The bottom line on The Matrix Revolutions: It cuts directly to its narrative core, a fast-flying, two-plus hours of spectacle and surprise.
No more strange rave orgies in Zion. No long-winded speeches from the Architect to zap our brain with words like “ergo,” “concurrently” and “anomaly.” And, save the prologue, none of the more ponderous moments we’ve come to expect.
Nope, only humans fighting to save Zion, their last outpost in a machine-ruled world, and Neo contemplating how to end the war between man and machine, thus saving the real world and the Matrix.
Though the Wachowski Brothers have a way for weaving quick-hit, but engaging, philosophy into the action-packed melee, that’s not their job here. Playing janitor in Revolutions, they clean up the mess that was The Matrix Reloaded. It was a good mess, to be sure, but more like a sloppy canvas splatter than the precise painting here and in the original.
The result is an end chapter that comes awfully close to replicating the lived-through-it thrills of the original. Where Reloaded took a second (or third) viewing to let sink in, the credit roll on Revolutions provides an immediate, immense satisfaction.
Again leaping directly into things, the story picks up with Neo (Keanu Reeves) in two places. His body rests in a coma aboard a rebel ship in the real world, knocked out from his newfound ability to destroy machines there.
But his mind is trapped between the real world and the Matrix, a computer construct the evil machines have created to enslave humanity. This place manifests itself as an immaculately white train station, where Neo has a nicely ruminative encounter with a family escaping the Matrix.
After mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) rescue him from there, the movie divvies up the stories into a battle and a journey a la Lord of the Rings. While most of the characters stay in Zion to fend off the 250,000-machine army headed their way, Trinity and Neo journey to the machine’s city at the edge of the real world to broker a peace deal.
The wrench in the works, as always, is Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) — Neo’s sneering arch-nemesis whose unyielding drive for power and control could destroy not only man, but machine.
Revolutions gives us a stronger emotional reconnection in its characters right from the start with its sense of dread, need and loss. These people aren’t so much fighting against machines as they are to get back to each other, find one another, have that one final moment together. It’s far from the beautiful warrior poetry of the Lord of the Rings films but also a lot less sterile-seeming than some segments of Reloaded.
There is more tin ear dialogue between Neo and Trinity than before, her “Do you know what’s changed in the last six hours?” bit of dialogue worth an eye roll and a groan. Better is the understated farewell between Neo and Morpheus, which gives Fishburne one actorly moment sorely missing since the original before reducing him to sidekick status yet again.
At least Morpheus rides shotgun for a battle as spectacular as anything in this franchise. The attack on Zion by the Sentinels, squid-like killing machines, is a stunning, stirring half-hour mixture of intensity and effects allowing the story’s fringe characters room to grow.
Still, for all its ominous subtext, Revolutions is a lot more playful than portentous.
The Architect’s ramblings not only are omitted from this movie, they’re somewhat mocked by the Oracle (Mary Alice, filling in for the late Gloria Foster). Who knows if it’s a sly nod from the Wachowskis that they went over the top with that scene in Reloaded, but it sure feels that way. And Ian Bliss as Bane, a human somehow possessed by Smith, perfectly recreates Weaving’s flat, spooky speech inflections
We’re thankfully not shortchanged on Weaving himself, though, already a villain we love to hate. Still cloning himself as in Reloaded, he here terrorizes a little girl with his trademark sneer, sasses The Oracle and unleashes in a one-on-one battle with Neo that is the definition of climactic. Unlike Neo fighting scads of Smiths in Reloaded, this scene is better — a brutal and primal close-contact battle fueled more by their hatred for one another than by effects technology.
These constant comparisons of Revolutions with Reloaded aren’t unfair. It’s like one uneven movie, this half better than the other one. And it closes on a satisfying note that, at least for my peace of mind, sufficiently provided the necessary answers.
The ending is just open-ended enough, and if the Wachowskis are smart, they’ll close the rabbit hole and never return to the Matrix. Let something else fill the newly vacated pop-culture niche. Revolutions is the bottom line, and the last thing it needs is another installment years down the road to pull that bottom out of what has been one heck of a four-year thrill ride.