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Friends don't let friends see Matrix Revolutions

Uggh. That's my reaction to The Matrix Revolutions, which, regrettably, I went to see last night. Let it be known that I was not overly impressed by the original, and I was disappointed by the muddled melange of poststructuralist theory and quasi-Christian imagery that was Matrix Reloaded. But those movies were at least entertaining as long as you didn't try to make too much sense out of them. Revolutions falls well short of even that low standard.

Warning: Mild plot spoilers embedded in the following.

Fault number 1: Very little of Revolutions takes place in the Matrix. The Matrix is the bread and butter of this franchise. The conceit of this fabricated reality allowed the first two films to indulge in spectacular action sequences without having to be troubled by plausibility. There is one such sequence at the beginning of the film and that's it (except for the final climactic Neo vs. Smith battle. More on that in a bit). The rest takes place out in the "real" world, which is a pale and less-plausible rip-off of the Terminator series and any number of other post-apocalyptic Man vs. Machine movies.

Fault number 2: Without the eye-candy of the Matrix to fill up screen time, the awful writing of this film becomes evident. The Battle of Zion is a tissue of cliches stitched together from old WWII films, from the give-em-hell speech featured in the trailers to the scared-underage-kid-who-becomes-a-hero to the loving-wife-who-fights-to-bring-her-Man-home. Trinity's Death Scene is teeth-grindingly hackneyed. And the final climax is, quite literally, a deus ex machina. There's nothing in any of this that has the ring of authentic emotion or original insight.

Fault number 3: Neo is has been reduced to Superman with a black wardrobe. At the end of Matrix1, Neo was powerful not because he was strong or fast, but because he saw the Matrix for the arbitrary construction that it was and could manipulate it as such. Fighting becomes effortless and then meaningless when you have the power to warp the very fabric of the virtual world. That was interesting. Neo's great clash with Agent Smith simply involves two indestructible giants slamming into each other over and over again (causing, inexplicably, enormous watery explosions). The fight is dull.

But the moment that really galled me about this film is Morpheus's speech in defense of Neo, who has gone of on his apparently suicidal mission into the Machine City. Morpheus says something along the lines of: "I don't know why he's going, I don't know if he will make it, and I don't know what good it will do if he does, but I know he will always fight for us and so I believe in him." Indeed, the latter part of the film is punctuated by professions of faith in Neo, a faith that we as sympathetic viewers are supposed to share. At other times in American history, this message might simply be hogwash. Today, with America having been (mis)led into a dubious and ill-planned war by a leader who himself doesn't seem to know why we are fighting it, that message of blind faith in a messianic warrior strikes me as irresponsible, even sinister.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about whether Kill Bill glorifies violence. Seeing Revolutions reinforced my opinion that the Tarantinos of the world are not the problem. The copious violence in Kill Bill is not glorious, not uplifting; it serves no Great Cause. That message might disturb people, but it's the truth. Movies like Revolutions are what glorify violence. They depict noble battles in which stoic men and women fight and die for high ideals against unquestionably evil enemies (machines make especially convenient and politically correct villains here). War is is stage for Courage and Honor and if a few dozen or hundred or thousand have to die in the process, it's OK because the Good Guys triumph in the end. All of which is complete and utter bullshit.

Last February, the folks at LinguaMOO invited residents to @create $thing called peace. My peace object was a quotation from Ezra Pound's Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (1920). It still says about all I would like to say about war and the lies that fuel it.