The Matrix Revolutions
April 11, 2002
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, ,
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci, Mary Alice, Tanveer Atwal, Helmut Bakaitis, Kate Beahan, Francine Bell, Rachel Blackman, Ian Bliss, David Bowers, Zeke Castelli, Sing Ngai, Essie Davis, Nona M. Gaye, Dion Horstmans, ,
The Wachowski Brothers concluded their ambitious Cyberpunk trilogy with The Matrix: Revolutions (2003). It was greeted with almost universal critical damnation or indifference and diminishing financial returns. So what happened?
Like the Lord of the Rings sequels, Revolutions jumps right in with no pre-amble. It assumes that its audience has seen and is familiar with the previous two movies, specifically The Matrix: Reloaded (2003). When we last left off, Neo (Reeves) had disappeared into a nebulous zone between The Matrix and the real world. The machines were rapidly drilling their way through the earth to get to Zion, the last outpost of humanity. Morpheus (Fishburne) and Trinity (Moss) are trying to find Neo before this happens. Agent Smith (Weaving) has become so independently powerful that he is a threat to both humanity and the machines. The humans go to war against the machines and Neo faces off against Smith one last time.
The first problem that plagues Revolutions is its screenplay. The Matrix films have always been steeped in philosophy but for the first time in the series, the pacing and rhythm of the film is bogged down by a lot of philosophical rhetoric. You certainly can’t criticize Revolutions for having no story-quite the contrary. If anything, it has too much story, whereas the first film had just the right mix of action and story, the second film not far from the mark.
One of the things that sets The Matrix apart from other Cyberpunk movies is its extremely literate dialogue. Unfortunately, the dialogue in Revolutions is clunky at times, especially the supposedly inspiring speeches the leaders of the human army make before heading off to war with the machines. The Wachowski brothers had no problem writing for a few characters in the first film but as the series got more ambitious and more epic in scale, their writing for all of these additional characters and situations became more generic and cliché-ridden.
Perhaps the most problematic aspect of Revolutions is how it ends-or rather, how it doesn’t end. Without spoiling the ending for those who haven’t seen it, nothing is really resolved. So what was the point of everything? The abrupt ending doesn’t adhere to the internal logic that the Wachowski brothers had set up in the previous films. There are jumps in logic, almost as if a reel or three of footage went missing. It feels like the filmmakers didn’t know how to end their own movie.
It’s a shame, really, because the film as a whole is extremely well made and looks great. The style and tone of Revolutions is consistent with the other movies and the special effects-especially the final, big blow-out between Neo and Agent Smith-are phenomenal and unprecedented. The amount of money and technology at the filmmakers’ disposal is mind-boggling and it is all up there on the screen. This is a movie about a war between men and machines, so an over-usage of CGI is inevitable and required. The characters live and die in a computer-generated world and so it makes sense that the actual filming of these sequences relies heavily on computer generated special effects.
“Revolutions Recalibrated” is a substantial look at the ambitious undertaking that was making this movie. All of the main cast talk about how making the end of the trilogy was a mixed bag of emotions for them. They were relieved, happy and sad, all mixed together. Many of the aspects of the movie, from the elaborate stunt-work to the complex special effects, are examined; however, the notoriously publicity-shy Wachowski brothers are conspicuously absent.
“CG Revolution: Super Burly Brawl” examines how all of the complex special effects for the film’s climatic battle scenes were created. A staggering amount of time, money and effort went into these sequences and the result was combat sequences equal only to the ones in the last Lord of the Rings movie in terms of scale and difficulty.
“Future Gamer: The Matrix Online” is a look at the video game that continues the film’s storyline right after Revolutions ends. The Wachowski brothers envisioned a universe that the fans could interact with and feel like they were a part of The Matrix mythos. Players can interact with one another online, create their own storylines, and explore the vast world that has been created. It has a fascinating concept that will be interesting to see how it works.
“Before the Revolution” is an excellent, detailed timeline tracing the development of how the machines were created and rose to power on up to the events depicted in Revolution. This extra provides the history to the world of The Matrix and even includes things that happened in The Animatrix and the video game.
“3-D Evolution” is a series of galleries containing concept art, storyboards and stills from Revolutions.
“Operator” contains all of mini-featurettes that were accessible in the main featurettes. They show how specific sequences were created.
It’s safe to say that The Matrix: Revolutions is something of a disappointment. After the groundbreaking brilliance of the first movie and its under-appreciated sequel (which isn’t nearly bad as most critics would have you believe), Revolutions is not a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. The film collapses under its own narrative weight and is unable to resolve the gaping plot holes at its conclusion. One has to admire the ambition and all of the hard work that went into making these films, which makes Revolutions’ frustrating ending an even larger scale letdown.