The Matrix Revolutions Review
It’s easy to say you planned to make a trilogy from the beginning, but sometimes such claims become rather difficult to believe when the final product is released. But that’s the claim the Wachowski brothers made after the release – and runaway success - of The Matrix in 1999, but 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded put doubt in many peoples minds, it just didn’t tie together seamlessly with the first film, feeling like a sequel rather than a continuation of the same story. The Matrix Revolutions brings the saga to a close, but is it a finale of the quality of Return of the King or Return of the Jedi?
As Reloaded and Revolutions are really one film split in two we pick up exactly where we left off, with Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Bane (Ian Bliss) unconscious, aboard the Hammer, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Ghost (Anthony Wong) stranded in a powerless Logos, the army of sentinels mere hours away from Zion, and the audience still trying to figure out what the hell the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) was talking about. It soon becomes clear that Neo isn’t yet free of the matrix, his mind stuck in a place known as Mobil Avenue Station, a channel through which the Merovingian (Lambert Walker) traffics illegal programs in and out of the matrix. The channel is controlled by the Trainman (Bruce Spence) – a character introduced in Enter the Matrix – who’s loyalties lay with the Merovingian, it seems the saviour of the matrix may be the one needing some help for a change.
Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), now aided by Seraph (Collin Chou), are on the trail of the Merovingian, someone it seems Seraph has a history with, but even if they manage to strong-arm him into releasing Neo, their problems are still far from over, as General Locke (Harry Lennix)struggles to formulate a strategy to defeat the sentinels. If Neo can’t fulfil the prophecy soon Zion is going to have one hell of a fight on its hands, maybe even one they can’t win. Though the machines may have a problem of their own, as the rogue Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) grows ever more powerful, cloning himself exponentially, he threatens to destroy the matrix from within as he carries out his vendetta against Neo.
The biggest problem with Reloaded was the extensive exposition sequences, particularly toward the start of the film, with new characters being introduced and much seemingly being set up, but not followed through in that film. One of the biggest successes of Revolutions is picking up those threads and giving them a relevance and conclusion. Link (Harold Perrineau)’s wife Zee (Nona Gaye) for example, in Reloaded her scenes with Link seemed to last too long, unnecessarily so for simply providing an emotional anchor to make us care about Link’s survival. Revolutions makes clear why, as she becomes an important character in her own right in the defence of Zion. Also, Kid (Clayton Watson), whose story was left unresolved not only in Reloaded, but also in the Animatrix short he was introduced in, finally gets a resolution which more than justifies his presence previously. It seems the multi-threaded nature of the Wachowski’s storytelling may have been a hindrance in the enjoyment of the stories separately, but now the big picture is clear it works far better than many anticipated.
That success however is eclipsed in this chapter by creating a true spectacle of a film, with special effects that put even their groundbreaking work in the two previous films in the shade. Improvements in sections such as the computer generated fight scenes make the sequences far easier to enjoy, now only occasionally being noticeable as imperfect, but it’s the sentinels attack on Zion’s dock that will leave a lasting impression. This near 20 minute attack is not only one of the most exhilarating scenes in recent memory, but a true milestone in special effects work. You can stare at the screen, fully aware that almost nothing on the screen was actually there, yet finding flaws is nigh on impossible. Not only that but it is an exhausting workout for any home cinema, with the action so dense and well represented it rivals Saving Private Ryan’s Omaha Beach landing, once again The Matrix has delivered a sequence that will live long in peoples DVD highlights.
Despite all this though, The Matrix Revolutions is still rather a flawed film, most of which can be tied to continuity. We’re not talking about forgivable things such as costume or background continuity here either, but ways in which the sequels tie into the original film. One thing you need to respect with a sequel is the established rules from the films before it, and there are areas, for instance the implications of the way Neo and Agent Smith’s confrontation finally comes to an end, which leave a major plot hole in the movies. Whilst continuity between Reloaded and Revolutions is fine, such differences with the original film give real weight to the theory that the Wachowski’s didn’t really envisage a three part story – not to mention that this is really part two of part two, with no clear third chapter approaching. Taken as a separate entity, this story as told in The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, The Animatrix and the Enter The Matrix computer game, is an excellent work, and an absolute triumph. But when held up to the standards set by the original film the cracks begin to show.
Whilst the original was an excellent action movie it also threw in a fair share of conversation stimulating pseudo-religious and philosophical food for thought, but the action has been thrust firmly into the front seat for the sequels. Musings on things such as the nature of self, consciousness and perception, along with pondering the fate of our technology obsessed culture have been abandoned leaving only the obvious religious overtones of Neo as a Christ figure, complete with heavy-handed symbolism. The original may not have been the most insightful film ever made, but those extra elements made it rise above similar films of its ilk, so by all but abandoning them the Wachowski’s have stripped the sequels of a vital element. Those that loved the original film for its action will probably think this is one of the best films they’ve ever seen, but those who loved the original for its intelligence will find this lacks the depth that made them love the world of The Matrix to start with.
