The eye-popping, heart-stopping last hour and a half of "The Matrix Revolutions" more than makes up for everything plodding and ponderous that has taken place since the mind-blowing first hour of the 1999 original.
Astonishing in scale and momentous in scope, it encompasses a spectacular battle between the scrappy, out-numbered but heavily armed defenders of Zion (humanity's last refugee city hidden deep beneath the Earth's scorched surface) and a million-strong swarm of enemy sentinels (those frightening, giant squid-shaped robots) invading from the machine-ruled surface world.
But the monstrous melee may be for naught if uber-human messiah Neo (Keanu Reeves) cannot defeat the invincibly evil, incalculably self-replicating rogue computer program known as Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) in a simultaneous, nuclear-strength airborne-kung-fu showdown inside what's left of the crumbling Matrix (that virtual world pulled over the eyes of the comatose majority of mankind kept in stasis by the machines who feed off our life-force).
Bold in the questions it answers, fearless in refusing to answer them all, and boasting quite a few seat-gripping twists, the movie's mammoth final act -- which also follows Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Neo (recovered from his "Matrix Reloaded" cliff-hanger coma) on a perilously unprecedented venture into the Machine City itself -- was certainly worth the wait.
But before "Revolutions" gets to this payoff, you'll have to slog through an opening reel or two at least as loquaciously pseudo-philosophical as any of the endless prattle in last summer's sagging sequel.
All the trilogy's ills are at an apex here, from a patience-trying visit to the goth-punk-S&M lair of "Reloaded's" nonsense-spouting greasy French villain Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), to the endless Freudian rehashing of every little concept ("Love is a word -- what's important is what the word implies...Karma is a word, like love..."), to the lack of credible passion between Neo and Trinity (their kisses are so stiff it's like watching Al Gore make out with Al Gore).
Even the cerebral and splendidly slithery Agent Smith isn't immune from folly, partaking in a ridiculous muah-ha-ha bad-guy laugh after usurping the body of a pivotal character, giving himself super-sentient powers of prescience.
In fact, if you trimmed $100 million worth of pretension off the budget of "Revolutions," its first act would be the kind of B-movie sci-fi claptrap that makes you want throw popcorn at the screen -- even with one of "The Matrix's" signature slow-mo, ceiling-walking, shrapnel-storm shootouts thrown in for good measure.
But when the earth-boring sentinels lay siege to Zion in what becomes an exhausting, tense and staggering action set piece, packed with seamless special effects, the picture picks up exponentially, and the writing-directing Wachowski Brothers never take their foot off the gas until the closing credits roll.
I still have many nits to pick with this frustratingly imperfect trilogy: What's with the obnoxiously wide-eyed and clichéd eager-soldier character called The Kid? What fool designed the huge, lumbering, impractical mechanized battle-bots that Zion freedom fighters strap into to fighting the sentinels? Why do Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and his crew wear tattered-rag get-ups onboard their hovercraft when they have plenty of earthy-fashionable tunics back in Zion? Why is there no mention of the billions of humans "living" inside the Matrix -- or that these oblivious hoards Neo originally set out to save from their artificial existence must be terrified by their world's disintegration and reshuffling at the hands of the omnipresent (what with all his clones) and seemingly omnipotent Agent Smith?
But despite its flaws, when all is said and done, "The Matrix Revolutions" brings the groundbreaking, epic sci-fi serial to a worthy "wow" of an ambiguous conclusion.
Run time: 129 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 5th November 2003
Box Office USA: $139.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $425M
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Silver Pictures, Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 36%
Fresh: 74 Rotten: 134
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Starring: Keanu Reeves as Neo, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, Mary Alice as Oracle, Helmut Bakaitis as The Architect, Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian, Roy Jones Jr. as Captain Ballard, Randall Duk Kim as The Keymaker, Harry Lennix as Commander Lock, Matt McColm as Agent Thompson, Harold Perrineau Jr. as Link, Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, Gina Torres as Cas, Collin Chou as Seraph, Cornel West as Councillor West, Nona Gaye as Zee, Monica Bellucci as Persephone, Maurice Morgan as Tower Soldier, Bernard White as Rama-Kandra
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