The Matrix Reloaded [retro review]

matrixreloadedposter“Old men like me don’t bother in making points. There is no point.”

The Scoop: 2003 R, directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski and starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving

Tagline: Free your mind.

Summary Capsule: Stoic dudes and dudettes pose for their bullet-time action figures

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Justin’s Rating: Maybe silk doesn’t WANT to be run between your smarmy and foul buttcheeks, dude!

Justin’s Review: The Matrix rarely stopped to let you catch your breath. Not that you needed to; you were sitting in pretty comfortable theater seating doing nothing more physical than lifting a chocolate-soaked Goober into your drooling mouth. The first film relentlessly charged through a twisting plot of imagined worlds and incredible action, stopping just enough to let you shift to your other buttcheek so that your heiny wouldn’t get too numb. It was a good movie, a groundbreaking movie — I don’t think we have to debate that.

The Matrix Reloaded returns not as an equal sibling, looking to innovate and voyage to lands unknown, but more as an older uncle instead. Uncles can be pretty cool, sometimes, particularly when they spoil you rotten and teach you all the things they know will annoy your parents. On the other hand, uncles also fall into long stretches where they feel that they need to talk your head off in order to “share their wisdom” because they’re a role model. Or something. Hey, less speeches, more dynamite fishing tactics: that’s how I feel about uncles and this film.

Picking up a vague time after the first film, Reloaded spends the first act almost entirely out of the Matrix itself, choosing instead to drum up a plot about a new threat the evil machines are posing in the real world. Neo (Keanu Reeves), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Link (Harold Perrineau) — apparently in the future no one bothers with surnames — return in their magical hovercraft to the City of Love and Hope and Tiresome Exposition. There’s a (mostly) unseen threat of robotic drillers, which is being responded to by an (entirely) unseen human force, which frees the film up to spend more quality time on things like cavemen dancing and what Morpheus’ expanded gut looks like while he’s giving motivational talks in an unbuttoned shirt.

And yes, to those of you who care, Neo and Trinity spend a fair chunk of time doing the horizontal tango, which also serves to brake the plot to the point of standstill. I don’t know how most people feel about sex scenes in films, but I’ve reached the point in my life where it’s gone from being either embarrassing or exciting to being annoying if it lasts over ten seconds. Hi! People kissing? Can you, like, hurry it up? Maybe crack a joke in the middle of sex to entertain the rest of us? Shadow puppets? Anything?

Fortunately, the movie pulls out of a nosedive once Neo’s Posse finds a reason to jaunt back into the Matrix for laughs and mayhem. The remaining movie see-saws between some awesome action and awful speechifying.

Let’s tackle the speeches first. Perhaps the Wachowski brothers were afraid — as is understandable — of making a mindless action follow-up to a fairly intellectual film and thus launched into some intense speed readings of philosophy texts. But overcompensation has its problems as well, particularly when nearly every character in this film is granted a grinding monologue about fate, and free will, and why machines are cool, and let’s make this plot so convoluted there’s no chance in hell of you understanding it.

Two speeches alone nearly tanked this film. One was by a Zion council member who babbled about something that had, he admitted, NO POINT WHATSOEVER. Guh? Did the editor have the day off? The second one streamed from the lips of a Pepe Le Pew goon who wouldn’t shut up about cause-and-effect, during which he sent a slice of cake to a girl which was (the cake) programmed to make her aroused against her will. Nice rape metaphor, but why do we need to hear this? Is it important? Just kick someone’s butt, already!

To sooth my wild nature, which is always teetering on the brink of rampant theater seat destruction, The Matrix Reloaded has some of the coolest, most intense and creative action sequences seen since, oh, 1999. While the Agents of the first film are less of a scary boogeymonster this time around, there are a number of new threats that make up for that, including a rapidly reproducing Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and the ghostly Twins. Everyone gets their fair share of kicking, punching, reckless driving, and impossible-in-the-real-world-but-possible-in-the-Matrix stunts. Neo even gets to fly around with his cape-like jacket whipping behind him (how glad was I that a character in the film referred to that as “doing the Superman thing”?), snubbing the rest of our faces in our slower modes of daily transportation.

