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MATRIX REVOLUTIONS

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith
Directors:  The Wachowski Brothers
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Length:  129 Minutes
Release Date:  April 6, 2004

“One way or another Neo, this war is going to end.  Tonight, the future of both worlds will be in your hands…

…or in HIS.”

Film ***

Everything that has a beginning has an end…even a powerful, inspiring and lucrative franchise like The Matrix.

When the Wachowski Brothers unleashed their original vision of a computer generated world fooling our subconscious minds into submission and a brewing all out war between machines and the men who made them, their film became an instant classic in both the realms of science fiction and action.  Their spectacular vision was realized with a great deal of imagination, a homage to the traditions of Hong Kong swordplay and kung fu films, and revolutionary special effects that not only changed the way we looked at action (the “bullet time” camerawork), but earned Oscar recognition as well.

2003 saw both the middle and final chapters of the saga, but unfortunately, this time neither reviewers or the Academy were as kind.  Despite the crafting of the most amazing special effects sequence I’d ever seen in The Matrix Reloaded and topping it a few months later with Matrix Revolutions, the technical achievements went unheralded.  Worse still were the number of prolific critics who just didn’t seem to get it, or that thought that the films’ constant reaching for philosophical and theological themes was going beyond what they were capable of doing.

But the fans knew better.  Reloaded was a monster success.  Revolutions was maybe a little less so, but one fact was abundantly clear:  most of us were hooked and in for the long haul.

The two sequels were filmed simultaneously and really designed to flow together as one continuing story.  Reloaded left us eagerly awaiting the conclusion.  Revolutions finally delivered the finale that we’ve known was coming for years:  the battle for Zion, the underground last human city.

Looking at the overall plot diagram of the series, Revolutions represents the end of the rising action and the full crux of the climax.  It’s absolutely awash in spectacle and action.  Unlike it’s immediate predecessor, which was centered around three major sequences, once the action begins here, it never relents.

The resulting film works better as a conclusion to a trilogy than as a stand alone film…not because you need to see the original movies to comprehend it (which is true of all trilogies, I think, including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings), but because it really relies on the character development and rapport that went before.  It’s mostly absent from this final installment, which is why I think the overall effect is a little less satisfying.

Neo (Reeves) is back…we last saw him in a precarious state, and I have to say, the resolution to what we’ve been digesting for those several months wasn’t quite as fulfilling as I would have hoped.  As the war between man and machine is nearing its Gettysburg, he’s becoming more and more aware of what it means to be designated The One prophesized to bring about the end of the war.

With him still are the resourceful Trinity (Moss) as lover and best friend, and his captain Morpheus (Fishburne), who suffered a crisis of faith in the last installment but is finding it in himself to believe once more. 

As the machine sentinels draw closer and closer to Zion, the city gears up for a fight to the finish.  At the same time, the now renegade Agent Smith (Weaving) is growing more and more powerful.  Once an operative program for the machines, he has broken loose and turned into something that threatens both human and mechanical worlds.

The battle for Zion is, as I mentioned, the most spectacular vision I’ve ever seen on the big screen.  It doesn’t disappoint, and indeed, everything we had seen up to that point has brought us to it.  I didn’t have a problem with the size of the epic so much as the fact that the human scope, which was kind of the whole point of the series, seemed a little lost in it all.

I loved Neo, Morpheus and Trinity, as well as Niobe (Pinkett Smith), and I wanted to feel that Zion’s crucial moment was theirs as well.  It was to an extent, but I was still a little surprised at the end how much they seemed apart from it all.

Taken individually, this movie is a little bit less than its predecessors.  Taken as a part of a greater whole, it works as the final stretch of a lengthy and involving science fiction story.  The Wachowski Brothers remain consummate artists, elevating both fantasy and action to greater and greater heights with their employment of technology and their skill as storytellers. 

The Matrix was indeed revolutionary; an indelible landmark in the realm of science fiction that will mark the progress of the genre for a long time to come.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Know who was the top box office draw by the numbers for 2003?  Hugo Weaving, who managed to star in both of last year’s Matrix sequels and The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King.  We weren’t surprised to see you at the multiplex, Mr. Weaving!  ;-)

Video ****

Unquestionably the most spectacular looking release so far in this early year!  Because of the constant action, the darkened settings of the underground city, and the constant flashing of lights and color that break apart the darker images, this is one demanding anamorphic presentation, but the DVD is more than up to the challenge.  Shot after shot looks incredible, regardless of lighting schemes, color placements or amount of information.  Detail level is strong and sharp throughout; no grain or compression artifacts spoil the effect.  This movie is also available in pan & scan, but trust me, this is the kind of title where you won’t want half the screen image chopped off.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio track matches the video presentation stroke for stroke.  With action galore and machinery everywhere, the soundtrack is alive and vibrant throughout, making maximum use of both front and rear stages and keeping the subwoofer powered.  The battle scenes are an all out sonic assault, but every sound is well represented in a clean, smooth and balanced mix with thunderous dynamic range.  Highest marks!

Features ***1/2

Though the Wachowskis continue to withhold participation on these discs in terms of interviews or commentaries, this double disc set still puts together a strong extras package.  “The Matrix Recalibrated” is a strong documentary with plenty of cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage…and keep an eye out for that white rabbit for even more detailed segments!

“CG Revolution” explores the computerized effects, while “Super Burly Brawl” shows the incredible final battle between Neo and Agent Smith with multi-angles.  “Future Gamer” is a look at a fascinating concept for the continuation of the Matrix stories:  an interactive online game that allows players to create characters and explore and interact in the world of the Matrix.

Rounding out is a 3-D interactive gallery that allows you to explore photos, concepts and storyboards almost simultaneously, while “Before the Revolution” gives you an interactive timeline of the stories.

Summary:

All good things eventually come to a close.  Matrix Revolutions ends an incredible saga, concluding it with all the vim and vigor you would expect.  I’m not ashamed to say, I’m sad to see it end.

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