You say you want a revolution?
The Matrix Revolutions (2003): 4 out of 10: The Matrix Revolutions concludes the Matrix trilogy with an ending no-one remembers due to years of intensive therapy. Despite the ending, it is slightly less irritating than The Matrix Reloaded. Partially because that previous film had lowered the bar so much and crushed our dreams so thoroughly that we were mere empty husks by the time this film hit theaters.
The Good: Look, it could have been worse. Neo might have found out he got his powers through the scientific miracle of Midi-chlorians, Neo could have spun the earth backward to reverse time and bring Lois Lane back to life, or Alex Winter could have shown up in a time-traveling phone booth and whisked Neo back to San Dimas, California to give a report to his philosophy class about determinism, choice, and the works of Jean Baudrillard before heading to the club for a radical Wyld Stallyns concert which plays over the closing credits. Okay, that would be the best ending ever.
The Bad: Alas There is no Wyld Stallyns concert at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. To no one’s surprise, there is a fight with Agent Smith as predictable as Rocky vs. Drago in Rocky IV. I am half surprised the cloned Smith crowd didn’t start chanting Neo Neo as the fight came to its conclusion.
There is a lot of talking in The Matrix Revolutions, so let me see if I can break down the plot. Everything is predetermined; there is no choice; Neo is Jesus with Superman powers, and in a running time of over two hours, there is one decent action scene in which none of the main characters are involved.
The decent action scene is the machines’ attack on Zion. All Zion has is those walkers like in Aliens but with machine guns attached and a couple of scrappy lesbians with a missile launcher. It does not go well for them.
Zion also has a ton of new characters that I don’t care about. They all seem to have the personality of wet toast. The two exceptions are the irritatingly scrappy child soldier who almost saves the day and Commander Lock played by Harry Lennix who hates everyone and everything and is missing his calling to be the lieutenant in the new Die Hard who thinks John McClane is working with the terrorists. You are supposed to hate Commander Lock, but at least he had a personality. (In Reloaded, my favorite character by far was The Merovingian, another person you are supposed to hate.)
At a critical part of the battle, one of the hovercrafts is rushing back to set off an EMP to destroy the machines. Which brings me to the first question? Why doesn’t Zion have EMPs? Like lots of them? EMPs only affect machines with a live current running through them so you could power down, kill the evil machines, and power up again. There is no explanation given for any of this.
There are a lot of questions generated by The Matrix Revolutions. Why are people surprised that Agent Smith can replicate himself? He is a computer program. It’s what they do.
If your actress playing the Oracle dies, why hire a new actress that almost looks like her? Why not have the Oracle played by someone completely different to emphasize the fact she is just a computer program as well? I would have had Joe Pantoliano take up the role. That would have woken up both the audience and the crew of Nebuchadnezzar.
If someone gets stabbed by four large pieces of rebar, would they really be up for a four-minute speech?
Ian Bliss does a great job as a crewmember possessed by Agent Smith. He does such a good job he might as well wear a T-shirt that says I am Agent Smith. Ask me how. The reaction of Neo and company to this obviously enthralled crewmate breaks all sorts of reality. (When Neo finds out he can use his powers outside the Matrix,shouldn’t one of his first thought should have been could his opponents do so as well?)
I could go on (computer programs that believe in love, Zion has a city council that is larger than its army, machines turning into either the Baby Face mask from Brazil or the final boss from Mass Effect 2 so they can speak to Neo.) but the biggest issue is one spends the movie thinking about these things instead of enjoying the spectacle on screen. Partially because for so much of its running time, The Matrix Revolutions tells rather than shows.
The Ugly: The Merovingian, played by Lambert Wilson and his wife Persephone, played by Monica Bellucci, are by far the most exciting things in The Matrix Reloaded, and while that movie dropped the ball a bit, they promised great things in the sequel. Instead, we get one scene in a bondage dance club called Hel (Another Mass Effect 2 reference? Could the Wachowski siblings be secret Commander Shephard fans?), and Monica Bellucci only gets one line for the love of all that is holy. (On the plus side, costume designer Kym Barrett brought her A game.)
Speaking of the club Hel, according to IMDb, Craig Walker played Hel Club Pony Girl Trainer but was uncredited. Can you imagine the embarrassment for Craig as he is sitting in the theater as the credits roll and his nan is asking him why his name isn’t on the screen?
I said a lot in my reviews of The Matrix and particularly Matrix Reloaded about how having your main character be a Superman is kryptonite for tension and excitement. Matrix Revolutions does not solve this problem, and if anything, it is worse. Also, the religious allegories are more than a bit on the nose, and this is from a movie series where the main love interest is named Trinity.
In Conclusion: As I stated above, Matrix Revolutions is less frustrating than the Matrix Reloaded simply because it doesn’t have as much goodwill to squander. Fans of some long-running TV shows certainly know the feeling where you think “How are they going to pull this off?”, and they don’t. The Matrix was a great stand-alone film, and the two sequels managed to destroy a perfectly fine story. If you see them, that is. The best thing to do is to pretend they do not exist. It is like watching Game of Thrones but stopping at the end of season six.