Up to a limit, I'm content to kick back in the dark to admire pretty pictures, sleek computer animation and strikingly featured faces emitting terse philosophical dialogue. I'm a sucker for formal beauty in movies, from the most costly and bogus of Hollywood contraptions, to the most dolorously pretentious foreign-language films, to the cheapest of grimy-yet-snazzy digital-video episodes. Just throw me some eyeball kicks.

Lyricism? Poetry? Great cinema? That's nice, too, but lyricism, poetry and balletic grace are always a rare yet sweet shock to the system. So, on to the end of the Matrix world as we know it, with the impact of the original Matrix and its discarded "rules" years behind us.

What would Neo (Keanu Reeves) do? First, he'd hire his own God: John Gaeta, the special effects supervisor of the three Matrix movies, the deity-of-details who brings the Wachowski brothers' teeming, punishing world to life. A little more than an hour into the glumly, elegantly ritualistic The Matrix Revolutions, the underground city of Zion is under attack. Does the battle take an hour or only seem like it?

There's more computer animation on screen, it seems, than actors. Secondary figures man antiaircraft guns to battle earth-boring (and admittedly, just plain boring) machines that have penetrated the defenses of the last rebels against a machine takeover of the world. There are also unceasing swarms of Sentinels, undulant and relentless, like schools of silvery octopi crafted from molybdenum.

"Where's Neo?" you start to wonder. Come back, little savior!

The metaphors for the real world we live in have to be shoehorned into the kicky, streamlined The Matrix Revolutions. Where academic and pseudo-academic analyses have proliferated about the philosophical background and literary borrowings of the Brothers Wachowski, surely more will flourish. Yet the neat idea that we live in a mediasphere bombarded by images and advertisements and product places that bore into our dreams is left behind in the hurtling toward the final revelation of just precisely what sort of savior The One will turn out to be. With the bombardment of deliriously imagined computer-generated imagery, the machines have in fact taken over in the representation of forces that want to take over humanity. (As the first line of the script of The Matrix goes, we're watching a computer screen "so close it has no boundaries.")

But, oh, that free will.

While The Matrix Revolutions has its own eccentric, hiccupy rhythm, there are substantial differences from the previous installment, including a City of Light, looking like an umbra utopia out of 1960s Jehovah's Witness literature, which figures into the movie's coda. And there's almost none of the gaseous speechifying typified by the character of the Architect, whose explanations were more confusing than enlightening or instructive. "I do not resent my karma, I am grateful for it" is a typical M3 line amid the crypticisms that substitute for witticisms - like all that talk about "vagaries of perception." Because of the consistency, it makes you wonder: Are the hyper-stylized, unnatural speech patterns purposeful? Or is virtually every spoken word in this movie laughably portentousness?

There's an unwelcome amount of attention paid to a ship's captain who seems to have wandered in from a World War II naval adventure, who inhales mightily, widens his eyes and exhales in a stream of PG-13-styled profanity and blasphemy. For a movie about a secular Jesus Christ, this episode has a thoughtless excess of "goddammits."

The battles between Neo and Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) bestow upon us the same acrobatic munificence as the other entries. In their climactic battle, several fists fly in slow-motion, between raindrops: cold, solid, silvery-stalactite vertical raindrops pitted against green Matrix-code-like backdrops.

There's also much to admire in the Wachowskis' post-racial, pansexual world. There are more black faces in the trilogy than a year's worth of other action adventures.

In the odd but oddly satisfying ending, the Wachowskis make a ringing endorsement of free will. (But then you knew I was going to say that.)

Palouse Cult Film Revival: Little Shop of Horrors @ The Kenworthy

Wed., Feb. 8, 7:30-9:30 p.m.
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