The Matrix Revolutions – SPOILERS included, take 1

So, in case the title wasn’t enough to warn you, this “Review” of The Matrix Revolutions contains information from the film that may “spoil” it for you. That is, I’m going to say things that may give it all away. In the next paragraph. If you haven’t seen it yet and care about whether you find out about it before you watch it, read no further.

Okay. So. As some of you know, I watched The Matrix Reloaded many times in theatres (including IMAX), and then many times on my ‘pirated’ copy (I am waiting to buy the almost-certain box set of all 3 movies, considering I’ve already paid well over $175 into The Matrix Universe and if I find myself with a compatible PC and high-speed internet access will likely play The Matrix Online (~$50 upfront plus $10-$15/month)), and thought about it and discussed it and explained it and dumbed it down and picked it apart and read thousands upon thousands of words from the brightest minds on the subject and bought Enter the Matrix and watched all the footage in it carefully over and over and bought The Animatrix (and watched in on the big screen, too) and studied it carefully and pieced together what I could from all these diverse places and complicated ideas… and then the trailers for Revolutions started coming out and despite my bandwidth I downloaded them and watched them through and through and then frame by frame, and guessed and surmised about what I thought was going to happen, and as long ago as perhaps late August I had worked out (from only the game, the Animatrix, and one trailer) what I thought was going to happen in Revolutions:

We would learn that Neo was still in the Matrix, though not plugged in. His mind is in a white subway station, trapped somehow, and the Merovingian is involved. The dirty, hairy guy from Enter The Matrix who told Niobe that the last Zion had been destroyed in only 72 hours will be there, and will punch Neo so hard he flies across the station. The oracle knows about the whole thing. Trinity and Morpheus visit the oracle VERY near the start of the movie and she tells them to go to Hel (The Merovingian’s nightclub) to free Neo. Seraph goes with them and they have a complicated and interesting fight, some of it taking place on the ceiling, then through a ‘gothic/BDSM’ club/dancehall where the people also fight them, leading up to where they confront the Merovingian. Somehow, they strike a deal with the Merovingian or Persephone goes against him again or something, they succeed, and Trinity is reunited with Neo in the white train station, where it says “MOBILE AVE” on the wall. All of this is the “first act” of the three-act feature.

The second act would be tying up loose Zionites and the battle in the real world between humans and Sentinels, and probably over an hour long. Included in this (clearly, because the battle takes place on a hovercraft), Bane reveals that he is Smith. He has a physical fight with Neo, and that gun that Cypher used to kill Tank/Tank used to kill Cypher is involved. Also, Morpheus and Niobe will get back together (they are seen piloting the same ship). Also, for some reason Neo will be wearing a blindfold. Since I believe he will still be connected to be matrix while unplugged, he is probably doing this so he can more easily harness the ability we saw at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, of directly effecting the machines in the real world.

Finally, and I thought this probably occurred at the end but couldn’t work out how Neo would get back into the Matrix to fight Smith after the battle sequence unless the humans had won outright (which didn’t seem likely to me), Neo and Smith will fight. Smith will have taken over the entire Matrix by the time the fight occurs (this is implied by the streets lined with Smith and no traffic, AND by the end of Enter The Matrix, in the actual levels there is no one but Smith left), but only one Smith will fight. This is the third act. According to The Oracle’s VO in the trailer I’ve seen by this time, I know that the outcome of that fight will determine the future of the matrix, the machines, and zion.

Also, not in the storyline where I can place it, I know that logically, all the humans cannot be freed from the matrix at once. The earth, based on what the Architect and Morpheus said, has been unexposed to sunlight for not less than 100 years and perhaps 6 times as long or more. That is, there is no longer the possibility that there is an ecological infrastructure remaining on Earth capable of supporting more than a small number of surface-dwelling humans. Also, according to the first Matrix movie, none of the freed humans would have muscles or now how to see or walk or eat. And then most of the machines would shut down for lack of power, as the humans died because there are just too many of them (millions) to be supported by the remaining Zionites (heck, even 250,000 able-bodied Zionites! Too bad about that WAR killing so many!) and … well, anyway, THAT can’t reasonably happen. And I know that in The Matrix Online, the upcoming persistant Massively Multiplayer Online Game set after the end of Revolutions, 100% of the game takes place IN THE MATRIX, and that you can play on the side of the Zionites or on the side of the computers. SO, the Matrix is still up and running and full of unwitting humans after the end of the movie.

