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Matrix Revolutions, The

Reviewed By Rob Gonsalves
Posted 01/06/07 14:40:05

"An unbelievably tepid finale."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

"Why do you keep fighting?" says the evil program Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) to our hero Neo (Keanu Reeves). "Why do you bother?" Well, because he has to fight, or else there wouldn't be a megabucks redemptive finale. Not that 'The Matrix Revolutions' redeems anything other than Hollywood's belief that bigger is better.

Even though almost every character keeps saying they don't know what's going to happen, every moment of this ugly-looking, monotonous spectacle feels pre-ordained. Neo, the designated messiah of this pop fantasy, must prevail by sheer will and ... purity of heart, I guess. Everyone else seems rather expendable, and indeed major and minor characters die here without setting so much as a tremble of tragedy. It's all about The One, and what he can do to save the humans of Zion. Everybody else helps him or stands around.

Unlike the first two films, Revolutions takes place almost entirely in the bleak, gun-metal sanctuary of Zion, the last stand of humanity, which is being threatened by the foot soldiers of the machines -- writhing, relentless squid-like things called Sentinels. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who first opened Neo's eyes to the Matrix, have become little more than his acolytes, unquestioningly accepting his every decision. "I have seen that I must make a banana sandwich," Neo could say, and Morpheus would nod meaningfully. Those coming to this final installment for answers won't find them; nobody knows anything, not even the down-to-earth Oracle (Mary Alice, in for the late Gloria Foster) -- either that, or they know but are powerless to do much about it. The movie's faith in One Savior is touching but robs the narrative of suspense: After three movies, does anyone think Neo won't come through?

For what seems like an eternal stretch of screen time, various warriors of Zion do battle with hordes of Sentinels, in ships and in huge battle armor. On and on it goes, with people falling and dying, and Sentinels going up in explosive sparks. The goal is simple: Save the Dock. We hear it over and over: the humans must defend the dock where the ships come and go. After much dying and fighting, one of the ships finally makes it home, and a victory cry goes up. Then we're told that the dock wasn't saved after all, and that all the blood and thunder we've seen was just ... filler, I suppose.

At least there's not as much gassing on about destiny and anomalies as there was in The Matrix Reloaded. But writers-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski don't come up with anything new to take its place. If Reloaded was ponderously philosophical, Revolutions is ponderously violent, with none of the freaky, eye-popping set pieces that distinguished its predecessors (I'm beginning to consider the original Matrix an example of taut, surprising storytelling in comparison with its follow-ups). And some of this stuff is just cheesy in the same way it's been cheesy in dozens of cheaper, less cultish films. When a human is possessed by Agent Smith and holds a scalpel to Trinity's throat to get Neo to drop his gun, I sighed and wondered where the Wachowskis' imagination had gone. An earlier chase through a train station -- with Morpheus and Trinity hot on the heels of some seedy-looking character from Central Casting -- is like a hundred other chases you've seen.

It all ends with a rain-soaked mano-a-mano between Neo and Smith; the latter, of course, has replicated himself a hundredfold, but even his clones (literally) stand around on the sidelines while Good and Evil duke it out. Meanwhile, back in Zion, the new concept of an olive branch between the humans and the machines is explored. "How long will this peace last?" someone says. "Until Warner Bros. has another string of expensive flops and needs another 'Matri'x sequel," I answered.

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