The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

How could a series that started off so smart and thought provoking end up being this dumb? Where The Matrix was deliberate, smart and sleek, The Matrix Revolutions is chaotic, brash and loud. It’s like that guy who starts telling some else’s story but tries to make it big and shocking and kickass to the point that it all ends up being ridiculous, implausible and completely dull.

It’s a story so terrible, I’m not going to bother regurgitating all the convoluted crap that goes on and how little it makes sense. Instead, I’ll point out a lot of the big, overarching and glaring problems the film has that should be obvious to anyone who does a cursory examination of the film.

The biggest problem with the film is that it’s real world heavy. The first two films found a sweet balance between the real world tensions of survival and the fantastical missions inside the Matrix. Most of The Matrix Revolutions takes place in Zion and a lot of it is boring. One of the core reasons is that we spend a lot of time with characters the film hasn’t developed and, honestly, we might enjoy seeing die given how they treat the characters we do want to watch.

Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) and Link (Harold Perineau) share screen time with characters like Niobe (Jada Pinkette Smith), Lock (Harry Lennix), Bane (Ian Bliss), Mifune (Nathaniel Lees). While fine in small doses in The Matrix Reloaded, here, the film suddenly asks us to invest ourselves in characters that were never properly developed.

The film also completely squanders the shocking revelation at the end of The Matrix Reloaded. Neo discovered his powers could extend beyond The Matrix into the real world. That’s a twist that has massive implications about the reality of the “real” world and the potency Neo might have in a fight against the real machines.

Instead, the film basically gives Neo two abilities in the real world: some strange quasi-Matrix vision and the ability to zap groups of machines. That’s it. There’s a moment where The Oracle (Mary Alice) says the power of the one extends all the way back to the machine source, but what the hell that even means and the larger implication is never addressed.

This means a lot of the Zion based action must entertain the audience while the film sets Neo up for the big showdown. This real world fight against the machines involves a number of horribly executed action sequences that fail for a number of reasons. The first is that the battle takes place in this big, wide open dome where machines can fly every which way, making many of these scenes disorienting and almost directionless for the audience.

All the fighting boils down to one thing: shoot the machines. The machines are everywhere, leaving tons of guys shooting at masses of machines, which isn’t thrilling to watch. There is a bit more to the fight, but there needs to be a specific and urgent goal: like hold this specific point or seal off some bulkhead that got jammed. Instead, it’s just an array of bullets flying everywhere.

Sadly, the film is lacking in action sequences in The Matrix. We get a cool shootout at the beginning that does play with space in an interesting way, although, I think it comes off as a looser version of the lobby shooting spree from the first film. It’s another moment that shows the potential of The Matrix as a playground for action scenes, which makes it disappointing that we don’t get another Matrix fight until the end.

The final showdown is okay, but suffers from being too long, too CGI reliant and too over the top. It’s got this big sense of scale that is sort of wasted because it’s a one on one fight. Yes, it’s cool to see the thousands of Smith clones, but it doesn’t add to the fight. At when they are fighting in the air, things get a bit awkward. It’s not a terrible fight sequence, but it’s a sequence that isn’t nearly as cool as it thinks it is.

But the worst offense of The Matrix Revolutions is that it saps away all the thoughtful philosophical discussions and ideas from the first two films. In fact, I can only think of one sequence in this film that has any philosophical implication and it’s one of the worst moments in the entire series, an utter simplification of everything that has happened so far in the series..

The Matrix Revolutions falls into the trap of wanting to surpass its predecessors by being bigger. The problem is that none of this makes it any better. Almost everything that made the first two films enjoyable is stripped away, leaving the skeletal remains and twisting it into something almost beyond recognition.

© 2011 James Blake Ewing