THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS ** (out of ****) a film review by Richard A. Zwelling
When the Matrix trilogy started, we were given an unprecedented blend of cutting-edge special-effects wizardry and highly substantive science fiction. The film made us think and at the same time got our adrenaline going. With The Matrix Reloaded, the substance began to move into the passenger seat, and the film's unique visual flair (coupled with well-choreographed action sequences) firmly gripped the wheel.
Now comes The Matrix Revolutions, the final installment of the trilogy, and unfortunately the substance is not even in the backseat, but is, as Eddie Izzard once said in a similar analogy, standing at the traffic intersection cleaning windshields. The overly wordy and meandering philosophy, which rose to new levels in the second film, seems even more pretentious and unnecessary here and is used as a mask to conceal the fact that the trilogy has lost its most vital elements and stooped to becoming a second-rate crowd-pleaser.
Granted, the action is spectacularly executed and succeeds in generating emotion from the audience, but it does so in a pedestrian manner that caters to a mindless audience that will cheer loudly anytime something good happens to a character that looks "good"(and even more loudly when something bad happens to a character that looks "bad"). The result is a complete betrayal of the spirit of the first film. I am now refusing to call it a trilogy anymore. There is and always will be only one film.
Without going too heavily into specifics, the conclusion of the film continues the highly religious metaphors that were so subtly and seamlessly woven into the first film. Here, however, the use is laughably overt and maudlin. The pointless, unengaging drama of the previous half-hour only made my spiraling opinions worse.
Returning to the first film for a moment, I want to address the notion of ideas in action movies. That sounds like blasphemy, right? Ideas are thing that the Bad Boys, Tomb Raiders, and S.W.A.T.s of today just won't allow, right?
Let';s take a brief moment to look at one of the greatest sci-fi films ever made: Ridley Scott's Alien (which was recently re-released into theaters as a Director's Cut). What made this film so great? You guessed it...ideas. You cannot just mindlessly create an effective hybridization of sci-fi and horror without careful thought and planning. The claustrophobic scene in the ventilation shaft represents one of the most well-thought, well-executed blends of direction and editing ever put on film. We are on Ripley's side, not because she is made to look like an easily identifiable good guy, but because Sigourney Weaver's thoughtful blend of toughness, sincerity, determination, and maternity earns our admiration and respect.
Moving back to the first Matrix film, we see a similar pattern. While the action was indeed breathtaking and revolutionary, it was always in close conjunction with the film's core ideas and never sidestepped them. A genuinely human character was placed at the center. He had a genuinely human problem that each of us encounters at one point or another. Is there more to life? What if none of this is real, and what if I am mindlessly plodding through day-to-day existence unaware of a deeper reality?
Granted, I am not about to deem Keanu Reeves a master thespian, but that did not matter. His portrayal of Neo was enough to communicate those doubtful thoughts and cause us to identify with him. The idea of a hidden reality was then masterfully exploited to create a sci-fi marvel that invited both philosophical rumination and elevated heart-rates.
Now, compare this to the third film, where this "hidden world"has become increasingly commonplace, the characters have lost their engaging qualities, and all that seems to matter is endless pyrotechnics. Sure, the battle scenes are huge and visually arresting, but to what end? The probing philosophical material has become gibberish and gives off an air of trying to be more hip than intelligent.
Make no mistake. An initially original and fascinating concept has been reduced to a prosaic orgy for the eyes. Due to standard use of cinematic battle heroics, there will no doubt be endless cheers in the theaters each time The Matrix Revolutions is screened. This I find saddest of all. It pains me to think that people don't realize just how much is missing in relation to the first film, and just how second-rate the material they are seeing on screen is.
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