Even though the action is pretty sweet, there is something significantly missing, and that is… any real possibility of defeat. Comparing Neo with Superman is quite apt, since Neo presents most of the same problems to writers as Superman did — namely, when you have a perfect, invincible, super-superhero, how can you get the audience to care about any fight they’re in? Neo’s in God Mode during this flick, and I really wasn’t on the edge of my seat, because there was no bad guy up to his level to make us believe he might die (unlike The Matrix, where each and every agent was something to be feared). Like Superman, you can just see the writers busting their skulls trying to think of ways to strip Neo’s power away from him in order to present a flawed hero to the audience (such as having hundreds of bad guys fighting him, or taking him out of the action entirely). It’s just… watered down conflict.

The bulk of the movie is simply trying to figure out, exactly, what the war is. It ranges from solid reality to shaky introspective conflicts, as our shaded heroes (still walking into everything due to their sunglasses) go on a quest to find the “Keymaker” (Is he related to the “Keymaster” of Ghostbusters? Was I the only one wondering that?) and figure out what needs to be unlocked to solve the undefined mystery. Part of the story is AWOL on purpose, gaps that are meant to be filled in with the short films of the Animatrix DVD release and the final part of the trilogy. It’s maddening at times to try to make sense of it all, but I’d always rather leave a theater thinking about a film than trying to forget it.

The question everyone is asking about The Matrix Reloaded is, is it as good or better than the first film? Oh, silly viewer, why ask questions to which you already know the answer? It’s a sequel. The best we can hope for — which we are blessed with here — is that it strives to make its own place in the world without too many unhealthy comparisons.
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Kyle’s Rating: Wait, I was in line for two and a half hours for this?!?!

Kyle’s Review: Now, as you might know from my original review of The Matrix, as much fun as that film was to me it was just a pale imitation of my man Grant Morrison’s seminal comic book/metafiction The Invisibles. The Matrix does have its moments, though, and as Matrix Reloaded’s release date approached I got kind of excited. So much so that when Melissa and I went to see X2 and our theater advertised advanced tickets for the special Wednesday showing of Matrix Reloaded, we decided to buy them and be part of those select few that got to see Matrix Reloaded early! Because bragging rights are soooo important!

So we went, and despite getting there two and a half hours before the movie started, the line was so bad we got the rear flat seats at the bottom of the theater normally reserved for the handicapped. Undaunted, we craned our necks up and, ranch cornnuts and skittles in hand, we prepared for incredible and much-anticipated sci-fi violence + philosophic goodness.

Did we get it? Uh, I don’t really remember too much. Isn’t that sad? The Matrix was a rip-off (in my opinion) but it had some iconic images and scenes that will always make you stop when you come across them channel-surfing. In this one, some of the Neo-as-Supermanish-God-Guy-in-Matrix action is cool, but maybe being really close to the screen made it QUITE obvious that it was all computer generated. And I know Keanu Reeves can’t really fly (can he?) so they needed the computer to make it work, but man, it was so obvious! Maybe I’m just still smarting from noticing quite easily that Count Dooku was just Christopher Lee’s head superimposed over a lithe, younger dude’s lightsabering body. Where’s the good old wire stunts and clever use of camera angles and suicidal stunt people to make the action seem 90% real? I miss the ‘80’s.

For all the good stuff I left the theater with (Neo flying scenes, the highway action, Melissa), I also walked out with the distinct feeling that I had just watched a two hour+ preview for The Matrix Revolutions in November. And whoa, could Reloaded end on more of an awkward cliffhanger or what? Come on, people!

I’ve met and gotten into very-nearly-physical arguments over whether or not Reloaded is a kick-ass or ass movie (California can be rough!). Some people think the pseudo-philosophy and open questions that are raised are mind-boggling, and need to be discussed endlessly on internet message boards until November rolls around. Others think that Reloaded looks like the low-rent cousin of the first film and wonder why we couldn’t have cool visuals like the all-white room and infinite rows of weapons compared to the cardboard-looking inner city schoolyard sets. No one has ever come to the defense of the strange Zion rave dancing (even with the glimpses of nipples!) or the Neo/Trinity sex scene, which speaks volumes about the wisdom of going for popcorn after the first five minutes are over.

I don’t know, I can’t imagine ever wanting to sit through Reloaded ever again, and that doesn’t bode well for Revolutions. At least the first one stood alone; this second one feels so much like a second/middle installment that some guy who hadn’t even seen it yet was like “man, I haven’t even seen it and I can already tell it’s the middle installment!” But if you’re a Matrix disciple or you won’t be discouraged, go ahead and give Reloaded your time and money. I’m curious what you think, especially since I can’t really remember too much about it. That’s what I get for staying up and seeing it past my bedtime!

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PoolMan’s Rating: If I ever get freed from the Matrix, I want to be called “Ogre”.

