters can't overcome except death.

As a character, Neo is the most underdeveloped. Though he sustains injuries, he remains just as invincible a superhero in the real world as in the Matrix. This begs the question—is he really human? The question isn't raised in the film. Neo is human, but there is little to support this claim, as we cannot see his motives, thoughts, or struggles. Reeves tries his hardest to breathe some humanity in his character, and though his efforts pay off in a couple of scenes, they fail most other times.

Indeed, the Wackowski Bros. continue to blur the distinction between human and machine. Programs are shown to be capable of loving as deeply as humans, and there's little difference between Zion and the machine city besides that Zion has more dirt. While the appeal of the human characters lessens, the appeal of the programs grows, just like in Reloaded. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), in particular, has become a great cinema villain. Weaving's performance as Smith is the best thing about Revolutions. He's sheer evil, the kind of villain who would give a five-year-old nightmares. When he closes in on Seraph and Sati (Tanveer Atwal), the horror of him and what he can do reduces the viewer to that scared little girl.

Smith is not the only potent villain in this movie, however. The sentinels are used to great effect in the Zion battle scenes. They swarm together like a giant cloud of bees, mass like roaches, and fall dead like spiders. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has nothing on The Matrix Revolutions. The machines are terrifyingly great CGI creations, the highlight of Revolutions' special effects.

It's a relief that the real world battle sequences are spectacular, for the Matrix fights are disappointing. They play without any effort, it seems, from the cast or crew, as if they were all itching to return to Zion. Even Neo seems to be sleeping his way through his final fight with Smith—a scene more interesting for its poetic visual beauty (and, of course, Weaving's scene stealing) than for its action.

The Matrix Revolutions isn't a curveball. If you look hard enough, you can find embedded in The Matrix the foreshadowing of the unbridled optimism and obvious spiritual allegory that culminates in Revolutions. The original doesn't include images of crosses or operatic score pieces with lyrics lifted from the Upanisads, nor does it have characters with exceedingly (sometimes literally) sunny dispositions, but The Matrix still is peppered with religious allegories and holds out a gleam of hope in the form of romantic love. Revolutions should be a little less obvious and a little less perky, but for what it is, Revolutions provides an entertaining and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy.

Review © November 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2003 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.

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