When we last left Neo (Keanu Reeves, oddly absent for nearly a third of this picture), he was laid out on a table in a coma next to the Agent Smith-controlled Bane (Ian Bliss). With the machines burrowing their way into Zion for a last, winner-takes-all battle, it’s up to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, in a distant supporting role) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) to help Neo out of his mental prison, which takes them to the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and the Oracle (Mary Alice) for assistance. Now, with time ticking away before Zion is destroyed, Neo must make choices that will affect his life, and those of his loved ones; also having to defeat the machines and the even greater evil approaching on the distant horizon: the rapidly spreading Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, stealing the film) who is becoming impatient in his pursuit of Neo.
I’ll get the bad news out of the way early: “The Matrix Revolutions” is the direct continuation of last May’s “The Matrix Reloaded,” thus the over-thought plotting, melodramatic performances, and phrases like “systemic anomaly” all make reappearances in the new film. “Reloaded” has become the stuff of legends; endlessly debated between fans of 1999’s “The Matrix” on what went wrong with the sequel and what it all means. Personally, it took some time to digest “Reloaded,” but I’m partial to its quizzical screenplay and the gangbusters imagery. I was secretly praying that “Revolutions” would be the key element in quieting my fears on the overall quality of “Reloaded,” which is downright detested by many.
“Revolutions” starts off on familiar ground, returning to the Wachowski Brothers’ (Larry and Andy) towering screenplay of exposition and thesaurus-bending dialog. The film is very lean on introductions, plunging right into the third chapter of Neo’s journey to become the chosen one, though a base knowledge of what occurs in the video game “Enter The Matrix” might help with understanding what exactly happened to Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and her ship. “Revolutions” is more direct in its story since the film isn’t saddled with the burden of setting up plot threads like “Reloaded” was frantically trying to do. “Revolutions” is a war film; a soliloquy on sacrifice and death, and another round of the Wachowskis’ philosophical discussions. Gone are the Architect and his unquestionably summer-blockbuster-unfriendly nonsense, the dance parties on Zion, and the defining action sequences that made the first two films so memorable. Outside of an introductory fight in the Merovingian’s Club Hell (featuring an all too fleeting glimpse of Monica Bellucci’s Persephone, who is reduced to a paragraph of dialog), there is nothing in “Revolutions” that could compare to the “Burly Brawl” or the freeway chase of “Reloaded.” And quite honestly, those touches are missed.
Because the plot has been straightened out, the visual feast the Wachowskis’ have prepared is decidedly larger in scale and ferociousness. The main course of the film is the machine attack on Zion, realized through a massive battle between the millions of swarming “squiddies” and the Zion’s defense force: an army of mechanical heavy-lifting machines (shades of the power loader seen in “Aliens“), each outfitted with gigantic guns and operators prepared to sacrifice themselves for the future of their land. This is obviously where the money was spent. The Wachowskis’ blow the doors off their own film with the sheer scope of this battle, which combines great looking special effects with traditional war film chestnuts such as the disillusioned general, the meek private who saves the day, and the desperate moments within the firefight, when prayers for help are rarely answered. Calling it enormous doesn’t do justice to this sequence.
Coming close to topping it is the final battle between Neo and Agent Smith, which makes good on the promise of something apocalyptic for the final act. As the two pummel each other in the streets and in the air of the Matrix, the Wachowskis utilize imaginative special effects and cautious camera placement to cover this battle to end all battles.
I know what you’re saying, “Will ’Revolutions’ answer the mysteries revealed in ‘Reloadedr‘” It’s tough to sort out all the details in one sitting (like “Reloaded”), and if you held me at gunpoint, my theories on the events in “Revolutions” might not hold water. But I feel comfort in the knowledge that Larry and Andy know what they are doing with this trilogy, and regardless of the puzzling developments seen in the last two movies, the basic material is strong enough to withstand some logic blunders or convoluted “systemic anomaly” dialog. “Revolutions” doesn’t have the fun factor of its original creation (that was bled dry long ago), but its chaos-free epic nature is something to be treasured even if this isn’t exactly where I thought (had you asked me in 1999) the series would go.
So, at the end of the day, when the children are tucked into bed and the money can be sorted out, what do we haver “The Matrix” is the sleek, efficient classic; a forefather to modern special effects and a kick in the pants at a time when movies needed it. “The Matrix Reloaded” is the head-scratcher, yet delicate flower of acquired taste, revealing burgeoning and ambitious plotting and deeper thematic searching. “The Matrix Revolutions” is the final, essential movement of the Wachowskis’ vivid imagination for their series. It doesn’t quite answer all the questions, but it delivers the thrills and the reverence. This final chapter is sure to be debated for years to come.Rating: B+