"Find hungry samurai" -Gisaku


[This review was originally in HyperionX, and thus may contain strong language and/or nudity. Reader discretion is advised.]

Normally my policy is to see a movie as early as humanly possible so I can get the review out to you. I do this because—in my deluded thinking—it’s important to my readers. I picture them sitting at home—like an ugly girl on prom night—just waiting for my review to come in so they can make up their minds.

Lately, though, I’m not sure why I bother. I rarely get much feedback on the reviews, and when I’ve asked people, some of them tell me they don’t read them until after they see the movie. You mean I go to all that trouble (often involving selling my body for the money), and go out of my way not to reveal plot lines, and people don’t even read them? Grrr. In this case, it seems even more moot. If you haven’t seen the first two Matrices (as they shall from here on be known collectively as), you’re not going to see the third. Conversely, if you have seen the first two, you’re probably going to see the third even if I tell you there is a Bette Midler/Marlon Brando nude love scene (there isn’t).

All of which leads up to this week. I tried so hard to see the movie opening day—I even attempted for opening morning, because the film came out worldwide at the same time, Seven a.m. here—but events conspired against me. Of course this time I got mail to the tune of, “Dude, where’s my review?” I tell you; you’re all punks, and you don’t deserve me.

But even though it took four days and several rope ladders of dental floss, I did manage to see The Matrix Revolutions Saturday night. The plan was to come home and write the review right then, but we went to play cards (Paseo Dos) first (don’t hate). I was so tired. If you know me at all, you know I live my life tired, but I was really tired this time. I lost 51 to 50 to –18.

I then came home and tried to write (about 6 a.m.), but I only got three paragraphs done before falling asleep. I honestly don’t remember going and getting in bed, but that’s where I woke up, and when I went to look at the computer, I saw the three paragraphs, which were –and I swear I’m not making this up—about how the toaster was hiding the hippos from me and conspiring to kill me. Now that’s tired.

But now I’m refreshed and ready to write this meaningless review. Well, not quite. Let’s talk about a few other things first. Like previews. I finally saw the preview for Troy (about the Trojan War). To quote Keanu, “Whoa!” That last shot of the preview was cooler than Fonzi in a DeLorean. It also reminded me of the line of poetry I use to make women swoon, but I don’t think I have room here. Another time.

Then there was The Day after Tomorrow; the disaster movie that FOX might put on as a special called “When Weather Attacks.” The preview looks solid, but when I see the producers, I get scrrrd! It’s the Independence Day people, and while I love that film, they also made Godzilla, which, as you may recall, had an AWESOME preview but then sucked like a hooker with Asthma (that is to say; very badly). So, I’m unsold.

Then there was The Missing; could be great, but I’ll wait. Paycheck, starring Ben Affleck about erasing your memory and a time machine. Sounds like Sci-Fi fun, ‘till you see it’s made by John Woo. It still could be fun, but probably not that philosophically challenging.

Along came Polly, starring Ben Stiller, and more importantly, by the makers of Meet the Parents, looks about like you’d expect, but it did get the most laughs of the audience. Finally, there was The Last Samurai. I don’t know why I’m so suspicious of this film. After all, Tom Cruise is under appreciated as an actor, usually makes good choices in movies, and always throws himself into the role. It’s just that I get the sense we’re going to see another “And a white man shall lead them” Lawrence of Arabia-type movie, a genre I’m sated with at that moment. On top of that, they’ve been running the full previews on TV for several weeks. That’s usually not a good sign, but I’ll wait and see.

Okay, the movie itself. I generally stay away from reviews before I see a film, because as a reviewer, I don’t want to be biased. But owing to the nature of the movie, and it taking me four days to get to it, I couldn’t stop people from telling me what they thought. My friend Koz, not known for gushing, enthusiastically said it was the best of the three. Another friend of mine, Cephas, wrote and told me that his wife and he thought it, “sucked the sweat of a dead man’s balls.” (Consider that phrase turned.) Everyone else was somewhere in between. I heard it was great but not spectacular, good but not great, fair but not good, bad but not awful, and so forth. I even had one person tell me The Matrix movies are racist propaganda.

And having seen the movie, I think I can understand the gamut of emotions. One popular thing for people to say was that this was more like the first one. I suppose in a way it is, with more life-or-death action, and a bit less mysticism, but I don’t really buy that. As different as the second movie was from the first, this was from the first two.

That in itself is a blessing and a curse. It’s kind of like when your favorite singer does an album that’s completely different. Part of you is upset that the sound has changed. But maybe later you can appreciate that they wanted to try something different. I’ll admit that part of me was…not upset, but maybe a bit disappointed that there is so little action actually in the Matrix here. For all the philosophy and so forth, there still remains nothing so awe-inspiring as watching the world (that we know) utterly manipulated by those who have gleaned its secrets. You won’t really find that here. There’s an early scene involving a freaky sex club, and of course the ending, and I suppose there is a tiny scene in the Quasi-Matrix (or the Quatrix), but that’s it. The vast majority takes place outside, i.e., in the real world (albeit the post-apocalyptic one).

