November 10, 2003
Time for Revolutions

The Matrix Rebounded
After the relative fizzle of Reloaded, the Wachowskis rally to bring their trilogy to a satisfying climax

What's the difference, in movie terms, between want see and must see? Answer: the second and third Matrix films. Before it opened in May, The Matrix Reloaded had fans drooling to find out how Larry and Andy Wachowski, the gifted brothers behind The Matrix, would expand the first movie's vistas and visions. That's want see in its most avid form. It earned Reloaded a record $209 million in its first 10 days but only $72 million in the rest of its run, a sure sign it disappointed its audience. So when the trilogy's finale, The Matrix Revolutions, arrived last week, seeing it was not so much a craving as a duty. Hence must see. As in must eat soybeans. Must visit Aunt Harriet. Must complete my set of Matrix in-theater viewing experiences.

Like Reloaded, Revolutions begins with no flashbacks, no summary of the story thus far. For those who are hazy on the battle of the reborn computer whiz Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his band of rebel humans against Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and the nasties of the virtual-reality Matrix, a brief refresher course is in order.

The 1999 original was a genuine Neo classic. It trumped its nifty martial artistry and digital effects with a theme of self-discovery in the great heroic tradition. So, what did the brothers do for an encore? They spread the sequel over two feature-length films and, with all that time to fill, got a little gassy in their storytelling. The rebel fortress of Zion was a drab lair whose denizens engaged in way too much Jedi Council — style nattering. Then — as if producer Joel Silver had pleaded, "Could you please have somebody hit somebody?"--Reloaded 180'd into an action film, with the most elaborate car chase ever shot but without the first film's zip or resonance.

Well, Silver did warn us: M2, he said back in April, was "only half a movie." Revolutions is the other half, and if it doesn't touch the original for sheer cinematic wow, it's a big improvement over M2 and brings the enterprise to a satisfying climax.

Neo is now unplugged, lost in a nightmare realm between the Matrix and the machine world. He's pursued by Smith, who has gone free-lance and has become a fatal computer virus. Neo's friends Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) can't count on him, so they must plan the defense of Zion with the help of only the fractious rebel commanders. Their immediate obstacle: the pruny, petulant, dangerous Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). Their possible key to Neo's location: the Oracle (Mary Alice), who, we learned in M2, is a computer program and not always trustworthy.

The movie takes its time reaching warp speed. The Zion debates drone on, and much of the acting and dialogue is stilted, perfunctory, at a level somewhere between a Star Trek TV episode and a Star Trek convention. But the ass kicking starts early, when Morpheus and Trinity have a cool fight with the Merovingian's goons. Meanwhile, Neo is being dogged by a "human" whose voice sounds ... strangely ... familiar. Our hero's lids are seared shut, and through the hot coals of his X-ray eyes, he sees Smith, grimacing triumphantly. It's one of the epiphanies of the movie year.

Any martial trilogy needs a climactic battle scene. This one pits the humans against a swarm of the Matrix's sentinels — those metal octopests, those enemy anemones that chased the humans in M1 and M2. They're back in megaforce, forming a snake shape that rears and strikes at Zion. So the human soldiers get outfitted in gigantic robot armor — clinking, clanking, clattering collections of collagenous junk.

Ah, yes: The Wizard of Oz. That's the touchstone here, not just in the war of a few good guys against a vicious aerial host but in Neo's trip to the Machine (Emerald) City to meet its virtual vizier — who, as seen on a giant screen, looks a bit like the Oz wiz in the 1939 movie — and learn how to get home.

Somehow, though, you knew that the fate of the universe would hang on the outcome of a kung-fu fight between Neo and Smith. It comes at the end on and above city streets in a slow, heavy rain. The trilogy ascends and soars with the two combatants and ends not with a whimper but with a blast of light.

Thus the fabulous original film has found an honorable way to sign off. For those who didn't bother to join the early crowds, The Matrix Revolutions is a definite might see.

media spot , red pill | from inside the mind of krix at November 10, 2003 09:13 AM .

