I've debated back and forth as to whether or not to write this review, due to the fact that I myself have created a fanedit of "The Matrix" sequels and had wanted to avoid any type of bias that may cause. So, to keep this review fair and balanced, I will not be making any contrasts between this fanedit and my own and will only be comparing it to the original theatrical versions from which it was derived from:
"The Matrix Dezionized" by CBB
I'll make no bones about it: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were some of the bitterest disappointments that I've had in a cinema. So many aspects of the sequels, were to put in mildly, "insanely half-assed":
- over 2/3 of the writing was atrocious
- the new characters ranged from poorly developed (Niobe, Link, Mifune, Hamann) to the flat-out terrible (the Kid, Sati, the Councel, Roland, Locke)
- previous characters introduced in the last film were either cheap knockoffs of their previous selves (Morpheus, Trinity) or just disappeared with nary a reference (Tank, I'm looking at you)
- too much emphasis of bigger and better CG graphics and action sequences in place of Story and Character
- self-referential moments that would devolve into self-parody of the first Matrix
- the ending... oh god, the ending was wretchedly, mind-numbingly bad.
Even to this day, I still refuse to believe that these later films were written during the same time as the first Matrix (either they were really written by Hollywood executives instead of the original creators or the Wachowski brothers are indeed a couple of hacks).
In an effort to remove much of the crap, CBB has opted to remove every scene relating to Zion and has book-ended Revolutions to the end of Reloaded to tell a single continuous story of Neo's journey as the One. I have no problem with cutting nearly half of the film's runtime, but in this case, it's what has been removed that keeps me from enjoying this edit. When it comes to fanedits, I believe very much in the advice of the Mike J Nichols (the Phantom Editor): "Not everything about a film has to be good, so long as it works for the further develop the plot and its characters". Yes, many of the Zion scenes were terrible, but they did serve a purpose to the overall story of Reloaded and Revolutions (even if that story was terrible). In addition, for every removal that CBB makes which created a positive aspect, there was an unfortunate negative that reared its ugly head in its place. Yes, the Kid has been removed, but Sati still remains in the story and while a good chunk of her backstory with Rama-Kandra is taken out, the scenes that she remains in still portray her as being a "precocious little girl" (aka, so damn sickening-sweet and annoying that she could give Jake Lloyd a run for his money). Yes, Commander Locke and his poor subplots (Niobe love triangle, crappy leadership, hatred of Morpheus, etc.) are now gone, but Captain Roland scenes remain mostly intact and the character still comes across as a blowhard and asshole who hates Neo for no reason. Ultimately, what this edit shows is that there is many more things that do not work than just the Zion plot-point and that the story of these films is fundamentally flawed in more ways than one.
I can also understand the desire to refocus the story back onto Neo, but honestly, the character was such an underwritten afterthought in the sequels that no amount of cutting can improve him. At least in the original versions, I can kind of distract myself with Niobe or Zee or Mifune, but with all those characters gone, my focus is back on an uninteresting and bland main character played poorly by an actor who doesn't know where to take the character next.
Another aspect which I had hoped that CBB would correct, but didn't is what I refer to as "3-Year-Old Audience Syndrome" - this is the poor storyteller's technique in which everything that visually happens onscreen is redundantly repeated by the film characters to the audience because the filmmakers miscalculate the intelligence of the audience (for further examples, look to the work of Roland Emerich and Michael Bay). In the Matrix sequels, this storytelling redundancy is given to other lesser characters such as Link, who is constantly cut to sitting at his console in order to pointlessly explain what is happening to Neo and crew in the Matrix while the audience is watching the EXACT same thing occur onscreen a few seconds later. As I said, I had hoped that CBB would remove or reduce these moments, but alas, they are still there.
From the technical side, this edit was for the most part very well done. However, there were several choppy jump cuts that were rather distracting, most of which occurred during the film's fight sequences (Burly Brawl, Neo VS Merovingian's Guards, Super Burley Brawl, etc.). I definitely understand the desire to shorten these action sequences, but the editor/s should not forget the importance of visual continuity. Audio-wise, I can also live with a 2.0 Dolby surround mix, but the audio mix sounds somewhat off as both character voices and soundtrack are several pitches higher than what it's suppose to be (as someone who's familiar with the original versions, this can be quite annoying to listen to).
In the end, no matter how many bad scenes of Zion are removed, the plot of The Matrix Dezionized follows the same path and reaches the exact same conclusion as the originals, which lays my biggest problem: the ending is still one of the most terribly acted, clichÃÂ©d piece of climax garbage that I've seen in a modern film. Even worse, the removal of Zion and its inhabitants ultimately cheapens Neo's "sacrifice" and "peace" between humans and machines - it's kind of hard to care about the war's end and the new peace/freedom for the last of humanity when you remove ALL of humanity from the story. The last words of the Oracle, Sati's little rainbow "miracle".... all are further reduced to pandering, overtly-sentimental storytelling that is ultimately hollow and emotionless to the audience.
Just like the sequels to The Matrix themselves.