2003 was supposed to be the year of The Matrix. With the second and third sequels to the 1999 breakthrough hit coming out a mere 6 months apart, anticipation was ultra-high to see how far the Wachowski Brothers could twist our minds. Matrix Reloaded was a success, grossing $281 million, but it wasn't as big of a success as some expected, with the Disney/Pixar animated funfest Finding Nemo taking over the box-office crown for the year. It's sort of like a baseball coach being pissed off because his team won the World Series in 6 games instead of sweeping in 4. And I think this baseball analogy would be accurate in describing Matrix Revolutions. Yeah, it is a great movie, but it's not as great as we all hoped it would've been, which is why some will consider this movie a failure, even though it doesn't fail to entertain on many levels.
Revolutions starts out in Zion, where Reloaded left off, with the machines drilling their way to the last human city. There is a bunch of stuff that happens after this, mainly revolving around the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) a.k.a. the guy who likes to curse in French and use exotic toiletries from Reloaded, kidnapping Neo (sort of) and keeping him in this weird train station. These parts, and many others, are fairly cool, but they don't bring us to the meat of the story, which would be that the machines are coming and the humans have to defend. Oh yeah, that pesky Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and his replicating hand is back as well and yes, he's looking for “Missssterrrr Anderrrrson.” And Neo must put the human Xerox to his final end to save the world and ensure that he can make out with Trinity (Moss) some more.
The main problem with this movie is the script, which is really surprising since the Wachowski's scripts for the first two movies were wonderful. I think they got too ambitious, trying to cram all these ideas they had into the script, knowing this would be the last one. There is a unifying story here, but it gets so muddled down in the conflicts in the subplots that you tend to forget what it is. And I was fairly disappointed that there weren't a lot of the kung-fu fighting scenes that were so great in the first two movies. But the ones they do have are incredible. And then there's the ending. I was looking for a super-big twist ending here, and there isn't at all. It's almost seems that the Wachowski's knew that everyone was expecting a big twist and they didn't give us anything like that at all, just because that's what we were expecting. The ending is just plain dull and it was totally unexpected. I won't spoil anything here for anyone, but they just built suspense and intrigue so wonderfully in the first two movies, I was just thrown that the payoff was a dud.
Now for the good news. The acting here is very solid, with Reeves giving probably his best performance out of the 3 Matrix movies. His Neo character finally realizes the full scope of his powers and his portrayal of this character is just great. Fishburne is great as well as Morpheus and Moss gives a surprisingly good performance as Trinity. Hugo Weaving is wonderful as Agent Smith also. Mary Alice does a great job as The Oracle, filling in for Gloria Foster, the original Oracle who died before they started filming Revolutions.
The visual effects for this movie are out of this world. The human's defense of Zion is just wonderful, with a bunch of humans in those big Robocop-like machine things firing on a zillion sentinels. But as great as that was, it still pales in comparison to the big Neo vs. Smith showdown. Wow. It was just simply amazing. The streets and buildings are filled with Agent Smith's clones as Neo and Smith battle it out. And if you're worried that it was like the Neo-Smith fight in Reloaded, don't worry. That part, with Neo fighting off hundreds of Smith's really bugged the crap out of me, because there was really no cause for it. Granted, it did look cool, but it was just pointless and didn't move the story forward. But this fight is just Neo and Smith while the other Smith's just watch, and it is just great. I would gratefully plop down another $6.50 just to see this fight again.
Besides the glaring oversights I mentioned earlier, the script isn't that bad. There is some nice dialogue and the story builds suspense nicely, although it builds up to a crappy ending. I loved how they showed the true, God-like powers of The One and there is a nice, understated theme about the power of the human spirit which I liked a lot and was glad that they didn't overstate it. And I'm glad that they didn't have as much lovey-dovey stuff with Neo and Trinity as they did in Reloaded. But, as Brian Cox said as screenplay guru Robert “Bob” McKee in the wonderful Adaptation, “Wow ‘em in the end, and you'll have a hit.” Well, it certainly didn't “wow” us at the end, but I think it was a hit on some level.
The Wachowski's direction here is marvelous. They have a better handle on their actors than in the first two movies and, of course, they know how to use their visual effects to the fullest extent. They keep raising the ante, with the visual effects, instead of just resting on their laurels and overusing the, pardon the pun, revolutionary bullet-time camera work they used in the first movie. They are smart enough to realize that tons of films have copied this and that they must wow us with new effects, which succeed at gloriously. I am curious, though, now that this trilogy has been completed, what the Wachowski's will choose to tackle next. They have written a script called “Carnivore” which was on Empire Magazine's 12 Greatest Unproduced Scripts in Hollywood list. So if they make this film their next, odds are it will be pretty damn good.
Matrix Revolutions is a movie about hope, power and faith. It is a quality film that's well worth seeing. I had faith that the Wachowski's would use their power to give us a spectacular ending to the trilogy. I just hoped they would've done it differently.
The Matrix Revolutions is out November 3, 2003.