- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Andy and Larry Wachowski are down from the mountain. The writer-director brothers have had their chat with the gods — Cornel West, at the very least — and supposedly have wrapped their billion-dollar franchise.

“The Matrix Revolutions,” out today in area theaters, is being billed as a final installment, a grand summation, a once-and-for-all revelation of all mysteries “Matrix.”

Let me warn you right now: It raises as many questions as it answers. If you haven’t seen the first two, you’ll be in la-la land with this one.

I won’t tell you how the humans fare against their machine oppressors, but I will say there’s more than enough wiggle room for additional “Matrix” sequels.

Indeed, there could be — oh, curse you, George Lucas — “Matrix” prequels.

The prospect may or may not thrill you. It doesn’t thrill me. I’ve had enough. Enough deer-in-the-headlights Keanu Reeves as the messiah. Enough Laurence Fishburne as a fanatical prophet-general speaking as though every word out of his mouth is holy writ. Enough magical African-American “oracles” — one of the oldest and stupidest Hollywood cliches in the book.

Let me be clear, though. I loved “Revolutions” — was blown away by it, in fact. I submitted to its sensory assault like a boy on a cartoon high. It has almost as much Sturm und Drang as the “Lord of the Rings” cycle, plus kung-fu sequences to rival “Kill Bill.”

The story world of “The Matrix” is in full, panoramic view here: a dreadfully alien and stormy Machine City. Swarms — I’m talking biblical-plague proportions here — of squidlike Sentinels attacking the last human redoubt of Zion. Scores of Agent Smith (the deliciously evil Hugo Weaving) clones who vie with Neo (Mr. Reeves) for domination over the totalitarian Matrix system and the ultimate reality.

The crackpot religiosity of the first two “Matrix” movies is all but gone. You won’t miss, will you, such pseudo-profundity as the Architect’s (Helmut Bakaitis) verbose speech at the end of “Reloaded”?

“Revolutions” is a war movie, not a navel-gazer. For the human resisters, it’s go time, and the odds against them are long.

To recap where “Reloaded” left off: The increasingly powerful Smith, in the guise of Bane (Ian Bliss), has smuggled himself into the real world; Neo is comatose. Back in Zion, the underground fortress of the resistance is under implacable attack from the machines.

It’s revealed quickly here that Neo is actually in a netherworld between the artificial Matrix world and reality, his mind and body, essentially, having separated. (The brothers Wachowski can’t get enough Descartes, can they?)

Turns out he’s in a limbo controlled by the decadent French gourmand called the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson doing smarmy as only he can).

Morpheus (Mr. Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Seraph (Sing Ngai) spring Neo from purgatory in yet another balletic fight sequence. Thus rescued, Neo repairs to his Garden of Gethsemane, as it were, where he sweats out his final mission: to penetrate Machine City. His purpose: He’ll find out when he gets there. Whoever said messiahs were unambiguous?

There you have the fulcrum of Matrix mythology: belief that Neo is the messiah — or rational skepticism; belief in predestination — or free will and choice. For maximum religious emphasis, Neo travels to the enemy city in a ship called Logos — as in the Greek for “Word,” as in the Gospel of John’s characterization of Jesus Christ.

Meanwhile, flying ace Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) has persuaded her crew to join her for a suicide mission on which she must pilot her way through a narrow mechanical tube that leads back to Zion, where she can zap the invading Sentinels with a lethal electromagnetic pulse.

Niobe’s do-or-die mission, I think, was ripped off from Luke Skywalker’s climactic piloting in the first “Star Wars,” but it’s an exciting ride nonetheless.

I can only hope the Wachowski brothers know there’s such a thing as too much of a good thing. My fear, though, is that the lure of lucrative marketing spinoffs and more sequels will prove irresistible.

How can you top “Revolutions”? With counterrevolution? Andy, Larry: Pat yourselves on the backs for a job extraordinarily well done and, please, unplug “The Matrix.”

***1/2

TITLE: “The Matrix Revolutions”

RATING: R (Sci-fi violence, brief sexual content)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. Produced by Joel Silver. Photography directed by Bill Pope. Production design by Owen Paterson. Visual effects supervised by John Gaeta. Costume design by Kym Barrett.

RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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