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Now that I've seen the final film in the trilogy, I'm trying to think back on the story as a whole.
The Matrix Rewound
After a pretty sorry weekend of uncontrollable computer-game-playing, I topped it off by hitting the Newtown Festival with Adam and some pals on Sunday. It wasn't too bad, but kind of diminutive next to the glories of Bumbershoot that I'm used to. After greasy food stall lunch, catching the last five minutes of The Whitlams, hanging around on the grass chatting a bit, and wandering through the stalls full of hippy kitsch and slogan t-shirts. After that, I felt slightly bored and there were dark ominous clouds looming, so Mr Wiggins, Mr Goetz and I took ourselves to the cinema to give Andy & Larry Wachowski a small fraction of our money and Fox Studios and Hoyts the rest.
I'm torn, I'm conflicted. If you pretend the second movie doesn't exist, Revolutions makes an interesting if disjointed sequel. The action is fun, the humans vs machines battle is pretty breathtaking. I can understand a lot of the criticisms, and it indeed bothered me that Neo's real-world machine-controlling superpowers were given a paltry explanation. But overall I wouldn't even say it was a particularly bad movie. But it was also easily a let-down in light of the first film. Do the amount of 'buts' in this paragraph indicate how conflicted I am?
So, looking back at the story arc as a whole: we meet Everyman Neo who falls into what seems like a spooky modern-day conspiracy and turns into a sci-fi man v. machine apocalyptic struggle. Along the way he learns lots of cool kung-fu and gets to hang out with sexy people wearing sunglasses. In the Matrix, the enlightened live like demi-gods, and Neo becomes the most enlightened of them all turning into a black-coated superhero. Then in the second film we're introduced to the underground rebel city where life is tough-but-free. A distinction is made between the malicious intelligent machines and the dumb mechanical ones that humans rely on for their survival. We learn that Neo is part of a cycle of resistance to weed out and eliminate dissenters in the virtual world. We get introduced to the Architect who created the Matrix and we find out that the lines between the virtual world and the real world are blurred (Agent Smith finds a way to influence real humans from the virtual world and Neo finds a way to influence machines from the real world). The last film really boils down to humanizing the intelligent machines, the battle between machines and rebel humans, and Neo's and Trinity's sacrifice to bring about a shaky and likely temporary peace.
How and why Neo and Agent Smith were able to cross through the boundary between real and virtual is left to the suspension of disbelief. What happened to all the poor souls inside the Matrix after the stunning finale is also dangling like a participle. I almost wish they'd re-edit the last two movies, taking out the annoying extended dance/sex scene and the million-agent-smith fight scene and some other boring stuff, squish the two into one film, and make a third that ties up all the loose ends.
But what I did like is the overarching resolution that free will is key (at least, that's my interpretation). Everywhere in the three films we see signs of defiance of the accepted order. People escaping the Matrix. Neo dismissing the Architect's ultimatum. The Oracle's emphasis on choices and her opposition to the Architect. The two software programs who have created their own child. Neo's final struggle/ conversation with Agent Smith. The outcomes of these choices may not be what what's desired, but ultimately what drives an individual's actions is the decisions that he or she makes. A person can choose to jump off a cliff, and it doesn't negate the existance of free will even if, halfway to the ground, he decides he really wants to live after all. Just so, Neo recognizes the consequences of his actions starting with his decision to swallow that blue pill, when in the end he meets Agent Smith for the final battle.
Well, that was a fragmented series of meanderings. But I guess so were the Matrix films. Even so, I'm probably one of the five or so people who ultimately liked them, even if the ending was somewhat dissatisfying for me.