The excellent presentation of the film matches that of The Matrix Reloaded exactly, no surprise given them being filmed back to back, and Warner have once again made sure the transfer is as good as it can be, with the relatively rare moments of light showing just how sharp the image is, and it not faltering even in dark, fast moving environments.
My only quibble with the soundtrack on The Matrix Reloaded's soundtrack was that it lacked one stand out sequence that really pushed all your speakers to their limits, whilst the freeway chase was impressive on many levels there was still room for improvement. Well I’m sure you’ll be pleased to hear that The Matrix Revolutions more than delivers, not only through the excellent attack on Zion’s dock but also excellent moments such as the assault on Club Hell and Neo and Smith’s rain soaked confrontation providing excellent work for both the surrounds and particularly the subwoofer. This mix has probably the most aggressive use of the LFE channel I’ve ever heard, even the opening score will have your room shaking, and at points had me worrying about the health of my sub, have no doubt the bass on this is very low and very loud.
This half an hour documentary follows the stylistic template set by the documentaries on The Matrix Reloaded release, walking somewhere between reasonable behind the scenes look and promotional material. Naturally you have the cast and producers talking about the film, mostly as production on the 270 day shoot was drawing to a close, but again the Wachowski’s remain silent about their work.
This, as the title suggests, looks at the incredible amount of work that went into the computer graphics in the film. It’s a great look at a mammoth undertaking, and despite all the techy talk I would have loved this to be even longer, not only looking at the processes but revealing facts such as the dock attack alone taking up more than 100,000 GB of disc storage, this is a documentary with an eye for detail. Naturally Joel Silver has to pop up telling everyone that this is the most amazing undertaking ever, and that we’ll probably never see anything else like it – at least not for a very long time, but for once he might actually be right. The sequences alone were impressive enough, but the work that went into them is staggering.
Super Burly Brawl
Here we get a chance to watch the final confrontation between Neo and Agent Smith in a split screen mode, choosing between the final cut, the storyboards and a selection of behind the scenes footage and animatic work, switching easily between them with the angle button. I’m a big fan of concept art so it’s always great to see it compared with the final cut, and this is very smoothly presented and easy to navigate – a novelty for this disc.
Future Gamer: The Matrix Online
Clearly not about to miss a marketing opportunity, the makers of The Matrix Online give us a 10 minute look at the upcoming game. It’s a MMORPG – that’s massively multiplayer online role playing game for those not in the know about these things – and promises to offer the gamer the world of The Matrix – playing alongside thousands of other gamers at a time. All the main characters from the movies will appear, but it seems you’re going to have to work very hard indeed to meet them, as such an encounter will earn the gamer ‘a lot of bragging rights’. This certainly makes it look very enticing, and if it can live up to the promise shown here then it’s easy to imagine a lot of people losing a large proportion of their lives to the game.
Before the Revolution
This matrix timeline is a very simplified text version of the story of The Matrix, starting with the events detailed in the Animatrix short The Second Renaissance and running up to the start of The Matrix Revolutions. It’s a very disappointing feature, reading like a Matrix picture book for 5 year olds, with a brief sentence accompanied by either a photo or short clip from the films, all tied up in a cumbersome interface that takes far longer to navigate between panels than it takes to actually read them, this is really a waste of time. Unless of course you are five and can’t be bothered to watch the other films before you sit down to this one.
Once again in order to keep thinks looking suitable futuristic the information here has been tied up in a tiresome interface – which is the only 3-D part of the feature – but this time it does contain something worth looking at. The Matrix movies have always had fantastic concept art, from the storyboards to the graphic design and there’s a lot of it present here, fans of the Art of The Matrix book will certainly enjoy this feature, that’s once they’ve figured out how to navigate it.
The Follow the White Rabbit feature has made a comeback for this disc, after being absent from The Matrix Reloaded’s release, but for those that don’t want to wait through the other features to spot the bunny can come here and watch the four behind the scenes sections at their leisure. There are four sections; Neo Realism, Super Big Mini Models, Double Agent Smith and Mind Over Matter. They have chosen their subjects well as there is some really entertaining stuff in here, from the miniature effects work, that despite being 1/10 scale was still over 30 feet tall, making it tower above most movie sets, to the torturous looking rigs used to capture the motion for Neo and Agent Smith’s flying finale. These painful rigs spin the actors rapidly on all three axes, even while they are trying to perform fighting manoeuvres, and after seeing them in action there’s an obvious reason one was christened the yak rig.
The first disc houses teaser trailers for The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions and The Animatrix, though these are fine additions the fact that there have been so many trailers, with so many variations, it’s somewhat of a disappointment that only one is present for each film, even if it is the first time they have been included on any realease.
The Matrix Revolutions manages to be an excellent sequel to The Matrix Reloaded, even if it falls short of being an excellent sequel to the original film, and is easily the demo disc of the year so far, and there can’t be many on the horizon to usurp it. The lack of commentaries still implies that the obvious future release of The Matrix box set will contain more than simply these editions bundled together, hopefully that will finally bring the footage from Enter The Matrix to the avid fans that don’t play games, but these releases have still brought us many hours of excellent features to enjoy.