The Matrix Revolutions
I knew this was going to be bad. I only watched it because I was bored on the plane and I wanted to see just how bad it was.
Everybody in the world already knows that Matrix: Revolutions is bollocks. I'm writing this post just to satisfy my desire to rant. It will contain spoilers.
First Matrix was good because it was built around such a simple, surprising, and flexible metaphor. The Matrix is the mass media, or it's religion, or overreliance on technology; whatever allegory you like. It's the unquestioned life, the false paradise, sugar-coated slavery. The real world is a war-torn hellhole where life is short and full of struggle and suffering. You are offered the choice to live in the Matrix or to join the fight against it, the easy thing or the right thing, the pleasant illusion or the unpleasant truth; what do you do? That's powerful stuff, man. Mythic. Woven together with this are themes of fate vs. free will, the nature of humanity, man vs. machine, etc. Plus inverted cyberpunk tropes, scary robots, and cool martial arts battles. Hooray!
Oh ho, here comes a sequel (Reloaded + Revolutions is really a single sequel story spread across two movies)! Are you excited? Are you ready to outdo the first movie? Expand the universe, put the characters through the wringer, reveal all secrets and destroy the matrix forver? Ready for it? Here we go! This is what happens in the sequel, boiled down to the essential plot points:
The evil robots are drilling down to Zion with a giant drill to kill everybody. Agent Smith goes rogue and starts turning everybody he can find in the Matrix into more copies of him, because he's, like, a virus or something, I don't know how he got that way. Then Neo goes to the machine city and talks to the boss robot sea-urchin-with-a-face-made-out-of-swirling-mini-robots, points out that Agent Smith will take over the whole Matrix and then infect the machine city, and offers his virus removal services in exchange for Not Killing Everybody Please. Then Neo has a really long, fake, Dragonball Z style fly-around-and-punch-each-other-through-buildings fight with one Smith while the other Smiths just watch. He wins, so the boss robot calls off the giant drill. The end.
That's it? That's it. No character development, no new philosophical themes or even deeper exploration of existing themes, not even a satisfying resolution to the plot. Will the sky ever be cleared, will the Matrix be destroyed, will the machines find an alternate source of power besides humans, will the human and machine civilizations learn to live in harmony, can the rest of the humans adapt to life outside the Matrix? I sat through almost five combined hours of sequel and I don't know the answers to these questions any better than I did after the first movie.
Between the two sequels there's maybe 30 scattered minutes of interesting new content. The intriguing suggestion that Zion and the rebellion against the Matrix are part of the Architect's even larger plan (so even by fighting the system you are still part of the system) was raised but then dropped and never mentioned again. The battle in the Zion dock between the human mecha pilots and the invading squidbots is kinda cool (though it really bothered me that the mecha design leaves the pilot completely unprotected).
I'm having trouble even remembering what filled up the rest of the running time of these movies, so inessential was it. Pointless filler plotlines and video-game style fetch quests involving keymasters, gatekeepers, the Source, the Trainman, the Merovingian (lamest villian ever) and so on ad nauseum. The not-particularly-interesting concept of "rogue programs" in the Matrix is introduced and driven into the ground; said programs get more screen time than most of the human characters, and the the humans still trapped in the Matrix (remember them? the ones you're trying to free?) are forgotten completely. Trinity is killed, then brought back to life, then killed again in an insultingly anticlimatic way, then gives a dramatic death speech that goes on so long it becomes self-parody. Secondary and tertiary characters we don't care about are introduced and then killed off. The Oracle drops vague hints. There is a lengthy rave sequence. A lot of people jump around in slow motion while shooting and/or kicking each other.
Most of all, there's talking. Not philosophy, not character development, just... talking. A lot of drivel about whether A knew B was going to do C, or whether W was fated to happen, or whether X already knows the anser to question Y deep in his heart, and whether or not he's ready to know Z. You may remember the theme of "fate vs. free will" from the first movie? The sequels don't do anything new with that theme, but they do erect giant flashing neon signs around it, in case we missed it. Also the movie makes damn sure we know that Trinity LUVS Neo A Lot and Neo LUVS Trinity Too and they are B.F.F. and in fact Trinity LUUUUVS Neo so much that she doesn't even care if she dies! They tell us this over and over again, and yet it remains unconvincing. (This is why the idea of "show, don't tell" was invented.)
Most offensive of all is the fawning adoration for The One. Much screen time is devoted to having all other characters remind us that Neo is The One and talk about how darn SPESHUL he is. Every character who agrees with and believes in Neo is vindicated, everyone who disagrees with him or doubts him is shown to be foolish. He can see without his eyeballs, shoot real robot-killing lightning, and go Super-Crucifix-Saiyin, and the only explanation is that he's Just That Special! All the other people are worthless compared to him. When they die, it's OK, because The One is the only character who matters, and the rest of them were just there to take bullets for him and inform the audience of his Specialness.
Seriously, Wachowski brothers, we GOT that you were recreating a messianic myth the first time; you didn't have to go all third-century Christian apologia on us. And you certainly didn't have to forget about everything that made the first movie good and replace it with a double-length pile of wanky Neo fanfic.