So, either Neo fights Smith BEFORE the climactic battle in the real world and it doesn’t matter because Zion is destroyed anyway, OR Neo fights Smith AFTER the climactic battle in the real world, which means the Zionites have either won or managed a truce of some kind, because if they hadn’t, what does Neo think he’s doing? (OR maybe Neo fights Smith intercut with scenes of the climactic battle, which would be a poor editing choice, but perhaps a good story choice…) Anyway, I figure Neo fights Smith AFTER the outcome in the fight for Zion has been decided (in the humans’ favor), and he is fighting because (according to Neo’s description after the Burly Brawl and the implication of the Oracle’s VO in the trailer) if he doesn’t defeat Smith, all the humans in the Matrix are as good as dead, anyway. Because of a slip of a comment in an interview about a year ago with Keanu, I guess that Neo (and possibly Morpheus and Trinity as well) will have to die to succeed, but that Neo will undoubtedly succeed in defeating Smith and saving everyone in the Matrix.

Yep. That’s what I guessed, based on information publicly available not less than three months ago. And then the new commercials became available a few weeks ago and I polished my theories and added detail (as soon as I saw the orange-fire-Smith, I confirmed in my mind my guesses about the blindfold somehow relating to seeing the machines’ presence better, for instance), but it basically all supported my ideas.

Still, upon actual viewing, I was a little disappointed. The editing seemed terse; like they were under the gun to keep it short, and had had to cut things out. Also, many sequences seemed to carry little or no weight. Trinity, Morpheus, and Seraph are confronted by three goons who recognise Seraph and believe they will easily be able to kill him, and before I can think of it, all three are dispatched in an instant with almost no fight. They fight the ceiling-walking guards, but those guys make stupid mistakes and die quickly, and I’m not worried about the outcome at all, and there is so much going on at once (three good guys, 5-6 bad guys, lots of guns and tricky moves and walking on the ceiling, and cuts from one to another and back and) I can’t follow it all, except that the good guys are winning easily. And then that’s it, and they’re in and apparently walking the wrong way and into a crowd that draws in on them, and tight… and the moment the Merovingian even makes his offer, it’s all over and Trinity is in Neo’s arms again. What? In The Matrix Reloaded, when the Oracle sent them to the Merovingian to get the Keymaker to get to the Source, they had Neo the unbeatable ‘god’ of the realm with them, and they were still uncertain and I was riveted and entertained by the entire sequence, wondering who the Merovingian was and what his role would be in the larger story. This time, it was like … well, it felt like it was leading to something, another quest potentially as exciting as the car chase in the prior film, something about the eyes of the Oracle, maybe involving some of these visually interesting gothic/BDSM types and perhaps the Twins again… and then nothing, it was over. Huh. The Merovingian never to be seen again, the Twins never to be seen at all. Huh. Persephone? One line. No kiss. That’s it. Huh.

So, okay. Neo goes to talk to the Oracle again, and she’s doesn’t tell me anything I don’t already know. And despite the city basically having already been taken over by Smith, no one (not Trinity or Morpheus or Neo or their operators) notices that anything is amiss, and they get to an exit with no trouble and boom, out they go. Huh.

