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The Matrix Reloaded: Mark's Take

01/06/2003. Contributed by Mark R Leeper

Buy The Matrix Reloaded in the USA - or Buy The Matrix Reloaded in the UK

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The war to release humanity from computer-generated non-reality continues in a pretentious and violent film that nonetheless has a lot of style.

The viewer is never really sure what level of reality is on the screen and the plot is difficult to follow, but the film does have some wit. The fight and chase scenes are plentiful and go on forever, but also show some new flourishes that will probably be imitated by others. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4)

In THE MATRIX we learned that nothing is what it seems and but for a small handful of us everybody is lying unconscious in a plastic box. Life, free will, and time are all illusions.

I hope you remember all that from the first film because this film is not for the squeamish and not for people who missed THE MATRIX. Here we continue the story without benefit of recap. If you did not see the first film you may be lost in the first ten minutes.

If you did see THE MATRIX it may take as much as twenty minutes. As the film opens Neo (Keanu Reeves) is having digital dreams about Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) falling from a tall building and continuing a gun battle all the way down to her apparent death from hitting a computer-induced image of the ground.

The Matrix Reloaded Film Review

Of course this is not the real world. The real world is where there is a war going on between humans and machines. Most of the world's humans are being milked for their heat for energy to run the machines. Many of the small groups of humans who have awakened have dug out a cavern near the earth's core to act as a refuge.

Here the refugees, all but a few in their twenties, apparently, stage huge rave-like dance parties and maintain huge machines that keep them alive. (How did the machines get down there in the first place?) But these are good machines. The evil machines are digging down to Zion to defeat them and return them to being their energy source.

We are left to wonder why the evil machines don't dig someplace else and go all the way to the core to get limitless energy they don't have to feed or entertain. (Of course, when I similarly asked about implausibilities of X2 I got put in my place with the response, "It's a comic book, stupid." I think that in recent years the bar has been somewhat lowered on science fiction film logic.)

Visually this film comes off somewhat better than the story, though much of the film has dark backgrounds that match the dark tone of the story. The images are cold and hard. Some of the actors have implants that look almost like nipples at odd places on their bodies. Backgrounds are stone or steel. Neo dresses with some style in a floor-length coat that occasionally makes him resemble a Vatican priest.

This is an action film with a capital A. Fights are staged with a great deal of style and martial arts and CGI and wirework and predictable outcomes. On the other hand, chase scenes are staged with a great deal of style, martial arts, CGI, wirework, and predictable outcomes.

The computer-created world that Neo is running around in is one that seems to be set in our present day, but it is one in which the current craze is talking philosophy which has caught on in much the same way the Twist caught on in the 1960s. That is everybody's doing it, nobody quite has the hang of it, and it just comes out silly. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) adds a tad more gravitas to the philosophy by talking in a deep voice.

The deeper the voice, the more respect that a philosopher gets. I am not sure if he is presenting pseudo-science as mysticism or mysticism as science.

The real problem with Andy and Larry Wachowski's script, which they also directed, is that what is happening through much of the story is in a virtual reality world in which anything can happen. If Neo believes he has the ability to fly, he can fly. It is difficult to invest much interest in a world where anything can happen.

It is only the continuity and the rules of the world that make us interested in the people who work under the constraints of that continuity and those rules. It is probably not a spoiler to say that this film has a cliffhanger ending. We are supposed to be worried for the endangered characters until November when THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS is released.

Yet not ten minutes earlier a character died but with a little simple script hand-waving they brought that character back to life and good as new. Gee, maybe the Wachowskis will forget how to rationalize their way out of problems between now and November. Quel suspens!

This is a highly stylized exercise in filmmaking. Some of the chase sequences are among the best ever staged. They are not what I look for in a film, but I will give them that as traffic chases go, this one is a doozy.

The filmmakers are very proud that these are real Hong-Kong-style fight sequences. That is even less my cup of tea. But there are a lot of images we are seeing on the screen for the first time, some quite impressive.

I rate THE MATRIX RELOADED a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale.

For those willing to sit through the exceptionally long credit sequence there is a trailer with scenes from THE MATRIX: REVOLUTIONS.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2003 Mark R. Leeper

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