In 1999, the writing-and-directing brother act of Andy and Larry Wachowski set a new gold standard for blockbuster-sized entertainment with The Matrix, which packed all the expected thrills of an action film into a mind-bending, philosophically and politically loaded science-fiction pocket universe. The Wachowskis seemed so in control of their ideas, and the means to convey them, that for once, sequels seemed like something to look forward to rather than dread. So what happened? The law of diminishing creative returns demands that most sequels land with a disappointing "pffft," but with The Matrix Reloaded, the sound was more like a deadening thud. The movie's ideas seemed ambitious but muddled, the action sequences were impressive but overbearing, and the story felt like a science-fiction novel with every other chapter removed. Still, fans of the Indiana Jones and Star Wars trilogies know that two out of three is usually good enough, which left reason to hope that The Matrix Revolutions, the third and presumably final installment, would redeem the series. It's an initial bad sign that Revolutions opens exactly where Reloaded left off: in the middle of a bunch of talky bullshit. From there, watching Revolutions becomes a process of hoping it will be better than Reloaded, then hoping it will at least make more sense than Reloaded, then hoping it will at least have a sequence as cool as the car chase in Reloaded. Revolutions fails on all counts, but comes closest to meeting the last one. As mere spectacle, the Matrix series is still one of the coolest shows in town, and the CGI highlights–a swarm of robots, a superhero-style fight high above a stormy city, a gravity-defying gunfight–will no doubt inspire a whole new generation of rip-offs. Filled with talk of love and other fine human qualities, Revolutions seems to aspire to more than mechanical confusion. But for all their skill at wrangling effects, the Wachowskis no longer seem to know how to handle anything more. Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Keanu Reeves disappear for long stretches, and though the action moves fast, the plot never builds momentum. Logic must have gotten discarded between sequels, too. When Reeves' messianic protagonist fights evil Hugo Weaving (whose sneering delivery steals all the best moments) in a climactic showdown, it's never clear if the game has rules, or whether whoever stirs up the most dirt wins. Once the dust clears, it's hard to think of a film saga that's wound down with such a profound anticlimax. It's a whimper in bang's clothing.