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Third "Matrix' spins out

Larry and Andy Wachowski's epic science fiction trilogy ends with a resounding thud in The Matrix Revolutions (R), which opened in theaters Wednesday and received a C- grade in the St. Petersburg Times. The Wachowski brothers have systematically stripped the franchise of everything that made the original 1999 film a bona fide classic.

Rather than teasing our brains, The Matrix Revolutions dulls the senses with reams of circuitous dialogue and Zen intentions. That is, when words aren't drowned out by explosions, gunfire and Don Davis' blandly urgent musical score.

The most disappointing failing of part three is that, unlike the first Matrix, Neo (Keanu Reeves) has evolved beyond a confused, socially oppressed earthling _ like those of us in the audience _ to a deified superhero with no relatable qualities. The Matrix primarily occurred in a world that looked like ours, so later we could observe our surroundings and reality differently. The Matrix Revolutions churns in places we'll never see (or think about much) in real life.

But, in case you're interested: Part three opens with Neo trapped in limbo between Zion, the last refuge of humankind, and the Matrix world controlled by machines. Who and why that's happening isn't clearly explained. The Wachowskis simply bide time between bombastic battles with recitations of previous Matrix philosophies and characters added too late in the game to matter.

Reeves returns to automaton mode as Neo becomes more messianic, his lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) has swapped her edge for love and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) appears better equipped to clean out a buffet tray than save the world. Some special effects are memorable, if only because they continue for so long. The Matrix Revolutions is a staggering disappointment for everyone except those viewers who smelled it coming after The Matrix Reloaded last spring.

_ STEVE PERSALL, Times film critic

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