So you have to get used to that. But I eventually did. I found myself more and more impressed as the movie went on. The action sets, especially the battle for Zion, flawlessly use special effects. People might get so caught up the Matrixyness of it all that they omit this. There is nothing, I repeat nothing, better in CGI out there. I’m not saying ILM (Lucas) or the LOTR people aren’t as good, but they’ve certainly never surpassed the sheer scale of that battle.

Think about it a moment: that could have been the cheesiest scene ever (think The Black Hole). Instead it was completely believable and engrossing. At times simply amazing. In fact, it may have been better than the end, if only because it’s hard to make out two people dressed in black fighting in the pouring rain (coolness has its opportunity cost). But still.

How much you like this movie may also depend heavily on how much you like Reloaded. I have heard so many people say, “It was so much better than Reloaded.” Conversely, people who loved Reloaded might tend to not like this as much. Again, that goes to how different the two are. If you read my review, you’ll know I loved Reloaded, allowing that it may be better than the first. That’s a tough statement to make, especially because no sequel ever can equal the impact of the first. Now matter how good it is, you’ve simply seen it before (think The Two Towers or even the initial reception to Godfather II or Empire Strikes Back). However, like those earlier movies, sometimes it takes a few years before objectivity is reached.

Ask yourself this question: if you had seen Reloaded first (apart from the problem of not knowing the back story), would you have been as blown away? I submit you might have, and possibly more so. By that standard, I think Reloaded might eventually be called the crown jewel. But that doesn’t take anything away from the original impact of The Matrix.

Of course I’m not here to review those two movies, but you understand why I go on and on about it. With each successive sequel, you’re more dependent on the mythology and storyline of the ones that came before. Which means that Revolutions had a lot to live up to.

Which may be unfair, but by those standards, I don’t think it quite got there. Like I wrote, the action is simply superb. The fights are fun to watch and believable, the tension palpable. Agent Smith may go down as one of the top 5 bad guys of all time when it’s all said and done, and the new Oracle filled in admirably (the other one died in production; one of two actor deaths the movie had to overcome during its three year odyssey).

But for all that, I missed some of the mysticism. I like figuring out what everything means, or might mean. In fact, after everyone has had a chance to see it, we’re going to do one or two X columns where people can write in and tell me what they think various aspects of the trilogy means, and I’ll include it (look for that in a couple of weeks).

And most of that wasn’t here this time. There were still some “Huh?” moments, but nothing like before. Remember how The Matrix warped your mind? And then how Reloaded took everything you thought you knew about the Matrix and threw it into question? That’s missing here. On top of that, some of the most intriguing characters of Reloaded are squandered in Revolutions. The Architect gets one head-shot of squid and a cameo, the Merovingian doesn’t even move, and Monica Belluci’s only job is to stay in her top. (Which might constitute a super power, as tight as it was, but c’mon, she has more to offer than those!)

So, I was left slightly unfulfilled, but for all that, I liked the movie. It got better as it went (that’s always good as opposed to the other way around); most of the questions were resolved (if a bit obviously), while leaving some mysteries still remaining. It’s a satisfying end (and the Wachowski brothers have promised that’s the end), while still leaving us wanting more. Two of the people I saw it with were talking that there should be a television series to continue with the parts that are still open. Might not be a bad idea.

So, I return to my earlier question: if I had seen this first, would I have felt the same as the first two? No. I would have been blown away by the special affects. I would have been inordinately impressed by the final fight scene, never having seen anything like it. I probably would have wanted to see it again. But, I wouldn’t have had any of those “This is the coolest fucking thing I’ve ever seen” moments. There was nothing like the opening cop scene with Trinity, the subway scene, the bank lobby scene, or the helicopter scene of the first movie. There was nothing like he staircase fight, the battle of 100 Smiths, or the freeway chase of the second movie. But I liked it anyway.

Ratings (based on #121, which you must have read for this to make sense).

Skepticism Scale: On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being an actual documentary (as opposed to a Michael Moore variety), and 10 being Bugs Bunny, this has to get a 10. Repeat after me: the Matrix is not real.

Genre Grade: Pure Action, you’d have to give it an A. If the genre is Matrix Movies, a C. I hybrid it, calling it “Event Sci-Fi,” and by that standard I give it a B.

Pantheon Percentile: 86. Even if it (to me) doesn’t live up to its predecessors, it’s still better than most anything else you’ll see.

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