Since it neither worked on its own nor lived up to the first film's elegant sense of invention, you couldn't buy Reloaded unless you believed the trilogy was a brain-teaser with balls, a rocket-fueled action film with exciting new ideas (or at least a whole lotta old ideas wrapped up in a hot vinyl trenchcoat) at its heart, all to be explained in time. The Wachowski Brothers, having successfully given the impression of intelligence in the first film, loaded the second with too many speeches that covered the same philosophical ground, but their plot suggested many tantalizing thematic roads to be followed; the third installment could have solidified a coherent, soul-stirring sci-fi philosophy.

"What is the Matrix?" It can now be told:

It's a war movie dressed up like mysticism. A video-game sham. A big tease with no payoff. A three-part exercise in diminishing returns. One pretty good movie with two sequels that should never have been made.

Given the degree to which Reloaded seemed to believe its own hype — that is, the assertion that the Wachowskis were creating a smart new mythology for the Information Age — it's astonishing how little Revolutions even tries in that department. True believers have filled the Internet with theories for months, suggesting clever plot twists and last-minute revelations; every single one of them I've read has more to offer than this film, which discards 95 percent of the philosophical talk in favor of war movie clichés dressed up in tattered sweaters and pleather.

First, let's address a few questions raised by Reloaded:

Dir. & writ. Andy & Larry Wachowski; feat. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Harold Perrineau Jr., Lambert Wilson, Mary Alice (R)

Is Neo a supernatural being? Hell, I dunno. I just know he gets into a lot of big fights and then is filmed in about five different ways that suggest crucifixion, walking on water, and resurrection. The filmmakers obviously meant to get us to exclaim "Jeesus!," but I'm not sure audiences will mean quite what the Wachowskis hope when they say it.

If Neo isn't a god, how did he make those robots die in the second movie? Because if he didn't, there wouldn't have been a third movie.

Is there any such thing as free will? Hmm. Good question. You probably know the answer yourself. I can be of no assistance, nor can The Oracle, nor can this movie.

Was The Architect full of crap? Um, I think so. But nobody really says much about him here until the end, and by then, you really don't care.

Well, if The Architect doesn't play a crucial role, do any of the new characters from Reloaded matter? What are you, kid — a smartass? We got your Merovingian; he has one whole scene to himself here, him and his little girlfriend with the gift-wrapped cleavage. And just in case you think the dialogue in said scene is completely inconsequential, we have included the world's stupidest Mexican standoff, and dressed everybody up in S&M gear.

So this is a parody, then? No, man. Parodies are funny. And they know they're parodies; if they don't, they're just bad movies.

At this point, the true believers in the house are either using the Current as fish-wrapping or billowing smoke from their ears. They will want to say that the action is exciting, the emotions ring true, et cetera. They're wrong. Not only does the action here fail to break new ground — it doesn't even get in the vicinity of the old ground. There is an extended shootout where characters don't merely do cartwheels, they walk on the ceiling; it was more fun back when there was a tiny bit of gravity involved. There's another fight with Agent Smith, but this time instead of ganging up on Neo, he flies around like a computer-generated Superman. The fight goes on long enough that even Smith asks at one point: "Is it over?" But the bulk of the action is video-game crap with people in CGI exo-skeletons shooting CGI bullets at CGI flying robots. If you get scared playing Nintendo, you might take this stuff seriously.

Oh yeah: Somebody dies! And they make the death scene really long, just so you'll know it's for real this time. But in the end, when a little kid asks a wise old lady if they will see these heroes again, the lady gets wistful and says "Oh, I think so." Never mind that she's been promising, over and over, that "everything that has a beginning has an end." •

More by John DeFore



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