Matrix 3: All good things must come to...

Most Matrix fans, except the perverse few who want Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) to have his way with the universe, are rooting for Neo (Keanu Reeves) to prevail over the machines on behalf of humanity.

What they don't realize is that, with their help, the machines have already won. The world as we knew it has been digitized and reassembled. Nowhere is this more evident than on screen in The Matrix Revolutions, the conclusion of the (first) Matrix trilogy by the Wachowski Brothers.

When The Matrix Reloaded opened last spring, it seemed to create a backlash. Hardly anyone claimed it was better than the first film– disappointment levels ran the gamut from mild to extreme– and many stated, sometimes lumping Reloaded with The Hulk and other blockbusters, that the digital revolution had gone too far, and it was time for the movies to get back to basics.

Reloaded still went on to become the third-highest-grossing (domestically) film of the first ten months of 2003, perhaps because enough technogeeks enjoyed being digitally dazzled or perhaps because more intellectual viewers had to see it repeatedly to try to figure out what the hell was going on.

Both groups will presumably return for Revolutions, which certainly provides fodder for both eye-popping and head-scratching. I'll admit– hell, I'll boast!– that I can't explain how the story resolves itself, although it does. Temporarily, at least. The plural should tell you the title refers to cycles, not a single act of rebellion.

Revolutions is a better movie than Reloaded, though not as good (unless you're just going for the effects) as the lean, mean original. The first half is mostly talk and the second mostly action, but the pacing is better because there are none of the endless soliloquies that ground Reloaded to a halt.

To boil it down to its essence, the plot sends Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) to Machine City to negotiate for peace and confront Agent Smith, whose ego and ambition have grown as his clones have multiplied. At the same time, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, from whom someone has finally let some of the air out) and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) descend to Zion to strengthen the last stronghold of humanity against attack by the Machine army.

Neo gets advice and cookies from the Oracle, who has taken on a new "shell" (Mary Alice has replaced the late Gloria Foster) and whose prophetic powers, if you haven't noticed, are about on a par with the average meteorologist. (With the series concluded, she'll be lucky to get a gig with the Psychic Friends Network.)

Speaking of the weather, one might think the technologically advanced Machine City would be climate-controlled, but a rainstorm starts up in time to give a wet look to the final battle between Neo and Agent Smith, with hundreds of Agent Smith clones watching but not participating. It's the way all wars should be decided: two leaders duking it out, mano-a-mano (and maybe, as here, flying around and landing with a thud that creates a crater). Could Dubya take Sadaam Hussein in a fair fight? Would either of them fight fair?

Well, it's over, because as the Oracle (and the poster) says, "Everything that has a beginning has an end." (Man, that's deep.) And to quote Commander Lock (Harry Lennix), "It doesn't make sense." That doesn't mean you can't spend days on the Internet reading the theories of people who think they can make sense of it.

I know some of you could happily watch a new chapter of The Matrix every week for the rest of your lives, but the ending leaves some of us with Matriquatrophobia– the fear of a fourth Matrix feature. After all, the truth is, only everything that doesn't make a profit has an end.