By now, the “Matrix” series seems high on the heroin of its own coolness. What was groundbreaking, even breathtaking, in the first entry feels like beating a dead horse in the third. Now there are guys who can shoot guns while standing on the ceiling, and Trinity does a flip while performing the simple task of jumping over a subway turnstile. Show off much?
But maybe too much is never enough. “The Matrix Revolutions” is better than “The Matrix Reloaded,” having gotten most of the philosophical mumbo-jumbo out of its system in that middle chapter. It doesn’t have the gee-whiz factor of Vol. I, nor the original’s mind-bending ideas, which now are familiar to us. What it is, is a fairly straightforward futuristic action-adventure flick, and a good one at that. If Larry and Andy, the Wachowski Brothers who wrote and directed it, sometimes lay the bravado on a bit thick (“Look! We can still slow down time!”), it’s a pardonable offense.
Once again, there is no recap; if you haven’t seen the first two films, don’t bother with this one. Neo (Keanu Reeves) is stuck between the machine world and the matrix, in a realm run by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), that French information-trader with the hot wife (Monica Bellucci). Neo’s girlfriend Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), the biggest believer in Neo’s messianic potential, are back in the underground Zion, preparing to fight the onslaught of sentinels burrowing toward them.
Meanwhile, good guy Bane (Ian Bliss) has been assimilated by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), making him a dangerous infiltration into Zion, since he still looks like Bane (but does a good possessed-by-Agent-Smith impression, so kudos to Ian Bliss for that). And the Oracle has had to take on a new form in order to flee the bad guys, and also because the actress who used to play her, Gloria Foster, died; now she is Mary Alice, who gives the role the same steely, grandmotherly dignity.
The film moves at that Matrix-y sort of pace, not especially fast but not too slow, either. It has a pretty exciting centerpiece scene, destined to become a video game, in which humans shoot down sentinels as they swarm into Zion. While this is going on, there’s a parallel adventure with Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) piloting a ship through dangerous territory. The cross-cutting from one to the other reminds me of the end of “Star Wars,” albeit darker and more perilous.
That’s not the only film allusion, either. The Wachowskis know their movies and know how to reference them. There’s some “Wizard of Oz” in Neo’s journey, and a bit of “Superman II” in Neo’s destructive battle with Agent Smith. That’s not to mention the way it all resembles the countless other post-apocalyptic films about people who live in secret underground cities. (Evidently, it will be much easier to dig miles into the earth after the end of civilization than it is now.)
When the film gets slowed down is, as ever, when Keanu Reeves is called upon to do something other than fight. He often utters lines that, as written, call for emotion of some kind, yet he consistently speaks them dispassionately. This, even when he is surrounded by other performers giving energy and conviction to their roles: Clayton Watson as a kid who volunteers for service, Harry J. Lennix as stern Commander Locke, Nathaniel Lees as the warrior Mifune, and of course the hammy Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith. In fact, nearly everyone EXCEPT Keanu Reeves remembers that movies are supposed to be fun; he seems so caught up in Neo’s weight-of-the-world dilemma that he forgets, as an actor, how to breathe life into the part.
There’s some of that dreariness in the whole trilogy, in fact. It entertains, but it often seems too arduous to watch the films, to slog through the philosophy, to bear all the doom and blackness, just to get to the admittedly kick-butt action sequences. “Revolutions” is not the least bit revolutionary, but it wraps up the story and jolts the senses with an admirably proficient slickness.
B (2 hrs., 9 min.; )