So, You Were Saying Something About Wanting a Revolution?
The Matrix Revolutions
Two Ships, Two Directions
At the end of The Matrix Reloaded (spoilers for a 15 year old movie), Neo and the rest of the crew had to bail on their ship before it was blown up by the machine enforcer-bots, the so-called "squiddies" (because they look like robotic squids, of course). Right before the squiddies would have killed them all, Neo realizes he can feel them in his head and, raising his hand, blows them all up (somehow due to Matrix logic). This put Neo in a coma as the rest of the crew drag him to another ship. At the same time, we also find out there's another man in a coma. That man is Bane and, as shown earlier in that film, Bane was taken over by Agent Smith (due to Agent Smith's ability to copy himself onto anyone in the Matrix). Thus we're setup for a Neo v Agent Smith battle in the real world.
We pick up moments later in The Matrix Revolutions with Neo trapped in his coma which, as we soon learn, is due to him actually being jacked into the Matrix without, in any way, having hardware jack him in. He's somehow the prisoner of the Merovingian, and it's up to Morpheus and Trinity to save him. Even after that, there's still the matter of the war with the machines which is set to start within mere hours. Neo will have to get saved, and then take a ship to the central Machine core (the Source) to try and convince them not to kill all of humanity, all while the war rages on in Zion.
I have a number of issues with this movie, but much of it stems from how the movie starts off. Look, Neo being able to affect the machines out in the real world is cool, sure, but logically it doesn't make much sense. Even if we accept that he has computer code in his brain somehow (as part of his spirit or soul), how the heck can he do anything with that in the real world? The robots didn't also install a Wi-Fi router in his skull, did they, because that's the only way I can figure it.
Even if we do allow that maybe, somehow, Neo can mystically affect the machines in the real world with his special "The One" powers, and even if we accept him being jacked in without hardware, how does he suddenly end up the prisoner of the Merovingian. Great, so Neo accidentally jacked himself in without hardware and we're just supposed to accept that instantly the Merovingian can know it, capture his unconscious mind, and imprison it without explanation? And even if we accept all of that (which I don't), what purpose did it serve? If the Merovingian were going to be a big villain for the movie, maybe bringing him back for this opening act would make sense. But no -- once this section is over with and Neo is save, the Merovingian plotline is dropped, never to be mentioned again.
Gotta Get to the Source
From here, the movie makes its next weird stumble. The two ships left have to go two different directions. Neo and Trinity have to fly to the machine source while Morpheus and every other side character outside of Zion have to somehow fly back into the human city to try and save the day. This does two things:
One, it means that both teams of heroes are outside the Matrix for most of the movie. Maybe this is a small quibble for some, but when you have a series named "The Matrix" maybe your big third act should, you know, take place mostly in the Matrix? Instead, a good two-thirds of the movie take place in the real world. And the real world in the Matrix films is pretty boring to look at, with just a lot of same-y tunnels of rubble all filmed in shadows. It's not interesting to watch at all.
Two, it also leads to the fact that all the heroes we actually know are largely sidelined from where the real action is taking place: Zion. Most of the middle act of the movie (which is a good three-quarters of the run-time) deals with the machines invading Zion and the humans fighting it. However, since all the people we actually care about, and spent most of the second movie with, are not in Zion, we have to watch the war from the perspective of a number of people we saw in the first 15 minutes of the second film and then never saw again. We don't care about what they're doing which sucks all the impact out of their actions (and the war itself).
Also, seriously, I thought we all learned from Star Wars: Episode I that CGI war-sequences lack any impact or effect at all. Yet we're treated to one long CGI sequence after another in The Matrix Revolutions, and after the first couple of sequences, it's all just noise.
Goodbye, Mr. Anderson
The last act then deals with Agent Smith and Neo. Smith is, essentially, a virus and, as we see at the end (spoilers for another 15 year old movie), Smith has taken over every single person still in the Matrix. He has an army of millions, but his most powerful form is the one that's taken over the Oracle. Neo has to battle Smith to save the Matrix and, as part of the peace with the Machines, Zion too.
I like Agent Smith. I think Hugo Weaving does a fantastic job with the role, eating up every bit of scenery he can. Smith is wasted in this movie, though. We get a short sequence setting up his viral nature in this film, and then he's sidelined, too, until the very end. The filmmakers clearly wanted him to be the villain of the piece, but they didn't give nearly enough time to him for his villainy to have any kind of impact.
Sure, the fight sequence in the rain is a neat effect, but when all is said and done, it doesn't do much for the movie as a whole. And, if you really watch, the truth is that Neo had little impact on the proceedings. Fight or not, he just had to be there so the Machines could do some kind of anti-viral something to clear the Matrix of the Smith virus. Neo was inconsequential to the proceedings.
The War is Over (Or Is It)
What I hated the first time I watched it is still galling to me the second time around: nothing really changes. At the end of the film, everyone heralds Neo as the savior because Zion is left in peace and the Machines flee. Neo stopped the war. Except, did he?
The Oracle states that the peace will least as long as it lasts, implying that while it could be permanent, just as easily one side, or the other, could end up starting the fighting all over again -- and, if we take the eventually video game spin-off, The Matrix Online, or the potential Matrix sequel that Hollywood has started discussion, the war starts back up pretty quickly.
Plus, the whole point of the Machines' plan was that The One had to return to the source, give them his code, and the whole Matrix project would start anew. Sure, Zion wasn't wiped out this time, but the Machines have Neo, they have his code, and they can just patch it over and start up with the Matrix once more. It's even basically stated as such since the Machine's will only free the humans that want to be freed. Everyone else will continue living in the Matrix and the Machines never said anything about ending their farming of human babies to power their world.
So, really, what did Neo accomplish? Not much in the end, which really ruins his whole story. He started off as a superhero, someone that would end the war, but he ended up being yet another cog in the machine, fulfilling the exact destiny he was trying to avoid.
So no, I do not like the third and final film in the series. While part two, The Matrix Reloaded, is perfectly serviceable on its own, the third and (currently) final act, The Matrix Revolutions, fails to provide a solid, climactic finish to the series. It barely touches on the events of the second film, leaving all kinds of narrative diversions (like the Merovingian) hanging to tell a linear, basic story about a war. In the end, it's just flat and boring.
Now that I've watched them again, I'm going to go back to simply watching the first film when I want to. Like so many other geeks, I'm going to try to pretend the second and third movies don't exist. They don't add anything to the series and, in the case of part three, actively detract from Neo's whole arc.