Dir: Andy & Larry Wachowski. US. 2003.
After their failed attempt to craft a compelling mythology out of The Matrix with The Matrix Reloaded, the brothers Wachowski resort to a straight action formula in their series finale Revolutions. And as a spectacular action movie, there are few films that could rival this one, a relentless assault on the senses composed of consecutive combat sequences and non-stop visual effects.
Since the phony dialogue and quasi-spiritual claptrap that so burdened Reloaded are thankfully played down here in favour of undiluted action, teenage boys will find Revolutions more satisfying, but Warner Bros will find it hard to match the stunning $735m worldwide gross ($460m in international, $275m in domestic) it reaped from Reloaded. Audiences disappointed by the portentous second film might not come back for more, while competition this season for the male teenage moviegoer comes aggressively from Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World and The Return Of The King.
Even if the movie does stop short of Reloaded's grosses, don't shed any tears for the studio, which will be exploiting the franchise to the max with the 2004 DVD release of Revolutions and no doubt box sets galore.
The problem with Reloaded was that the so-called cliffhanger was not much of a cliffhanger. The opening sequences of Revolutions pick up with Neo in a coma on the rebel hovercraft Mjolnir after the incomprehensible meeting with The Architect at the end of Reloaded, while a member of the Zion fleet Bane (Bliss) lies beside him having been infected by the rogue computer programme Smith (Weaving).
Neo finds himself in a no man's land between the Matrix and the Machine World called the Train Station. To find out how to free him, Trinity (Moss) and Morpheus (Fishburne) go into the Matrix to visit The Oracle (Mary Alice) who directs them back to Merovingian (Wilson), now holding court in a nightclub called Club Hell.
Having forcefully persuaded Merovingian to help them, they free Neo who himself goes to visit the Oracle and is given more cryptic advice. The three then return to the ship to race back to Zion which is under attack from the Sentinels.
But on a hunch, Neo decides that his best bet to save mankind would be to fly to the Machine City itself on the Logos to face off against the heart of the enemy, while Niobe (Pinkett Smith) captains the Mjolnir back to Zion.
The film then lurches back to Zion where, for an hour or so, we witness the breathtaking battle in the city's dock area between the sentinels and the rebels. Adult viewers might lose patience with these epic sequences, but younger males will be riveted by the eye-popping effects on show.
By the time, Niobe has navigated the Mjolnir into Zion, Neo and Trinity have reached The Machine City where Neo makes a deal with the ultimate machine power to save Zion so long as he re-enters the Matrix and defeats Agent Smith who is now accruing so much power as to pose a viable threat to the Machines themselves.
The final showdown between Neo aka Mr Anderson and Agent Smith takes place in pouring rain (of course) and sees the two punching each other across the sky with no visible impact. It crystallises the problems with both sequels in that these fights are devoid of suspense, since both contenders are seemingly invincible. Audiences can marvel at the effects but they can't understand the rules of a fight between a Christlike figure like The One and an out-of-control computer programme like Smith.
While several key characters expire in Revolutions, there is not a moment of emotional majesty in any of it. When Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificed himself in Star Wars or when ET faded away in the film of the same name, audiences were genuinely moved. Not so in The Matrix Revolutions. The Wachowskis, alas, have lost track of their humanity in all the machinery.
Prod cos: Silver Pictures, Warner Bros Pictures in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment
US dist: Warner Bros
Int'l dist: Warner Bros/Village Roadshow
Exec prods: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, Grant Hill, Andrew Mason & Bruce Berman
Prod: Joel Silver
Scr: The Wachowski Brothers
DoP: Bill Pope
Prod des: Owen Paterson
Ed: Zach Staenberg
Music: Don Davis
Main cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nona Gaye, Clayton Watson, Ian Bliss, Mary Alice, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Harry Lennix, Harold Perrineau