PoolMan’s Review: I usually don’t live and die by Justin’s Rule of Two, which states that to be fair to a movie you intend to review, it should be viewed at least twice. Normally, I’m pretty happy reviewing a movie I’ve seen once, on the argument that quite often, that’s the number of times you will see most movies you view in your lifetime. At the very least, the first viewing is probably where you’re going to get your strongest impression. And I have to agree, it’s a little unfair to expect an audience to have to see a movie multiple times to derive any enjoyment out of it. But at the same time, I can’t count how many movies have made people utter the phrase, “I love that movie! Every time I see it, I see something new!”. Hm. Enter Matrix Reloaded.

Reloaded has a very tough burden to carry, and unlike our fair Head Mutant, I think the sibling metaphor works just dandy. It’s doomed to be the middle brother in a series that will undoubtedly be dominated by its first and last chapters. The original Matrix was arguably the pinnacle of original science fiction from the 1990′s, a masterwork of dark imagery, technical achievement, and style upon style. Revolutions (the soon to be released final chapter of the series) will most likely be a throwback to the feeling of the original, providing an ending with open questions. But Reloaded has to suck it up and be the pig in the middle, the source of all exposition, and the springboard of greater things to come.

As far as these jobs go, Reloaded succeeds very well. There is an awful lot of dialogue and philosophy that the Wachowski brothers obviously want to lay on the table in order to make the story work, it may as well be here. And straying back to my original point, multiple viewings will either make or break this movie for you. Personally, seeing it again allowed me a deeper understanding of the Philosophy 101 textbooks that had fallen into the script. Yes, the first hour is quite chock full of talky-talky. No, it’s not as irrelevant as it first seems. Even the now-famous “I have no point” speech has its distinct points to make, if you have the patience to look for them.

When the denizens of Zion aren’t talking or fighting, though, they’re making with the nookie. I’m a little surprised at the sex/nudity that’s included this time out. The massive rave scene drips with erotic content, which serves a point, but it’s dragged out to ridiculous length. And the sexual moments between Neo and Trinity, while showing what little chemistry I found between the two actors, seemed mighty tacked on. I don’t think the W. Bros are being overly gratuitous, but at the same time, all this sweaty groping seems a little out of place in a sea of characters who speak and dress as coldly as possible. Actually, I constantly find myself liking the characters more and more when they’re in circumstances they’re not typically in. As excited as I was that Carrie Anne Moss (a Vancouver actress) landed the role of Trinity, I constantly get this reptilian feeling from her that makes the character very cold. She speaks like a robot half the time. But throw her into a situation that’s out of her control, and the character grows a whole new set of charms. This carries over into most of the good guy team.

The supporting cast of players is large and quite good, and I thought the movie did a good job of introducing so many new characters without constantly bogging itself down even more. We are starting to get a feel for the fact that the Matrix is the home of more than just humans. Seraph, the Merovingian, Persephone, the Twins, the Agents, the Keymaker… there’s an enormous supporting cast representing the machine world, both working for and against it, and it’s really fascinating to see where the divisions lie. I like the fact that there’s dissention in the ranks of the machine, that some are obviously intent on the rule of the AI first at all costs, and others feel that the only way into the future is for humans and machines to coexist. The movie gives souls to the software, and I really enjoyed the touch.

I do miss the feeling that I don’t know what’s going on, though. Part of the pull of The Matrix was that the audience only got bits and bytes of reality, and was only let in on the secret in the last half. Reloaded has its secrets and its cliffhangers, but none of them are going to be as effective as the original, simple question: What is the Matrix? Still, as our Forums are rapidly filling with debates about the new mysteries of Reloaded, it’s obvious there’s a lot more to be discovered.

The action finally really makes its way to the screen in the second half of the movie, which is filled with more eyepopping effects, stunts, and combat than you can shake a stick at. The action pieces are really something, some of them more ambitious than the first movie (the “Burly Brawl”, with all the Smiths versus Neo), some of them are not (Trinity’s fight against the Upgrade Agent). But all of them are lacking just that little bit of drama that made the action so effective the first time out. Neo proves nearly impervious in every conflict he’s in, which drains a lot of the suspense from the whole thing. Attempts to make the other characters’ fights tense also tend to fail, largely because the Agents, despite supposedly being upgraded, just don’t feel as dangerous as they used to. Both Morpheus and Trinity take on Agents one on one, and hold their own pretty well. But new elements, like the deadly Twins with their straight razors and ghostly abilities, add a great deal of personality and danger.

