Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
The concluding chapters of the Matrix franchise — filmed back-to-back and both released in 2003 — lacked the same zippy jolt of total surprise and satisfaction as their predecessor.
Still, they amazed with gleeful rushes of incredible action, intelligent narrative nuances and quieter moments that only strengthened on repeat viewings.
Just as Keanu Reeves’ Neo learned to fly through the air to fight humanity-enslaving machines in the future, so did love, faith, destiny, control and loss through his story with equally mind-boggling swiftness. As it was in the latter Bourne and The Lord of the Rings films, the ante got upped on jaw-dropping set pieces throughout both films.
Yes, the shifts from live-action to CGI are jarringly obvious in a Reloaded scene when Neo battles scores of clones of the nefarious Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, adding some slightly newer sadism to his wry malevolence). But it’s nevertheless a furious, meticulously choreographed fight scene.
Ditto a scene in a chateau stairwell, combining intense weapons work with lightning-quick kung fu. (Don Davis’s bristling score particularly enlivens these moments.)
Strap in, though, for one of cinema’s all-time best car chases — involving sedans, motorcycles, semi-trucks, stunts, explosions, big special effects and, yes, plenty more martial arts for a truly exhilarating 20-minute juggernaut.
There’s a potent, passionate drive, if some cornball James Cameron-ian dialogue, to the romance between Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). Randall Duk Kim’s diminutive Keymaker adds brief bits of scrappy nobility in Reloaded while Helmut Bakaitis oozed cerebral menace as the Architect in Reloaded’s headiest scene (one that required a rewind and bordered on spilling over into incomprehension).
If any of the main players get left behind in the end chapters, it’s Laurence Fishburne — who doesn’t make as deep an impression when relegated to sidekick status.
Picking up where Reloaded’s cliffhanger ending left off, Revolutions cuts to the chase — no more strange rave orgies in Zion (the last human city) and no more long-winded speeches. Less ponderous, the film chronicles the humans’ final defense against the machines.
Here, the writing-directing Wachowskis play janitor to Reloaded’s admirable mess and come awfully close to replicating the lived-through-it thrills of the original Matrix.
Characters forge significantly stronger emotional reconnections in this ending, raging as much against the machines as to get back to each other for one final moment. Though far from the warrior poetry of The Lord of the Rings, it’s less of a thrill-machine program than Reloaded.
That said, the attack on Zion by the Sentinels — swarming, swift, squid-like killing machines — stuns and stirs with intensity and effects that allow fringe players to grow into crucial components of this mammoth mythology.
In all, consider Reloaded and Revolutions one movie where the back half’s slightly better than the front. If the Wachowskis are smart, they’ll close the rabbit hole and never return to The Matrix. The last thing it needs is some sort of reboot down the road to pull out the rug from under what turned out to be one hell of a mind-bending ride.