By Clint Morris
As much as I enjoyed the trilogy as a whole (though repeat viewings of the bloated sequels seem to taint that enjoyment a tad) I have to admit, the first â€œMatrixâ€ still remains the best.
In 1999, the Wachowski brothers re-invented action cinema with a film that pushed the boundaries, not only through storytelling, but through modern-day special effects. When they first approached producer Joel Silver about their idea for the inconceivable yarn, the director brothers said they envisioned a live-action kung-fu romp akin to anime films like â€œAkiraâ€ and â€œGhost in the Shellâ€. And boy did their vision make for stellar entertainment. The Matrix was the story of a zero computer hacker who comes to the comprehension that the world he lives in â€“ the world we live in â€“ is fake and that outside is the real deal. By filmâ€™s end, he would ultimately become somewhat of a superhero among his new clique.
Just a terrific story combined with great effects and some good performances, the Sydney-filmed science-fictioner grips like spiky plastic shoes from the get-go.
Those sequels, however? Well, does anyone really understand what the heck was going on there!?
â€œWe can never see past a choice we donâ€™t understandâ€.
And Morpheus old buddy, thereâ€™s no way we can see past a plot point we donâ€™t understand either. In fact, â€œMatrix Reloadedâ€, is littered with so much gobbledygook, and an abundance of confusing plot subterfuge â€“ that I dare anyone to decode it within one viewing.
I guess you could say itâ€™s not unlike one of those gobstoppers you can find in any candy store – Hard to chew, nice to endure, if you will.
â€œThe Matrix Reloadedâ€ picks up where the first film left off with Neo [Keanu Reeves] continuing to explore the world outside of the one we know as ours. Having made the decision to believe in himself and accept his role as â€œThe Oneâ€, heâ€™s starting to assume greater command of his powers, but with this new power comes responsibility like fulfilling what Morpheus [Laurence Fishburne] believes to be Neoâ€™s destiny â€“ to end the war with the machines â€“and also living up to the expectations of those lives who depend on the choices Neo makes.
The Machine Army begins to compress Zion. The Rebels brace themselves. And Neo strives ahead in search of a further quest for the truth. All the while, kicking, punching and skimming his way out of harms way.
The action sequences are bigger and better, the effects are eye-popping, and the story â€“ apart from being mind-boggling â€“ stays one step ahead of its audience at all times. But itâ€™s that story that also deters enjoyment in a couple of spots. Thereâ€™s a little too much partisan speeches and drawn out mockery and while thereâ€™s nothing wrong with exposition scenes, unfortunately some of these moments deter from the action sequences, which are significantly more entertaining than the plot. On first viewing, the plot seems to be all over the place. Large helpings of waffle sprinkled throughout the film. Those whoâ€™ve seen the first film a few dozen times might find it a bit easier to understand than those who havenâ€™t â€“ but all in all thereâ€™s a little â€œtoo muchâ€ here. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesnâ€™t â€“ thatâ€™ll have to be decided upon repeated viewings.
â€œThe Matrix Revolutionsâ€ undoubtedly lives up to that â€˜second sequels suckâ€™ rule.
â€œEverything that has a beginning has an endâ€. Regrettably for fans of â€œThe Matrixâ€ though, the final episode in the Wachowskiâ€™s blockbuster sci-fi saga isnâ€™t going to come without a galling price – Namely, one very sore rear end and one colossal Aspirin wonâ€™t-cure headache.
Continuing on from the events of â€˜â€™The Matrix Reloadedâ€™â€™, â€œRevolutionsâ€ picks up the story with the now toothless Neo (Keanu Reeves) caught somewhere between the Matrix and the Machine World. Meantime, the Zion military battle the Sentinel army, intent on annihilating their civilization. When he can finally get out of the halfway house heâ€™s trapped in, Neo plans to be the miracle thatâ€™ll stop such obliteration.
If you were left baffled by the spectacular-spectacular that was â€˜â€™The Matrix Reloadedâ€™â€™ prepare to give your senses and understanding a workout once more. All the dazzling effects and over-the-top action sequences that audiences have been coming back for more and more of, is once again evident in the latest chapter.
