Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded.
The Matrix was such an original movie done with such a stunning visual style that any sequel was doomed to be inferior before it was even made.
The big question at the beginning of the first movie was "What is the Matrix?". It's what sucked you into the plot. It fed on that paranoid part of us that believes that there's something going on all around us of which we know nothing. The action and visuals are what kept you riveted even after the mystery was explained.
The Matrix Reloaded has no mystery. We already know that the Matrix was a virtual world that the machines kept humanity trapped in so that they might harvest the energy created by our bodies. We already know that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is the 'One'; a person able to control the environment in the Matrix and fight back against the computer programs represented in the virtual world as seemingly invincible Agents. Essentially the original Matrix film was a complete story that tied up all loose ends except for the fact that the machines were still in control and most people were still lost in the Matrix. Only now there was the hope that through Neo, mankind had a chance of beating them.
The plot, or at least the central nugget, of The Matrix Reloaded is simple. Neo, troubled by bad dreams, seeks out The Oracle inside the Matrix. She tells him that he needs to access the Matrix mainframe if he's going to destroy the machines and that to do this he must seek out the Key Maker, who will show him how to get into it. At the same time he is doing this, a large army of machines is closing in on the human city of Zion. It then becomes a race between Neo entering the mainframe and the machines attacking the city. Lots of other things go on, but that's the basic gist of it.
Since The Matrix opened with one of the most amazing action scenes in cinema history, I counted on a similarly eye-popping moment to start the sequel. And while there is a brief action moment at the beginning, again featuring Trinity, it falls far short of the original's classic opening, and turns out to be nothing more than a dream of Neo's. Following this opening are some very long, should have been edited, scenes in the city of Zion where the plot is explained. Although I was able to do it in the one paragraph above, the movie takes about 30 minutes to do it. The scenes seem even longer due to the poor and awkward dialogue.
When the action finally does get going, it does come fast and furious. And if the movie never really contains the Wow factor of its predecessor, I think its simply because of how high the first movie set the bar. Plus, since almost every action movie made recently seems to have stolen some of its style from The Matrix, it's no wonder that we're less awed this time around. Still, the best thing this movie has going for it, is its visual style, which is still very impressive.
While not matching the first film in quality (but what could?), The Matrix Reloaded is still entertaining enough to make it worth the price of a movie ticket. You should be warned though, this movie ends very abruptly and in mid-action in an attempt to draw people into the third Matrix film, which opens this fall.
Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix Reloaded.
This movie was duller than I expected, especially, as Scott mentioned, during the early scenes in Zion. I know they were attempting some character development, but the writing is so hackneyed and the acting so wooden and overly dramatic - at the same time - that it is difficult to care what happens to these subterranean humans.
The action scenes liven things up but they are so far beyond anything even resembling reality that they lack any real tension. And personally I thought the cyber graphics in the much talked about fight scene between Neo and the many clones of Agent Smith to be quite dreadful. You can see when the image is really Keanu and when it morphs into a computer image and back again, as it does many times during the scene. As advanced as CGI's have gotten they are still visibly noticeable and even more so when viewed on a smaller television screen.
I would give this movie two stars if it weren't for the enjoyable final half hour or so. Finally the plot advances to another level amid some interesting new information about the matrix and its relationship to the city of Zion. Granted it isn't nearly as profound as the pretentious filmmakers believe it to be, still it is entertaining enough.
In all fairness, I have never been a huge fan of either sci-fi or action movies. In all probability if you are, then this movie will satisfy you. I have a sneaky suspicion however, that they could have edited this movie and the third one - due out this fall - into one movie and saved us all several boring, pointless scenes and ten bucks.
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in The Matrix Reloaded.
The Matrix Reloaded sucks big time. The special effects are obvious and the plot is pointless. The only plot advancment is that we learn that Neo may be able to use his powers outside of the Matrix. Did we need to sit through tons of dialogue, uninspired fight scenes and meet new, dull characters to get to that?
Photos © Copyright Warner Bros. (2003)