Byline: Matt Soergel, The Times-Union
At least this Matrix sequel has a pulse. What a relief.
Sure, The Matrix Revolutions has its share of the pondering, philosophizing and nonsensical plot turns that sunk The Matrix Reloaded earlier this year. Those droning council meetings and pep talks lifted from Star Wars are still there, too.
But this third time around, much of that's shoved aside in favor of great eye candy -- the long-threatened Machine attack on Zion, where the beleaguered human defenders stage a last-ditch defense.
The battle, which takes place on many fronts, also owes a debt to Star Wars. But it's far more spirited, exciting, bloody and coherent than any battle scene George Lucas has made in decades.
The tentacled swarms of machine Sentinels, the massive Diggers, the armored Robocop-style fighting suits of Zion's soldiers -- they're a triumph for both the special-effects gurus and for the Wachowski brothers' imaginations.
Best of all, it feels as if something is actually at stake, a welcome change from the now-you-see-it, now-you-don't arbitrariness of Reloaded, which was lumbering, talky, even ridiculous (how about that rave party in Zion?).
Revolutions is clearly far superior to Reloaded. That doesn't mean that this third and supposedly final installment has anything approaching the brain-teasing ingenuity of the original Matrix.
That 1999 film, a deliciously over-the-top hit, cheekily imagined a world where all we know as reality is just an illusion, where Machines rule and all but a few humans are their slaves.
But the deeper Larry and Andy Wachowski go down that rabbit hole into the Matrix, the more trouble they get into. Both sequels have been illogical, pompous and far too loaded with self-conscious symbolizing and myth-making.
This sequel, shot at the same time as Reloaded, introduces a few new characters, including, rather inconsequentially, the Trainman (Bruce Spence), who controls travel between the machine world and the Matrix. And actress Mary Alice does fine as the Oracle, replacing the late Gloria Foster (she has a new "shell," it's explained).
But it's mostly made up of familiar faces: Keanu Reeves (purposefully blank, once more), Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Jada Pinkett Smith are chief among the human fighters. Droll Hugo Weaving, of course, is back as evil and amusing Agent Smith, a computer program that keeps replicating itself.
We also visit again with annoying Frenchman known as the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson, who's quite a ham) and his voluptuous companion, Persephone (Monica Belluci), who isn't given much to do. In fact, she doesn't even stand up from her chair. …