The Matrix: Revolutions

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Attack of the Thousand and One CGI Vacuum Cleaners

Nov 4, 2003 (Updated Nov 5, 2003)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, a few decent acting scenes, an action scene or two.

Cons:CGI Madness, prominence of unestablished minor characters, I just couldn't care about it

The Bottom Line: Disappointing conclusion to the Matrix saga.

OK, first off I have to put out a few disclaimers.

To Reload or not to Reload?

I enjoyed the original Matrix but wasn't overwhelmed by it. Many of the concepts had been done already in books if not in films and the philosophical points had been covered in basic philosophy courses. Regardless though, it was fun and a neat melding of different styles of film.

I liked The Matrix: Reloaded but wasn't as impressed as I was by the first film. I thought Reloaded was bloated and could have been cut down to about half of its running time (for example: once you see that the Mr. Smiths couldn't really hurt Neo, the rest of that scene was relatively superfluous) but I actually thought it had some fun and interesting ideas (the idea of old programs left over from a previous Matrix, the ghost bad guys).

The other real problem that I had with Reloaded was that for the most part the Warchowski brothers didn't stick with what worked in the first film and didn't take things much further than the first movie. Keanu Reaves was stuck playing an aloof savior figure with powers confined mostly to what was established in the first film (he "knows Kung Fu," he flies, he stops bullets) and doesn't seem really all that comfortable doing it. In my opinion, Keanu works best in a film where he can have fun with the role and then the fun he is having is conveyed to the audience. He doesn't really seem to have a lot of fun playing a Messiah figure.

Regardless of that though, I had fun watching Reloaded. It had some decent action scenes, neat stunts, and featured the characters that were fun in the first Matrix.

Disclaimer Two

I saw this film with a bunch of people from the movie theater at which I work. It was a midnight show, a special preshowing for the employees and I did have fun watching it, to a degree. The other employees, mostly between sixteen and twenty, seemed to enjoy it pretty well. By writing a negative review I am not trying to imply a lack of appreciation in the opportunity to see the film early.

Also note that I am not trying to ruin the film for you.

End of disclaimers

Again the Warchowski brothers have neglected to go with what works with the original film. Keanu is still a Messiah figure and there still isn't a lot of fun to be had in the film. Revolutions works essentially as the second half of a really long second (sequel to the first) film rather than a film of its own accord.

When the film opens, Neo (Keanu Reaves), aka The One--the prophesied Messiah, is stuck in a purgatory of sorts, his body is in a coma while he is trapped in a Matrix. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and pals have to travel back to Morovington (Lambert Wilson) to make the Trainman release Neo.

Meanwhile the machines are quickly digging their way into Zion, the last human city on a planet controlled by the machines, and the defenders must marshal their forces to defend it. But there is a betrayer in their ranks and the sinister Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) is gaining power. Also the Oracle (Mary Alice) is around making predictions and manipulating.

Can Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and the defenders of Zion survive? Or is the human race doomed?

The movie starts out slow and never really loses the pace, in spite of attempts at high-speed action (admittedly some of this was fun) and obfuscation from quick-moving CGI elements. There is simply too little plot to go with the film and too many complications that don't aren't related to the main plot while the main plot points feel disparate from each other and little attempt is made to correct this.

The biggest problem that I had was with what is its main feature. The CGI.

I am not a big fan of CGI (the computer-generated effects featured in most films lately). I simply don't buy it most of the time. It doesn't feel real. My personal opinion on CGI is that it works best when it is grounded with reality. Otherwise it is too smooth, a bit diverged from feeling real. I find it alarming when filmmakers claim CGI to be the future of films or Martin Scorcese claim that nobody else will ever make a set the size of The Gangs of New York (with the implication that it will all be computer-generated in the future).

The Matrix Revolutions is a CGI orgy (with all of the repellent characteristics implied by the term). Whereas the first two films combined CGI with some solid action scenes and some decent nonCGI stunts, this film relies almost entirely on CGI. You might think that this might not be so bad when you are dealing with machinery and that this might give things that touch of the mechanical but it fails even on these accounts.

