The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Nona Gaye, Hugo Weaving, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Helmut Bakaitis and Lambert Wilson
Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
If you haven’t seen The Matrix Reloaded then I’d suggest you spend those six or eight or ten dollars of your money on something worthwhile, like X2: X-Men United. Or forty-eight rolls of toilet paper.
I loved The Matrix, I really did. The concept was interesting, the story was cool, the special effects were amazing, Keanu Reeves looked slick, Carrie-Anne Moss is hot, and Laurence Fishburne is a major bad-ass.
What the Wachowski brothers did with Reloaded was trash all the intangibles and keep most of the eye candy.
Neo: Despite the newfound power he displays at the end of The Matrix, The One isn’t really all that impressive. Inside the Matrix, Neo is ostensibly free from the machines’ control. Their rules mean nothing to him now. I mean, he can fly, right? Unfortunately, he still has no idea what he’s supposed to be doing. He has promised to show the people “…a world without rules and controls. Without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.” Instead, he shows them…
Zion: Take one part Ewok village, add a liberal dose of every post-apocalyptic civilization ever portrayed on film, sprinkle in a freshly-ground rave, and you’ve got Zion. I don’t think any aspect of Reloaded was more disappointing to me than the Thunderdome-meets-Battlestar Galactica mish-mash that was Zion. Apart from being a conceptual and visual letdown, Zion also slams the brakes on Reloaded. Sequences that take place in the last refuge of humanity seem to drag on as Morpheus and Lock butt heads, Trinity and Neo show off their various receptacles (in what feels like the longest and most unnecessary love scene ever concocted), Morpheus orders a rave, and Commander Adama… excuse me, Councilor Harmann… offers his sage advice to the ever-perplexed Neo.
Morpheus: Within the confines of the Matrix, Laurence Fishburne epitomizes cool. Everything about him screams “bad-ass,” from his sunglasses, to his clothes to the way he walks. Taken out of the simulation, though, he’s diminished by the fact that half his crew is gone and some fairly powerful elements think he’s off his rocker.
Agent Smith: Hugo Weaving is damned cool. The fight scene between Neo and countless Agent Smiths is impressive, as eye candy goes. Ultimately, the brawl is moot and we are shown that The One just doesn’t have the power implied at the end of the first movie. Neo uses his vaunted flying ability (again, the very thing that showed how unfettered by the rules of the Matrix he has become) to run away.
Action: In general, the fights and shootouts in Reloaded looked pretty good. Some were a bit pointless (such as the aforementioned Burly Brawl), and bullet-time was over-used, taking the edge off its novelty. The 14-minute car chase was fun to watch and one of the few times we get to see how capable Morpheus is of doling out the smackdown.
The Keymaker: I very much liked the concept of the Keymaker, a venerable program who opens doors for the resistance and seems to know where Neo needs to go. Of course, because he knows this, he must eventually be eliminated. The Keymaker tells the heroes that there’s a door inside of a building that must be opened, but also that the whole building will blow up if they do it wrong. While this is being explained, Reloaded trips over itself getting to Neo through that door. Where scenes in Zion slowed the film’s pacing down to a snail’s crawl, following the Keymaker’s instructions kicks it into hyperdrive. The result is a jumble of flashbacks and gunfire whose sole purpose is to get Trinity (who has promised Neo she would stay out of it) into the Matrix, put her life in danger, and further confuse the already-befuddled Neo.
The Architect: Speaking of confusing Neo, here’s a guy who babbles on about iterations and anomalies in a monologue whose logic is reminiscent of Vizzini in The Princess Bride (“Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!”). Perhaps the intent here is to confound the audience and convince them that they need to see Reloaded a second time to make sense of the Architect’s babble.
The Matrix Revolutions: If you’re willing to sit through ten minutes of end credits, The Brothers Wachowski (or, more likely, The Brothers Warner) have included what they must consider a bonus: a teaser for The Matrix Revolutions. Alas, there’s no payoff here to justify the wait. The teaser is a flash of half-second clips mingled with the occasional line of dialogue, but with absolutely no hook. When I saw the trailer for Reloaded prior to watching X2, I very nearly uttered a Neo-like “Whoa!” While the final product didn’t live up to my expectations, the trailer made me want to see the movie, ASAP. This just doesn’t happen with the Revolutions teaser. Perhaps this is partly because of the ultimately disappointing experience I’d just had with Reloaded, but more likely because the new teaser just lacks punch.
The Matrix Reloaded is a movie that tries too hard to expand upon some of the concepts of the original while stomping all over others. The end result is a disappointment, a shoddy addendum to a movie that stands well on its own and doesn’t deserve the kind of treatment it receives from its successor. Will Revolutions redeem the trilogy? Perhaps, but it shouldn’t have that unenviable burden in the first place.