I'm not going to post many reviews, but aside from being somewhat positive, I like that it points out the whole "Wizard of Oz" thing. Another thing that goes back to the first film. I think the brothers are absolutely brilliant in the fact that they wrote this trilogy that literally calls for a "Deus ex Machina" ending.

Posted by: krix on November 10, 2003 09:39 AM

The first Matrix had so many references to Alice in Wonderland, I love how they incorporated Oz into it as well. I thought that the Oracle was a perfect Glenda the Good Witch. Remember when Dorothy was angry that Glenda didn't tell her she could have gone home to Kansas all along? She just needed to learn the lessons along her journey first, and so did Neo.

I just saw this yesterday, but I didn't cry until today. It was so beautiful.

Posted by: Chianti on November 10, 2003 10:52 AM

Though they, I suppose are entitled to their own opinions, its wonderful (excellent!) to find critics who "get" this movie.

Posted by: Sunny on November 10, 2003 11:46 AM

*bounce* CRASH!!!! Ouch.
I think I landed here :-)

Chianti is right, it was beautiful :-) It's difficult to gather your feelings about Revolutions (and the whole series) and to pinpoint just *one* sentence that says it all.

I thought what everyone thought about it, and more. But the most beautiful moment was afterwards. Someone who was with me who absolutely isn't a fan, and not even really vulnerable to his outward charms (I know... Beats me, too) and who was well on her way to get very drunk already (It's a tradition) said to me:

"You know... I have never seen an actor cry so convincingly in a movie. Which is really weird, considering the fact that he was wearing a blind-fold so you couldn't see his eyes."

She said that, and then pondered it for a while. That was my hapiest moment :-)

-ehm... The 'dressage moment' when he gets up in the subway station was also a nice one ;-p
And the blue sky... :-)
The only thing that I was a little bit dissapointed at was that they didn't give Persephone more to do. Now she was just beautiful, but she didn't really say or do anything. Which is a shame, because I like vamps. One day when I grow up, I hope to be one myself :-)

I adored the little girl-angle, too. I found the 'sky-drawing at the end' that Sati made oddly touching. "For Neo" was one of the last things she said, and that really said it all :-)
I'll miss him.

Posted by: Julie on November 10, 2003 11:53 AM

Julie, I expected more from Persephone too - not just boobs and lips. She had one line.
Guess she wasn't part of the program to steer him off course after all.

Posted by: Chianti on November 10, 2003 12:55 PM

Yes, but I thought that one line was very important. She *knew* the power of love. While "Merv" couldn't fathom Trinity killing them all and dying for Neo, Persephone could because she had a "taste" of that love. I thought she delivered perfectly as well. It excited her.

Posted by: krix on November 10, 2003 01:09 PM

"You know... I have never seen an actor cry so convincingly in a movie. Which is really weird, considering the fact that he was wearing a blind-fold so you couldn't see his eyes."

Exactly. I wondered if it was easier as an actor do to that while blindfolded? Or was it harder? Regardless, this was his BEST crying scene yet. I hope that's one they submit to the Academy for consideration. :)

Posted by: MC at RD on November 10, 2003 01:29 PM

Oh, I agree it was very important - what Persephone said. She understood the power of love and that it was something she would never have. I had just imagined that in this story she would have played a biger part in helping them again. Maybe she did, and we just didn't see it. She may have helped Trinity get to the train and to Neo.

Posted by: Chianti on November 10, 2003 02:19 PM

I bawl every single time I see Keanu cry in his dead friend's father's arms in Permanent Record. That, to me, is his best crying scene.

Revolutions' was good, but I'll have to see it again to really judge it. I didn't get the full effect of it the first time because some idiot in the theater decided it would be funny to start howling like an injured dog during this scene, making the immature portion of the audience laugh and totally ruining the moment. I was also seated directly in front of three geeks who apparently only appreciated the action sequences. They disguised their discomfort during tender moments by emitting a very audible "Awwwwwe!".

Posted by: Zen on November 10, 2003 07:17 PM
What's on your mind?.....
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