Look, if you’ve made it this far, you’re not turning back. To begin the Top 10 countdown, it’s The Matrix Revolutions, the second half of a debate people don’t enjoy having: which Matrix sequel is worse. I feel like it’s been enough time (some bad movies have a half-life of over ten years, but according to Warner Brothers, The Matrix is ready for a return), so let’s look back on the ending to the journey that began and ended in 1999.
Steeped in its own mythology and story, The Matrix Revolutions doesn’t begin characteristically Matrix — the first one with the Agents chasing Trinity across building-tops, and the second with the Agents chasing Trinity off a building. This one fades in and some guys are on a ship, discussing whatever in light of all the big stuff coming down.
The first notable action scene is purely Matrix, defining what it is these scenes have always been: a blend of so many things. Club Hel sees Morpheus, Trinity, and Seraph assaulting a crew of crazy dressed up ninja guys, who run up and down the walls and ceilings, firing submachine guns John Woo-style. These are programs, and so that makes for the scifi equivalent of the vampires from Blade or Underworld — supernatural superpowers with style, and this time, reason.
The opening conflict is that Neo is trapped in a limbo between the Matrix and the Real World, following his coma at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, wherein he was able to use his powers on sentinels. Bruce Spence plays the Train Man, who has connections to the Merovignian. And Mr. French, flanked by Monica Belucci, is being visited by Trinity, who wants her beau back.
This distraction isn’t without its use, where Neo learns that two programs have created a child. They might be human simulacra, so we have to remind ourselves that they’re not really people. But now it seems that maybe they are…? Love is what defines them so, and that also becomes a central theme.
The revelation at the end of The Matrix Reloaded was that Zion was doomed, that the human resistance has been destroyed six times before, and it was just another layer of illusory control, a corporeal matrix. The sentinels are closing in, and in this one, they strike in glorious futuristic warfare. Never mind the illogical design of the APUs — they’re so damn cool, and this scene, the extended, 16-minute battle sequence, makes the movie alone.
And the series is on a strange arc, where most of the first movie was in the matrix, and most of the third is outside. This is why we have so many supporting characters, many of which Neo never meets, like Clara the Ripley clone, and Mifune, the APU commander with a solid name-ref. It’s a war movie, and scifi war is pretty much my favorite thing, being a fan of Halo and Mass Effect.
But here, it’s in live-action film, and this is just like with Star Wars III — the heights of scifi imagery, but this time there’s something being said. For all the heady philosophical discussion, which peaked in Reloaded, what’s going on here is actually pretty simple. It’s not actually about war, but peace, and that’s how Neo does it.
He brokers peace between man and machine, but in doing so, has to defeat the rogue Agent Smith in a prophesied fight. Smith represents pure hatred, where the machines have only ever been about survival, not evil: hints about their history in The Animatrix clue us into the morally ambiguous origins. It is precisely what was echoed later on in Mass Effect, with the quarian and geth.
The longform scifi epic is too rare a thing. Even though The Matrix didn’t necessarily need a sequel, I’m glad that the story was told as fully as this, and in this way. There are questions remaining, but they’re only meant to be mulled over, because everything’s all done. There are sequels on the way, and they may attempt to undercut Reloaded and Revolutions, but I hope that the Wachowskis never forget the original expression they created out of their pastiche of the world around them.