Wednesday, November 5, 2003

[IMAGE] Keanu Reeves is back as the character know as Neo, Mr. Anderson and The One.
(Warner Bros. photos)
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'Revolutions' restores logic to the Matrix

Movie Review

By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service

(R; strong violence, brief sexual content) Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss. Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. 129 minutes. AMC Newport, Danbarry Middletown, Great Escape 14, National Amusements, Princess Oxford, Rave West Chester, Showplace 8.
The Matrix Revolutions spins an appropriate conclusion to the murky man-vs.-machines saga conceived and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. And the final chapter of the brothers' computer-geek techno-trilogy comes not a moment too soon.

After six hours, I've spent more time than I want in a grungy movie world that resembles a strip mine in a thunderstorm, populated with characters who speak pseudo-philosophical gobbledygook, have holes in the back of their necks, wear cumbersome black leather trench coats, walk around in the dark wearing sunglasses, and employ martial arts that defy gravity.

Keanu Reeves returns as the character known alternately as Mr. Anderson, Neo and The One. A former computer programmer who didn't realize he was living in a computer-simulated world, he was enlisted in the first film to help the few remaining humans on Earth as they battle machines that are bent on world domination.

Neo's gurus on his mission continue to be the wise warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and the maternal Oracle (played this time by Mary Alice, following the death of original Oracle Gloria Foster.) But Neo is also driven by his love for another freedom fighter, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). To its credit, The Matrix Revolutions makes much of the power of that love.

Opposing Neo in ever-increasing numbers is the ubiquitous Mr. Smith, the self-reproducing evil program, represented by hundreds of black-suited fellows who all resemble actor Hugo Weaving.

In the first film - by far the most interesting - the machines use captive humans as their power sources, like giant batteries. The free humans are fighting to restore balance to the world order and to once again subjugate the machines.

In the second film - the most convoluted and least interesting - the story grows increasingly and unnecessarily complicated. By its open-ended finale, many in the audience were left with a "say what?" on their lips.

[IMAGE] Hugo Weaving portrays an evil computer program called Mr. Smith.
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Part three eventually restores a semblance of logic - at least by the final half-hour. Still, the long Matrix narrative is far more enigmatic and entangled than it needs to be.

Now that the trilogy has been concluded, you'll see more clearly than ever that part two - The Matrix Reloaded - was really just so much verbose riffing and philosophical water treading. With just a little adjusting and a lot of editing, the three films could easily have been two - or even just one exciting three-hour epic.

The Matrix Revolutions continues the trilogy's traditions of high-concept martial arts, represented here by a fight in which half the characters are hanging upside down from the ceiling; and by thickly layered computer graphics.

The action quotient, however, seems low - too much of the film involves cluttered warfare between humans and octopus-like machines. The result resembles a Jackson Pollock painting come to life or the images that would result from sticking a camera in a giant barrel of snakes.

As for the question: What is the Matrix? Perhaps it's nothing more than a hardwired Lord of the Rings for computer and Game Boy enthusiasts.

Neo is Frodo, on a classic quest. He's helped by the maternal Oracle (the paternal Gandalf), the wise warrior Morpheus (Aragorn), and Trinity (Sam, without the love interest, of course). He's opposed by the Mr. Smiths (Saruman and his minions). At stake is the salvation of Zion (Middle Earth). Just a thought.

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