Welcome to the Real world.
For those who haven't seen it, a word of warning - this synopsis contains spoilers! The reason is quite simple - how do you elaborate on the whole trilogy of movies without giving away plot points and revelations from the first movie? So would the 4 people I'm addressing kindly skip down to the picture and sound sections and I'll continue.
Remembering (as many people probably did) seeing this movie for the first time at a cinema, I won't forget the people queuing up to see The Phantom Menace, practically rabid for tickets. I didn't want to see that movie whatsoever and this intrigued me having seen the trailer for it once only, so I paid my cash and went in and came out feeling I'd witnessed something truly cool. Anyway I digress, suffice to say that reviews came out proclaiming this movie as “The Phantom Menace George didn't see coming” which they were totally right about. The Matrix trilogy revolves around Thomas Anderson (Reeves), a typical mild mannered office worker, but he also leads another life as Neo, a computer hacker who's searching for, among other things, Morpheus (Fishburne), a somewhat illustrious hacker who holds the answer to the question that Neo is asking, namely “What is the Matrix?” Morpheus despatches Trinity (Moss) to meet, talk and ultimately bring Neo to him, at which point Morpheus gives Neo the answer to his question : “I can't tell you what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself”, but to quickly elaborate, the Matrix is a computer, a system where we are fed a perception of reality to lead our lives, wither and die, all the time never actually aware that the human race is stored in pods which power the machines that have overthrown mankind and taken over the world. Morpheus has been looking for “The One”, the person who is said to be able to change the balance of power and believes it to be Neo and therefore rescues him from the Matrix. However, life isn't exactly going to go our heroes' way, as the Matrix has programs, known as Agents, which effectively govern the system. One of these, Agent Smith (Weaving) is on a hell-bent mission to stop both Morpheus, Neo and the pocket of human resistance that is trying to overthrow the machines. OK that's the general plot in a nutshell, but that's only the really basic concept of the movie, as I'm deliberately being a bit sketchy just in case it ruins it for anyone. Suffice to say that this movie has many layers: Action, Martial Arts and wirework, science fiction, religion,
philosophy and terrific stunts. Most people I know watched this movie twice, as they never quite got it the first time, now I can't agree with that but I do understand why. For the first 45 minutes or so, the movie doesn't tell you anything per se and keeps you a little off balance - you're in the dark as much as Neo is. However, things start to explain themselves quite clearly and you should start getting with the program as quickly as Neo does, sometimes maybe a little quicker. This particular chapter is one of my favourite movies, so I'm a little biased naturally. However, having said that, this is a true rollercoaster of a movie. It never insults the viewer, certainly not patronising them at any time, instead weaving its tale well and if you don't pay too much attention, then the narrative will leave you slightly bewildered (as has been the case with several people I know). However, for all its complexities and underlying plot, it is accentuated with some absolutely amazing set pieces, that at the time truly astounded the viewer, not to mention the revelation of “bullet-time” where everything slows down and is rotated. We've all seen the effect as it's been ripped off numerous times subsequently, but at the time, we'd never really seen anything like it and therefore it was totally justified in it's winning of an Oscar (one of 4) for best visual effects.
The Matrix ReloadedOn to the (arguably) weakest movie in the trilogy. There isn't anything really wrong with the movie, but when you have a 4 year gap between the first part and second part, not to mention that the other 2 parts were filmed back to back, you have 4 years of pent up anticipation to contend with, which is why many people were very, very disappointed. To compound issues, with no break in filming and a 6 month window between releases, there was no conceivable way that the story could be tweaked after the savaging “Reloaded” took. Anyway, I digress, so back to the plot. With Neo now getting comfortable with his role as “The One”, he is somewhat disturbed to have continued dreams of Trinity's demise, even though she's very much still alive. The machines are now aware of the location of Zion, the city for those woken from the Matrix and the last pocket of human resistance, and are drilling through the earth to gain access, so an assault can be made. Agent Smiths death has been greatly exaggerated and he is back, now as a rogue Agent, whose power within the system is increasing, so much so that he's assimilating other programs and humans within the Matrix, creating clones of himself. One of these clones manages to leave the system, hijacking the body and mind of Bane, a member of the human resistance, which now means that there is a threat from Smith both inside and outside of the Matrix, not to mention the amassed army of Sentinels waiting to strike at and destroy Zion, along with the human population that lives there. Suffice to say, that a meeting with The Oracle leads Neo to seek out The Source, which to reach requires a strategic assault to take place on several targets for Neo to gain access. However one of these targets just happens to look eerily like the dream Neo has at the beginning. If
the assaults are successful and Neo manages to reach The Source, he may just learn the real truth behind The Matrix.
