Aaron’s review published on Letterboxd:
Man. Woof. What a mess. I will say, this is considerably better than I remember it being originally, seeing as I walked out of the theater in a daze of hatred of despair, vowing to never trust another movie ever again. But on this 18-years-later rewatch (kill me), I found a lot of this to be very entertaining and energetic.
But, to me, the biggest problem with this movie (and there are a lot of them), is that it is almost entirely Act 3. It’s like, 85% Big Crazy Battle, featuring such beloved characters as Annoying Guy and Some Lady and Screaming Gun Man. And it’s not even a very good Act 3. The human army manages to save itself a grand total of THREE TIMES, each time seemingly begging the movie to move forward, only to just have more machines show up that need to be Shooted A Lot.
And then, after all that shooting, the final battle is a bland, poorly shot Dragon Ball Z fight between Neo and Smith. It feels so wildly anticlimactic. There’s no build here. What this movie is asking for is a (single) moment where humanity feels like it’s finally defeated the machines, only to discover that their victory is short-lived. We then cut back and forth between the battle in Zion, where humans are desperately maintaining hope, to the battle with Neo and Smith, where Smith keeps being a downer nihilist who says there’s no such thing as hope in the face of death. Cutting back and forth, we see the spirit of humanity flying in the face of Smith’s dour outlook, finally climaxing with Neo defeating him.
Instead, we get like 45 minutes of Zion Normandy and then like 10 minutes of Neo Punch Battle, totally separated from each other, with the more boring of the two fights held for last. It’s a structural bummer, and it really kills the movie. There’s no final grappling with Big Philosophical Ideas like there is in the previous two movies. It’s just bullets and fists and then somebody saying “Actually humanity is Love” and then it’s over. It feels extremely rushed and undercooked.
So, I guess my opinion of this trilogy is what it was 200 years ago when it first came out: incredible first film, great follow up with big ideas, anticlimactic dud of an ending. Here’s hoping they salvage it with whatever the hell this 4th one’s gonna be!