Friday, 20 March 2009

Movie Review - Matrix: Revolutions

To say I was surprised would be a serious understatement…

Well shiver me timbers, tie me to a chair and beat me with a feather duster, rub me with asphalt and call me Ginger… (note to self – make sure no-one who knows where I live suffers from literalism before writing that sort of thing…) – this is actually a Very Good film! And believe me, after the atrocity that was Matrix: Reloaded, no-one could be more surprised to find me saying that than myself. I described Reloaded as “contender for the worst film ever”, “an insult to the audience’s intelligence”, “risible”, and “tedious”. I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so vitriolic about any other film in a full review.

But Revolutions, although filmed at the same time as Reloaded, is infinitely better. To refresh your memory about the plot:

In the Beginning…

In the original Matrix Neo (Keanu Reeves) finds out that the world he lives in is in fact a simulation of reality creating be machines (The Matrix), though everyone inside it believes it to be the real world. The machines need the energy from humans’ bodies to continue – this all came about after a war between humans and machines, which the humans lost rather badly.

Neo is rescued into actual reality by Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne), who believes that he is “The One”, a person prophesied to have the power to alter the very nature of the Matrix. Morpheus’ belief in Neo is unshakeable, but not shared by many of the free humans. Along the way Neo falls in love with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who believes in him because the Oracle, who everyone believes is wise, told her that she would fall in love with “The One”. Agents, powerful programs that roam the Matrix eliminating anything that might threaten it, including the free humans who are “jacked in” to it, try and fail to stop Neo. The most sinister of these is Agent Smith – more on him later…

The film appears to end with the power to end the Matrix and thus end the machines’ control over humans. And let it be said that The Matrix was a very good film. Whereas…


Reloaded but needs rebooting…

Matrix: Reloaded continues the story and set a new low in film-making. Apart from the fact that it was a terrible film, the story goes that the machines are about to launch an unstoppable attack . Agent Smith has mutated and can clone himself by taking over other programs (this leads to probably the most boring fight scene in all film history when thousands of Agent Smiths attack Neo). However this is an important plot development, and you wouldn’t understand events in the final film without it. There is also a program represented in the Matrix by an obnoxious French bloke, who makes a cursory appearance in Revolutions…

Neo also meets The Architect, the program that designed the Matrix, and learns things about himself and the nature of his universe that unsettle him. Towards the end of the film he appears to gain new powers but struggles to know how to use them – though he works some of it out in time to bring Trinity back from the dead. But he ends up in a coma right at the end of the film…


Revolutions don’t have to include the revolting…

Well now. I’ve told you the basic storyline of the first two films, but I’m not going to tell you any of this film’s story. It has a good plot with plenty of twists, and right to the end it didn’t turn out how I thought it would. The only thing I will tell you is that the plot centres more around the real struggle between mankind and technology, rather than the struggle inside the Matrix. This is a million times more effective and creates real tension. One of the main problems with Reloaded was that it was almost all inside the Matrix and you knew it wasn’t real, and you didn’t really care that Neo got blown up or punched through a mountain since you knew he’d just get up again at the end of it. This is different – the battle scenes here are extreme and very realistic, perhaps in their own way as good as the battle at Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers.


Revolutionary SFX…

The special effects are just unbelievable. The trouble with the effects that made the first film so ground-breaking was that once you’d seen them, they weren’t groundbreaking anymore. So the second film was just more of the same, and got boring very quickly. Revolutions contains special effects that are new, and some that maybe aren’t quite so new but are still extremely visually impressive.

Characterisation

Well, this hasn’t exactly been a strong point in any of the Matrix films, but is reasonably good here. Several rather peripheral characters from the previous movie are given a more prominent role here and do well. (I’m not going to tell you which ones at that would give away some of the plot). This also helps the film to be more interesting because, let’s face it, Neo isn’t actually that interesting a character, despite his powers and Messianic status. The emotional scenes between himself and Trinity were actually emotional this time, though, which is a fantastic improvement!

Morpheus kept his mouth shut most of the time, which was a real blessing after the banal speeches of the previous film. Even Agent Smith’s chronic overacting and the nauseating Frenchmen were so much more bearable this time around – largely because there is a wry sense of humour about the whole thing, which really worked for me. The Oracle wasn’t so annoying either. Everything that was terrible about the second film had either been removed or toned down, and what made the first film good was improved upon. Very little philosophy is pushed on us this time, and what there is manages to be subtler and even makes a lot of sense! Refreshing to say the least… sorry but I just can’t help comparing it the Reloaded…

It doesn’t adopt an “all main good characters survive” policy either, adding a refreshing realism to the proceedings. With one main character it didn’t seem certain to me if they were actually going to survive or not – not telling you who though! Many questions are left with open-ended answers or none at all, which in this case works a lot better than trying to tie up every loose end…


One final comment. Although it seems a little contrived at times, the film contains characters of about every race possible, which is nice to see. (Okay they’re mostly computer programs rather than real people, but it’s still nice to see… I thought so anyway!).


Everything that has a beginning has an end…

The ending is very good, doesn’t take the easy way out, and has some real surprises in there. The atmosphere of the whole film is very tense, sometimes almost unbearably so. I really enjoyed it, but a slight proviso on the recommendation – that’s for the first time you see it. Much as I enjoyed it, Revolutions is not the sort of film I’d want to see again in a hurry. That’s more to do with the type of film than the quality of it, though.

I was as surprised to see negative comments about this as I was positive comments about Reloaded – that had nothing to recommend it while this has a lot. It’s a very satisfying end to the trilogy, and much, much better than I had come to expect. If I had a hat, I would take my hat off to the Wachowski brothers (writers/producers).


See Also:

CaptainD's Top Ten Films of 2003

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