Unlike the previous two chapters though, thereâ€™s a major letdown with the final â€œMatrixâ€ installment. At the end of the day youâ€™ll feel as if youâ€™ve had the brain on high for the preceding two and a bit hours for nothing, because that message weâ€™ve been promised â€“ one that will apparently decipher all the mumbo jumbo of the previous two movies â€“ never comes. In short, oneâ€™s going to feel a little cheated. Those that have been loyal, stringent fans on the series up till now will probably be looking for the Wackowski brothers heads on sticks by the time the film rolls. At the end of The Matrix Reloaded, it looked like the directing duo had grand plans for the next chapter, in turn explaining to their loyal audience what it all meant â€“ but alas, they didnâ€™t. Donâ€™t. The answer never really comes.
Ok, so thereâ€™s a lot more to â€œThe Matrixâ€™ than plot, so besides the befuddlement, is â€œThe Matrix Revolutionsâ€ an enjoyable last arc? That depends on what you hope the film offers. If outstanding special effects, ear-piercing audio, well choreographed fight scenes and drawn-out chunks of perplexing dialogue are your bag â€“ then yes, youâ€™ll enjoy the final chapter in the ambitious trilogy. If something new, novel and exciting is more your cup of Joe â€“ you might want to start looking elsewhere. If anything, â€œThe Matrix Revolutionsâ€ feels tired. Naturally, itâ€™s going to have the â€˜been there done thatâ€™ syndrome attached to it, but at the same time, it doesnâ€™t even try to inject anything new. How many long drawn-out slow motion action sequences with guys flying in the air or that now annoying billet time can one take?
Ultimately, itâ€™s going to be pretty clear by the end of â€œThe Matrix Revolutionsâ€ that both it and â€œReloadedâ€ couldâ€™ve easily been cut to 80 minute movies each â€“ in turn, possibly forming to create just the one sequel. Thereâ€™s a lot that could easily have been cut out here â€“ a large chunk of the middle, the battle scene between the city and the sentinels, is exasperatingly arduous, and even a pivotal death scene is stretched out to a derisory duration. Everything about the sequel feels bloated.
To the filmâ€™s merit though, The Wachowskiâ€™s do deliver on a couple of grand action sequences, especially the filmâ€™s charged final fight between Agent Smith (scene-stealer Hugo Weaving) and Neo, which is nothing short of Pepsi cool.
Unfortunately, the rest of â€œThe Matrix Revolutionsâ€ needed a couple of berrocas. Maybe that wouldâ€™ve given it back its b-b-b-bounce.
Also in this set is â€œThe Animatrixâ€ the collection of animated short-stories that are somehow supposed to tie into the Wachowskiâ€™s whacked-out world. Never went for this myself.
Blu-Ray Details and Extras
Roadshow have done an amazing job porting everything theyâ€™ve released up till now with â€œMatrixâ€ in the title over to Blu-Ray.
In addition to the movies, each disc contains numerous audio commentaries (everyone from cast, crew and respectable film journalists contribute a track) and a slew of featurettes about each filmâ€™s conception and realization. There are also promotional galleries.
The remaining two-discs include previously-seen documentaries “The Burly Man Chronicles,” “The Roots of the Matrix” and “The Zion Archiveâ€; a pop-up trivia track and more.
Yes, itâ€™s a bit over-killâ€¦ but fans will love the shit out of it.
It goes without saying that the audio and video quality of the set is amazing. â€œThe Matrixâ€ looks great, but â€œReloadedâ€ and â€œRevolutionsâ€ look frickinâ€™ amazing â€“ colours look natural and very detailed, and unlike some of the images on the DVD, nothing looks noticeably broken.
All three films have 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfers (framed accurately in 2.40:1 widescreen) and I canâ€™t imagine them looking any better â€“ near just as good as seeing them in the theatres.
The â€œMatrixâ€ movies are just as well-known for their groundbreaking special effects as they are their sound design so Iâ€™m pleased to say the audio track/s are also Christmas-y exciting.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 makes love to your speakers for every minute of each film â€“ but youâ€™ll really appreciate it in those high-effects sequences like, say, â€˜the bullet timeâ€™ moments. It really pops then!
Such a divine Blu-Ray release….even if you’re still in two-minds about the sequels, it’s well worth picking up!