WFTB Score: 9/20
The plot: The Machines’ final assault on the Free City of Zion is underway, meaning the forces of Commander Lock and the returning crews of the Nebuchadnezzar and Logos have only twenty hours to save themselves and thousands of others. However, their would-be saviour Neo is comatose and even when he wakes up, getting back to Zion to meet the invaders is the last thing on his mind. His destiny is at a different meeting which will have its own conclusive consequences for the war – and Neo.
The hardy few who still thrilled to every nuance by the end of the frustratingly philosophical Matrix Reloaded will remember that when we left him, Neo was lying unresponsive on a bed, not far from a possible psychotic killer; though by way of compensation, he did seem to have gained a connection with the machines, enabling him to destroy them outside of the Matrix. Meanwhile, the scruffily-clothed remnants of free humanity prepared for a massive onslaught of sentinels digging their way towards Zion, Commander Lock (played with admirable gruffness by Harry Lennix) gathering his forces and pooh-poohing any notion that Neo would be their saviour.
Less hardy individuals will simply remember that The Matrix Reloaded got bogged down in an endless series of monologues delivered by anthropomorphised computer programmes, and the beginning of Revolutions does not suggest that things will be any different. For the vengeful Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), by way of his subordinate the Trainman, is holding Neo’s conscious state hostage in the Train Station, a holding area which nullifies the powers Neo (Keanu Reeves) can wield elsewhere. However, the team of Trinity, Morpheus and the Oracle’s guard Seraph (respectively Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Collin Chou) have their own potent brand of hostage negotiation, freeing Neo – with Trinity for company – to pursue his own destiny as instructed by the Oracle (Mary Alice, following the death of Gloria Foster), whilst the others race to join the battle to save Zion, where the humans are desperately outnumbered and all seems lost.
And what of the Matrix itself, increasingly populated by the ever more powerful Agents Smith (Hugo Weaving)? He is inextricably linked with Neo’s destiny, especially when the transfer between the ‘real’ world and the Matrix is not necessarily a one-way operation.
If Revolutions is less instantly disappointing than Reloaded, it’s probably because the first sequel to The Matrix softened us up by being so long-winded. It’s certainly a relief that the most nauseating drivel, the Merovingian banging on about cause and effect, is over and done with fairly quickly and interspersed with some entertaining gunplay, which helps to gloss over the fact that Wilson’s accent is all over the place (even though he’s French!) and Monica Bellucci might as well have sent in a cardboard cut-out for all the acting she’s asked to do as his wife. The problem is that none of the early action actually involves Neo, our hero; and the same is true of the strategising for war, which is jargon-filled and less than thrilling as a result.
It has more than a whiff of the Star Wars prequels about it, albeit Star Wars in moth-eaten knitwear. When the defence of Zion begins in earnest, there’s nothing particularly wrong with the action scenes: but there’s nothing particularly original about them either. Remember the eager kid from Reloaded? It’s no great surprise that he has a part to play in the war effort. Matrix Revolutions feels like a generic sci-fi movie with a generous budget – which is fine, except it loses the one thing that made The Matrix great: The Matrix.
I have mentioned that Keanu doesn’t join in much of the action, and it is a shame that his first battle with Agent Smith (inhabiting the body of Ian Bliss’s Bane) actually takes place on board the ship he and Trinity have taken to travel to Machine City. Violent and important though this fight is – Neo loses his sight, presumably referencing some Greek tragedy the directors have read up on – the strobe lighting cannot possibly compete with the gravity-mangling fights inside The Matrix. That said, when they do go inside for the climactic punch-up, the powers of Neo and Smith have evolved to such an extent that only huge special effects can do the battle justice; and in its constant reliance on CGI the film loses touch with anything that can properly be called ‘real’ (furthermore, the palette of near-constant blacks, greys, greens and blues becomes tiring). Thankfully, faithful old Trinity is on hand to provide quieter, more intimate moments, and Moss does well in the role, which is just as well since Morpheus is reduced to repeating the instructions of his ex, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), and none of the characters introduced in Reloaded make themselves particularly interesting, though naturally they are all kick-ass warriors when they need to be.
To be perfectly honest, I can’t be positive that I fully understand the implications of the climax of the film, so while the ‘deal’ struck to bring balance to The Force Matrix seems a little illogical to me (what incentive is there for the remaining party to keep his/her/its side of the bargain?), and not as brilliant for the majority of the human race as it could be, I’ll be kind and chalk that up to my sleepy brain when the film ended rather than deficiencies in the story.
Matrix Revolutions moves along in brisker fashion than its predecessor and can’t be faulted for technical achievement, but for all its philosophising on the nature of choices and love its artistic merit is still questionable. Not terrible, but nothing in this Matrix movie impresses like the first. In fact, it’s the least revolutionary out of the three, and that can’t have been the Wachowskis’ intention for the grand finale of their brilliant dream.