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Rain of Terror: Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Agent Smith agree to disagree in 'The Matrix Revolutions.'

Finding Neo

The Wachowski brothers brew up New Age malarkey in verbose 'The Matrix Revolutions'

By Richard von Busack

WHENEVER American deep thinkers start cooking up a stew of New Age ideas, Christianity always floats to the top like an old soup bone. It's one matter to claim--as wise Christians do--that there's a core of goodness in all the world's religions. And it's another matter to make movies that raid all the world's religions, then top it off with the usual Christian blood sacrifice: a movie like, say, The Matrix Revolutions. I guess you didn't have to be the Oracle to see it coming. Neo (Keanu Reeves) has been heading all along for his cross--or rather, a mud fight in a crater with the techno-Satan Smith (Hugo Weaving). And what a load of malarkey it takes to get there. Pages of Ed Wood-level dialogue and obtuse philosophizing honor what must be the Wachowski brothers' true religious creed: "Explain, rephrase, restate." That old familiar submarine-movie claustrophobia sets in during the duration of this bile-colored extravaganza.

In Zion, the remaining bits of humanity are having a lousy time. The final refuge of the human race is still led by a group of stalemated, dreadlocked oldsters (aged World Music fans brooding over Justin Timberlake's grosses?). Only Zion's army has any spunk, so we're in for the basic war-movie scenes of an energetic young powder monkey (Clayton Watson) being schooled by tough old soldier Mifune (Nathaniel Lees: Mifune, as if!). All prepare for a last stand against the Matrix's army of flying spiders and Iron Moles, which are aiming to knock through a weak spot in Zion's armor. Happily, Neo and Trinity (the morose Carrie-Anne Moss) are already on a suicide mission to the heart of Machine City to pull the plug.

Oh, and the verbiage along the way--yes, we have un petit rendezvous with the cyberworld's Lucky Pierre, the Merovingian, played by Lambert Wilson--oddly, an actual French person, despite his Pepe Le Pew French: "Quelle bonne surprise, ne c'est pas?" he says, seeing Neo. All the more surprise, because Neo somehow overcame a bodyguard who uttered the threat "The only way you're getting in is over my big dead ass!" A searcher seeks Neo's spirit, afloat somewhere in the Matrix: "It's a big bupkis," he complains. "Cookies need love, like anything else," claims the Oracle (Mary Alice), having just baked a trayful of Tollhouses for a fellow computer program. Internet cookies? Bad-script fanciers may prefer the long, involved strings of dialogue explaining who is who, what is what and what is who; I've heard clearer scientific explanations from Professor Frink on The Simpsons.

Is The Matrix trilogy supposed to be good vs. evil, rich vs. poor or IBM vs. Mac? The intellectual muddle resembles the war on terrorism: Neo and his pals are shooting bullets at ideas, with no clue of where the struggle started or where it's going to end. Let's give credit for an aerial-fight finale, which has (quelle bonne surprise) impressive computer effects, though it would be more fascinating if Neo were dressed in the tights and cape of Superman instead of a John Woo-movie raincoat. If you go, try to pick a quiet corner; people who laugh in other's people's churches are subject to harassment.

The Matrix Revolutions (R; 129 min.), directed and written by the Wachowski brothers, photographed by Bill Pope and starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the November 6-12, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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