The Matrix Revolutions
I was never a big fan of The Matrix, the 1999 film that spawned two sequels. Nevertheless, the concept—that the world we appear to live in is an illusion created to occupy our minds while our bodies are harvested for energy by the machines that occupy the real world—is an intriguing basis for a science-fiction tour de force. It fell down, for me, because that concept was used as a framework for mindless, unrelenting action. I found another, smaller film, The Thirteenth Floor, a far better use of the concept of a computer-generated world. Unfortunately, that film puzzled critics, and ultimately disappeared without grabbing the public's attention.
The Matrix did break new ground in the kinetic-motion and CGI departments, but even die-hard fans had problems with the first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded. The action, again, was brilliantly choreographed and cutting-edge, but the story began to unravel. In the end, we wound up in a room with The Architect (presumably, some sort of program that had designed The Matrix, though this was never made entirely clear), who told our hero, Neo (Keanu Reeves), that the entire story had been a ruse to bring him to the point where he could facilitate the reloading of The Matrix. Or at least that's how I read it—that the choices were either reloading The Matrix or deleting it. Either way, the world of the current occupants of The Matrix would be toast.
But neither option appeared to offer much fodder for another sequel, so as The Matrix Revolutions opens there has apparently been a stay of execution. Neo is trapped in a train station—apparently some sort of limbo between The Matrix and the actual world—from which he can't escape. Meanwhile, millions of Sentinels—tentacled machine soldiers—are closing in to destroy Zion, the last outpost of humanity in that real world. And Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is poised to take over The Matrix.
Smith, in fact, seemed to start out in The Matrix as simply one of many anti-virus programs designed to keep The Matrix free of contamination. He ultimately becomes the arch-villain of the trilogy, though I'm still not sure I understand what he is or what he's up to. Maybe it doesn't matter, or is best left to the interpretation of the viewer. Let's just say that "What's my motivation?" seems never to have been high on the priority list of the Wachowski brothers, creators and directors of all three Matrix movies.
But you have to give the filmmakers credit; at least they put the dollars up on the screen. The final battle with the Sentinels, and Neo's journey to the machine world, are, themselves, worth the price of admission, and why The Matrix Revolutions, for all its flaws, is vastly better than The Matrix Reloaded. The last 45 minutes of the film may be merely CGI on steroids, but they're eye-opening nevertheless. The climactic battle alone reportedly soaked up 100,000GB of computer storage.
Warner's video transfer, like that of The Matrix Reloaded, is stunning. Despite the film's pervasive darkness, the images are clean, sharp, and free of obvious edge enhancement. There's simply no serious criticism to be made. The Dolby Digital audio is nearly as good, though it's just a little less vivid than I'd expect from a film of this nature. This was clear only in a side-by-side comparison with the soundtrack of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, also reviewed in this issue.
The extras aren't impressive. Two "making of" documentaries are interesting and moderately informative but relatively short. A commentary track would have been nice; none is provided.
This will be a must-have release for die-hard fans of The Matrix. Action lovers may also want it for its visually spectacular finish. But if this two-disc set isn't what it could have been, it's because the movie wasn't, either.—TJN