Sunday, November 09, 2003

There is only one... Matrix film

After the disappointment of Reloaded, I could be forgiven for expecting Revolutions to be dire. Was I pleasantly surprised? No. It turned out to be a standard hollywood action flick cum sci-fi, with a cliched plot, embarrassing dialogue, misuse of acting talent and a total disregard for originality.

We start off with Neo, trapped in a train station in a place between the matrix and the real world. As Trinity and Morpheus battle to find him we get an explanation from the oracle as to what has happened to Neo. 2 minutes later, just in case you had fallen asleep Neo gets the same explanation from a little girl at the train station. Why the Wachowskis felt the need to explain a very simple premise twice in a matter of minutes for the dumbest people on earth is beyond me.

The stage is now set for lots of the wonderful plot filler that destroyed Reloaded. Trinity and Morpheus, led by Seraph (the oracles super-cool body-guard), have to see the Merovingian to bargain for Neo's life. Cue, a total remake of the signature fight scene from the original Matrix. Complete with pillars being shredded by bullets, slow-mo backflips and guns… lots of guns. It wouldn't surprise me if it wasn't the original set redressed it was such a blatant rip-off of itself. Fight over… cue gratuitous naked flesh scenes in the Merovingians club.

Why am I bothering with such detail? Ok… the long and the short of it, is that they get Neo back and it becomes blatantly obvious that the entire character of the Merovingian was one huge excuse of a plot story to get us from A to B and stretch one movie into two. And herein lies one of the major problems with the sequels. They could have been done it all in one movie. The entire merovingian story could have been consigned to the bin for all the good it does the story.

As with Reloaded, Revolutions takes a good 40 minutes to really get going. Only when the battle for Zion begins do we see something worth the bother. And while I am terribly unimpressed with the movie as a whole, the battle for Zions dock is a beautiful piece of CGI. The machine squidies swarming like locusts against every target is something that has to be seen at the cinema for the full effect.

Unfortunately, the entire battle plays out like a cliched american war movie. It is obvious who the heros are going to be. It is obvious who will die heroically. Why is it obvious? Because we've seen it all before in war movies many times. We had the cringe-worthy Independence Day style speech, the rip-off mech warriors, the strong wife who has to make shells and then fight because her husband is fighting, the sceptical general and the young rookie who needs to prove himself. I almost wanted to wrap myself in an american flag it was so patriotic. Then I noticed how the people of zion embraced cultural diversity and realised that maybe it wasn't entirely a futuristic america.

This is one of the nice things about the sequels. It isn't just a load of white men with a token black guy saving the world. It's all encompassing. I respect that very highly, but it doesn’t make up for atrocious story-telling.

While the battle for Zion goes on, Neo and Trinity head for a final showdown with the Source… and ultimately, agent smith. Here the continuous references to religion and mythology get so OTT that you just want to cry. We know that Neo was the messiah in the first film. We know it was a re-telling of a 2000 year old story. And that was all well and good, because it was a stylised re-telling which didn't treat the audience like it was stupid. Unfortunately, the target audience for Reloaded and Revolutions are clearly dumb-ass, uneducated fools who have never read any books, as the need to over-explain everything is embarrassingly tiresome.

Which brings us to the final showdown. I was truly surprised and excited by the fight scene. There was use of CGI for the fight but it took second place to a beautifally choreographed, brutal final match. It was reminiscent of the original fight between these two, with added speed! The ending to the fight when it came, was good and provided a fitting conclusion.

But not content with having a smart ending, we had to site through another 5 minutes of the now infamous hollywood sappy ending. The 'will there be a sequel' moment. It was shocking and terrible overplayed, which seems to be par for the course with the matrix sequels.

So, does it deserve such a critical panning. Yes. The first film, while unoriginal in concept, was originally executed and breathed fresh life into science fiction. So what went wrong… I don't know. Too much money? Poor writing? Poor direction? Poor performances? I think it's all of these things. The saddest part was that the characters of Morpheus and Trinity were truly remarkable in the first film. By Revolutions Morpheus is nothing more than a bystander and Trinity is just a pathetic little woman in love. It's a real shame and terrible misuse of their talents.

Anyway… I've harped on for long enough. In summary, if you completely re-edited the two sequels and cut them down to a single 2 hour movie by removing the merovingian rubbish and the atrocious Zion scenes from Reloaded, you would have a half decent action movie sequel which successfully tied up the matrix franchise. It would still contain some terrible acting, poor dialogue and cliched battles but at least it would have a short and concise plot.

Sadly the two films are what they are. A gross embarrassment to the original. I gave the Matrix Reloaded 4 out of 10 when I reviewed it in the summer and I thought that was generous. Revolutions deserves no more than a 5.

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