Well, this is referred to as the weakest movie, but at risk of being a devils advocate, a certain film ending in Jedi is also the weakest link, yet it still doesn't stop people loving the trilogy. In that regard, the Matrix wins slightly there by ending on a stronger note (and don't let me get started on LOTR which just wouldn't end). The problem with this movie, as stated, is that after a movie that was absolutely a shock as it wasn't hyped, trumped Lucas's Menace and contained both a strong narrative as well as action the likes of which had not been fused or seen in the way that The Matrix showed us, everyone's expectations were too high. It was going to fail no matter what it did and that's not really Reloaded's problem, more the benchmark set and our own wildly enthusiastic hopes (not too dissimilar to the aforementioned Menace, although that was clearly awful anyway) were exceptionally high. Once we lower our expectations and let the movie speak for itself, it is again a rather good movie, although it isn't as great as the initial part. First off - and I'll be brutal here - why on earth did anyone think the Rave scene was a good idea? I wanted to walk out of the cinema when I saw it, oh how I wished it would end. This scene screams to be forwarded or removed (Hello? Recommendation for the Director's Cut?). It is just, simply, the most misplaced scene in the whole trilogy, words can't elaborate how bad it truly is, but those who have seen this, know exactly what I mean. It is also, at the end for most people, either very confusing or totally convoluted. I don't fall in to that bracket fortunately, rather absorbing and understanding what they are saying and allowing myself to figure it out (which, in all fairness, was done while it was being elaborated on screen). Then there's the ending which is a cliff-hanger, as obviously we all knew the next movie was coming in 6 months or so (those who watch the credits to the end can see the teaser for the final part, although it is mentioned in the chapter listing). It's a good enough ending, but when you have heard Bane talk, how does no-one not know he is Smith, as he talks/sounds exactly like him. Not to mention if you don't pay attention it may not actually seem like much of a cliff-hanger. Lastly, while the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) has a small but crucial part in the proceedings here and in the sequel, Persephone (Monica Bellucci) is woefully under utilised, being reduced to eye candy in PVC, which is a shame. On the positive side though, the movie is reasonably fast paces (bar the scene previously mentioned), furthers the plot of the whole trilogy well, even if it does seem more complex than it really is and has some amazing set pieces, such as the Neo/100 Smiths brawl and the motorway sequence. Still, if nothing else, it sets up the finale, but it's nowhere near as bad as it's portrayed.
The Matrix Revolutions
After the perceived failure of the second movie, this one had a lot to prove and for the most part, it succeeds in spades. We start the movie with Neo trapped between the two worlds (The Matrix and the Real World). He's stuck at a train station (lacking Connex signs, how odd) which is under the control of the Trainman, a lackey of the Merovingian. Trinity and Morpheus discover this and run a rescue mission to save Neo, not only because he's the One, but for love. The entire Matrix is practically over run with Agent Smith's and it is down to Neo to face his nemesis one last time within the Matrix. Meanwhile, the machines have almost penetrated Zion and are only hours away from unleashing the army of Sentinels, which will have the desired effect of destroying Zion, as it has several times in the past. Not only that, but now that Neo is also conscious, so is Bane, the human that has had Agent Smith's “program” downloaded to his brain, and he is ever so close to ridding the real world of Neo. Our heroes have to split up, one team returning to Zion, while Neo and Trinity move onward to talk directly to the machines, as The Matrix is out of their control and is completely under Smiths' influence. Unknown to them, they also have Bane with them, waiting to kill Neo once and for all. Now with the machines finally break through to Zion, spreading destruction while Neo faces his inevitable fate of meeting Smith one last time with the fate of Zion in the balance the trilogy comes to it's climax.
Now this is almost the payoff we were hoping for and it does deliver most of what was hoped for. Again, maybe expectations were too high or were with slight trepidation, having felt somewhat let down by Reloaded, however this is an absolute blast. The first hour, while not unexciting is purely setting up the last hour with resolutions of the cliff-hanger as well as establishing the point of what is going on, but any deeper meaning that we had in the first two movies pretty much goes out the window here. We have an hour long hyperkinetic ride of visual effects, action and a decent end to the whole tale and it never truly lets up. We have some rather nice set pieces, particularly the Zion battle, which is really the bulk of the last hour that I've just mentioned, down to the climatic battle we glimpsed at during the teaser from the previous movie. Ok, the Zion defences may remind us a little too much of the loaders from the movie “Aliens” but it sweeps us up on the ride and as such we can't really complain too loudly (How often these days is Hollywood truly original?) The ending isn't sickly sweet, rather bittersweet, although it does have a rather obvious religious feel to it. We mourn losses of characters that we've met on our journey and celebrate the victory too. It doesn't outstay its welcome either (Listening Mr. Jackson?), rather brushing itself off and leaving us with the possibility of a return to this world which I'd look forward to providing it has something to say.
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