Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Matrix Retrospectived: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

The Matrix Revolutions
Director: Andy & Lana Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Harry Lennix, MONICA BELLUCCI
Rated: R

Seraph:  Did you always know.
Oracle:  Oh, no.  No I didn't.  But I believed...I believed.

Audiences had but just 6 months to wait for the conclusion of The Matrix franchise.  By the time the 3rd one rolled around though, it seemed like it was greeted with lackluster excitement.  That all the good will this franchise had going in May had disappeared.  That this one was coming out just because it had to.  The Matrix Reloaded was supposed to leave every itching and counting the days to this movie and with such mediocre reception, Revolutions was met with the "Oh, its another one of these" type fanfare when it came to a new release.  The film opened to a little more than half what Reloaded did.  It did a lot less overall business domestically and overseas as well.  And I'm a firm believer of the previous film being a contributing factor in affecting the following's opening weekend box take.  There's no way people could have been tired of the franchise at this point.  It was only the third entry, and the platform set was that both films were to be an event.  The first trailer advertised for both of them.  Unfortunately in 2003, Reloaded, as good a film as it was and gets better with time, was too much for people and sailed over their heads.  People may have feared that Revolutions was going to be more of the same and opted to have it at home where they could pause and rewind.
Revolutions is a film that starts and ends terrific.  Where we have our problems is somewhere in the middle.  So, I'm going to tackle the middle first.  Most of this film takes place outside of the Matrix.  The Matrix was a place where we have all the cool unique action making the series what it is.  That's the strength of The Matrix.  I've always seen the films as a sort of balance the further we get.  The first film is 75% Matrix and 25% real world.  Reloaded is 50-50 and Revolutions is the 25-75 in the opposite direction.  The sets used here for most of the film lack any sense of wonder and mystery.  They're tough, plain, industrial areas.  Rock and steel.

There's a point, which is the middle, where Neo and Trinity are busy going to the Robot Capital and Morpheus and Co are heading toward Zion.  This is when the sentinels attack Zion and we get a big battle.  We are also treated to technology and machines that are both creative and not at the same time.  Its kind of basic fighting and almost comes across like a live action version of "Centipede".  Also, we are now thrust into watching and trying to find some sort of compassion and energy for a bunch of characters who got a whiff of development in the very beginning of the previous film and to be honest, most of us probably forgot about when it comes time for them to make their mark.  It suddenly makes a bunch of loud, banging, exploding and shooting action become...well...boring.  You're watching a bunch of soulless nameless robots fighting against...humans who are very close to fitting the bill.  There are emotional beats and character arcs that progress over this time, but we just don't feel it.  Where there are crowd pleasing moments and the audience should be ripping in applause and excitement it falls flat because honestly...we don't really know these people very well and why should we care.
An general who we BARELY BARELY get anything from in Reloaded goes down in what's supposed to be a very emotional moment, and I find myself not really caring because I wasn't really attached.  I mean, this the city our heroes like Morpheus and Neo are fighting to protect and I really don't have much of an attachment to it because none of them are there.  They are all actually safe and away from this massacre, so I'm having a hard time being torn that their city is crumbling down.  Having one of them there, hell, even Niobe being present during that battle may have helped.  This battle seems to go on forever, and I just can't get interested and involved following Link's wife Zee, The Kid and a-hole Commander Lock.  In the end, its just a hollow battle between things blasting at each other.
Back track now to the beginning of the film.  I really love this opening sequence.  Its an obvious structural throw back to Return Of The Jedi, but I love that movie so I'm all for it.  This is very much rescuing Neo Solo from Jabba the Merovingian and Trainman Fett.  We also get more Persephone.  Seraph also gets involved in a big action sequence.  Its a whole lot of fun and moments that remind you why you love this series to kick it off.  There's an awesome shootout action sequence that's an enhanced callback to the first film and its incredible fun.  Meanwhile, Neo sits and waits in a subway station. This whole set and setup for the area is super cool.  And while Trinity and Morpheus are providing action bits on why you love the series, Neo is filling the philosophical conversation parts with his discussion with Rama-Kandra.  Everything about these sequences is terrific.
Before we get to the end, lets talk about one stop on the way to get there; Trinity's death. Why go through all the trouble and the basis of the last film if they are just going to kill her right here?  Well, we could say that The Architect did warn Neo that no matter what he did she was going to die.  Was this what he was talking about?  I always had thought if one of the main cast was going to bite it before the final curtain that Morpheus would have been the one.  Have the man die believing in and fighting for his cause.  But, alas, its Trinity.  And it kind of had to be.  What made this sixth rendition different than all the other "The One's" is that all his compassion for humanity was put into Trinity.  Without her, he had nothing to go back to once this was over.  He could completely go all in in the final fight.  It had to be.  It raises some questions as thematically and for the audience as to why we'd sit through a whole movie about Neo preventing her death, preventing it only for her to die in the very next movie...but for the movie's story and with what The Architect was trying to prove...it does work.
Now this final fight scene.  It is incredible.  This is a finish, folks.  The greatest Superman and General Zod battle ever captured on celluloid happens in The Matrix Revolutions.  The angles captured, the intensity, the movies, the flying...the Wachowskis freakin' nailed it!  This is an intense battle that really feels it could go either way.  Say what you will about the film or the series, this fight scene is an incredible way to races past the finish line.
There's been a lot of crap given to the sequels for under developing or not utilizing cool "popular" characters more than they did.  Mainly I think they're talking the Merovingian, Persephone and the Twins.  But, what I don't think people realize is that those are things that you can't predict when shooting a film.  You never know what's going to stick and what's not.  Sometimes an audience will connect with the wildest thing you never expected in production.  Also the fact that they shot these back to back and released them within six months of each other further hampers their ability to realize this.  They already had to deal with reshoots and stuff due to the death of Aaliyah and recasting and working in the new Oracle as well.  I think they did just fine, personally.  If you're left eagerly thirsty for more on certain characters, then they've done their job.  I'd rather desire a character more than get sick of them.  Remember, super awesome mysterious Boba Fett once became a little kid that everybody apparently hated.
The final moments close with a nifty moment between The Architect and The Oracle.  We are left to think that people will be given a far more fair choice of The Matrix and Zion.  And that The Matrix and robots will no longer interfere or attempt to destroy the humans.  It almost feels like a role reversal from the The Second Renaissance where the robots are given their own city dubbed "01".  While they do end this book, it feels the door is slightly open for more if there would ever call for it.  I'd like to believe The Matrix series is done and stays as this story with maybe a possible television venture in the future, but as I've seen...if you've got a franchise name brand, nothing is safe from being remade or getting that "class reunion" sequel nobody wants.  Time will tell and we shall see.

Next Time:  You know the game, we rank The Matrix.

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