After "The Matrix Reloaded," there was still some question about whether Keanu Reeves's Neo was The One, but it had become clear that the Wachowski brothers were decidedly mortal. Their movie made piles of money, but the franchise, for all its fancy philosophical aspirations, had lost its mystique. Six months later it would be hard to find anyone who hadn't adjusted his expectations for "The Matrix Revolutions," the trilogy's finale.
The brothers pick up just where they left off, with Zion bracing itself for the ultimate attack of the Sentinels, and Neo emerging from his comatose state to continue his quest to save humanity. If you missed the second part, you will be hopelessly lost. Even if you saw it, expect more confusion than your average action movie delivers. Now it's not just a matter of man vs. machine, but humans and programs and machines with competing interests. To further complicate matters, The Oracle has changed appearances (with Mary Alice taking over the role beautifully played by the late Gloria Foster), and the power of the ever-duplicating Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has grown so great he's now as much a threat to the Machines as he is to Neo.
Nonetheless, "The Matrix Revolutions" is more of a straightforward, race-against-the-clock action movie than its predecessors. Its centerpiece is a near-25-minute battle in which the Zion population stages a valiant last stand against a swarming army of squidlike Sentinels, a wild sequence so densely crammed with flying metal, flaming weapons and smashed architecture it verges on abstraction: if Jackson Pollock had made science-fiction action movies, they might look something like this.
This sequence also makes clear the movie's debt to James Cameron's "Aliens." But the Wachowskis, for all their conceptual daring and visual flair, don't have Cameron's gift for sustaining suspense or for keeping emotions engaged. The Neo-Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) romance is barely room temperature, and the love story between Zee (Nona Gaye) and Link (Harold Perrineau) as well as the implied one between Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and daredevil pilot Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) are dutiful at best.
The original "Matrix" was full of dizzying surprises. But it's turned out that the Wachowskis didn't have many more tricks up their sleeves. How many times do we want to watch Neo kick the indestructible Agent Smith through a wall? How many times do we want to hear people tell Neo they believe in him? "The Matrix Revolutions" is better paced than "Reloaded," and it's free of that movie's embarrassingly clunky moments. Still, aside from a few halfhearted jokes, it's a pretty solemn affair, full of portentous proclamations and heavenly choirs to underscore Neo's transformation into a Christ-like Savior. Though they're full of undeniably spectacular moments, great production values and unusual ambition, a simple thing has gotten lost in these sequels: they're not much fun.