"Mr. Anderson, welcome back. We missssed you."
Two massive films, a big-budget video game that was poorly recieved and a series of anime shorts later, the "Matrix" trilogy finally comes to an end. While many who have seen the film seem to consider it another actioner along the lines of "The Matrix: Reloaded", it is - and it isn't. While "Revolutions" does share some things in common with the film before it, much of the picture is certainly far different.
When we last left the story, Neo (Keanu Reeves) was in a coma after managing to stop a few - not all - of the attacking sentinels (squid-like machines) who were trying to burrow down and attack Zion, the last human city. Early on, we find that Neo is stuck in limbo between the Matrix and the real world, in something that appears to be a train station. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) set out to save their friend, which requires a visit to the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). His wife, Persephone (the stunning Monica Belluci) is in the scene, as well, but she has one scene and her impressive cleavage seemed to be the focus of the moment.
Neo is rejoined with his friends soon enough and the interesting idea of the train station comes to a particularly blank conclusion. The remainder of the first hour is, once again, filled with exposition and some thin philosophy, although the latter is really a bit forced and unnecessary here, as it starts to feel like we've heard all this before one too many times. The club sequence has a rather action-heavy opener with some nifty walking on the ceiling, but it seems to be done for no particular reason other than that the beginning needed to have an action sequence.
Much of the rest of the film splits the action into a few stories - Trinity and Neo seek out the machine world in Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith)'s ship; Morpheus and the rest of the crew try to zip back to Zion in time to save the city and finally, the people of Zion prepare for - and eventually face - the worst.
The battle between man and machine (or, well, men in giant machines that shoot machine guns) makes up the middle of "Revolutions", as the brutal battle continues to get worse and worse as the moments pass. Unlike "Reloaded"'s continual near-escape/crowd-cheering action sequences that even mixed in a couple of touches of humor, "Revolutions" is a much more grim feature, with a very melancholy, heavy tone that will likely surprise most viewers who will expect more of the same. The only joke here is a brief one, as Neo finds that attempting to get out of the train station early in the film doesn't get him very far.
The main fight is intense, technically stunning and yet, just not that compelling; it does start to get repetitive and resemble a video game - and not a very good one - after a while. "Revolutions" is also a disappointment in the way that it largely dumps the kung-fu fighting from the first two films in favor of CGI-heavy battles, including Neo's final battle versus Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), which largely involves the two spinning through the air and occasionally hitting each other while millions of copied Smiths simply look on in the streets below. There's a few stunning visuals scattered throughout this sequence, but it goes over-the-top and then some.
There were times throughout where I fondly remembered "Reloaded"'s highway sequence, which wasn't so CGI-heavy and took time out for a couple of smaller battles, such as the well-choreographed one in a moving car between Trinity, Morpheus and one of the twins. The final battle in "Revolutions" between Neo and Smith, promoted by some as bigger than any of the action sequences in the other films, isn't even as impressive as the battle between Neo and the hundred-or-so Smiths that took place outside the apartment in "Reloaded". In my opinion, the best action sequence in "Revolutions" is not the two major ones, but a chase sequence where a ship tries to sneak by several thousand sentinels, then has to run when the mechanical creatures are alerted to their presence. It's a smaller sequence that's part of the bigger battle in Zion, but it's a tense, tight and very well-staged sequence that gains and holds suspense.
The acting is merely satisfactory. Reeves is actually off-screen for the majority of the battle in Zion, and this is really the film where his character seems to matter the least. Fishburne continues to play Morpheus along the same lines, and Carrie Anne-Moss is more convincing playing tough than playing drama (although she does have a very touching moment as the ship she and Reeves are travelling on barely touches peace in a brief moment above the clouds). Monica Belluci, whose smoky voice and stunning looks seemed like they were going to lead to a mysterious, interesting character in third film, is completely wasted here. The re-appearance of Wilson as the Merovingian isn't much of an issue here, either. The real star of the show would be Hugo Weaving, whose Agent Smith has turned into the dictionary definition of the villian audiences love to hate.
Is this a fitting end to the trilogy? Not exactly. I went in with mild expectations and found "Revolutions" to be an entertaining and satisfactory experience, but nothing groundbreaking. While dismayingly full of itself to a degree the other films weren't, "Revolutions" still has great moments, some good performances and some pretty epic battles. I didn't feel, however, not as satisfying a mix of action (both sci-fi and martial arts) and ideas (philosophy, religion, human nature) as either of the prior films.
