The Matrix Regurgitated

At least you can't accuse Matrix Revolutions of being predictable. It sucked in new and quite unexpected ways.

I keep trying to summarize the plot. I can't manage it. But "plot" is just a word: what matters is the relationship which that word implies. When I went into the cinema, I didn't know the answers to any of the questions set up in the first two movies. Do you know what changed in the next two hours? Nothing. Unfortunately, no-one can be told how bad Matrix Revolutions is. You have to experience it for yourself.

At the end of the last film, Neil was mostly dead. He wakes up in a public lavatory and has a conversation with a family of racial stereotypes, who tell him about karma. I am fairly sure that the little Indian girl, who crops up all through the movie and is in the final scene, has some significance, either in the Matrix cosmology or as a symbol. I have no idea what that significance or symbolism might be.

There's a sub-way train that will take Neil back to the Matrix. His ability to get onto it is in some way connected to Trinity, Morpheus and that Chinese guy having a pointless fight with the Meringue in that nightclub. They win. He gets on the train and wakes up.

My memory becomes hazy at this point. The squids have apparently burrowed through to Zion. So it is really, really, really important that the spaceship Nebuchadnezza gets back to Zion in time for the battle. I have no idea why. I think I must have missed an exposit in the last movie. But Neil can't go with them. On his way back to the real world he met the Cookie Lady (who has died and regenerated into Patrick Troughton) and learned that he has to fulfill his destiny by going to the city of the robot squids. So the Fellowship breaks up.

I really quite liked all the post-cyberpunk kung fu in long anoraks from The Matrix and as mentioned, I enjoyed the sub-Dick metaphysics about the The Real World being Only An Illusion. There were lots of ways in which I expected Revolutions to be crap; I thought maybe the Matrix would reboot into a world where everyone was a superhero or a roman knight; or maybe there would be a chunk of undergraduate philosophy in which "reality" turned out too be a Russian doll nest of Matrices, each world being a program inside a program. What I was not expecting was for the film to be given over to a three-hour (or maybe it just felt that long) space battle, which would have looked really cool in 1977. (Or, to be fair, 1983.) 

I will say his about the battle: it was big. There were an awful lot of giant squids, which behaved exactly like video game aliens, coming in wave after wave, and neatly forming patterns to make it easy for the good guys to shoot them. The heroes fought in sort of industrial mecha power Armour tank suits, like the one Ripley had in Alienses, only less so. It was very impressive when the camera pulled back to show the serried ranks of the things. So impressive that I said "Oh look, a cartoon". Or more precisely "Oh look, a collection of Games Workshop miniatures."

(Digression: We know that CGI makes it very, very easy to create lots of instances of the same model: once you have rendered out the textures on your robot, or orc, or dragon (which takes hours), it doesn't take much more computer time to show a hundred or a million of them. Therefore, the scene in which you see a robot in close up, and then pull back slowly to see thousands and thousands of the things is already a horrible cliché. Four or five years ago Babylon Five was terribly pleased with itself because it could go from a close up of Bruce Willis's face to a long shot of the space ship in a single take. We were bored with it by the time of the close up of Picard's eyeball in Star Trek  17: The One With Bondage Borg Chick.  The trailer for Troy does the pull-back stunt with  Greek longships, but happily resists the temptation to talk about faces, ships and the number of the latter it takes to launch the former. Where was I?)

Empire Strikes Back remains the best sci-fi battle scene ever filmed because we have a clear idea of who is fighting, where they are on the battlefield, and what they are fighting about. The scale and confusion of the mess in Matrix Revolutions eliminates any personality from the conflict: all we get is a few cameos from some stereotypes who I had forgotten about: a hard-bitten general, a couple of black girls who are related to someone even more subsidiary, the hot young kid who is scared but comes through. And I had no sense at all of geography or tactics.

At the last minute our heroes arrive on board the Prophet Ezekiel, and push the magic button. All the aliens die. However, the magic button also destroys all the electronics in Zion. This is apparently a bad thing, but the subject is not raised again.

