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Before confronting the Wicked
Agent Smith, Neo must strike up a
deal with the great and powerful Oz.

The Matrix Revolutions
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Unlike the first two installments in the series, The Matrix Revolutions doesn't start out in a flurry of gunfire.  Instead, we find Neo's body (Keanu Reeves) still lying in a comatose state aboard the Mjolnir.  Neo's consciousness is caught up in a haunting conversation with a young girl named Sati (Tanveer Atwal) at a train station somewhere between the Machine World and the Matrix.  The girl lets Neo know that people can't leave the station, unless the Trainman (Bruce Spence) gives them permission.  Unfortunately, the Trainman takes his orders from Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), who isn't too pleased with Neo, and, "doesn't forget."  When Neo tries to board the train with Sati and her parents, the Trainman stops him dead in his tracks.  Neo goes into his macho "I'm The One, and you're not" mode, and claims that, "one way or the other," he's getting on that train.  The Trainman shrugs Neo's threat off, and leaves him behind to stew in his own juices. 

If anything in the above paragraph left you scratching your head in confusion, you may want to watch the first two Matrix films before taking in the third.  If the first 5 minutes of the movie have you confused, imagine how fast your head will be spinning after you sit through the next 120.  This is not a stand-alone picture.  You can't walk into the third film with only minimal knowledge of the first two and play "catch up."  There's next to no exposition, and the movie doesn't have a, "last time, on The Matrix" introductory capsule of previous events.  This is quite possibly the first sci-fi flick that you need to "study" for.  Ironic, being that this is the least thought-provoking film in the trilogy.   

Andy and Larry Wachowski have written and directed themselves into a hole.  The original Matrix was an intelligent and refreshing science-fiction film.  The Matrix Reloaded was a rehash that pretended to be intelligent by spewing out a bunch of fortune cookie philosophies and a series of unanswerable questions meant to keep the diehards believing that this moneymaking venture was leading to something meaningful.  The Matrix Revolutions drops all pretenses and turns into your standard Hollywood action movie big on explosions, small on brains. 

Viewed only in the context of the big, stupid FX film that it is, the movie has its moments.  The action is better than it was in Reloaded, and a large chunk of the self-important dialogue has been removed.  But many of the action scenes are destroyed due to their length. 

The battle for Zion goes on for what seems like eternity.  It's neat to look at... for about 3 minutes.  Why stretch it out over the better part of an hour?  Admittedly, they cut between three different sequences during the 45 minutes, but only one of the three remains interesting throughout.  We cut from soldiers fighting in big Aliens rip-off machines, to a couple of chicks trying to shoot missiles into the center of the Death Star, or whatever that big drill thing is, to a ship being manually piloted by Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) -- with an uncharacteristically stressed out Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in the passenger seat --  making its way back to Zion.  Only the flight to Zion with Niobe and Morpheus holds our interest.  The other two concurrent sequences meld together into a big jumbled ball of Computer Generated boredom.

There are a handful of times where Revolutions gets it right.  The introductory scene in the train station has an eerie ambience that starts the film off on an unsettling note.  The Club Hell sequence is worthy of the action sequences given to us in the original Matrix, even though it feels more Quentin Tarantino than it does Andy and Larry Wachowski.  Still, I'd love to see Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) take on Kill Bill's, The Bride (Uma Thurman).  The "fire-vision" Neo receives, after he goes blind and turns into DareDevil, is fun.  Neo's conversation with The Wizard of Oz's big head is a nice effect, although I kept waiting for the face to demand that everyone ignore the man behind the curtain (it would have been hilarious if the gigantic face, made out of thousands of Sentinels, would have started imitating Neo, in the way that the big face made out of a school of fish mocked Marlin in Finding Nemo).  There's a tense moment when Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and his army of clones, come to confront The Oracle (Mary Alice, replacing the late Gloria Foster).  The Oracle senses the army approaching, takes her last batch of cookies out of the oven, and says, "I'll miss that smell."  Yikes.  For a few seconds I thought that the geek in me was going to start sobbing.  There's definitely a lot more to like in Revolutions than there was in Reloaded.

Another advantage Revolutions has over Reloaded is with its characters.  Morpheus, in particular.  For some unknown reason, Morpheus became this sort of stiff Jesse Jackson meets My Local Pastor type character in the second film.  It looked as though his face would crack if he even attempted to smile.  In the third film, with his faith in The One shaken, he's a far more human character.  By the end, he becomes almost likable.  At the same time, Agent Smith has become even more unlikable, egocentric and out of control.  He makes for a wonderful bad guy, and Weaving does an excellent job of upping-the-ante in the third film, to give the audience the feeling that Smith is a real threat that needs to be stomped out, at all costs.  His performance adds a level of tension to the film that it almost doesn't deserve.  It also makes the final confrontation between Smith and Neo, this one labeled the "Super Burly Brawl," far more exciting than the Burly Brawl in Reloaded.  Sadly, it can't save the battle between Christ (Neo) and the Anti-Christ (Agent Smith) from an unsatisfying ending, with an opening made for another sequel.

The whole Christ/Anti-Christ thing would have been annoying, even if it did manage to close all possible doors to any future Matrix films.  It seemed like the Wachowski's last ditch effort at explaining everything by explaining nothing at all.  I can imagine them pacing the floor, trying to figure out how to make sense of the mess they had created, and then reaching for a Bible, realizing that it doesn't really explain most of its stories and ideas, and then having a light-bulb go off above their heads.  "Hey," one Wachowski brother would excitedly say to the other, "we can detract all doubters by claiming that, to genuinely believe in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, you must never question either one.  If you do, you'll be damned for eternity to Club Hell!" 

The ability to avoid looking for the answers is the only way you'll be able to enjoy this film.  If you turn your brain off for The Matrix Revolutions in the same way you would for Charlie's Angels:  Full Throttle, you'll have an okay time.  You may even leave the theater feeling as though you got your $8.00 worth.  If this was any other science-fiction film, it would most likely be embraced by fans of the genre.  But there was just too much hype for any one film to live up to.  The Wachowski's promised us the sun and the moon, and, at best, only gave us the moon (get it?).

The Matrix trilogy was supposed to be the exception to the big-budget rule.  Instead of asking audience members to check their brains at the door, these movies asked each of us to keep our brains firmly intact, and promised to give them an incredible workout.  Sadly, the promise turned out to be empty. 

If the questions asked in Reloaded were answered in Revolutions, this could have been the brain-twister it billed itself as.  Sadly, newsgroup predictions of what would happen in The Matrix Revolutions, typed out by hardcore fans of the series, have been more thought-provoking than what the Wachowski brothers eventually came up with.  While superior to Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions still can't quite justify turning a stand-alone classic into a trilogy.   

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Coming soon -- Reviews of Elf, The Haunted Mansion, Timeline and Master and Commander!

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].