Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Matrix: Revolutions


 have been absolutely neglecting all of my fans out there in the dark over the last month or so and I owe all of you a major apology for not letting you have more insight into the creation of my major new project for Broadway, Mother Teresa: The Musical. I'm happy to say that things are continuing to race forward towards a possible spring opening. I'm told by my New York representatives that the Henry Miller theater will be available and that we're likely to follow Urinetown into that venerable space. I just hope they've gotten all those bodily fluids up off the stage before we get there. I once had a tap dance duet with June Allyson at a charity fundraiser and I have no wish to repeat that particular experience.

We have found a more suitable set of production offices than the halls of Chateau Maine. I've leased some warehouse space off of La Cienega and Santa Monica where the sets and costumes are beginning to take final form and where my ideas are really taking full flight. Given the bad experiences with Aida some time ago, we're not going to use any flying trapeze act this go round but I do have a lovely little number, set in the slums of Calcutta, where I and the other nuns jump from the walls of the set onto a series of trampolines. Each time we appear aloft, we're carrying another beggar, rescued from degradation. We tried using real beggars from Santa Monica boulevard to begin with, but they had grave difficulties remembering their cues so we're having a number of artificial ones carved from polystyrene and dressed in some cunning little rags that I've borrowed from Donatella Versace's fall collection.

I did have just enough time this last week to sneak out of production meetings in order to attend a performance of The Matrix: Revolutions in Westwood at one of those thirties movie palaces that seem to dot the landscape in that neighborhood. This is the third, and hopefully, final chapter in the Wachowskis' futuristic meditation on man, machine, and rancid interpretations of French existential philosophy. I was quite impressed with the first film, from 1999 which brought a unique and fully realized vision to the screen. Much of it, of course, was borrowed from Japanese anime (especially The Ghost in the Shell) but there was enough novelty in the special effects, the driving score, and the plotting to keep me awake and interested. The second film, which hit and then fizzled this past summer, took all of the good ideas from the first and replaced them with bad ones and leavened the whole mess with some unbelievably dull ruminations on the nature of life and death. Not even dreadlocked albino twins chasing our heroes along a crowded freeway at ninety miles an hour could save that one.

Being a glutton for punishment, and loving the look of Keanu Reeves in long pleather trench coats, I did feel a need to complete the set. I am happy to report that the current film, while not up to the standard set by the original The Matrix, is nowhere near as rotten as The Matrix Reloaded. The film picks up exactly where chapter two ended. Our hero, Neo (Keanu Reeves), having saved our heroine Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), has been trapped in a subway station to nowhere with an Indian family who, I think, are mislaid computer programs. Trinity, together with Morpheus (Larry Fishburne), goes after the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) in a John Woo/Quentin Tarantino nightclub showdown. She manages to spring Neo and the two of them are off to the land of the machines to save the world. In the meantime, the last remaining human city, Zion, is under relentless machine attack. The rest of the cast (most of whose names and faces are completely unmemorable) mounts a desperate defense against millions of mechanical squids which are busy boring into their subterranean lair. This leads to any number of epic battle scenes, somewhat reminiscent of Starship Troopers, only with an inorganic foe and a race by captain Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) back to base with an EMP machine which just might be able to stop the squid in their tracks. If this preceding paragraph makes little sense, don't worry. It's not necessary to try to follow plot or character. It's merely necessary to sit there and be dazzled by huge amounts of computer generated mechanical battle enhanced by six track Dolby.

The Wachowskis wrap up the fates of Zion, Trinity, Neo, Morpheus and the rest by the end of the film, complete with what I take to be a stab at a Christ allegory but, fortunately, the slow philosophical stretches are relatively few and far between and soon we're rocketing along for another action scene. The screenplay seems to be a combination of clichés and exhausted ideas but it does give us cues a mile long as to when to groan or when to cheer.

The cast are no longer playing characters. I'm not sure they're even playing archetypes. They seem more like puppets moved against green screens in order to fill in visually exciting backgrounds. Occasionally, one of them wanders in front of the camera and we focus in on them for a moment, but they usually haven't anything terribly profound to say so we can get back to hissing the squids or the evil agent Smith (Hugo Weaving - who seems to have phoned his performance in from the set of The Lord of the Rings.) Keanu Reeves, as always, is at his best when he doesn't open his mouth and just allows the camera to love the long sleek lines of his face and body. Mary Alice replaces the much missed (and deceased) Gloria Foster as the Oracle, the closest thing to a god figure. She hasn't the gravitas of Ms. Foster although she does remember her lines and doesn't noticeably bump into the furniture.

The raison d'être of the film is the visual effects and these pay off in spades. The attack of the squids is one of the most exciting sequences put on film in years. It goes on and on, yet it's never dull. Just when you think you know what will happen, the Wachowskis pull another trick out of their rather large bag and things get worse for the embattled humans. As long as the film is regarded as a special effects spectacular which happens to tie up a plot, it succeeds on those terms.

White tile train station. Cookie baking. Multiple Agent Smiths. Battle in the rain. Gratuitous Cornel West. Squid swarms. Mechanical voice of god. Impaled heroine. Heroic kid. Multiple battle clichés.

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