“Okay, so most metaphors don’t bear close examination”.
Neil the Hippy from British sitcom “The Young Ones” uttered those immortal words, and he could have been explaining what was so awful about the final instalment of the Matrix trilogy.
By not saying much and implying a great deal with a huge amount of style, the thinnest veiled reference to Rene Descartes and some very snappy kung fu sequences, the Wachowski brothers made a certified classic of motion picture history in The Matrix.
The Matrix Reloaded revealed more, but still mostly just hinted at great depth of learning and profundity. Many – myself included – were sufficiently taken in to declare the film a success, and noted that even if the philosophising was cod, it was a hell of a car chase. Knowing what I now know, I still think reloaded was, on the balance, a successful film.
But the Matrix Revolutions? Oh dear, oh dear. (What follows might contain “spoilers” – but to my mind what the real spoiling here was carried out by L and A Wachowski).
In any case, gone are the clever insinuations (for example that Merovingian might be the devil because his wife is Persephone – as in wife of Hades, lord of the underworld in Greek Mythology) and instead you’re thumped between the eyes with the fact (this time, the elevator button to his floor is marked “HELL”.)
Gone is any semblance of continuity from the last film. Persephone is back with Merovingian, despite seemingly irreconcileable differences. Merovingian is running some sort of S&M club. The indestructible albino dreadlock dudes are gone. He employs a train man, for no obvious purpose (other than to bamboozle and perplex). There is a confusing sequence with an Indian family who meets Neo while waiting at at underground station.
And there is way, way, way too much pointless fighting. Now I like a good punch-up as much as the next man, but there needs to be some raison d’etre, or at least some outcome, for crying out loud.
In place of the grand car chase we have an action finale that is such a blitzkrieg of overheating pentium processors, gattling guns and exploding squids, that for twenty minutes for all you know your TV might be on the blink (what an irony that so much computing horsepower and intricate programming leads to such an incoherent visual spectacle). And at the end of it the squids just leave as a result of a conversation taking place hundreds of miles away. Dramatically satisfying it ain’t.
Finally, the whole intellectual superstructure of the trilogy reveals itself to be so much horse manure. what you thought you understood no longer make sense; the pseudo-religious angle is ditched; central tensions betweeen characters are undermined, characters die and come back to life; characters turn out to be immortal and not susceptible of being killed (which defeats the purpose of fighting, non?) and in any case you really just couldn’t care a hill of beans for any of them, least of all Larry Fishburne.
The most pernicious aspect is that by throwing in the philosophical towel, Revolutions undermines the previous instalments of the trilogy which, until you see this one, had for the most part, got away with it.
As they would say in Britain, complete and utter pants.
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Runtime: 129 min
Country: Australia, USA