One of the maladies that infects those who profess to review films is a rare condition wherein one retains full knowledge of the past, but fails to see some of the most obvious connections to it. Fortunately, I am not suffering from this particular pseudo-blindness in the case of examining the last of the Matrix Trilogy: Matrix Revolutions. Many reviewers find fault with this film in and of itself, without taking into account its place in the overall story arc of the trilogy. Through that lens, this film is an incomplete, shallow, farcical attempt at philosophical melodrama with flashy special effects and little else to recommend it. Many have already written reviews saying exactly that. This, however, will not be one of them.
Matrix Revolutions is the third part of a three-part story. This final chapter chronicles the last stand of the freeborn and rescued against the tyranny of the machines. Every person in the film fights in one way or another. All are involved, and as such the film displays both a sense of humanity being united against a common foe, and a true "all or nothing" attitude on both sides. This one is for all the marbles, and all the kid gloves are off. It was commented to me that the feel of this movie, the bleak, desperate, certain-doom essence of much of the movie, was poignant and effective. Not since Aliens has a film evinced this level of socio-cultural darkness. That is all you need know to determine if you wish to see the film, at least as far as plot is concerned. But continue on, intrepid reader, there is yet more.
One of the most common criticisms that has reached me about this film is its lack of significant character development. To this, I must reach back into my past, reclaim my childhood, and exclaim, "Well, DUH!" Most of the major characters had experienced their significant development throughout the first two films. In this film, the significant development was given to characters that were introduced in the 2nd film: Niobe, Sati, the Merovingian. Trinity finished her developmental arc, but most of it was established in the first two films. The Oracle also showed new development, but due to reasons uniquely her own.
Examining individual performances, Keanu Reeves' Neo was at his taciturn peak, all his emotions muted by the responsibility, uncertainty and ultimately resolve regarding his path. Lawrence Fishburne's Morpheus was fearful, hopeful and resolute. Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity was the only major character, in all three parts, to show character movement, and her resolve matched Neo's in every way, especially in the scene with the Merovingian. Jada Pinkett Smith did an outstanding job of portraying Niobe as confident, capable, and resolute without taking the performance that tiny step to far into caricature of bad chick-action-flick-heroine. Mary Alice's Oracle, replacing Gloria Foster after her untimely death, does as good a job replacing an iconic character as anyone could have done. She quickly brings the viewer into acceptance that she is the Oracle, simply appearing differently due to some unmentioned and unexplained incident.
The special effects are, as expected, superb. In Reloaded, there were several instances where the CGI'd effects were plain to the eye, and brought the viewer out of suspension of disbelief. There was none of that in this film. And the climactic battle between good and evil results in what can only be called a martial arts ballet, and it is breathtakingly beautiful, if a bit drawn out. The battle scenes within the Zion cavern are frantic, giving the viewer a sense of what real battle must be like, with gunfire going off all around, and more movement and activity than the eye can follow, leading to a significant sense of being overwhelmed and uncertain what to focus on. Some have seen this as a confusing clutter and indicative of bad filmmaking, but I see it as yet another way of delivering a message, this time about the true horrors of war.
The music was the best of the series. Don Davis' score realizes fully the heretofore untapped potential of the choral voices that have been used for various ah's and oo's until now. Such vocalizations have been used to heighten tension in spots, or lend a sense of mystery, but have never shined until this film. Here, the chorus sings out with great intensity, and although the words are not recognizable, the essence of the message they convey is, and it is emotionally stunning. That this film has the effect it does in spots is due to the music providing the emotion that is lacking on-screen for whatever reason.
But all this comes at a price. The philosophy that does get purveyed in this closing chapter is heavy-handed, something of a spiritual beating for the audience. The Christ imagery, when it comes, felt like it was being shoved down the throat of an audience too mesmerized, or insensitive, or uneducated, to perceive it any other way. Likewise, there are good cryptic messages and bad cryptic messages, and this film has more of the latter than the former. That there are story elements left unsolved is good. That I was made to not care about them by the way they were delivered is not.
Overall, I give this film a B+. I will recommend that, if you liked chapters 1 and 2, you not wait for the DVD, but make a point to see this in a theatre with a large screen and a full, multi-speaker sound system. That it is an experience is certain. That it is also not as much of one as it could have been is another.