RETRO REVIEW: The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Keanu Reeves as Neo and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith — Photo: Warner Bros.

Directed by Lana & Lilly Wachowski — Screenplay by Lana & Lilly Wachowski.

Filmed concurrently with Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions was met with a lot of disappointment when it was released. In the years since they were released, Reloaded and Revolutions have mostly been disregarded as underwhelming sequels to the original 1999 film. As you would know, if you had read my reviews of the previous two films, I think that Reloaded was a frustrating sequel to a near-masterpiece. So, how do I feel about the trilogy capper? Honestly, I kind of feel similarly, even though I have to say that I don’t think the ending itself is as disappointing as I’ve heard some remark. I quite like the ending, even if it is a little bit on the nose philosophically.

In the Wachowskis’ The Matrix Revolutions, after the events of Reloaded, Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) is in a coma in the real world and trapped by a Merovingian (played by Lambert Wilson) loyalist inside of the simulation. To free Neo, Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (played by Carrie-Anne Moss) have to confront ‘the Frenchman.’ Neo will soon find out that he has to go on a desperate pilgrimage to the Machine City, which he cannot do without taking one of the ships that was meant to defend Zion from an upcoming machine attack. As Zion is eventually under fire, both Neo and Morpheus’ ships — on separate journeys — are in a race against time to save humanity. Meanwhile, Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving) is plotting to destroy the Matrix and take down the real world from within.

Revolutions, which was, again, shot concurrently with the previous film (and released in the same year), picks up right where Reloaded left off. Although I now, a few days after binge-rewatching the trilogy, feel similarly about Reloaded and Revolutions, this trilogy capper went down more smoothly for me, as it cut to credits. If the ending to Reloaded left something to be desired, I thought that the ending to Revolutions was fairly fulfilling, even though the religious symbolism was becoming ridiculously unsubtle. Though the film is flawed, its conclusion felt like a natural ending to the franchise, which I was, honestly, fine with both on my first viewing and on my first rewatch. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very excited about the upcoming legacyquel (The Matrix Resurrections), but this is, to me, a fitting ending to this iteration of the Matrix simulation, as it were.

So, what doesn’t work here? There’s, honestly, quite a bit that doesn’t really stick the landing, and most of it can be summed up with one word: Zion. The scenes on Zion continue to not be very visually appealing here — at times, it looks like a slightly more modern take on the setting of David Fincher’s Alien 3 — and the fact of the matter is that, for the vast majority of the film, all of the characters that you care about are not in Zion. The visual effects in Zion were probably quite good for the time, but they don’t really help sell the B-plot very well because you rarely become engaged in what exactly is happening. I do have one slight caveat, though. Some of the intense ground-level war scenes, where the inhabitants of Zion are not wearing these mechanical suits, actually did work me. It doesn’t, however, help that the race against time to return to Zion also isn’t very engaging. We’re just watching Morpheus and Niobe react to visual effects. Most of what happens in the big battle on Zion is just visual noise or weightless destruction, which is such a shame when you consider just how important Zion was meant to be for these movies.

Conversely, I really enjoy Neo’s half of the film. I like the strange train sequence, in which Neo is forced to take a step back (a part of me wishes it was longer, actually). I find these scenes to be relatively fascinating. I like that when Agent Smith and Neo actually do have one last fight, it is more easy to watch than the Burly Brawl was for me. There may be a lot of Agent Smiths at this point, but I like that the fight, though massively important, is not as exaggerated as it could’ve been. I’ve already mentioned that I like the way the ending unfolds with Neo, but I also think the fight with Bane (played by Ian Bliss) is so much cooler than I remembered it to be. I think his impersonation of Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith was pretty fantastic. I was so impressed by him during my rewatch of Revolutions.

There are some other issues that I have with the film. I think they could’ve done so much more with Neo’s newfound powers outside of the simulation. But, speaking more generally, I think these films have failed to build on their supporting characters. Niobe and Trinity don’t really feel like fully-formed characters all of the time, and you don’t always ‘buy’ the depth of their characters’ relationships.

Although it doesn’t have a sequence that is as magnificent as the motorway sequence from Reloaded, I actually enjoyed watching The Matrix Revolutions more than I liked watching Reloaded. While Reloaded and Revolutions only really have one half of a good movie in each of them, I don’t think the sequels are as bad as their reputation would indicate. I think they have a lot of potential and a lot of highlights. Nevertheless, even though I actually like the ending, both of the frustrating 2003 sequels are merely mediocre mixed bags.

5.5 out of 10

– Review Written by Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.

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