The Matrix Revolutions. Warner Bros. presents a film written and directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated R (for sci-fi violence and brief sexual content). Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, Mary Alice, Jada Pinkett Smith, Harry J. Lennix, Harold Perrineau Jr., Ian Bliss, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci.

Matrix Revolutions, The

Sometimes, I just don't get it.

The Matrix is, as many have said, a modern sci-fi classic, a masterful blend of ideas and action, wonder and excitement. Its sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, was critically praised (a 78% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and some critics even said it was better than the original. But I don't see it. I gave Reloaded **1/2, calling it pretentious, dull and not nearly as clever or deep as it thinks it is, and I stand by those statements. The Matrix Revolutions, the third movie in the trilogy, has been getting largely negative reviews, some absolutely savaging the film. And I just don't understand.

Sure, The Matrix Revolutions is not as good as the original, but the thought that any sequel could be was, frankly, ludicrous from the beginning. Still, nearly all of the things that were wrong with Reloaded, including the pretentious, long-winded speeches, have been fixed or excised. I suppose it could be argued (as some have) that Revolutions discards the ideas of The Matrix and Reloaded and I guess, to some degree, it does, but do you really want to continue having cryptic questions answered by more cryptic questions? I certainly don't. And it's not like Revolutions is vapid or meaningless: the revelations about the relationship between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and the virus Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) are more interesting than anything in Reloaded, and the conclusion, which deserves to be thought about and discussed, doesn't cheat or insult the audience.

To me, Revolutions is a far superior motion picture to Reloaded. To me, Revolutions is well worth recommending, and I don't care what anyone else says.

Being the second part of an epic whole, The Matrix Revolutions starts right where The Matrix Reloaded ended, with Neo in a sort of coma. In actuality, his mind is stuck in a sort of halfway point between the Matrix and the real world, seen as a Mobil station (rearrange Mobil and you get limbo, get it?). His roommate in the real world is Bane (Ian Bliss), the crewmember taken over by Smith. In order to free Neo, Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) go after the irritating Frenchman Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), with whom they make a deal. Back in Zion, the Machines are readying their attack. The leaders of Zion, along with Morpheus and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), attempt to defend the city. Neo and Trinity head off to the Machine City to put a stop to the war. And Smith is out to destroy everything.

The action sequences in The Matrix Revolutions are superior to those of The Matrix Reloaded (again, a belief at odds with the critical community). Between the comparable battles of the two, the so-called "Burly Brawl" (Neo versus hundreds of Smiths) of Reloaded and the Zion attack sequence in Revolutions, there is really no competition. The Burly Brawl suffered because of an over-reliance on special effects and the fact that it was, in effect, meaningless (couldn't Neo just have flown away before the attack, instead of after he started losing?). The Zion attack relies on visual effects, of course - it has to - but there is meaning to the sequence. The citizens of Zion aren't fighting because they can, they are defending their city and their lives; if they lose, they all die. And the Burly Brawl got boring quickly, while the Zion attack holds your attention.

The climactic battle between Neo and Smith isn't as epic as the Zion sequence, but it is hardly less effective. It relies less on computer generated versions of the fighters, and more on the same fist-to-fist fighting that was the cornerstone of The Matrix's action. And the end of the fight has a real impact on the way the story plays out, a twist that packs a real punch (pardon the pun).

Because Neo is no longer utterly God-like and less stoically unemotional, it makes us more worried about what happens to him. Unfortunately, it also requires Keanu Reeves to do more than look really cool, something neither of the other films made him do, and he isn't quite up to the task. Reeves has been good in the past (with The Gift and The Devil's Advocate standing out), but in this case, when he is overcome with emotion we are forced to hold back giggles. Carrie-Ann Moss, a talented actress, gives a sporadic performance; sometimes she is effective, but on others she seems to be on autopilot. Morpheus is less important here than in the past, so Laurence Fishburne's performance is largely inconsequential. Jada Pinkett Smith is great in an expanded role. The rest of the cast is underused, including the beautiful Monica Bellucci, who only gets a single line of dialogue.

The Matrix Revolutions has more to it than a big-screen video game (something else it has been called); in fact, it is more profound than the not-that-deep Reloaded. As a parable of good-versus-evil, it is fairly straightforward, but when looked at using a more eastern thought pattern, as it should be looked at, Revolutions is a thought-provoking and intelligent motion picture.

Still, as I mentioned above, my opinion is among the minority. Other critics have lambasted this film as an empty, flashy special effects extravaganza, a video game parading as film. But hey, what do they know?

© 2003 Matt Noller