Before viewing The Matrix Revolutions, the final installment in the Matrix trilogy, I went back and watched the original film.
That moment near the end, where Keanu Reeves' Neo starts to "believe" and does the one-armed judo thing while not even making eye contact with his adversary, is one of the greatest moments ever in a science-fiction film. The finale, where Neo hangs up that phone, puts on his sunglasses, and takes to the skies with Rage Against the Machine blasting on the soundtrack, had me dying for a continuation of the story.
It's about 4 1/2 years after the first film, and the final installment in the series is a major disappointment. Rather than returning to or, better yet, topping the glory that was the original movie, The Matrix Revolutions continues on the stultifying, boring path taken by the first sequel, Reloaded. In some ways, it manages to be the franchise's worst offering. I can now safely say that between the moment where Reeves flew off in the original's conclusion, and the final admittedly impressive battle at Machine City in Revolutions, the series is nothing more than a mixed bag.
At the conclusion of Reloaded, Neo was stuck somewhere between the real world and the Matrix, with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) holding vigil over his prone body and droning some "love conquers all" gobbledygook. Revolutions starts with Neo waiting for a train at Mobil Station. (Mobil being an anagram for Limbo. How clever!) After a confrontation with somebody called The Trainman (He drives a train and is called The Trainman. Even cleverer!), Neo eventually gets himself back into the thick of things in the old "Man vs. Machine" war. It isn't too long before the villainous Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) groans "Mr. Anderson" for the billionth time.
The Wachowski brothers have introduced too many characters since the original film's compact cast, and none of them garner much interest. Jada Pinkett Smith, Harold Perrineau Jr. (the narrator from HBO's Oz) and countless others don't serve much of a purpose other than to look determined driving their ships in tattered sweatshirts. Mary Alice replaces the late Gloria Foster as The Oracle and does a lot of cookie baking, while The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) shows up for a briefer, less baffling appearance. It's less baffling because he isn't allowed to talk all that much.
Nothing simply "happens" in the Matrix sequels. All events are prefaced by characters droning on and on about the coming event; that event takes place; it is then followed by another droning speech concerning what just happened and what it means in the scheme of things. The Wachowskis don't seem to have much faith in their audience's ability to comprehend.
To make matters worse, they pile on the symbolism and hammy dialogue to the point of sheer intolerability. There's so much dreadful religious allegory in this film, I felt like somebody gave the weak-assed preacher I used to endure at Sunday school millions of dollars to film a computer-geek take on the Passion Play. It's like a bad Christian rock album come to life.
There are some nice sequences in the last quarter of the film that prevent it from being completely terrible. The movie finally gets a pulse when machines burst through the dome protecting Zion, and humans have at them with some heavy artillery. Neo and Trinity take a ship across a savaged Earth to Machine City for a final showdown, including a decent last tango between Neo and Agent Smith.
Problem is, the hour-plus that comes before the finale is a gargantuan waste of time. The Matrix Revolutions often has the bombastic feel of Battlefield Earth (lots of religious trappings, lots of dreadlocks). It concludes the franchise not with a whimper, but with a long, deadly dull speech that nobody but the most faithful will want to ingest.