The Revolution Will Be Televised (Eventually)
Deadlines are unforgiving beasts, and can occasionally force one to thrust an opinion out into the
world without, perhaps, giving it the due consideration it deserves. Certainly I have experienced the
odd qualm over the past five-and-a-bit months about my declaration that the Wachowski brothers'
The Matrix Reloaded was a contender for film of the year. But even so I will happily maintain
that it's a very solid, ambitious and thoughtful blockbuster, with far more substance to it than almost
any of the summer's other big movies.
And the tradition is maintained, in a way, by the concluding instalment of the trilogy, The
Matrix Revolutions, which has just hit cinemas. Things looked rough for our cassock-clad crusader
and his cyber spatial chums when last we saw them: a machine armada was mere hours away from
breaking into the human city of Zion, and Neo had just learned his power as the One was simply
another element of the machines' control systems - but also discovered a hitherto-unsuspected ability
to influence the (so-called) real world...
Well, it turns out that while his body's in a coma, Neo's mind has been banished to a realm beyond
the Matrix under the control of the Trainman (Bruce Spence, soon to be seen in Return of the
King, and not-quite-so-soon to be seen in the final Star Wars movie - do you sense a
pattern developing?), an employee of the Merovingian. After seeking help from a regenerated Oracle
(Mary Alice, replacing the late Gloria Foster - a piece of forced recasting the film just about
accommodates), Morpheus, Trinity, and Seraph (Collin Chou) set off to rescue him, with the twin
threats of the machine strike force and the insane Agent Smiths still looming over them...
Fans of the series will - well, they'll all have seen it already, so I'm wasting my breath - will have
been glad to learn that this is a much pacier, grittier and more straightforward movie than its
immediate predecessor, having a bit more in common with the original. Even so, the start of Revolutions
suggests we're in for another mixture of computer-enhanced kung fu and an NVQ in philosophy, the Big
Theme this time around - notebooks out, everyone - being Love (Richard Curtis may well sue for
demarcation). But after a while the film changes both gear and tone, becoming a much more
straightforward SF action-adventure, with very few scenes actually set within the Matrix itself.
This is one of a number of laudably brave choices from the Wachowski's and one which, for me at
least, pays dividends. There are still many eye-popping moments and action sequences, the standouts
being a gravity-warping sequel to the original's lobby scene and a crunchingly unballetic real-world
brawl to the death. But the film's big set piece is the assault on Zion's docking bay by hundreds of
thousands of Sentinels, and the desperate defence by the city's people. It's a lengthy, dazzling,
special-effects blow-out that bears comparison with similar sequences in both Aliens,
Starship Troopers, and the original Star Wars trilogy - and those who know me will
know I can think of no higher praise than that.
The cast work wonders in managing to be more than just cyphers standing in front of bluescreen
with all this going on around them. The four leads are as solid as ever, even if there's once again
relatively little Hugo Weaving this time round (though we are treated to a sly impersonation by Ian
Bliss, the actor playing his human host). Collin Chou gets a beefed-up part, but alas Lambert Wilson
and especially Monica Belluci may as well have not turned up for all the material they get. Mary Alice,
in a very tough role, performs rather creditably, recalling Gloria Foster without being an outright
With all this good stuff going on, then, I'm sorry to have to say that the bottom line is that The
Matrix Revolutions is actually quite disappointing. This is solely because the script skimps
unforgivably when it comes to the final stages of the story, which seem underdeveloped and unclear.
There are quite simply too many unanswered questions at the end, which rob the climax of much of the
power it deserves. (And, depressingly, the door is subtly but clearly left ajar for another instalment
should the principals' finances dictate it at some point in the future). I'm loath to say more, because
this is still a breathlessly enjoyable adventure and a conclusion, of sorts, to the story. But the fact
remains that it's only as a visual-effects spectacle that The Matrix Revolutions is truly