dir: The Wachowski Brothers
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Wow. I mean, honestly, wow. This is a perfect picture. Actually, it's a picture perfect example of how even when people have a guaranteed hit on their hands, all the money in the world, complete creative control and the freedom to do whatever they want, people, in this being case the Wachowski Brothers, can still find a way to fuck things up seven ways from Sunday. And not in that
good way that your girlfriends like so much.
Now, just as something of a preamble, I'd like to digress from our agreed upon route and simply say
I know that in terms of the film reviewing universe, I tend to come across, my brethren and sistren, about as coherent and as film literate as the average lunatic poster on one of the Aint-
It-Cool message boards, with a similar grasp of swearing and general deportment. We're talking
about people that condemn a film outright two years before it gets made. Be that as it unavoidably may, it doesn't mean I am incapable of talking about film in an intelligent and less sailorish manner. Call it laziness, call it having read too many Viz comics at a young age, let's just agree to disagree that at least in my case it is much easier to simply ridicule the intellects of the people involved with crappy films, say 'fuck' a lot, and use off-colour humour regarding priest - altar boy jokes rather than actually having to analyse the films in the manner that would get your average Cinema Studies graduate wet in the pants region.
It's a certain failing of mine, but it does mean I can get to entertain myself, usually at the reader's expense, who sits there wondering why I can't write shorter sentences and also just how much
whisky I tend to drink when I decide to write my reviews (none, you philistines, thanks for asking).
So with that in mind, let me kick off this little slaughterhouse of the intellect by saying that simply because I don't generally refer to the staple fundamental aspects of decent cinema doesn't mean I am unfamiliar with them. To elaborate further, I can safely say that whatever it is that makes films potentially moving and powerful works of art is pretty much absent from this film.
It hurts to say this: Revolutions is not a bad film per se, it's not even the worst film I've seen this week, and contrary to what a stack of reviews are saying it is not a complete shitfest. The fundamental problem with this film, I believe, is drugs.
You heard it here first, I'm entering the War Against Drugs. I believe it is crucial that I do my part to stop the Wachowski Brothers from repeating the mistakes they've made here. I'm thinking of the
children, future generations and such, who will no doubt come across this film and wonder how such a tragic sequence of events could lead to such a simultaneously banal AND inexplicable conclusion.
To be blunt, in its own way, the first Matrix film makes sense. It has its own internal logic, which was acceptable to most of the dead-eyed slack jawed cinema going population, including myself. Even the second film, to me, made sense, and most importantly, was highly enjoyable.
Some aspects became way more complicated, some mighty big questions were raised, but it still kind of made sense. This third film, man, I have to just fucking wonder what they were smoking, and whether they knew their crack had been laced with angeldust, magic mushrooms and kitty litter. Mmmm, Gritty Kitty Litter!
For you see the Brothers Wachowski cannot possibly blame anyone else for this, they had a free hand in all aspects of this production as far as is known. Unfortunately for us they used this free hand to light their crack pipes instead of using it to write a passable ending. I'll clarify why I keep mentioning drugs, bear with me.
It just makes no fucking sense at all. Where they could have done anything, they did less than nothing. I have watched the film and understood what little there was to understand, and still come away thinking "when's the third film coming out, because I'm curious after watching this 140 minute trailer". Again, I'll say this is not a bad film. It does what it does, and looks amazing, but it makes less sense than your average drunk on payday, and that really hurts it.
The questions that the story leaves unanswered are not ones which a viewer will come to appreciate in time or upon reflection. The main question one will ask is "the fuck was the point of that?" See,
plot-wise the story plays out, reaches a seemingly logical or at least desired conclusion. But how the story gets there is unfathomable, and worse than that, pointless. To me it seems less like the creators wanted to come up with a new sci-fi myth that would linger throughout the ages like a case of syphilis that just won't go away, and smacks more of an inability to judge ones own material critically.
They're Ideas men, they must be. On the technical side they cannot be faulted for a moment. The effects are some of the best put to film thus far, no question. But an abundance of ideas does not a coherent or enjoyable film make. Here's where the drugs angle comes in.
The Wachowski Brothers were surely smoking something to come up with this many ideas, and to lose interest in them so completely as to forget them permanently as the film went on. Either that or this
material means a hell of a lot more to them than it can to us. In some other ways this film, inexplicably, seems like it was made by directors and producers unfamiliar with the first two films. I'm not kidding, in terms of story and realisation this third film could have been directed by someone on work experience or on day release from a local prison. It seems to be less of a continuing story and more of a pinch-hit from a second string batter, who's more of a golfer, really, just to mangle my sporting metaphor further. You know, because I just adore that local sports team.
I don't believe my opinion was adversely affected by the stream of negative reviews that seem to be pouring out. I think I went into the film with a fairly open mind, in the same manner as when I watched the second film, knowing full well that a stack of people I knew and whose opinions I respected loathed the film. All the same I continue to feel a great deal of disappointment now in contemplation of this third film.
