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Silly Humans, Matrix Is for Kids!

Revolutions joyrides through a nifty vision of hell.

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A not terribly long time ago in an uninhabitable galaxy called Burbank, a generally astute movie studio founded by four Polish siblings alienated a young, hotshot filmmaker. The studio was Warner Bros., and the project was a cold, disturbing, highly stylized vision of a mechanized future called THX-1138. It's hardly a surprise that the kid didn't court them with his next sci-fi romp, a little yarn called Star Wars.

Jump ahead a couple of decades. Polish brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, both also hotshots, traipse onto the Warners lot with a similarly themed property camouflaged in black leather. They call their humanity-vs.-technology saga The Matrix. What emerges is basically a Joel Silver bang-bang picture wrapped in an unusually clever discourse on the nature of reality. Its dork-becomes-god storyline blows a few minds and makes a pretty penny. Suddenly, Warners is back on the sci-fi map, and it's trilogy time again.

What remains in Matrix Revolutions is to depict the final battle between Earth's hopelessly outnumbered conscious humans and the monstrous machines that have seized control. The result is visually slick but almost shockingly simpleminded. The Wachowskis' storytelling now feels more dutiful than intriguing. At about two brisk hours, with a huge gob of loose ends either hastily knotted or just snipped -- Keymaker? Twins? Hello? -- their biggest success here is to whet our epic appetite for The Return of the King.

I'm not entirely convinced that the screening I attended revealed the actual movie that Warners plans to sell to the public. It often felt like a gag reel. The newly inserted rebel Kid (Clayton Watson) is so obviously positioned for further franchise exploration that he's nearly a joke in himself. And if you dug the "Zion rave" from Reloaded -- which ranks among the most unpardonably retarded sequences in cinema history -- you may also enjoy Revolutions' "S&M club" sequence, which could inspire more laughter only if it included Leslie Nielsen in nipple clamps.

The story is exactly what you'd expect. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne, flat) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, flatter) struggle to help Neo (Keanu Reeves, goes without saying) confront his shadow side in order to, you know, save the world. Humanity isn't going to find out what happens to a supposed Messiah until Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ emerges in a few months, so the wondrous notion that Neo is "The One" shrouds Revolutions in rich, captivating mystery. If you're twelve.

Setting your mind on "twelve" is a perfectly reasonable way to enjoy the visually hellzapoppin' Revolutions. We commence with Neo trapped in a subway-tunnel purgatory created by the haggard Trainman (Bruce Spence), a minion of the delightfully nasty Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), who is still savoring the sweet pomegranates of Persephone (Monica Bellucci). While loitering between the illusory Matrix and the scorched earth of the real world, the ever-more supernaturally endowed Neo meets an East Indian family who all turn out to be computer programs, learns that love and karma are just words, then gets busted back to life by Trinity and company. He realizes that he must fly to the Machine city, unarmed but accompanied by the excessively dedicated Trinity, to meet his destiny.

Is it worth seeing this third and supposedly final chapter? Like you wouldn't. And there's plenty that's cool about it. The finest scenes involve the new Oracle (Mary Alice) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who add touching resignation and rage to a movie that's otherwise half cartoon, half sci-fi feeding frenzy. But for a cyberpunk Tron knockoff in Blade's duds following Omega Man's path to a Hulk-like aura of self-discovery, it's a reasonably enjoyable ride, offering a thoughtful sense of closure. If you're twelve.

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