VIDEO: "Matrix: Revolutions" is presented by Warner Brothers in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. As with "Reloaded", this is a 2-DVD set where the film is largely all alone on the first disc, while the majority of the supplements are included on the second platter. A separate pan & scan edition is also going to be available. As for the anamorphic widescreen presentation, this is almost as impressive a visual effort as the transfer for "Reloaded". Sharpness and detail are nothing short of exemplary, with fine detail present throughout and a consistent level of clarity and definition.
A little bit of edge enhancement and a few instances of very minor compression artifacts were spotted, but this was largely a smooth, clean presentation that appeared very "film-like". The print used looked to be in flawless shape, with some light grain that is an intentional element of the cinematography. Colors appeared bright, vivid and well-saturated, with no flaws. Black level looked bold, while flesh tones appeared accurately.
SOUND: "Revolutions" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Not quite as consistently action-packed as "Reloaded", "Revolutions" does have some stretches in the first half that are dialogue-driven, but once the second half begins, there are several passages where all speakers come in full-force with various elements. The early gun battle in the club has gunfire and various sound effects coming from all directions, while the massive battle to save Zion has the sounds of the sentinels sweeping through all of the speakers. The final battle between Nemo and Smith is also an exciting mix of score, swirling sound effects and low bass. Another fine moment is when Neo speaks with the Machine Lord, whose booming electronic voice reverberates throughout all of the speakers. Those who can enable a back surround speaker will find that it adds to the experience, providing an even greater sense of envelopment.
Speaking of low bass, this soundtrack has plenty of it, especially during some of the Zion battle sequences, where the walking robots that the humans are piloting have every step accompanied by a deep, powerful thump. Throughout the film, sound effects remained crisp and detailed, as did dialogue. Balance between score, effects and dialogue was also pleasing.
EXTRAS: The first disc has the teaser trailers for "The Matrix" and "The Matrix: Reloaded" as well the full trailer for "The Animatrix" and "Matrix: Revolutions". It was nice to see the teaser for the first film again after all this time, as it brought back memories of the excitement revolving around its release.
The extras included on the second disc fare better than those on the "Reloaded" DVD, as they are generally less "promotional". There's also a "White Rabbit" feature, where when the rabbit icon appears, viewers will be taken to smaller featurettes about the same topic, then taken back. "Revolutions Recalibrated" is a promotional documentary that offers some interesting behind-the-scenes clips and good interviews, but often seems like a chance for everyone to talk about how wonderful it was working with each other.
"CG Revolution" is a more involving piece, as it focuses on the film's massive amount of CGI shots. Interviews are included with producer Joel Silver, FX supervisor John Gaeta and others. Overall, the piece is a nice mixture of things, with interviews, clips from the film and a lot of looks at the production of the effects and different elements that went into FX shots.
"Super Burly Brawl" is a multi-angle piece that allows viewers to see the storyboards for the final fight between Neo and Smith, the final scene and the on-set footage. "Future Gamer" sits down with the makers of the upcoming "Matrix: Online" video game. It certainly does look better than "Enter the Matrix". "Before the Revolution" is a series of text screens that go into some background information about the events that have happened throughout the "Matrix" stories.
"3-D Evolution" is a series of galleries, featuring concept art, storyboards and production stills. Nice thing to have, but the presentation is unnecessarily confusing at first, with a lot of icons and a spinning wheel of scenes and all sorts of other things instead of simply three galleries of art, storyboards and stills.
Finally, there are web-links and the four pieces that were found by using the "Rabbit" feature previously mentioned: "Neo Realism", "Super Big Mini Models", "Double Agent Smith" and "Mind Over Matter".
Final Thoughts: While it stands as probably one of the most debated big-budget films of the past several years (some have called "Revolutions" a classic, others have been far less kind), "Matrix: Revolutions", in my opinion, provides some thrills, surprises and impressive visuals. It is certainly flawed in some regards, but I think it's an ambitous effort that I may get a somewhat better reception on video.
Warner Brothers has provided a very fine DVD edition, with excellent audio/video quality and a few supplements that seemed more informative than those that appeared on the "Reloaded" DVD.
The Film ***