“Everything that has a beginning has an end.” So says the Oracle to Neo in the final installment of the over hyped Matrix series. Captivating us with spectacular visuals, the Wachowski brothers pull out all the stops in “The Matrix Revolutions,” an action extravaganza of monstrous proportions. There’s a frantic ship race against time, a journey into the never before seen machine world, the last hard hitting confrontation between Neo and Agent Smith, and a mind numbing, apocalyptic battle between man and machine. It’s a technological achievement that came with a hefty price tag – a story without substance. From poor editing and sequencing to poor dialogue and storytelling, “The Matrix Revolutions” leaves far too many stones unturned and winds up being an over bloated, anticlimactic yawn.
“Revolutions” opens where “Reloaded” left off – on board the Mjolnir, Neo lies unconscious alongside the nefarious Bane. With Morpheus, Trinity, and Lock in tow, the new crew of the Mjolnir searches for traces of the Logos as well as any remnants of Neo within the Matrix. Unsuccessful, Trinity and Morpheus return to the Matrix, specifically to consult the Oracle. Through the Oracle, they are able to discover the whereabouts of Neo, work through the S&M Hel Night Club of the Merovingian, and ultimately cut a deal for Neo’s rescue from the Charon-like Trainman. After reaching Neo, the gang leaves the Matrix just as the Mjolnir comes across the Logos, Niobe, and her crew. Without wasting time, they split into two groups: Neo and Trinity in the Logos on a mission to the machine city and the others in the Mjolnir on a return trip to Zion.
Immediately after their departure, Neo and Trinity realize they must first deal with a saboteur before starting their journey, a conflict that ends with serious repercussions. Racing through the undercarriage of the outer world and pursued by a wave of Sentinels, the Mjolnir hammers its way back to Zion under Niobe’s piloting precision. As the last remnants of the human race prepare for a final stand, the Sentinels breech the outer perimeter and drill their way through the fortifications of Zion. The humans, armed with rocket launchers and APUs (armored personnel units) resist valiantly. But the machines are too many and their hopes for survival rest twofold – whether the Mjolnir can make it back in time for relief and whether Neo and Trinity can pull out a miracle.
The original Matrix film contained approximately 412 special effects shots compared with the 3,000 plus for “Reloaded” and “Revolutions.” And it goes without saying, “Revolutions” is a technically superior film. But if you remove the special effects wizardry, what you have left over is a flat, hollow shell of a story with nothing learned, nothing gained. And that’s a horrible thing to see in the so-called conclusion of the Matrix trilogy. Producer Joel Silver said: “I think people will feel when they see ‘Revolutions’ that they answer all the questions. It’s very clear.” But I must have watched a different movie. “Revolutions” did none of that for me. It did not come full circle, it did not make sense of everything that came before it, and it failed to tie many of the loose ends together. All in all, it just made me wish I stopped watching after the original film.
In “Revolutions,” the characters become even more robotic, partly because there is less speaking and much more machine gunning. Taking a lesson from “Reloaded,” the Wachowski brothers play down the prophesizing and the love story between Neo and Trinity while piping up the significance of female empowerment. As far as character development goes, the only change occurs in the areas of the minor female roles – Niobe exerting influence and leadership as well as some nifty piloting and Zee and Charra taking positions on the front line against the machines with missile launchers. It’s refreshing to see these strong characters influence the outcome of the story, like Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley does in the Alien series. If only it were enough.
When the bullets aren’t flying, the movie trudges through countless scenes of excruciating dialogue. Scenes like Neo and Trinity’s final scene are so painful to watch because they drag on forever and add very little to a story whose prime purpose is to connect one action sequence to the next. The flaws in the script, flaws in the dialogue, and flaws in the editing point to a film that’s pieced together without a care for suspense or drama. For instance, the film focuses on the final battle for nearly half an hour while Neo and Trinity are delving into the heart of the enemy. Not a single cut is made during the final battle to show their progress. To me, this demonstrates a complete lack of focus on behalf of the filmmakers. While trying to razzle-dazzle us, they forget that the final battle sequence is solely dependent upon whether Neo succeeds in his mission. If he fails, the game is over. It’s like watching the final battle sequence in “Star Wars” and cutting to Skywalker only after he fires the last rounds on the Death Star.
Overall, the film is missing a sense of urgency. There is nothing at stake here, nothing compelling about the characters or the situations they are in, and nothing to be resolved no matter how glorious the special effects. The first film was successful because it toyed with the notion that there was a hidden reality beneath the surface. Man was enslaved by robots and the reality we knew of was artificial. It challenged the mind to interpret the images on film in many different ways. But once that world and the rules became understood, the future of the franchise became dependent on a strong story to sustain interest. And because the latter two films disregard screenwriting 101, they instantly become imprisoned, forced into one-dimensional action flicks living in a dysfunctional world. It’s so disruptive that when the super Burly Brawl between Neo and Mr. Smith plays out, you don’t care who wins or loses, just so long as the film ends and you can go do your chores.
So many questions remain at the end of the film. For instance, are Neo and his comrades flesh and blood or virtual computer programs? Why can’t the machines shut down the Matrix to stop Mr. Smith? And if the machines are so powerful, how come they had to send in Sentinels to wipe out mankind rather than blowing up Zion from a distance? I’m sure there is a logical reason to everything in the Matrix. I’m sure it’s embedded somewhere in the minds of the Wachowski brothers. But it just seems like too much is left for interpretation.
“The Matrix Revolutions” is a disappointing ending to a cultural phenomenon. It’s bogged down in so many special effects shots that it completely loses its purpose, its meaning, and its audience in the end. The original Matrix film set the bar for future science fiction and action movies to live up to. But little did the Wachowski brothers know that that bar would be even too high for them to overcome.
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