Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Matrix Revolutions



USA 2003 : The Wachowski Brothers (i.e. Larry & Andy WACHOWSKI) : 129 mins

Dont be fooled the Matrix movies do not constitute a trilogy. As with Quentin Tarantinos more neatly bisected Kill Bill, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (neither title has anything to do with their contents, incidentally) are rather two halves of the same film, a single sequel to the 1999 original. Revolutions begins where Reloaded left off, with no attempt to provide any kind of summary of whats gone before. Which means anyone coming to this film cold is unlikely to be able follow any of it then again, even those whove seen the first two pictures may not be any the wiser. Because the movies mythology surely only make senses to the Wachowskis themselves and Revolutions sees them so far up their own backsides that even they might struggle explaining the story.

Suffice it to say that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is on his way to fulfilling his (supposedly) pre-ordained role as the saviour of a human race almost totally enslaved by hyper-advanced machines. Aided by love-interest Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) and mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Neo enters the anything-goes CGI fantasy-land of the matrix. Here, guided by the gnomic utterances of The Oracle (Mary Alice), he squares off against the countless clones of nefarious Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) a renegade program whose capacity for self-multiplication may threaten even the all-powerful computers who created him.

Or something It soon becomes apparent that attempting to keep up with Revolutions labyrinthine plot is pointless and unlikely to yield much tangible reward. The whole film is a mess of loose ends and unanswered questions, full of characters who seem to be hugely pivotal one moment, only to drop off-radar the next Lambert Wilsons louche Merovingian from Reloaded is back, along with his ultra-glam consort Perspephone (Monica Bellucci), but they again have virtually nothing to do. Likewise the gangling, wild-eyed hobo known as the Trainman (Bruce Spence), a minor villain who performs some mysterious but enormously significant function. Perhaps the Wachowskis are following the lead of George Lucas, who’s been naming even the most minor character in his latest Star Wars epics (Yarael Poof, Lott Dodd, etc) knowing that all will feature in the films endless spin-offs (video games, novelisations, fan-fictions) and merchandising opportunities.

The Matrix Revolutions is, first and foremost, a pretentious mess and a colossal waste of money. But it isn’t unwatchable. In fact, when Moss or Weaving are on screen (they never appear together) the movie lifts up several notches just like Ian McKellen in Lord of the Rings and Christopher Lee in Attack of the Clowns, they’re sufficiently strong actors that they can take dialogue as atrocious as Wachowskis and make it sound moving (Moss) or drily comic (Weaving). The late Gloria Foster who played The Oracle in Matrix I and II could work similar magic, and while Alice is an OK replacement, Foster is sadly missed.

Otherwise, the film see-saws between insufferable, repetitious mumbo-jumbo dialogue scenes and some quite striking action/special-effects sequences, culminating in Neos arrival at the awe-inspiring machine city where he’s plugged into the Matrix for a final showdown with the smirking Smith. As in Reloaded, the surreal sight of the multi-Smiths gives the movie a temporary air of conceptual art- having dozens of identical agents watching the one-on-one fight from every office-block window in the artifical Matrix city is an especially nice touch.

The last section of the fight, meanwhile, is nicked from a good source David Cronenbergs 1980 Scanners, all exploding eyes and ambiguous personality transfers. Scanners, of course, remains as powerful, idiosyncratic and intriguing two decades on just as Paul Verhoevens Starship Troopers (1997), to which Revolutions massed-battle sequence nods, seems more and more brilliant and prescient with each passing year. The Wachowskismovies, however, are just a fad: hyped towards big numbers at the box-office, but ultimately as hollow and meaningless and perhaps even pernicious – as the Matrix world itself.

16th November, 2003
(seen 13th November : UGC Boldon Colliery)

by Neil Young