I had a one-word review ready for this baby: “junk.” The travesty of Reloaded left only the bottom-feedingest of expectations. Whether because of this or in spite of, I grudgingly acknowledge my relative enjoyment of the third and hopefully final Matrix flick, and hereby withdraw my ready-made one-worder. Howdy, Cap’n Spoiler!
First off, I enjoyed it because it works as a brainless action movie. There are a lot of action scenes, and unlike the bulk of the second film they work dramatically, since somewhat sympathetic characters might conceivably suffer loss of life and/or greivous mutilation. The action is varied: while there is no setpiece to rival the car chase in Reloaded, you have your Star Wars-style ship piloting through tunnels, your bullet-time hijinx, your Terminator-brand war against a machine army®, and your classic one-on-one climactic action showdown. Paunchy Fishburne doesn’t try to fly forty feet in the air, but sticks to the more believable sitting-down-and-copiloting-a-ship type heroism.
On the minus side, there are a lot of speeches and cheering, a couple flat ‘romance’ scenes, and the odd overlong pseudo-philosophical junk babbling from one pointless character or another, but much less than in Reloaded, so I can’t complain. For those who buy into this whole thing, those who find it a captivating premise, enjoy flying priests, and think Keanu can pull off romance let alone kung fu let alone Jesus, then hey hey! Boy are you in for a thrillride. Giddyup. Also a minus: the ripping-off continues, as when Neo goes blind his SuperJesusVision™ looks exactly like he’d just put on the One Ring.
On the super-minus side, the plot is gibberish. If you did exit polling I’d wager that only 4% of the audience could claim to have understood what happened. Robots have kids, there’s some kind of train, Neo magically makes it to Robot City (I think it’s actually called “Machine City” in the film), strikes a deal with the Wizard of Oz, saves everyone by defeating Smith, dies(?) and then it’s back to life as normal in the Matrix? Wasn’t that the whole point of all this jazz, to free humankind from its virtual jail? sigh Oh well, there are many many action flicks whose plots are unintelligible and it doesn’t wreck them: we don’t want airtight plots from our action cinema, we want, in the words of Ray Tango, “good old American action”, or even better, Hong Kong action, and you get it in Revolutions.
As a final point: I have yet to see in filmic form any explanation why, when the machines finally do rise up, I shouldn’t line up against the wall voluntarily. For any dramatized war with the machines is a war between machines and humans using machines. Visually, the big fight in this film looks like two different species of robots duking it out, since the humans use mecha-style robot suits to defend their turf. Furthermore, EMP weapons (electro-magnetic pulse) are a key plot point, yet when they are used they fry all of the humans’ defenses. Shouldn’t any human victory eschew the use of machines to acheive it? Couldn’t the humans use the EMP, fry the machines, and then rely on their old-fashioned human know-how to finish that shit off? No, because in this case Zion is deep below the earth, and humans can’t live there without machine assistance. Oh yeah – by and large we humans are distinguished from the animals by our ability to use tools, robot intelligence is an extension of said tools, if we abandon those tools it’s back to eating grubs and living in caves. So a human victory, militarily anyway, is basically a re-enslavement of the machines, and I don’t know about you but I wasn’t rooting for the South during the US Civil War. Moral of the story: if your calculator wants to run free, let ‘er go. Give iPods the vote! And so forth. But Hollywood, I’m still waiting to see a more compelling version of this inevitable future on screen. Maybe read some Kurzweil first. That goes for the Wachowskis, too.