The Matrix Revolutions out of 5 When The Matrix Reloaded was unleashed this past May (and made close to $300 million in North America) it was on the receiving end of a decidedly mysterious backlash. In an effort to sell magazines and newspapers with THE MATRIX plastered all over their front covers, misinformed journalists almost immediately labeled the film a "disappointment" both critically and with fans. But only a cursory glance at the film's reviews (and receipts) disprove that statement, while the Reloaded DVD did some fairly boffo sales when it hit stores last month. Now comes the third and final chapter of the Matrix trilogy; let the backlash smear campaigns begin anew! I'd love to know in what universe the two Matrix sequels are considered "disappointments". Sure, they're both laden with deep and ocassionally uncomfortable ruminations on free will and religion and other sorts of navel-gazing philos-O-phizing...but what's the alternative? Sci-fi freaks have been fed a galaxy full of garbage over the past several years and forgive me for admiring all three Matrix films while noticing that the video store shelves are absolutely laden with dungpiles like Supernova, Impostor, Battlefield Earth and "Friday the 13th in Outer Space". That's not to say that The Matrix Revolutions deserves blind praise by default; it's just amusing to note how spoiled we (the hardcore movie freaks) have become in recent years. Say what you will about The Matrix Revolutions, but you certainly cannot call it short on ideas or ambition. Picking up immediately after the finale of Part 2, Revolutions continues the odyssey of Neo, his spiritual advisor Morpheus, his leather-clad, ass kickin' girlfriend Trinity, and the soon-to-be-demolished stronghold of humanity known as Zion. There are, of course, numerous colorful side characters, most of whom figure quite prominently in the final battle between man and machines - none cooler than the rogue Agent Smith, now an all-powerful computer virus hell-bent on devouring everyone it comes across. Which is apparently a whole lot of people. When attempting to 'synopsize' a Matrix film, one can take two different routes: keep it short and sweet as an acknowledgement to the film's labyrinthine plot developments - or pen a massive and sprawling dissertation on the film and its myriad (and lofty) conceits. I choose the former route, as the element of discovery is one of the series' sweetest plums, plus I quite simply don't have the brains or energy to catalog everything the Brothers Wachowski have on their minds. Suffice to say that The Matrix Revolutions (much like its predecessors, only to a slighter lesser degree) is overstuffed with slick action set pieces, thought-provoking sci-fi mind-benders and cool characters dressed in slick leather and torn sweaters. If Parts 2 and 3 don't seem to measure up to the lofty groundwork laid in the original film, I suspect much everyone's relative "disappointment" in the sequels perhaps stems from unfair expectations and not the dazzling pieces of entertainment offered up onscreen. (If The Matrix Reloaded didn't have those "boring" moments of self-reflection, it would end up being derided as "mindless action" - proof positive that filmmakers are often damned if they do and damned if they don't.) If The Matrix Revolutions has a stumbling block (and it does, I'm sorry to say) it's that several of Part 2's more interesting promises receive very little in the payoff department. (Anyone expecting The Architect to stop back and offer some Cliff's Notes from his earlier diatribe will be quite disgruntled indeed.) The film offers a finale both distractingly obtuse and oddly satisfying. Expect to leave the theater wondering "But what about...?" Reloaded, quite simply, offers a few ideas that Revolutions does not seem to follow through on. Or maybe I just missed 'em. Visually, The Matrix Revolutions is a revelation. A few randomly placed brawls keep things moving briskly during the flick's rather chatty first act, and the extensive "Battle for Zion" sequence is simply mind-boggling to behold. If Revolutions' one-on-one mega-brawl finale between Neo and Smith seems a bit anticlimactic, one could take that as a necessary evil, considering... Whoops. Almost spoiled the ending. If the film does slow down here and there and fall on a few of its own sloppy fumbles, the rough spots can perhaps be forgiven because, let's face it, there's a whole LOT of material to cover. But despite all the groovy action sequences and mega-swank camera moves...there were several questions brought up earlier that quite simply end up overlooked or outright ignored. There's an omnipresent air of self-aware coolness that comes dangerously close to alienating an audience. Several of the most interesting characters are given virtually nothing to do. The drama is broken up into blocks that leave you wondering "Hey, where's Neo?" And these are indeed a few examples of some relatively sloppy storytelling. The detractors do have some legitimate complaints. Fortunately, I am not one of those detractors. Bottom Line: The Matrix Revolutions is science fiction for grownups. That's not to say that it won't possibly disappoint the same folks who sneered at the second chapter...but "science fiction for grownups" is such a rare thing to come out of Hollywood these days that The Matrix trilogy is absolutely deserving of effusive praise. The sequels are not perfect films, nor is it fair to expect them to be. Say what you will about the Wachwoskis and their now-complete trilogy...but you certainly couldn't call them lazy or in any way beholden to the Studio Machine and its Test Screening mentality. For that fact alone, these movies are worth embracing. Plus they're just so damn cool to look at.