Coming just five months after the first Matrix sequel landed with a thud, The Matrix Revolutions improves largely upon its immediate predecessor, but is still not even in the same universe as the first film. 'Revolutions' solves many of the structural and storytelling problems of the second film - yet the franchise's conclusion nevertheless falls well short of satisfactory.
After the four-year delay between the first Matrix and May's 'Reloaded,' a great many viewers' expectations were left unmet, due mostly to a clunky script that emphasised long speeches over action, introduced incomprehensible plot points, and featured action scenes that while exciting couldn't match the groundbreaking achievements of the original- especially after four years in which parodies of the film were ubiquitous in pop culture. It also didn't help that the long-dormant Terminator franchise came out with a new film a month later that unexpectedly blew Reloaded out of the water.
Now, after a much shorter wait, 'Revolutions' comes along and solves many of the problems created by 'Reloaded' - fewer speeches, less psychobabble-like philosophy, and action sequences that generally improve on those of the second installment. And save for an ending that rivals "2001: A Space Odyssey" for sheer indecipherability, 'Revolutions' is much easier to follow than 'Reloaded.'
So why isn't it as satisfying as it could be? Several reasons: while the centerpiece action sequence in 'Revolutions'- the climactic battle between the people in Zion and the Machines - is a superb technical achievement, it really wouldn't have been out of place in, say, a Star Trek movie, or any other recent sci-fi franchise- just a bunch of people with machine guns shooting at robots for 25 minutes, while utilizing virtually none of the series' trademark special effects. Also, Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are nowhere to be seen, and we're left rooting for a bunch of characters we barely know defending a place that we barely care about.
The final fight between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is impressive too, but - once again - we're left, at the end, being unclear on exactly what the hell happened. There's a distinct vibe throughout the second and third films that not only must a viewer watch all the movies in a row in order to understand them, but watch and play the companion animated shorts as well as video games. And in a film series that was clearly meant as an allegory about the technocratic "enslavement" of modern American culture, it's a bit incongruous for comprehension of the plot to rely on the consumption of brand extensions.
And even worse, if I understand the film's ending the way it's supposed to be understood, the resolution of the third film solves the plot points brought up by the second, but mostly leaves alone those introduced in the first. For the trilogy to conclude the way it does, after fans have invested years, is unsatisfying, to say the least.
I conclude by sharing that I have written this review about two weeks after seeing 'Revolutions,' and there are only a handful of specific moments that I can still remember. Which honestly says a lot more about the film than anything I could possibly include in the review.