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156 NOVEMBER 6, 2003
  'Matrix' Trilogy Ends With Action Extravaganza
  By Jeremy Mathews
Keanu Reeves demonstrates one of his many extraordinary facial expressions in "The Matrix Revolutions."

“The Matrix Revolutions”
Warner Bros. Pictures
Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski
Produced by Joel Silver and Grant Hill
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tanveer Atwal, Monica Bellucci, Mary Alice, Ian Bliss and Collin Chou
Rated R
(out of four)

Andy and Larry Wachowski’s “The Matrix” (1999) ended with an excellent extended action sequence that seemed a bit empty after the reality-bending first half of the film. This suggested that there were plenty more territories to explore in the two following films, but “The Matrix Revolutions” ends (hopefully) the series with more action spectacle—which is indeed skillfully executed—than philosophical thought.

The film is successful entertainment, but will likely disappoint the fans who expect a bit more from the series that taught them that the world is an illusion and can be manipulated.

While “The Matrix Reloaded,” which was shot at the same time as “Revolutions” and released six months earlier, started slow but eventually got going (if never reaching the first film’s tension and pace), this one starts out intriguing and then dives into almost tiring action.

Unlike “Reloaded’s” introductory detour in the real world, “Revolutions” gets right into the matrix, a simulation that looks like our modern world but is simply the machines that now rule earth’s means to convert our energy to power them.

Neo (Keanu Reeves), believed to be The One (his name’s an anagram for it, after all) who can modify the matrix’s reality and possibly free the enslaved humans, is unconscious on an operating table after stopping real-world machines with a hand gesture at the end of “Reloaded.” I’m happy to report the reason for this isn’t that the real world is a second matrix containing the known matrix. I’m a little hazy, however, on how Neo stopped the machines. I guess his powers don’t merely lie in the ability to understand the matrix, but machine life in general.

Neo’s nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who learned to replicate himself by taking over other bodies in the matrix, had an apparent presence in the real world after replicating himself in a rebel human who was plugged into the matrix, then came back. That man is now also unconscious, in the same room as Neo.

Without plugging into the matrix, Neo finds himself in a train station that serves as a link between the two realities and is used to smuggle programs into the matrix, in this case the little girl of a male program and a female program (don’t worry, it’s all explained in crystal-clear “Matrix”-speak). The man who controls it, the Trainman (Bruce Spence), is the god of that world since it’s not the matrix, so Neo can’t get out without his permission (even though he could stop machines in the real world).

Upon the Oracle’s (Mary Alice, replacing the late Gloria Foster, with an explanation, of course) advice, Neo’s mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), girlfriend Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and the Oracle’s protector search for Neo in the film’s strongest sequence.

The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), the French-loving phantom program who is the best new character from the last two films, happens to be in charge of the Trainman, and is still pissed at Neo and crew from what they did to his place in the last film. His woman friend Persephone, played by an unused Monica Bellucci, does even less in this film than in “Reloaded,” as the Merovingian only has one real scene.

The quest to enter the Merovingian’s hangout includes a shoot out in which some gunmen make like Fred Astaire and stand on the ceilings for better firing angles (or to look cool). These are the sort of scenes that built “The Matrix,” but unfortunately the film’s action turns a bit more conventional, while well-executed, for a large portion of the film.

I had assumed that the many characters introduced in “Reloaded” would be used wisely in this film, so it’s a bit disappointing when the film enters into a big battle sequence instead of exploring the interesting stuff.

The greatest misfire in the last two films is the enormous amount of screen time given to Zion, the underground human city that fights the machines. The Wachowski brothers created a clever race against time by cross-cutting between the real world and the matrix in the first film’s climax, but the two sequels suggest that at times they forgot that the matrix is the real show.

The majority of the middle of the film stages a battle in which the machines try to take over Zion and the humans defend themselves with fancy sci-fi robot suits. While it follows a few personal stories that attempt to give it emotional resonance, the battle tactics and surprises drag because they have nothing to do with what made “The Matrix” special. They’re simply war scenes—exciting to watch, but without substance.

The only problem with the big fights and battles is that they tend to run a little long, probably due to the increased budget that allowed for more elaborate scenes. The length doesn’t necessarily make it better, however, and there are several minutes of fighting that are repetitive and could be cut.

It’s important to remember that even the first “Matrix” was based heavily on action, and is more popular entertainment than anything else. If the series has grown more convoluted and less astounding, at least it contains more passion than the standard Hollywood action film. Hopefully the Wachowski brothers, whose best film remains their first, the independent work “Bound,” will focus more thought and less spectacle into their next film, as their promise goes beyond the action genre.

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