There are perhaps four main CGI setups and none of them really work.
There is horde upon horde of octopus-looking machines (yeah the same ones that were in the previous films) that don't really seem to affect anything. They are simply ghostlike streams of more-monsters-than-you-can-count. Sometimes they get lucky and effect reality but this is handled in such a manner, through scene cuts or partial views that we never see a whole nonCGI octopus. In fact in one of the scenes when characters interact with a 'corpse' of one of the creatures (they kick it), an appendage seems to have the substance of a vacuum cleaner hose.
In the original Matrix these octopus machines were treated with a certain amount of gravity. They were things to be treated with caution and run away from when encountered. When you tangle with them, you are risking violent death. Here there are thousands of them and the defenders of Zion just start shooting (and really seem to have a relatively easy time dealing with them).

The second big effect deals with just those defenders. Zion is defended by a horde of humans wearing amped up building machines like suits of armor. We only see one or two of these machines closely and perhaps three of them with the humans inside. The rest are just a big horde of CGI effects. Personally I can't really bring myself to care about the fate of CGI graphics so the defense of Zion had no real emotional grounding for me. Yeah there was a solid scene with the guy in charge giving a rallying speech but then when the CGI robots raise their hands to cheer it destroys the scene.

The third effect has to do with Agent Smith, the black-suited rogue baddy of the film (played by Hugo Weaving). In the last film he was quickly infecting people and programs so they turned into copies of him. Here there is more of the same but there isn't really any interaction between his duplicates and anything real. They function more as backups (and backgrounds) than as real menaces. Sometimes it works all right but mostly it is more of a "so the heck what" sort of thing.

The last big effect is the City of Machines and the main computer bad guy. We have Neo fighting a huge horde of octopus things and then confronting a huge computer head with spiky things jutting out of it. I didn't really feel that much menace from either of them personally. It was a bit anticlimactic.

The other huge problem that I had was with the characters. Matrix Revolutions hardly makes a halfhearted attempt to reconnect the audience with the old characters. We are supposed to know these people from the previous films. Unfortunately this even includes characters that were merely one-dimensional in the second film. In fact Revolutions expands the roles of these characters so that they take up much of the screen time. We see the fight for Zion with some General-type in charge. We see a chase scene with a pilot from the last film at the helm. Seraph (Collin Chao), bodyguard to the Oracle, has a place in a fight scene but is essentially a noncharacter aside from that. The dependence on minor characters means that I am not emotionally involved with much of the film.

Of the main characters from the previous films, Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn) is demoted to the role of a minor character and the film spends a long portion of its running time with Neo and Trinity out of the picture. In concept they are rushing to confront the head machine but since the audience isn't reminded of this, it simply doesn't matter and once the story gets around to them, it is nearly an anticlimax.

Of the other previous characters, the Oracle was problematical. Since Gloria Foster, the actress that played the original Oracle, died between the making of Reloaded and the making of Revolutions, and because the character was pivotal, they got a new actress, Mary Alice, to play the Oracle. This change is brushed over in the context of the film and Mary Alice simply doesn't bring the same character to the board. While Gloria Foster played the Oracle with a bit of a wink combined with a grandmotherly aura, Alice simply seems to reel off her lines (perhaps acting on the idea that her character is a computer construct).

The Agent Smith character is also a bit problematical. While Hugo Weaving does a decent job of playing Smith, the part seems almost tacked on rather than covered as a real character. He is instead merely Neo's antithesis.

When all is said and done with though,the biggest character of the film was the CGI. Soulless, lifeless, machinelike, with the occasional effect of note, it was simply there. The same can be said of the film. It feels more like a placeholder than a movie. Perhaps if the running time on both Reloaded and Revolutions had been shaved down and they had been presented as one rather-long film, both of them wouldn't feel like they were full of filler but this didn't happen so we are stuck with this as a capstone to the Matrix 'trilogy.'

Recommend this product? No

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