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Thursday, November 06, 2003 - Page updated at 02:13 P.M.

Movie Review
'Matrix Revolutions' plays like overblown video game

By Mark Rahner
Seattle Times staff reporter

JASIN BOLAND
Keanu Reeves stars in "The Matrix Revolutions."
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The laws of physics don't apply within the Matrix, but the law of diminishing returns does.

Last spring, the overblown "Matrix Reloaded" proved that the 1999 original's mystery was just as cool as its kung fu and special effects. The final chapter in the science-fiction trilogy, which opens today, is easily the weakest, a (mostly computer-animated) super-duper-mega-spectacle that still feels empty. It's become clear that the Wachowski brothers have size issues.

If you liked — OK, saw — the first two, you might as well see how the whole big, heavy-handed mess winds up. If you haven't, go outside and enjoy a sunset, because "Revolutions" starts right where "Reloaded" left off, without much recapping.

Movie review


**
"The Matrix Revolutions," with Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Jada Pinkett Smith. Written and directed by the Wachowski brothers. 129 minutes. Rated R for sci-fi violence and brief sexual content. Several theaters.
Here's a little, though: The Matrix is the computer-generated realm where people think they're living, but the world is really a burned-out wasteland where the machines use them as batteries and try to exterminate the last group of self-aware humans in their underground city of Zion. The ones who understand how the Matrix works can plug back into it and do all sorts of slow-motion, thumbing-their-noses-at-gravity stunts while dressed in black.

With phenomenal powers, the Christ-like Neo (Keanu Reeves), aka The One, aka Thomas Anderson, may be their savior, but not everyone believes. Following the real-world manifestation of his power to stop octo-spidery Sentinels at the end of "Reloaded," he lies comatose. His consciousness is in a purgatory train station somewhere between the Matrix and reality.

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 The rogue computer program Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is unplugged, and his nihilistic streak has grown. After making countless duplicates of himself, he's possessed the body of a rebel in the physical world.

And the Oracle has a "new shell" (Mary Alice), which she says is the consequence of her previous actions — nicely accommodating the death of actress Gloria Foster.

The bulk of the film takes place in the physical world, an unfortunately Trekkie environment where the rebels are girding themselves for attack in big, mechanical walkers with machine guns, and they hold really frequent council meetings. In the incredibly long siege, they do Stallone-like yells as they fire at endless swarms and ropes of incoming Sentinels — apparently inspired by the "Galaxian" and "Galaga" video games. That's the main problem with "Revolutions": It's too much like a video game by way of a cartoon — particularly a bombastic anime. The characters and dialogue don't sell it, and the accumulated philosophical mumbo-jumbo of the trilogy adds up to a dubious, somewhat tautological conclusion. Asked by a frustrated Smith why he persists in fighting back, Neo finally blasts him with this pearl of wisdom ... wait for it: "Because I choose to." So there!

JASIN BOLAND
Laurence Fishburne, left, Collin Chou, center, and Carrie-Anne Moss return in "The Matrix Revolutions."
Meanwhile, as they say in the comics, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) pilot a ship in a breakneck race back to Zion. Having escaped the station, Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) have taken another ship to find the Source, the machine city where no man has gone before.

Amid all this gobbledygook, there are some fantastic images that linger: a blinded Neo walking amid the light-essences he perceives. His rain-soaked battle royale with Smith as all the duplicate Smithettes look on — which grows into something you might see in a Superman flick.

And there is finality, more or less. People die, the war is resolved and the already unsubtle Christian allegory is hammered home.

Filmed at the same time as "Reloaded," "Revolutions" comes without the gigantic cultural event surrounding its predecessor. In hindsight, I was too easy on that silly one. Maybe it was the "Matrix" sports drink. "Revolutions" only makes the original look like a minor masterpiece, if not a fluke.

"Everything that has a beginning has an end," huh? This one didn't come a moment too soon.

Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or mrahner@seattletimes.com


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