Don't do sequels
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Date: 11 November, 2003


Photo © Warner Bros/Village Roadshow Pictures

 

'Wensleydale? Stilton? I don't know, lad, it's like no cheese I ever tasted.'


Matrix Revolutions: stunning computer graphics, a cheesy script, a passing reference to the meaning of war and apparent amnesia about the first film. Steve Tomkins is not a happy chap.

I've come to the conclusion that no one should be allowed to make sequels.

That may sound a little draconian. After all, we've always known that they tend to be lazy, cynical cash-ins (it's one for the show, two for the money) but in that sea of Return Ofs and Part 2s there have been the odd islands of excellence every bit as good as the first, from The Godfather to Toy Story.

For their sake we have let filmmakers get away with the bubble-and-squeak approach to movies. But The Matrix has demonstrated that sequels can not only disappoint but diminish the original.

The Matrix was an extraordinary film. It had a unique story grippingly told and realised with stunning effects, and on top of all this it was one of the most fascinating and cryptic explorations of spirituality to come out of Hollywood in many years.

Then the painfully awaited Matrix Reloaded abandoned all these strengths for a load of fights, chases and 'schlock' philosophy.

This left one waiting to see whether Matrix Revolutions could redeem the series, the whole thing making wonderful sense now that the last piece was in place, or whether it would be just as poor as part two.

In fact neither is the case. Matrix Revolutions gives us a reasonable science fiction story, culminating in a magnificent battle, and making up for some of the ground lost in May.

Problem

The problem is that if the last we had seen of Neo was his ascent into the heavens at the close of part one, that would have brought to a close a fascinating, unusual and gorgeously executed movie.

But what Revolutions in facts brings to a close is a passable sci-fi trilogy with state of the art SFX and a pretty standard storyline. That is what sequelisation has done to it.

The plot of Matrix Revolutions, stretched out from part two, is a Custer's last stand affair - can the rebels hold out against the seemingly irresistible hoards of machines? (It's all right, it's a rhetorical question.)

Meanwhile Neo and Trinity risk all in a mysterious mission behind enemy lines.

As part two suggested, Neo finds that his superpowers in the Matrix carry over into real life too, though no explanation of this is attempted, beyond the fact that he is 'The One', and it all gets very Feel-The-Force-Luke, especially when he has some unexpected vision problems.

On the credit side, the long battle scenes are spectacular, especially the strap-in war machines, who defend against vast army of steel squids.

You might call it a primal conflict between man and machine, except Zion is better politically adjusted than that, putting out one of the most equal opportunities fighting forces you ever saw.

On the debit side, we also get some of the cheesiest dialogue you ever heard.

"Six hours ago," 'Trin' tells Neo (it's been a long six hours), "I told the Merovingian that I would do anything and everything for you. Do you know what's changed in that six hours?"

"Whad?" says Neo.

"Nothing."

Wensleydale? Stilton? I don't know, lad, it's like no cheese I ever tasted.

Fatal

The fatal problem is that the Wachowski brothers have forgotten everything - apart from CGI spectacle - that the first film cared about: life in the Matrix - both for the sake of the story and as a metaphor for human existence, self-discovery and salvation.

The very fact that whole war is not just supposed to be about survival but about rescuing humanity is only alluded to in one line, and nothing of that great deliverance is shown.

Another niggle is continuity problems. Since part one, the Oracle has been recast because Gloria Foster died, the character Tank has been replaced with Link thanks to a pay dispute, and Morpheus has put on a surprising amount of weight in six hours.

Come, honoured reviewer, you might say, you can't blame anyone for that - that kind of thing can't be helped. Yes it can. Don't do sequels.

Matrix Revolutions, certificate 15, directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski

Matrix Reloaded review