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'The Matrix' entertains via flashy action, technique

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"The Matrix"

Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Rated: R

From classic philosophical texts, including fundamental Buddhism, to trippy rock lyrics to countless science fiction plots, the concept that life as we know it is "but a dream" has been around a long while.

Filmmakers Andy and Larry Wachowski explore this thought and aim for an audience more familiar with comics than karma in their latest effort as a directorial team, "The Matrix."

For some the plot will prove to be incomprehensible, but here that's not really all that important. The visual technique and ultra-flashy action sequences employed by the brothers Wachowski combine to make "The Matrix" a great deal of (sometimes befuddling) fun.

Keanu Reeves takes a role that will surely put him back on the A-list of action film leading men while he retreads some of the cyber-ground he walked in the widely disdained "Johnny Mnemonic."

A favorite setting for modern science fiction is the "not so distant post-apocalyptic" future. The Wachowskis use this milieu and combine elements from "The Terminator," "Total Recall," "Alien," "Blade Runner" and countless other science fiction fables to give us a story that is original, yet still seems familiar.

Let me try to explain the premise.

In the not so distant post-apocalyptic future, we brainy humans finally perfect AI, artificial intelligence. The super intelligent machines we create, of course, begin to realize they are the superior presence around these parts and begin to take over the world as we know it.

One thing about these super cyborgs is the fact they need power, and lots of it, to function on a day-to-day basis. No problem: Solar power is abundant and cheap. So, the humans in charge decide the way to defeat our would-be masters is to wipe out their power source. We have a scenario in which a lot of A-bombs create a permanent cloud around the planet, thus making solar energy a bit less abundant.

The cybernauts are unfazed, however, and soon come to a stunning revelation. The human body produces a very large quantity of heat and electrical energy. Energy that can be harnessed for whatever purpose.

So, the robotrons begin rounding up humans and putting them in an enormous "battery" chamber, using their electrical energy and heat to power the AI mainframe. Humans spend their entire existences inside little pods, hooked up somehow to the main grid that now supplies power for everything on Earth.

For some reason, the robots have decided to give the humanoids somewhat of a break. Rather than just having them lay around sleeping and acting as mere planetary Duracells, they've created a cyber-virtual dream world called the Matrix, wherein all these sleeping anthropoids live out their "lives."

Each and every one of them thinks he wakes up every morning, goes to work, comes home, spends time with the family, goes on vacation, etc. But it's all just a big simulated dream. As the Grateful Dead so succinctly put it in "Box of Rain," "... It's just a dream we dreamed one afternoon, long ago ..."

Confused? Probably. I saw the movie and I'm confusing myself trying to describe it. Have no fear, it gets even more mind-boggling as we go, but sometimes good science fiction is like that.

Somewhere along the line a few humans have broken out of the Matrix and are now waging a technological guerrilla war on their mechanical masters. These freedom fighters have been waiting for their messiah, a person referred to as "The One" who will have the power needed to overthrow the AI masters and return mankind to its rightful place.

That person may or may not be a young computer hacker who goes by the cyber-handle of Neo. Keanu Reeves plays this role, and the gang of humanoid rebels he falls in with is led by a wise and much beloved guy named Morpheus, played by the always enjoyable Laurence Fishburne.

Just trying to describe the premise of the film was hard enough. To go into an explanation of the plot would be entirely too time- and space-consuming. I will say this: Along the way the writers keep things quite wry, and we find out what deja vu really is, as well as why so many things "taste like chicken."

If you're the type that likes a good sci-fi romp that's filmed with state-of-the-art special effects, lots of gunfire, martial arts and destruction of beautifully constructed sets, no matter how incomprehensible the plot, you'll probably love "The Matrix."

(Jim Wunderle works at Associated Video Producers and is a Springfield free-lance writer and musician.)

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