The pros of the (still relatively new) practice of filming sequels back to back are all fairly apparent. After all the Lord Of Rings trilogy and Avengers Infinity War/Endgame both hugely benifited from the same cast and crew surging through a near unbroken production schedule to create massive, sprawling adventures that still manage to stand on their own despite having stories that heavily depend on other movies to start/complete their journey. Of course, as with everything, the reverse is also true and that brings us, limping and glitching, to The Matrix Revolutions.
Shitty title aside, this third film was handed absolutely no favours whatsoever by having to follow The Matrix Reloaded into cinemas by a mere 6 months that gave absolutely no time to address the shockingly bad storytelling that mired it’s flashy but clunky predecessor. Ending with a string of world shattering revelations and poorly executed cliff hanger suprises, The Matrix Revolutions had the near impossible task of not only trying to tie up a sizable bunch of lose ends but to also have to make the movie satisfying to an audience desperate to see the trilogy end right.
They are still waiting…
The prophecy is in ruins and humankind is in deadly danger with the news that the legend of The One is actually sort of a scam. In order to correct a systemic anomaly that exists to allow the Matrix to function, every couple of generations requires the machines to cull the humans living in the real world before their growing numbers become a threat to their robot-y existence and the legend of The One is supposed to facilitate that in a plan that contains far too many plot holes to comment on here. I say “supposed” because instead of choosing the route that will result in the death of ALMOST everyone living free (and thereby preserving the human race for another couple of generations), our hero, Neo decided to go with option B which involves in death for EVERYBODY and the machines struggling to survive on limited resources (cheers mate). Worse yet, the surprise discovery that Neo now has the ability to manipulate the energy flow in machine in the real world has left his mind stranded in The Matrix, separated from his body while the malevolent virus known as Smith is still assimilating victims and growing in number. On top of all THAT, the Smith-possessed human called Bane (subtle) has already thwarted an attempt to stem the advancing murder-machines (maddeningly shown off-screen) and is currently in prime position to enact a terrible stabby revenge on our comatose hero. While trapped in a limbo (which resembles the cleanest subway station in all of creation), Neo chats to a couple of programmes and discovers that in their own way the machines love, procreate and experience feelings and emotions not unlike humans, meanwhile Trinity, Morpheus and rogue programme Seraph infiltrate the rubbery S&M nightclub of information trafficker The Merovingian to fight their way through nipple harnesses and gimp masks to negotiate Neo’s release. After this proves suprisingly easy (imagine if Luke Skywalker strode into Jabba’s throne room, simply demanded Han Solo back and Jabba went “oh, go on then.” and you’re not too far off the truth), the gang track down The Oracle (now revealed to be a co-creator of The Matrix and is now played by another actress after the original tragically passed away) who tells Neo what he must do to end the war. This involves grabbing a ship and taking a day trip to the extraordinarily lethal machine city to barter with the source which he does with Trinity despite not knowing that Smith-Bane has stowed away. While Morpheus and a bunch of characters whose names you can’t remember race back to the human city of Zion, the war finally begins as huge, spider-legged drills and countless octopus-like Sentinals rain down on screaming men equipped with giant, shooty power rigs. Can Neo and Trinity succeed in making a deal with the machines by claiming they have a common enemy in the Smith virus who has almost completely remade the Matrix in his sneering image, or will Zion be exterminated as brutally as an ant hill in a flood? As it stands, you won’t fucking care much either way.
If we cast our minds back to the final scene of the orginal Matrix, it ended with Neo giving a final ultimatum to the machines, threatening to show the humans a world without A.I. control before soaring off into the sky like Superman. The sequels never actually gave us this movie, a story where a God-like Neo presumably alerts the entire enslaved population to their plight and rewrites the programme from within to create a whole new world within cyberspace – no instead we got rogue programmes, half-baked philosophy and an ending where (SPOILER ALERT!) the overthrowing of the machines never actually happens.
The fact the war ends with a draw with participation awards for everybody who was kind enough to show up isn’t the problem. It’s actually fairly noble that the Wachowskis decided to settle on both sides agreeing to a fair, yet vaguely described truce, but the moment you spend any time thinking about it, it actually seems horribly problematic and such a massive and complicated plot point is carried out in a horribly off hand way, it comes across as pretty insulting to the audience. How is it that a franchise that has been designed so that every detail of it’s run time is begging to be poured over by rabid fans have an ending that collapses with the merest flick of scrutiny? It also wouldn’t be so toe-curling frustrating if it wasn’t so obviously telegraphed: Programmes having children? A.I. routinely chatting about love (virtually all of them bang on about it endlessly, even The Merovingian brings it up at one point and he’s a big French perv)? I don’t have any personal problems with making nice with a tarantula-faced, robot creature who was once trying to kill me – but you’ve got to warm me up to the concept a bit better than just telling me it wants to settle down and have babies.
Even without a conclusion that had cinema goers emerging, blinking into the sunlight complaining “What the fuck was THAT?”, The Matrix Revolutions still has more than it’s fair share of problems, the most glaring of all being that it now, literally has no clue what to do with it’s three core characters. Neo still potters along, blithely making choices he doesn’t understand that effects everybody in horrible ways, until he finally becomes a saviour almost by default, Trinity is stripped of all he coolness, mindlessly sacrificing herself at every turn to help a man achieve his goals and Morpheus? Fuck, Morpheus is treated worst of all as he becomes utterly useless the second he learns the prophecy he’s dedicated his life to is the equivalent to a humanity ending Ponzi scheme (this actually happens before the movie has started) and spends the rest of the movie as an uncomfortable looking fifth wheel who ends up becoming Jada Pickett-Smith’s new co-pilot, a job he turns out to be a bit shit at. This problem wouldn’t be so glaring if all the action in the second half of the film wasn’t entirely focused on secondary characters who we neither know or care about; fuck – one of them doesn’t even have a NAME and is only referred to as “The Kid”. You mean to tell me you wouldn’t rather have seen Trinity and Morpheus in those big-ass robot suits, triumphantly defending Zion in person instead of almost literally becoming part of the background? It’s somewhat of the same problem that Return Of The Jedi had with the distribution of it’s heroes in the third act (Lando should’ve been on Endor and Han should’ve been flying the Falcon but that would mean Solo’s arc with Leia couldn’t have been continued) but WAY more worse. With the lack of any truly supportable characters in the big battle scene, the spectacular free-for-all becomes a droning bore that noisily out stays it’s welcome surprisingly quick which leaves a final, super-powered smack-down between Neo and Uber-Smith for the Matrix to try and salvage the movie which, regrettably, is also somewhat botched with all the super-punching and pavement shattering becoming oddly stale until it’s so-so conclusion.
But maybe all hope is not lost; as fans await the in-production fourth installment, maybe there is hope that another chapter can retroactively salvage the anger-inducing dud of an ending and give us a conclusion fans of the original so richly deserve.
Or in other words, it seems the only way to fix the Matrix is to turn it off and on again…