A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 316 – Matrix Revolutions

Matrix Revolutions – January 10th, 2011

Well, this is it. The last of the Matrix movies. And by now I’m well and truly ready to be done, because this movie is such a gigantic and overblown spectacle that there is no topping it. To be honest, it’s left me a little speechless. Not in awe, I assure you. Just. I’m at a loss for how to talk about this movie. It’s such a conflict in my head.

You see, I want to like this movie. Honestly, I think it’s better put together than the second movie and I am so very pleased by that. There’s some good stuff here and I really really really want to like it. But it is so very over the top and there’s lots of pointless philosophizing and they seem to have tossed in everything but the kitchen sink here. Check out the tvtrops page on this series and look at the list of tropes present. I got sucked in for an hour just reading the list, not even linking outside of the page. The prior two movies set so much up in terms of mythology and philosophy, not to mention the actual plot(s) and character arcs. There’s simply so much to be done and close out and it all had to come together in something huge because you can’t have it come together in something smaller than its predecessors, right? I’d be curious to see that done, actually. It’s certainly not done here.

We know from the outset that we’re going to have to have the epic battle of Zion. It’s a giant Chekhov’s bullet. The last movie ended with the machines digging their way down to the city and the ships destroyed and chaos reigning and so on and so forth. They were readying for a big fight, so that big fight had better damn well be in the next movie, right? Right. And then there’s the big revelation that Neo can control machines outside of the Matrix. They’ve got to do something with that too. And then there’s Smith, who’s been replicating himself by infecting other programs. And add on to all of that, there’s all the questions about the nature of the Matrix and its history and how Neo’s changed things by not doing what the Architect expected him to do and there’s the Oracle and Seraph and the Merovingian and his crew and everyone who believes in Neo and that’s a hell of a lot to have to wrap up.

It’s not really all that surprising that they ended up actually naming a character in the movie Deus Ex Machina. I mean. Really. I was not shocked. When you’ve built up as much as this movie has, there’s only so much you can do to close it off. And I think there came a point where the Wachowskis just sort of threw up their hands and decided to hell with it, let’s just have Neo meet God, like Shatner did! Why not? It feels like that’s what you do when you’ve built up a huge symbolic philosophical messiah story but don’t have the answers you were hoping to find before having to write the end.

I know I’m rambling, but like I said, I’m sort of at a loss. Really, though, I do think this movie’s structure is a little more coherent than the second movie. It doesn’t have quite the same “action – philosophy – action – philosophy – action” thing going on and that’s good in my book. While we watched it I likened it to Return of the Jedi, actually, with the secondary heroes (Niobe, Morpheus, etc.) rushing off to help out in the big battle of doom against impossible odds while the hero (Neo) goes into the enemy base to try to face down their leader one on one. There’s probably a trope for that, but I’m not going looking for it lest I lose another few hours to that site. Regardless, I think it’s a fairly solid construction once it gets going Unfortunately there’s a lot of faffing around before that. Because at the outset Neo is stuck in Limbo and there’s a whole bit where Morpheus, Trinity and Seraph need to go deal with the Merovingian to get him back. Make no mistake, this whole bit is only in here for the sake of the pretty. Why not let Neo find his own way out? We’re talking about a guy who can stop Sentinels outside the Matrix and resurrect himself from the dead, diving into other programs to destroy them. And he can’t get out of a coded loop of a train station?

You see, that there is the problem. There’s just too much to answer and the answers weren’t set up to fit the world that had already been built. So there are indeed answers, but they only make sense with rules set forth in this last movie. There’s no possible way it can stand on its own, what with it being so heavily dependant on the world building and plot set-up in the earlier movies. But it’s such an entirely different creature than the other movies. Yes, it’s got plenty of action and philosophy and people zipping in and out of the Matrix and Smith being a maniacal badass and Neo being all messianic (down to the blinding, which is definitely a trope – Dune, anyone?), and lots of women kicking ass and I truly do like the battle at Zion. But it’s also got a level of technology that is, in the movie, indistinguishable from magic. Why can Neo do the things he does? It’s not that he’s simply better able to manipulate the Matrix. It’s that he’s special. And he uses his special magic powers to fix everything. I don’t hate that ending, it just seems ill-suited to the story the first movie set in motion. Still, it is a gorgeous movie, and it does have Zee and Niobe and Trinity being awesome and I do love all three of them. And it’s got Hugo Weaving being fantastic and it’s got some interesting stuff about the programs who aren’t so set on eradicating humanity. So I don’t hate it. I don’t love it, but I enjoyed it despite its many flaws. If only it had been more in line with its predecessors. Oh well.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Matrix Revolutions

January 10, 2011

Matrix Revolutions

What do you say? What can you possibly say when faced with something so ambitious, so grand, so pretentious and so flawed as this movie? There is a whole lot of awesome in this movie, but it is sandwiched between almost pure stupidity on the one end and almost absurd heavy-handedness on the other. I think it is because I like some parts of this movie so much that I ultimately end up feeling so saddened and underwhelmed.

