Few revelations in Revolutions

Nov. 11, 2003, midnight | By Josh Gottlieb-Miller | 20 years, 6 months ago

Revolutions, as a rule, are so rarely successful. Overthrowing the status quo relies less on outgunning or outspending the ruling power than on outthinking them and genuinely changing people's minds. The Matrix: Revolutions fails because there is no revolution, just the same action adventure movie you've seen many times before.

Which is not to say that the movie is bad. Revolutions often provides cinematic spectacle: death, heroics (the kind you see coming and cheer on gladly), triumph, sadness. The writer-director Wachowski brothers prove themselves masters of the epic in even its most minute manifestations, whether it be one man's determination or another's belief. Every emotion is bold, every speech potentially the last and with good reason.

In this bookend (Revolutions is more a continuation than a sequel) to The Matrix: Reloaded we find humanity on the brink of destruction. The machines are set to descend on the last human city, Zion, whose primary defense was brutally slaughtered. Oh, and humanity's only real hope, Neo (Keanu Reeves), has his mind stuck in the Matrix, but his body's next to his worst enemy, the also incapacitated Agent Smith.

One has to respect Reeves for providing the blank slate that is perfect for his archetypal hero's nature: When given the choice to fight or surrender Reeves will always fight. Laurence Fishburne (playing Morpheus) and Carrie-Anne Moss (playing Trinity) and the entire cast deserves credit for imbuing Revolutions with a seriousness and power that no special effects can muster. They can make a hundred Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving), but none of them will have Weaving's off-kilter, demented genius.

Still, neither the great cast, nor the quick and funny, though sometimes weighty script, can save Revolutions from the sense that it just missed greatness. There are great scenes to be sure, the massive battle at Zion foremost among them. The movie fails not in quality, but in quantity. Revolutions is bloated where it should be streamlined and far too nonchalant about the plot's lazy sense of direction. The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) exemplifies this: While Wilson turns in a forceful, witty treat of a performance, his presence is one of several detours that display Revolutions' odd, unique sense of pacing. Given extra plot and character development in the cartoon Animatrix, the game Enter the Matrix and even Reloaded, it's a surprise that the viewer would miss important events that are glossed over, such as Agent Smith's spreading through the Matrix.

Don't let these disappointments fool you. By and large Revolutions is a very good movie. Inevitably meant to be judged by its ending, though the finale is rushed, the Wachowskis' twist is clever and unexpected. They throw in a good bit of philosophy with choice and causality and some Christ imagery (Neo as the messiah) and tie things together, in a way. Still, this latest in a now assembly line series and superhero serial is no revolution.

Note: Mary Alice plays the Oracle rather than Gloria Foster, the actress who played her in the first two Matrix films. Foster died during Revolutions filming.

The Matrix: Revolutions is rated R for massive violence and some mild sexuality. This movie is playing in theatres everywhere.

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