I know I’m in the minority in giving The Matrix Revolutions a good review, but then I gave its immediate predecessor a good one, too — and not always for the reasons I think the Brothers Wachowski intended (and, in part, because I didn’t find The Matrix Reloaded all that much different from its much-praised parent).
And that’s pretty much the case again with my take on the supposedly final installment in the Matrix series. I enjoyed the new film on a crash-bang-gee-whiz level. I had a good time laughing at the cliche-ridden action dialogue (“Now go get that door open, kid!”). And I had an even better time laughing at the — blessedly limited this go-round — 4 a.m.-stoned-college-student profundities served up by the script. (This time I felt the filmmakers knew it was outrageous twaddle, and didn’t bother pretending it wasn’t.) Plus, I certainly enjoyed the movie’s casual absurdities (just why do people whose sole purpose it is to fire machine guns house themselves in clunky RobotJox outfits that offer little or not protection?).
It was also worth the price of admission to witness Keanu Reeves fall prey to what is apparently the latest thing in hero chic. I can say no more without offering up a spoiler, but you’ll know what I mean when you see it. And I figure if you saw the first two Matrix installments, you’re also going to see this one — if only for the fantastic effects of Zion fighting off those flying-octopus things that look ever more like airborne dreadlock wigs, and for the final battle between Neo (Reeves) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). That last bit is pretty good, even if the Wachowskis couldn’t figure a way to top the production-number loopiness of Neo and 3,600 Smiths going at it in the second film, and had to settle instead for an entree of man-to-“man” fistfight, smothered in indigestible metaphysical sauce.
The story, of course, picks up where Reloaded ended … excuse me, where it stopped, since — unlike Peter Jackson with the Lord of the Rings films, and even Tarantino with Kill Bill Vol. 1 — the Wachowskis never figured out how to break their story down and have each part be emotionally satisfying in itself. Then again, the story itself doesn’t matter all that much, since it’s mostly just Zion against the machines, and Neo against Smith. Beyond that, there’s not all that much to it.
The earlier allusions to Alice in Wonderland, the Bible and Philosophy 101 have here given way to a peculiar sense of The Wizard of Oz. Really, how far is “Bring me the eyes of the Oracle and I’ll grant your wish” from being “Bring me the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West?” There’s even a machine version of the Great and Powerful Oz (though he sounds less like good-old Frank Morgan and more like “Zardoz has spoken” (from John Boorman’s Zardoz variant on the story) — not to mention an electronic Yellow Brick Road for Neo to follow that might just make you hear singing Munchkins in your head.
Since Gloria Foster, the actress who originally played the Oracle, died before filming of the third installment, her part has been recast with Mary Alice (TV’s Oz), and an explanation for why she looks different (not that it’s likely to concern anyone in the midst of all this truth-or-illusion/which-is-which stew). But on the real debit side as concerns the trilogy, the Wachowskis have here accidentally proved something I always suspected — that it’s nigh on to impossible to care all that much about the characters in these films. Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) disappear for about a 30-minute stretch (thanks to a clunky structure), and it hardly matters. There’s also an incredibly protracted death scene for one character where I felt like crying out, “Come on and die already!”
But the bottom line is really whether The Matrix Revolutions works as a good sci-fi actioner — and, on that level, it’s hard to fault.
And speaking of bottom lines (caution: mild spoiler here): The prospect of further Matrix flicks is, despite any contrary claims by those involved, certainly built into any movie that concludes with the question, “Will we ever see Neo again?” followed by the answer, “Oh, I expect we will one day.” Of course, if the script were entirely honest, that last line would be post-scripted with, “And if this one breaks $300 million, you can bet on it.”
I actually kind of like that prospect. I can envision a Children of the Matrix Revolution, complete with a reworking of a T. Rex song for a theme, can’t you?
– reviewed by Ken Hanke