As a word of advice, and I rarely tell people what to do, in terms of "go watch this, don't watch that", but I feel compelled to in this instance: if you disliked Matrix: Reloaded, do not go see this film. The only possible benefit of doing so would be to make you appreciate what a decent film Reloaded was. Honestly, I'm not kidding. Other than that you're going to start chewing the arm off of the person next to you.
The film begins where the last left off. Neo, in the 'real' world, is in a coma. His consciousness seems to be stuck in a curious place between the real world and the Matrix, which looks like an underground railway station. For company he has an Indian family to philosophise with until a crazy homeless bum
called the Train Man comes along to fuck with him. Now, I've never been accused of having a limited vocabulary, but truth be told even I lack the words to describe the overall pointlessness of this part of the film. The way they try to tie this into the rest of the film, with the Merovingian and the token shot of Monica Belluci's superb breasts is breathtakingly stupid, though as other reviewers have pointed out hers are the best special effects in the film. My gods, they could have improved the film
400% percent if they'd just kept her in the film for longer.
Yes, in this era where the French are apparently the most hated persons in the Western world, at least according to American media, the Merovingian returns in what amounts to being an entirely pointless cameo. It gives an excuse for reasonably cool goings-on from a Kung Fu and a Gun Fu perspective, but frankly, it's too little too early which ends up being too late to save the franchise. For a franchise built conceptually and cool-wise on the manner in which our protagonists fuck shit up old school in the Matrix, the obvious problem of the relative pointlessness of the real world slaps us in the face like a handful of shit. That's a harsh thing to say, I admit. We always knew that the extension of the story past the first film would necessitate a battle in the 'real' world. I guess that's almost a fundamental flaw in-built into the sequels. It should certainly not be a deal-breaker by any stretch, yet I didn't expect to be this unimpressed.
Cue the renewed battle for Zion. Cue lots of people in bad sweaters trying to get back to Zion. Cue Neo deciding, "I'm the shit, whatever the fuck I decide is going to make everything all right in the end, because the Wachowski Brothers told me" Cue Neo and Trinity telling each other how much they love each other. Cue a tremendous amount of people in the audience wondering when this pseudo-film is going to end and when the real one is going to begin.
I've read some criticism of Kanooie's acting as being the problem in this film, and I say, "Nay, nay thrice nay." Kanooie is the least of this film's problems. The acting, except for these painful bits where two characters called The Kid and Captain Mifune re-enact painful dialogue from a myriad of bad war films that 80 year old nappy wearers would watch and say "That's some hokey shit" is never the problem. It's the ideas, and the plot that twitches and pisses itself like an epileptic during a grand mal seizure that lead to my sadness. If anything, despite the fact that Kanooie is a resolutely awful actor in everything else he generally attempts, he has been the genuine strength of the franchise in all three films. At the very least he's done a sensational job wearing those coats and those sunglasses. My, my, look at the skills the boy has to pay the bills. Worth every penny.
The battle for Zion is well done. I can't in all conscience deny that. Visually it looks amazing. But because of a fundamental flaw in characterisation (or more importantly, the complete lack thereof) and because we are being led by our ring pieces to the obvious conclusion, I doubt very many people are ever going to care. Even the brain damaged members of the audience. Them too. They're going to wonder "Dang, if yer going to do that, why did you spend 150 million dollars and an hour of our time building up to that, when you were going to totally undercut with the ending?"
There is another problem that no-one involved can actually be blamed for (one of the few aspects for which they are blameless) which has an adverse affect on the proceedings. The death of the actress that played the Oracle, Gloria Foster, required her replacement, obviously, since her character is fundamental to the story. The actor (Mary Alice) replacing her does a competent job, but it hurts her scenes, it really does. Mostly because people are wondering whether it would have
been better with the original. Or whether sock puppets would have been the go, as they say in my homeland.
See, I just don't know. I'm disappointed, but I'm pretty sure it's not because of any personal animus I have towards the Brothers or because I just wanted to rip the shit through a big hype-type film. Part of me is expecting a fourth film to be announced, part of me thinks that the only way this can make sense is if they announce a DVD version of Revolutions which has an additional 7 hours of footage which incompetently explains what they couldn't in 2. That's the only way this is going to be redeemed. The only other way is to appreciate the first film for what it is, and approach the second and third films as if they were fan fiction, inspired by and all that, and written by a sequence of mental defectives and desperately lonely people who only aspire to approach the wellspring of the original creation rather than coming up with something amusing in their own right.
At review's beginning I mentioned elements of cinema that are not beyond my ability to discuss: elements such as themes, atmosphere, subtext, chracterisation, development. Even though I've just shown that I'm aware of them, I'm not going to discuss them in terms of this film. Why, you ask, crying into your beers? Because the Wachowski's didn't bother to include them in this film, so why should I put them in a review?
All of that is replaced with, you guessed it, Love. Love! It makes me want to beat up kittens, I swear to the gods.
