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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Matrix Revolutions (review)

Take the Blue Pill

You cannot imagine my crushing disappointment. After months of speculation with fellow geeks about the many varied ways The Matrix trilogy might resolve itself and fully expecting the Wachowski brothers to go far beyond even the wildest theories we mere mortals could conceive of, we get this. Anticlimactic. Philosophically puny. Downright nonsensical. We’ve been cheated. We’ve been misled. It’s like discovering there’s no Santa Claus and getting socks under the tree in the same year.

I’m so stunned and bewildered that I can’t even manage to be angry. The first stage of grief is denial, after all: I’ll just pretend that The Matrix Revolutions never happened. It works, this fannish denial. No Trekkie actually believes that the “Spock’s Brain” episode of classic Trek really exists. I’ve yet to meet a Doctor Who fan who will acknowledge “The Trial of a Time Lord,” and that’s — allegedly — an entire season of that show. And we all know that the finale of Blake’s 7 is but a wisp of a rumor, never confirmed. So I will continue to live in the universe as it existed at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, in which Neo is still comatose and the Sentinels have not yet attacked Zion, a universe in which I finish the story in my head in a far more satisfactory way.

This is an excellent argument for you to stay away from Revolutions. Like Schroedinger’s cat, Neo and Trinity and Agent Smith and everything else can remain in a state of quantum fluctuation, neither here nor there, their futures unset — for you, at least — if only you never let your eyes fall upon the film.

Then again, if you never see Revolutions, you’ll never believe how the Wachowskis squandered the awesome potential of the first two films. They set up what could have been the next major step forward in human mythology — at least, that’s how one brilliant guy I know saw it, a goosebump-inducing idea totally supportable by the first two films, and no, I won’t reveal it cuz now we’re free to develop the idea ourselves — and wasted it. After carefully and deliberately crafting a world in which spirituality and rationality were perfectly compatible, in which “magic” did not have to defy the laws of physics, the Wachowskis seem to have said What the hell? and chucked this refreshing attitude in favor of the far more traditional and boring and obvious: Neo (Keanu Reeves: Sweet November, The Gift) suddenly has supernatural abilities that have nothing to do with manipulating the Matrix. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. The centuries of philosophy that was so thrillingly distilled in the The Matrix and into Reloaded is now but a muddle, one that thinks it’s blazing a new path but just makes no sense at all.

Where the Wachowskis originally, with the first two films, combined humanism with the numinous to create a metaphor for our developing relationship with machines, there is nothing at all metaphoric about Revolutions. The film is in fact so literal that it trips itself up too many times, and inconsistencies that we might have dismissed in a story more allegorical suddenly stand out as simple sloppy writing. Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith: Return to Paradise, Scream 2), with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne: Event Horizon) at her side, races against time and against Sentinels in order to pilot her ship back to Zion in time for the EMP weapon the ship carries to be of use in defending the docking bay against the advancing armies of Sentinels. But if EMPs are so useful against Sentinels, why doesn’t the Dock have one? And if EMPs are not stationed in the Dock because they’re too dangerous to the computers and other machines of Zion, why doesn’t Niobe — and Morpheus and all the other crew members of the two ships patrolling the underground tunnels — know this?

Why should I be wondering about this kind of absurdity? I should be pondering layers of meaning and metaphor… but none are there. Why do I find myself increasingly annoyed at how often the Wachowskis have to smack us over the head with the story rationale for the recasting of the Oracle (after Gloria Foster’s death) with another actress (Mary Alice: Catfish in Black Bean Sauce)? It’s a clever conceit they came up with to explain it, but why must they repeat it over and over and over? We get it. Don’t they trust us? There was a lot of implied trust in The Matrix, that we could keep up with some complicated and convoluted ideas. Now, we’re treated like children.

Simplistic? It gets worse. The centerpiece of Revolutions is the battle of the Dock, in which swarming hoards of Sentinels attack the entry point of the city of Zion after some huge-ass drilling machines break through from the surface. The humans meet them with machines of their own, big robot-y things that are like the love child of Robocop‘s ED-209 and Ripley’s get-away-from-her-you-bitch cargo loader. Hundreds of ED Juniors, manned by characters we barely know and are supposed to cheer for, versus thousands of Sentinels, all CGI-ed for your video-gaming pleasure, and it’s so frenetic that you can’t tell who’s shooting what or get any sense of scale, and it goes on for about four hours. And like the rest of the film, it has no subtext to keep you interested beyond the first 30 seconds of “Hey, ain’t it cool!”

It’s enough to make a geek cry. I feel like Cypher back in the first film, asking for his blue pill and to be reenveloped in the comforting fantasy of the Matrix. I don’t wanna remember nothing. Not-thing. *sigh*


MPAA: rated R for sci-fi violence and brief sexual content

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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