In 1999, The Matrix put the motion back in motion picture, revolutionizing the way action movies will look for a generation. Its sequel earlier this year, Matrix Reloaded, kept to the standard, wearying some with its brain-twisting explication but electrifying fans nonetheless with its inventiveness and relentless originality. With that in mind, the utter mediocrity of Matrix Revolutions is epically incomprehensible. Could it be that the Wachowskis' complicated construct reached critical mass in their second effort, imploding on the way to a third? Now we know exactly how Neo felt when he took that red pill and woke up to a world gone horribly wrong.
There is shockingly little plot. Yes, Neo fulfills his destiny, which involves a bit of brooding, a who-cares conversation with what can only be thought of as the Big Giant Head and a too-little-too-late showdown with Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, gone over the top and then some). The City of Zion meets its fate, which involves way too many cheesy special effects stretched out interminably across the middle section of the movie. Thematically, almost everything good about Reloaded -- the tantalizingly evil Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), the Luke-I-am-your-father disclosure of the Architect -- is squandered, sometimes forgotten altogether. Sure, Revolutions wraps up the story arc, but its simplistic, saw-it-coming-a-mile-away, dumber-than-Reloaded ending is nothing more than a multi-million dollar insult.
Matrix Revolutions has two big problems: little-to-no Matrix time and not nearly enough Neo. They're both there, but only as ghosts in the machine. Being inside the Matrix was always the film series' forte; the real world and that infernal City of Zion were ancillary narrative necessities. Revolutions places them front and center, and we really could not care less if we tried. Along the same lines, the Wachowskis pulled off a modern miracle when they created characters that made the limited acting talents of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss seem downright abundant; here, they foolishly push them aside for secondary characters who aren't really known, much less loved.
The premise of Matrix Revolutions is that everything that has a beginning has an end. The Matrix was about birth, Reloaded was about life, and Revolutions is about death. Too bad it's such an ugly one.