I'm going to quit it here, and continue the berating afterwards in the special Members Only zone in a manner which addresses the deepest flaws of the film (spoilers plus) which I can't in all conscience do here, since I wouldn't want to deprive people of the joy of watching such an extravaganza on the big screen unspoiled. So, you know, you've been warned!
Okay, from beginning to end, all these aspects utterly shat me off. These are all abject spoilers that should be read only by those that have seen the film or could care less, which, let's face it, are one
and the same.
The whole Mobil (Limbo) station stuff was crap. The Indian family, hinted at as having significance in Reloaded (at least one of them) was utterly pointless crap except from the point of view that it ain't a decent film unless there's a sub-eight year old in the film. The Train Man proved to be super powerful against Neo and pointless. Gee, thanks. Meant nothing apart from trying to scare us with bad teeth. Merovingian and wife, hinted at as having significance, totally pissed away. Utterly immaterial and ultimately less than interesting, in that it added nothing to the film. Cool, so the One can get slapped around, uh, pointlessly by someone that doesn't matter, in a place that makes no sense, in a manner that isn't enjoyable and that doesn't really add to the film in any way. Gee. Thanks.
The whole Bane as Smith stuff. Utterly pointless. The blinding of Neo, gee, symbolically it doesn't work either, despite the fact that I know the reference they were trying to make. It's never explained how Smith downloads himself into the "real" world. Despite the fact that I'm glad they never did the Green Matrix-Blue Matrix stuff (the cogniscenti know of what I speak), it still smells pretty bad. And it ends up being pointless.
The attack on the Merovingian and his henchmen. Its ultimate resolution is such that it renders what comes before it pointless. Much as this film does to the rest of the trilogy. I hope Monica Bellucci got paid nothing because nothing is what she did in this film, as did Lambert Wilson (the Merovingian), Harold Perrineau (Link, probably one of the least complicated and most enjoyable presences in
the last film), even Morpheus, for gods' sake, whom I thought the franchise was conceptually built around if not literally. Everyone gets short-changed this time round, but it's not a problem in every
scene. More of a culmination of pointlessness.
The "Neo goes to Zero One" idea was great conceptually, but pissed away like a cheap bottle of malt liquor. Someone needs to explain to me why the arch-evil-ruler or representation at least of the AI that dominated Earth and put humans into slavery would agree to a bargain where its eventuality didn't require it to make any such promise. In fact, at film's end, you have to think "so, these evil machines, why are they stopping again?" This problem ultimately guts the film in my opinion, until they come up with a reasonable excuse why. And let's remember that despite the fact that Smith seems to have taken over practically every soul on the planet, it isn't such a problem that anyone else in the Matrix cares. Including the Architect. In fact most of everything that happened in the second film has little or no relevance in the third, which is a tremendous feat when you think
about it. The Matrix itself seems to be merrily going on its way, and we are to believe that billions of people are still hooked up to it at films end. Hooray for us! And another thing, scenes in S&M clubs are to films from the last ten years what scenes in strip clubs are to cop films: obligatory and annoying. I'm surprised they didn't go to Chinatown as well.
Seraph walking around checking doors, trying to save the little Indian girl and himself from the Smiths was deeply stupid. Deeply, deeply stupid.
If there is a less noble sacrifice or a less affecting sequence where someone dies in service or in terms of protecting another this year, someone please email me with evidence. The deaths of, yes, Trinity and Neo, despite the fact that I predicted Neo's death six months ago as being a necessary sacrifice and making sense in terms of story dynamics, seems even more pointless now than I ever could have imagined. And that hurts. And the implication that he "might" be back simply added insult to injury.
That fucking ending, with the colourful skies and everybody happy, it hurts on levels that I'm not sure I can express. The reason why it hurts has nothing to do with predictability or any other poor story telling techniques that I might believe were used. It's simply that it doesn't make any sense within the context of the film. How Neo ultimately "wins" makes no sense. Why the machines don't keep killing people doesn't make sense. Why slamming Neo into a wall doesn't hurt him, smashing him into the ground doesn't kill him, but a few more punches does the trick doesn't make sense. What Smith's plan was doesn't make sense. Why Neo can blow up machines in the real world, and can "see" all that glowy shit is never explained. Yes, sure, the Oracle says "The One's powers now extend to the real world", but what does that mean? Surely we aren't meant to believe that the Oracle, a program in the Matrix, can actually predict or see what's going outside? The scene at the end with the Architect, the Oracle and Sati, could it, er, have been more pointless and anti-climactic? Were
these the characters that mattered to us the most?
And ultimately what are we left with? Questions without answers or plenty of reasons never to see the film again? You be the judge. And you, also, ask yourself whether they should have just let sleeping cybernetic dogs lie and never have made any sequels to the Matrix in the first place.
It has a lot of good bits, some impressive CGI, but ultimately it is a disappointment to me.
5 depressing sequels out of 10
"Oh, I'm not so bad... once you get to know me..." Agent Smith, Matrix: Revolutions.