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Matrix Revolutions (2003) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 November 2003
To lend credence to the title to this third and last installment in what has turned out to be a cinematic trilogy, 2000’s original “The Matrix” did indeed revolutionize virtual reality as both a science-fiction subgenre and as a visual effects format. However often it is spoofed or copied, there’s no arguing with the electrifying impact of seeing Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, suspended in time and mid-air, rotating in place and then delivering a neck-breaking kick, bullets so slowed down that they can easily be caught between the palms of Keanu Reeves’ Neo or the whole premise that the world we know is really just a framework – i.e., the Matrix – dreamed up by machines to keep humans lulled and sleeping, so that we can serve as a power source for the huge mechanical minds.

The two “Matrix” sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions,” were filmed simultaneously. “Reloaded,” released six months ago, had some fantastic effects sequences, but its creators, Larry and Andy Wachowski – who wrote and directed all three movies – seemed to be so interested in exploring riffs within the mythology they have created that they rather lost track of the driving plot thread. Their “wouldn’t it be cool if …” plot detours got a bit confusing, as they were given full weight yet seemed to lead us in circles, and not especially intriguing circles at that. The film ended mid-story, with the one real (that is, non-virtual) human city of Zion in imminent peril of attack from the machines.

“Revolutions” is a good deal better than “Reloaded,” although it lacks the sense of revelation that permeated the original “Matrix.” In “Revolutions,” first Neo’s friends try to rescue him, and then he and his friends try to rescue Zion, before finally taking on the heart of the Matrix itself. In story terms, there is enough ambiguity to keep everybody who’s into it arguing over all the implications for all eternity. The narrative has big, urgent, war-movie drive and the central battle for Zion has one of the most spectacular sustained special effects sequences so far seen in any genre. For sure visual and aural awe, it holds its own against pretty much any other comparable stretch of onscreen CGI and/or warfare. Intellectually, it’s possible to be aware that the squidlike Sentinels are generated by computers, whereas the falling masses of metal are sometimes models, but viscerally, it all looks absolutely real and imposingly scary. Viewers who want to maximize the impact of the experience have the option of seeing the film in IMAX format in a number of cities.

This sequence so galvanizes “Revolutions” that we’re pretty much ready to ride out whatever comes next. Given the sort of mythic set-up we see, what happens isn’t exactly surprising, although people expecting the sort of finality promised by the poster tagline may be nonplused. Suffice it to say that the Wachowskis don’t wrap everything up tidily, though the conclusion plays fair with the rules they’ve established in the other films.
Reeves and Moss are so genuine and straightforward in their work that we can buy their on-the-nose dialogue, and Hugo Weaving as the nasty, self-replicating program Agent Smith is once again a source of extremely droll, deadpan villainy. Mary Alice takes over from the late Gloria Foster as the Oracle in a transition that is explained reasonably well, giving the character a similar sense of pragmatic warmth, though the new actress is a little more serious than the slyly humorous Foster was. Jada Pinkett Smith is aptly urgent as tough captain, while Fishburne’s Morpheus has undergone a curious transition from driven leader to questing acolyte that’s probably worth a second look simply for its unusual qualities (the change customarily goes the other way round, especially in this type of legend).

Sound is full-blast, with many discrete effects, especially in the big battle sequences, which should make it a worthy workout for any home system. It is to be hoped that extras on the DVD edition will include thorough explorations of how the CGI/miniatures effects were achieved.

“The Matrix Revolutions” concludes the trilogy energetically and appropriately. It doesn’t replicate the original’s feat of making us feel that we’ve found something entirely new, but it does have some absolutely astounding aspects and it certainly holds our attention.

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