Matrix Revolutions, The (United States, 2003)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

The Matrix Revolutions represents a disappointing way for the science fiction trilogy to bow out. Overlong and underwhelming, The Matrix Revolutions reinforces the thinking that it’s a rare movie series in which the final chapter is the strongest. In this installment, the intelligence and ideas that formed one of the cornerstones of the original The Matrix, and were still in evidence in The Matrix Reloaded, have been shunted aside in favor of computer-generated action that makes about 1/3 of this movie look like a video game on the big screen.

The problems with the film are easy enough to pinpoint. It's pretentious (this was true, at least to a degree, of its predecessors) - we're expected to approach this film with the same solemnity that the Wachowski Brothers do. The action is hackneyed - the slo-mo martial arts stuff was neat the first time, but it was already getting old by the time it was re-used in The Matrix Reloaded. Now, it's past the expiration date, and the Wachowskis fail to come up with anything genuinely new or innovative to enhance or improve upon it. The pacing is uneven - the first hour is bogged down with talking and unnecessary exposition; not until the half-way point does the energy level shoot up. And the payoff is weak. Had this been a stand-alone popcorn science fiction adventure, it might have been enjoyable, but this is a poor way to end a trilogy. Expectations built up by the first two films are not fulfilled. One could be forgiven for anticipating something more momentous than a long shoot-'em-up followed by a glorified fistfight. And the "twist," if it can be called that, is hardly earthshaking.

The Matrix Revolutions begins where The Matrix Reloaded ended - with Neo (Keanu Reeves) in a coma after defeating a few sentinels. Actually, his mind is stuck in a sort of limbo (that looks like a train station) between the Matrix and the Real World. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) go in after him, and are forced to make a deal with the annoyingly cultured Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) to retrieve him. Meanwhile, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), has found a way to escape from the Matrix in his unending quest to eliminate Neo. The machines are about to finish off Zion, and Lock (Harry J. Lennix) is running out of options. Morpheus, Link (Harold Perrineau Jr.), and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) decide to return to the human city, but Neo and Trinity believe their destiny lies elsewhere. So, with the fate of mankind riding on their shoulders, they head in an unexpected direction.

In recent years, the line between special effects-focused blockbusters and computer games has been shrinking, and The Matrix Revolutions further narrows the gap. All that's missing is a joystick on the theater seat arm rest. The battle for Zion should be tense and suspenseful, but the obviousness of the computer generated animation during these sequences damages the ability to suspend disbelief. I didn't ever believe that I was watching humanity's last stand. Instead, I felt like I was watching a non-playable demo for a Matrix Revolutions videogame - shoot down as many sentinels as possible before being overwhelmed. The human element is limited to a few familiar faces rather than legitimate characters we actually care about.

After playing Superman for the last movie, Neo is back to being merely mortal this time around. That makes for some degree of uncertainty about his fate, but, unfortunately, it also requires that Keanu Reeves attempt to do more than stand around looking bemused and cool in black. The Matrix Revolutions expects Reeves to act a little, but the moment he tries to show emotion, we have to fight back giggles. Sadly, Reeves isn't the only one to display acting deficiencies. His co-stars, Carrie-Ann Moss and Laurence Fishburne, are on auto-pilot. Moss tries (and fails) to make us believe that Trinty truly, madly, deeply loves Neo. Fishburne had little to do except look stern. The only ones with any real energy are Harold Perrineau Jr. and Jada Pinkett Smith, neither of whom has a lot of screen time. The gorgeous Monica Bellucci (as Persephone) is so underused that it's inappropriate to label her appearance as anything more than a cameo, with her cleavage getting most of the attention. There has been one casting change: the enigmatic Oracle is now played by Mary Alice, replacing Gloria Foster, who died during production of The Matrix Reloaded.

When The Matrix Revolutions works, it does so as eye candy. Although the first hour drags because of the pontificating about choice and fate (none of the speeches offer anything new), the second hour zips by. The battle sequences may not be as involving as those in, say, Star Wars, but they are done with enough technical savvy to retain the attention of most viewers. And those who are on hand just to see a big-budget special effects extravaganza will be satisfied. Anyone hoping to experience the blend of science fiction, philosophy, and edgy action that characterized the previous two movies will be disappointed. Nevertheless, for completists who need to find out how it ends, The Matrix Revolutions provides answers (although not necessarily to all questions) and doesn't cop out when it comes to the final resolution.

Matrix Revolutions, The (United States, 2003)

Run Time: 2:09
U.S. Release Date: 2003-11-05
MPAA Rating: "R" (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1