2/24/09

R087 The Matrix Revolutions

(2003, Action/SciFi, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Remember guys, these movies are philosophical.

Rating: ***

In a Nutshell:

Blam, blam, freedom of choice, zap, badow!

Summary:

What's with the desperado pose, Neo?  You don't even carry guns anymore.First, the backstory: It’s a grim, dystopian future where human minds live in a contemporary-ish computer-generated world called The Matrix while despotic machines use their body heat as a renewable energy source. A few humans have escaped The Matrix and now fight for their survival and the freedom of their fellows.

(I guess I should give you my standard sequel spiel about the film not being targeted towards viewers unfamiliar with the previous films, and then direct you to read my summaries of said films before proceeding, but I think you’ll find the details—endless pseudo-philosophical discourse and visually unintelligible kung fu—to be singularly unhelpful.)

Our story continues with kung fu superhackers Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) entering the Matrix to find the lost brain of their comrade Neo (Keanu Reeves). Neo is lost in a metaphysical train station run by the imaginatively named Train Man. Trinity and Morpheus are directed to Train Man’s employer, the Merovingian, by a newly recast Oracle. They try to bargain but end up fighting, ultimately holding a gun to the Merovingian’s head until they get what they want. Neo is freed. The end. Of this particular irrelevant thirty-minute subplot.

The remaining hour and a half divides itself evenly between the siege of Zion and Neo’s quest to, uh, do, you know, something. Zion, if you’ll recall, is the grimy underground hideout of the human resistance movement. People we’ve barely met hug and cry and scream and rattle an earsplitting rain of gunfire at the horde of robotic hell-spiders bearing down on them from above. Notable characters include that one kid with no hair and a sexy dreadlock lady who’s the girlfriend of someone we probably should remember from the last movie. Hell, he’s probably in this movie too. After a while, all those Somber Sexy Grunge People Under Duress start to look alike. Morpheus, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and another guy arrive in a ship. This is cause for celebration. But not really. Everyone hunkers down and prepares to die. Are you following any of this? ‘Cause I’m not.

Black hole sun, won't you come...Neo, in the meantime, has borrowed another ship and had his eyes burned out by a guy named Bane, who’s actually hosting a fragment of an evil self-replicating program named Smith (Hugo Weaving). Gifted with psychic machine sight, Neo knocks Bane’s head off and continues his quest to the machine city on the surface. His super machine-destroying powers get them as far as the outskirts, where his driver, Trinity, crash lands on a rebar pincushion.

Nine hours of tender death scene later, Neo creeps on alone, finally meeting a giant baby-faced super god machine thingy. Super God Machine agrees to halt the invasion of Zion if Neo will reenter The Matrix and do battle with the traitorous Smith. Neo and Smith beat the crap out of each other until Neo finally gives up and agrees to let Smith copy himself over Neo’s personality. Somehow, this gives either Neo or God Machine (or both) the power to destroy all copies of Smith at once, allowing all the host programs and human minds to regain their original forms.

Later, the Architect and the Oracle discuss the future of Zion and the Matrix. They agree that, uh... Well, I guess the important thing is that the movie ends.

Thoughts:

Neo and Smith both went to the Patrick Swayze school of philosophy.The good news: The Matrix Revolutions is nowhere near as wordy as its predecessor.

The bad news: It is much, much louder. Like, by a factor of a thousand, and that’s a conservative estimate. Seriously, Michael Bay only wishes he could make movies this loud.

The expected news: It makes approximately the same amount of sense. (Which, you may recall, was “none”.) The train station scenes break even the vaguest of previously established story rules, and deliver no insights or characters important to the later film. The Bane subplot isn’t necessary either. Smith is never established as a threat to both sides of the human/machine war beyond a line or two of dialog near the end. Similarly, the purpose of Neo’s journey to the surface is kept deliberately obscure until he arrives—because the filmmakers wanted us to spend most of the movie wondering what the hell he’s doing and why we should care, I guess. I’ve seen folks online try to explain the mechanism by which Neo defeats Smith at the end, but they tend to disagree with one another, and everyone relies heavily on conjecture. How can they do otherwise? Yes, it’s insulting when a filmmaker spells everything out as if we’re morons. But the opposite sin—giving out no details and assuming we’ll “figure it out”—is not only insulting, it’s appallingly incompetent.

The astonishingly bizarre news: The mechanical suits used by the Zion defenders provide less protection than your average moped—a machine whose operators are, at least, required to wear helmets.

For as loud and as plotless as this movie ended up being, there is a lot of quotable commentary. A few of my favorite comments: “Morgan Freeman in drag!” (Bill, re: the Oracle). “Aw man, I’m late and early!” (Kevin, re: the Train Man’s watch-covered arm). “The endless rave scene from The Matrix 2 goes on to this very day,” (Mike, re: The Merovingian’s nightclub). “If we stay in darkness much longer, I may have to remove my sunglasses” (Mike, re: the ubercool characters’ refusal to remove their tinted eyewear no matter what the lighting level). When we see the machines attack the Zion docks, Bill notes that it looks “Star Wars-ian.” “Bill, please,” Kevin corrects him. “The proper term is ‘crap’.” I could go on like this, but this is one you really ought to see for yourself. If the movie doesn’t rupture your tympanic membranes before the halfway mark, you’re likely to enjoy it.