My senses felt fairly overloaded by this point, and I was gibbering in the corner of Camden Odeon saying "I can't believe how bad this movie is, I can't believe how bad this movie is." But we were scarcely at the half way point.

Back to Neil and Trinity, on their way to Squid City. Some people think this was a reference to Frodo and Sam going to the land of Morrrrdorrr but I didn't think it was anything that interesting. (Every 80s sword and sorcery flick involved the hero going through the back entrance to the baddies lair: think Conan, Dragonslayer, Beastmaster, Dark Crystal, others too numerous to mention.) Someone whose name and motivation I forget has hidden in the ship. There is a big fight. Neil is blinded. This means he can go around with a bandage over his eyes, like Tiresius or Gloucester or Oedipus or Geordie LeForge. It doesn't notably effect his eyesight.

There is another fight, or possibly even the same fight, and Trinity gets killed. Again. She overacts a lot. Neil is quite put out. Resurrections are limited strictly to one per customer, however, so she stays dead.  Eventually, he gets to Squid City, and all the little squids form a gigantic face in the sky and talk to him. (This is same special effect as the Pharaoh's face forming out of the sand in The Mummy, the previous holder of the Rilstone "worst film ever" award.) Apparently, the real problem is Agent Smith, (the fellow who says "Mr. Anderson" a lot and wants Arwen to go to the undying lands) who is now an autonomous programme and just as dangerous to the robots as to humans and Zion. He's going to crash the Matrix, or something. If Neil can beat Smith, the humans and squids can be friends.

Now we get to the big fight scene; which, I must admit, did sort of make up for the six hours of my life I have wasted on this rubbish. I cannot help thinking that this was the scene which the brothers had in mind at the end of The Matrix  and that the whole of Reloaded and Revolutions were an (entirely failed) attempt to provide a context and rational for it. Basically, the whole of the Matrix now consists of nothing but Agent Smiths, and the whole thing is resolved manno to manno, Smith and Neo fighting in a big puddle, initialing punching each other, but then flying around the city like Christopher Reeve and Terrence Stamp. It is a great scene; almost as great as when it was done by Alan Moore in Miracleman in the early nineteen eighties. The flapping tie; the dark suit; Smith's crazed grin; the rainstorm—it's all  there, to the extent that the scene feels less like a swipe, more like a loving tribute. However, the point of the Miracleman scene is that Moore treats superhero fights "realistically" and asks what would happen if two people as powerful as Superman really did have a fight in the real world? What would happen to all the fragile humans caught in between? But, of course, we have established that the matrix is not really real, so, mamma, nothing really matters at all.

After a lot of pyrotechnics, Neil realizes what we spotted half way through part two, that the way tot beat Smith is too let Smith beat him. Smith sort of merges with Neil, which sort of crashes the programme and destroys him. Err...I don't really know. But it made a cool scene. Neil is mostly dead (again), and the squids carry him off to robot city, like King Arthur in the barge, or Joseph of Arimathea and Jesus, or something. But they stick to their side of the bargain and stop attacking Zion. So everyone cheers and says "hooray, we won." They let off fireworks and dance with the ewoks. (I made that up.)

Meanwhile the Cookie Lady, the Architect, and the Indian Girl meet up on a park bench in the Matrix. They speculate that Neil isn't dead as long as we remember him, and the sun comes up. I crawl out of the cinema in state of shock, my mind pummeled by the two fight scenes, unable to believe the Alan Moore lift, unable to believe that none of the open questions from the last film were resolved, or even mentioned, somehow feeling absurd and silly for ever having thought that The Matrix is "really not that bad if you don't have anything better to do with your time." I mutter "what was that film about, what was that film about." In the pub afterwards, I argue that Dungeons and Dragons had many good features.

The film saved its best joke for the closing credits. The "big face that speaks out of the cloud of squids in the robot city" is credited as "deus-ex-machina".

I think that just about says it all. 


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