A Sequential Cinema Event
November 5, 2003, saw The Matrix trilogy come to its conclusion. The advertising was rampant with some of the best promotions I’ve ever seen for a film. The Matrix fever was still in the air. Reloaded had its fan and the dedication that remained after the mixed reaction was to see how it would all come to a close.
The finale came and went with box office success in its tracks. It was not only critics who turned their nose up at Revolutions (some for Reloaded) but audiences as well as fans. There was a collective feeling of burnout by The Matrix as a whole. This lack of popularity would affect sales of Path of Neo and The Matrix Online in 2005 two years later. The interest had finally waned.
Revolutions picks up immediately after the events of Reloaded. Neo (Keanu Reeves) is stuck in the Matrix searching for answers in the Matrix while unconscious in reality. He comes across a girl named Sati and her dad who tell him about the Trainman. The Trainman sends Neo to the Merovingian instead of his proper destination. Seraph (Collin Chou), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are ready to speak to him for his release. Once back on the ship in the real world, Neo decides to head to MAchine City to stop and end the war once and for all. Bane (Ian Bliss) comes to blows with Neo and takes Trinity hostage as he is now corrupted by agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). After the bout, Neo continues onward with Trinity. The rest of Zion including Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) prepare for the war against the Machines. As they battle wave after wave, Neo faces the literal version of Deus Ex Machina in the real world. In the Matrix itself, an army of Agent Smiths plus the real Smith himself, now with the power of the Oracle. It’s up to Neo to prove he is the one once and for all to save mankind.
Revolutions is not my favorite of the series. It’s lackluster without any true soul to guide it along. It’s an endless stream of action sequences. They keep on coming one after the other without little room to breathe.
The centerpiece of special effects one comes to expect is now outdated. It looks closer to a pre-rendered cutscene from a PlayStation 2 game. I remember telling my partner “It’s this for the next 45 minutes, huh?” The war for Zion is a slog and the wrap-up to the conclusion feels monotonous at times. Yet, I will admit the final hand-to-hand fight with Agent Smith is the best scene in the film with the two going at it with pure hatred for one another. The CGI portions of it though are cartoonish to stare at now. The big battles I could care less about because the investment is there, but not enough to set through a big battle. For comparison, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King would have its own epic conclusion next month. The Battle of the Black Gate in that film mops the floor of the Battle of Zion with more investment and energy. Revolutions as a whole is forgettable in comparison.
As for bright spots, Ian Bliss as the Agent Smith-corrupted crewmember Bane evokes so much of Weaving’s performance. He captures his mannerisms, his energy, and his look so well that it’s hard not to get the two confused. I know I did upon rewatching and had to stop myself to realize it was another actor altogether. Another is the Smith fight. The choreography in the film is still extraordinary, even if the CGI and special effects are the stars of the show here. Everyone from the original is still at their A-game and even the Merogivnian is in great form. It’s good in the acting department all around.
It does not help Revolutions feel like any less of a slog. The movie is 2 hours and 10 minutes long and every minute is felt. The pacing is molasses at best which would get an anxious foot tapping immediately. The investment and care for the story and characters dissipate with each passing minute on the clock. Reloaded had a great pace about it that was on par with the original film. Here, that is gone out the window. It reminds me a lot of 2007’s Pirates at the Caribbean: At World’s End. That film years later suffered from a similar issue of being too damn long with the characters taking a back seat to the effects and action. Yet, Revolutions was not the borderline chaotic runtime of that film which was 2 hours and 47 minutes. There’s enough in both films to be condensed and bunched down into one concise sequel.
Video essayist Patrick Willems made a whole video about how to rewrite The Matrix sequels in June of 2019. It is stellar and reflects a lot of my problems with this film. Willems keeps to the original vision of the Wachowskis. He also whittles it down to the stuff that works and leaves out the stuff that doesn’t. I will direct you to that video below for some homework. It’s 41 minutes, but it’s worth your time to check out. Of course, that’s one person’s idea and he is not playing armchair screenwriter with it, but speaking as a fan of the trilogy as a whole.
Revolutions is a drag to the end with mindless action and a conclusion that left The Matrix concluding with a whimper, not a bang. It had the potential to close out the series with care, but it did not succeed on that front. It needed more time to cook rather than be released the same year as the previous entry. The end result was half-baked.
The Matrix Revolutions 2 out of 5
MATRIX MADNESS 4/5 Complete
The Wachowskis would go on to make other projects. The first big one was the remarkable cult classic Speed Racer in 2008. 2012’s Cloud Atlas and 2015’s Jupiter Ascending were box office bombs for Warner Bros. Yet, they were creative risks that kept the Wachowskis in the eye of other studios and creatives. They would go on to create Netflix’s Sense8, but this would go into division. Lilly would go on to produce Work in Progress for Showtime. Lana continued on Sense8 before returning to Warner Bros. sans Lilly for a return The Matrix 18 years later. The Matrix Resurrections closes out MATRIX MADNESS next week.