Like most people, I was enthralled by 1999’s game-changing The Matrix (the two inevitable sequels not so much). But I’ve never been able to shake the idea that it would have been even better had it featured a real actor as the central character. 

The film’s main problem is that a decades-later sequel, in the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, “got a lot of ‘splainin’ to do.” This results in frequent and lengthy scenes of techno-philosophic exposition, as Neo (Keanu Reeves, whose resting expression can best be described as “duh”) is brought up to speed. 

These are interspersed, when the filmmakers suspect their audience might be nodding off, with generic, box-office-friendly chop-socky fist-, sword- or gun-fights (or car/motorbike chases or roof-jumping). Then it’s back to explaining, not always successfully, why it’s not just an elaborate cash-grab. 

It gets worse. Though Keanu may be, to some, an acceptable action hero, this film’s structure requires him to actually try to act, and that has never worked out well. Carrie-Ann Moss reprises her role as Neo’s love interest and is one of the film’s few saving graces. Definite negatives: No Laurence Fishburne or Hugo Weaving.

You don’t really need to be conversant with the earlier films, as this sequel (remake, legacyquel, reboot) employs numerous flashbacks and is so comically self-referential that it sometimes resembles a “greatest hits” tribute to itself. For example, Neo/Thomas Anderson works for a computer game company tasked with creating a third sequel to the franchise’s video games. 

Truth in reviewing dept.: This will be one of the year’s most polarizing films; I was clearly less than entertained; others, mostly die-hard fans, had nicer things to say. (148 min)