And on and on, and then the battle with the Sentinels … well, I guess I was expecting more (based on Joel Silver’s comments, silly me) … but the whole thing felt claustrophobic and small to me, very confined within the ‘little’ space of the dock. I’ll admit that when I first conceived of the idea of 45 minutes of the film being devoted to a battle between man and machine in the real world, I was imagining the ‘desert of the real’, not inside the ‘dome of the dock of Zion’. And I couldn’t worry about whether humans would survive, because they had all their APU’s, their central turrets, and half their infantry out there fighting, and even with just a few Sentinels trying to get in, a lot were getting in… and no where near 250,000 were trying. If that was how they did with a few dozen, there was no chance humans would win by sheer firepower. And then, as if on cue by my brain, a REAL flood of Sentinels breaks through. Forget the drills, these Sentinels will kill all the humans, no problem. So since the outcome is clear, there is no dramatic weight.

And talk about foreshadowing, when Neo gets (inevitably) to the machine city (01, right?) and gets in the Smith-ified Matrix, before the fight starts, in case it wasn’t obvious by the fact the Neo is thinking he can beat all those Smiths in a fist fight (as was proven irrevocably wrong in the last movie), one Smith comes out and says he’ll fight Neo alone, and that he already knows he’ll win. Since the outcome is clear (ie: Smith will win the fight, but lose the war), there is no dramatic weight. And yes, it was an amazing fight to watch, and it was fun and exciting and visually stunning… but we already know they can’t hurt each other. Sure, in the Matrix when Smith hit Neo hard, Neo was knocked back into a wall a few inches, and here, when Smith hits Neo hard he is knocked back through nearly an entire building and almost out the other side, but … what does it matter? Neo doesn’t seem to be able to do more than spit a little blood, which we saw in the first film, and even after Smith seemed destroyed back then he came back for more in Reloaded and now in Revolutions… so what’s the point? Luckily, Neo finally gets it through his thick skull what the audience figured out early in the last movie; there is no point in Neo fighting Smith. In Reloaded, the audience watched Neo fight 100 Smiths and couldn’t figure out why, except that it sure did look cool. In Revolutions, Neo fights one Smith and just when Smith believes he has won, Neo lets him (which freaks Smith out, to a severe degree; more on that later). Sibling rivalry, ended. No black without white, no evil without good, oh, and in case it didn’t make sense to you, the Oracle explained it over the course of two movies: Neo was at the source, connected metaphysically to the source, and the source is where you send broken/outdated programs to be deleted; when Smith adsorbed Neo, he connected his entire distributed self to the source, which had been looking to delete him anyway, physically and metaphysically, and thus the source deleted him and reset the matrix. And then … that’s it.

We saw the sky, but it disappeared all too fast. I saw the movie months before it came out, in my mind, and like a memory of long ago, it was along the same lines as the ‘original’, but my memory was better than the real thing turned out to be. Maybe they’ll add 20 minutes here and 20 minutes there and the story will be fleshed out better and edited more dramatically, and when I buy the box set later (inevitably) I’ll enjoy it more, but for right now, I’m a little disappointed.

I did see it twice inside of 6 hours on opening day, and I want to see it again (that is, I’m thinking of trying to get my dial-up to download it, somehow, and I’m still planning on buying it), but … it wasn’t all I’d hoped. If this is how I feel about this one (ie: how most people seem to have felt about the second one), how will everyone else feel? Will it have a chance to make money? Did they release it worldwide at the same time so that piracy and bad word of mouth wouldn’t have a chance to hurt box office returns? Will the Wachowskis direct again? I don’t know.

But I do know that regardless of my expectations, there was a lot of really amazing visual spectacle in The Matrix Revolutions. Action and violence and amazing computer generated visuals and this time when Trinity dies, you really care. Worth the $8 to see it on a really big screen instead of your tiny screen at home. Not likely to win Academy Awards outside of the Technical, but … a good action flick and an amazing eye-candy flick, with technical merits that cannot be matched by another art-production facility, by far. These effects will not be duplicated easily. Enjoy it, if you can. But don’t set your expectations to high. Mine were just a few microts too high, and that made all the difference.

I can’t really rave about it; it doesn’t make me feel like raving is appropriate.

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