As we re-join our heroes after film two Neo is still unconscious, the machines are twelve hours from drilling into Zion, and Smith is still gleefully replicating himself inside the Matrix. It turns out that the reason Neo can’t wake up is that his mind is somehow trapped in a sort of limbo between the machine’s home world and the Matrix – somehow having been forced out of his body by his interaction with the Sentinals in the end of Reloaded. “But wait,” you say “that’s impossible, isn’t it? How can Neo be in the computer world when he’s not even jacked in?”

“Ahah!” reply the Wachowskis, “We invented this world so we say what the rules are. Forget everything you though you knew about the Matrix – from now on we reserve the right to change the rules whenever we think it would be cool to do so.” Yeah, that’s right. The very first thing you’re required to do when watching this movie is understand that everything you thought you knew was wrong. Now I wouldn’t particularly mind that if they gave some alternate explanation for Neo’s powers outside the Matrix or his affinity for it, but they don’t care enough to do that. From now on the cool sci-fi premise is right out the window and from now on Neo’s story is one of undisguised mysticism and magic. We’ll get back to that later.

First Trinity and Morpheus have to go in to the Matrix to rescue Neo’s trapped psyche. They team up with the Oracle’s bodyguard Saraph and storm the Merovingian’s lair. Right here – during the very first fight scene in the movie – the whole thing starts to be a little heavily self referential. There’s a completely forgettable shootout in a basement where the three heroes kill a bunch of programs who can manipulate gravity to run on the walls and ceiling. So forgettable in fact that I have no recollection of seeing it either of the times we saw this in the theater. For all I know it’s additional footage stuck in the movie for the DVD release – and were it on the cutting room floor I would not miss it in the least. Then they confront the Merovingian and he gives them a quest to complete in order to recover Neo – at which point Trinity says “Fuck this – this movie will take forever if we have to actually do any work to get Neo back – I’m just going to punch people and steal guns until you agree to get this show on the road.” Or something to that effect.

So FINALLY Neo is back in his body (after a quick visit to see the Oracle again – who basically tells him nothing at all) and the movie can get started for real. Frodo and Sam leave the rest of the fellowship (with Gollum secretly following them) and head for Mordor while everybody else goes back to Minas Tirith to make a final stand against the orc hordes. It’s strange. There are huge swaths of this movie that feel like they’re re-hashed from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. I’d say that Jackson was ripping off the Matrix, but of course Tolkien wrote it first, so it must be the other way around.

The entire b-plot with the final stand of the humans against the machines is actually the best part of the movie. Oh, sure, it’s got huge chunks blatantly stolen from a whole host of World War II films, but the truth is these tropes work because they’re thrilling and exciting. Morpheus, Link, Niobe and the crew of Mjolnir (The Hammer) rush to get back to Zion in time to save the day and meanwhile there’s a massive epic battle full of mechs, badass women with rocket launchers, thousands and thousands of Sentinals and general tales of daring-do. It’s Zulu and The Alamo and, yes, the battle for Minas Tirith all wrapped up in a cool futuristic but kind of gritty feel. There are clear ebbs and flows to the battle. In short – it is awesome, and if that were all there were to the movie I would be quite satisfied.

Sadly, the movie limps on for a good forty minutes or so after the end of the climactic battle. Neo encounters Bane who is not a villain hopped up on a secret syrum that gives him super strength, but is just a hapless human with Agent Smith living inside him. In their fight Bane blinds Neo, but Neo can still see the program inside him, because now his magical One powers transcend the Matrix and extend into the “real” world. So Neo the blind seer and Trinity fly off to the machine city to confront the machines.

It all ends in melodrama. There’s a pivotal scene where Keanu Reeves has to show us that his character has lost everything and is ready, therefore, to sacrifice himself for humanity – but it doesn’t work as well as you might hope because he’s not actor enough to sell it from behind a ragged blindfold. Perhaps there is some actor that could have done it – but as good as Keanu has been for the role of Neo up until now he just isn’t able to carry this important turning point. (Watching it tonight I found myself, perhaps unfairly, comparing it to Elijah Wood and Sean Astin as Frodo and Sam on the slopes of Mount Doom – a scene which after ten or twenty viewings still makes me tear up today.)

Then the machines re-insert Neo into the Matrix to battle his nemesis Agent Smith. It’s a giant, overblown, ridiculous fight that completely fails to hold my interest. It goes on for about an hour and a half with Neo and Smith fighting interminably in a torrential downpour. They fly around and throw each other through buildings and generally act all macho. By this time in the theater I was thinking “dammit – I shouldn’t have drunk that giant two gallon sprite back at the start of the movie! Can’t it please end so I can go to the bathroom? Please?” (Amanda says “Especially with all the rain!”) It doesn’t help that at the crescendo of the fight, in what is supposed to be the dramatic moment of realization and revelation where the whole point of the trilogy is revealed, Neo has probably the most eye-rollingly bad excuse for a metaphysical rejoinder of all time.

“Because I choose to.”

Really? Is that all you’ve got Lana and Andy? I waited all this time for that? Neo hasn’t made a choice in the entire series – you’ve made it evidently clear.

There’s a little final Christ imagery to round things out just in case we might have missed the point, and a sort of slapped together “everybody (else) lives happily ever after” coda and that’s it. No answers. No sense. Just some flashy visuals and some tired cliches.

So that’s it for me. For all that I did enjoy parts of this movie I ultimately am left feeling profoundly disappointed. It’s so very sad.

January 10, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 1 Comment