A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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January 10, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Yeah, I mostly felt tired at the end. I thought there was some potential for tying things together well, but as you say they seem to have given up on the past movies. I was sure that it would be made clear that Smith was himself the progressive anomaly that the Architect mentioned in Reloaded, and that the fight at the end was what had been predestined all along, with Neo’s code (aka free will) being the cure for the anomaly (the tendency to mass conformity). Thus, a nice symbolic integration of philosophy and action. Then the final rejoinder goes and spoils it all. I suspect that the idea was that Neo had lost everything, so that he had no motivation — thus, the only thing that could cause him to “choose” is free will alone and independent of first causes. But of course he did have motives — peace, the salvation of Zion, etc., so the statement is mere hot air. Ah, well.

    Comment by Jeff | January 11, 2011 | Reply


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