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Review: 'Matrix' a waste of good technology

Nice video game, but where's the movie?

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

Keanu Reeves as Neo, who's come to terms with his One-ness.

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(CNN) -- When it comes to the "Matrix" franchise, either people love it -- really, really love it. Or they hate it -- really, really hate it.

With more than a billion dollars in ticket sales worldwide, it's abundantly clear that an awful lot of people fall into the former category. So, without doubt, "The Matrix Revolutions" will make millions of additional dollars.

However, in the spirit of full disclosure, I fall firmly into the latter category.

Before you start sending nasty e-mails -- and believe me, I'll get them -- I do think the "Matrix" series has been revolutionary in terms of special effects and the use of groundbreaking computer-generated images. The mysterious Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry (who wrote, directed and executive-produced all three films), have created the visual gold standard for every action/sci-fi flick that has followed their 1999 original. The action and the images are truly breathtaking.

They're also repetitive. Just how many times can a giant drill get your attention before it becomes ... well, just another giant drill?

Moreover, none of these three big-screen extravaganzas (with the possible exception of the original) has been an actual movie with character development, subplots, context, or even any content to speak of. They're video games. Oh, they're great video games! Spectacular video games! Perhaps the best video games in the history of human civilization!

But video games nevertheless.

Endless destruction

Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has replicated himself countless times, and faces off with Neo in a climactic battle.

The first "Matrix" was unique and had a certain flair, combined with stunning action. But even die-hard fans have to admit that "The Matrix Reloaded" was less than stellar. It was, after all, the middle film of a trilogy and thus had no true beginning, middle or end -- not to mention the fact that there was absolutely no jeopardy, and therefore no dramatic tension.

If no one can ever kill Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, sinister as always), and Neo (Keanu Reeves) just keeps destroying version after version of that toothy machine -- which just keeps coming back again and again -- then what's the point? Where's the drama?

(Actually, Agent Smith has a real agenda in this final chapter, but why give away the film's only plot point.)

"The Matrix Revolutions," we've come to the end of the road, and finally someone -- or something -- has to triumph in the final reel. I'll give you two guesses who wins. You can almost hear the late Peggy Lee singing "Is That All There Is?"

Fans likely will be reading all kinds of special messages into every second of this film. Religious references and Eastern philosophy run rampant; there are plenty of Zen moments. Also, every single twitch and gesture by Neo, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and the Oracle (Mary Alice) can be analyzed ad nauseam for their supposedly deep inner meanings.

Neo continues to be a custom-made role for Reeves' limited talents. The fact that his one-dimensional character is dazed and confused throughout most of the film fits Reeves' performance style to a T.

Top-line effects, flatlined humanity

The cast also includes Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Collin Chou as Seraph, and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity.

As stated above, the special effects are spectacular, and the final attacks on Zion are amazing -- too long, but amazing.

But the emotional impact of this movie is zilch. When Moss and Reeves lock lips, it looks like two wire coat hangers trying to get it on.

There's also an interesting trip to a Matrix nightspot called Club Hell. The Wachowskis must have emptied every S&M and leather store in Australia (the films' shooting location) in order to dress the extras in this scene. After living in New York and L.A., I thought I had seen everything. I was wrong.

OK, creating this trilogy was no mean feat. It is a major accomplishment and will go down in cinematic history -- for special effects and marketing, in particular.

But when it comes to a film standing the test of time, the audience must have an emotional attachment with the story. A bunch of emotion-free humans dressed in black, wearing sunglasses, and millions of computer-generated machines doesn't fill that bill.

"The Matrix Revolutions" opens in simultaneous worldwide release on Wednesday, November 5, and is rated R. The movie comes from Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner, as is CNN.

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