And come one, come all, come see the beauty that is Agent Smith. People are always going to complain about how flat the lead actors are, Keanu Reeves in particular. It’s probably for this exact reason that Smith is fast becoming my favourite character in the whole shebang. Hugo Weaving once again demonstrates a knack for subtle menace, dark humour, and evilly charming personality that just always leaves me happy. A great role being played by a wonderful actor.

Fundamentally flawed, but still basically brilliant, The Matrix Reloaded continues the series’ traditions of techno-philosophy, impossible combat, and green tinted style. It’s destined to fall short of the high water mark of its predecessor, and will likely measure similarly against its successor. But it’s still the Matrix, and let’s face it, we’ve been wanting more Matrix for four years. It’s probably best that there isn’t another four year gap ahead of us before we see the end of the story, or Reloaded‘s lack of completeness may very well have driven us over the brink. As it is, I have but one last question:

When the Agents start dodging bullets, why doesn’t anyone ever just shoot them in the groin?

Uh, Trinity? You're driving the wrong way... maybe you should take those sunglasses off now...

Uh, Trinity? You're driving the wrong way... maybe you should take those sunglasses off now...

Intermission!

  • What’s up with that “staying off the freeway” thing? Why don’t they explain why it’s such a deathtrap? Wha?
  • Were you looking at Neo and Trinity’s jack ports while they were naked? Me too! Couldn’t stop looking, actually.
  • People in the future don’t wear shoes to raves
  • Is this a futuristic city or the Land of the Morlocks? Can we be more primal?
  • Yes. Keanu Reeves’ butt. Thank you. I’m gonna barf now.
  • When Trinity hacks the Power Station’s computer, the password she uses is “Z10N0101″.
  • Dr. Gix wrote, “In the beginning when Neo was the dream of trinity, the security guard in the guard house is reading a catalogue from H&K with a picture of the HK UMP… later in the film the white agent uses the same gun when he fires at Neo’s car.”
  • Sir Galahad wrote, “Remember in the first Matrix when The agents have Neo in the interrogation room. The camera zooms in on what looks like a bank of security camera screens. The camera appears to go through the screen and into the interrogation room. I always wondered what those little screens were. In Reloaded when Neo meets the architect of the matrix, the room is full of those very same screens.”
  • When Neo and Smith first meet face to face, you can see a lighting panel reflected in Smith’s glasses. This is one of very few occurrences of this happening, which is pretty remarkable for a series with so many characters wearing sunglasses.
  • 100 Agents Smith cracking their necks at the same time has to be a piece of modern classic cinema… just hilarious.
  • As Neo and company enter the Merovingian’s dining hall, a gruff looking man is being escorted out. This man and Neo look right at each other, but it’s easy to miss. Who is this guy?
  • When the Keymaker is briefing the three captains on how to access the Source, he and Morpheus are sitting in the same chairs that Neo and Morpheus sat in during the “red pill/blue pill” scene in the first Matrix.
  • Sigh… will Morpheus EVER hit anything with that flying monkey knee?
  • The Merovingian makes several references to having met and survived the previous Ones.
  • Bane/Smith mentions to Neo that “WE’LL be seeing you”.
  • Morpheus + katana = damn good time.
  • Rett M writes in: “The road signs in the highway scene actually all show cheat codes to the Enter the Matrix game.”
  • Rett M writes in: “When the Agent parks his black-and-white waiting for Morpheus’s truck to pass, the intercom squaks “1-Adam-10 please respond.” 1-Adam-10 is a Number-Name-Number, it is only used by narcotics and undercover units. Black-and-white’s use Number-Number-Number, like 83-10-83.”
  • Rett M writes in: “When Neo is talking to the Oracle, signs can be seen that say no left turn. Running low on prop money perhaps?”
  • Rett M writes in: “The captain who hates Morpheus, his name escapes me, has a model ship on his desk made of cigarette butts.”
  • Rett M writes in: “How much that old dude’s expressions looked like that dude from Rocket man, Harland Williams?”
  • Rett M writes in: “Was anyone else reminded of Rollar Coaster Tycoon when they showed the machine that recycles water? Cause.. well I was.”
  • Rett M writes in: “When Neo hits a Smith in the air and then smacks him again towards a window, if you watch his body breaks into pieces, when the camera cuts back, he’s gone and the window is intact, evidencing that he didn’t go through it and in fact was destroyed.”
  • At the end of the 10 minute credits is a sneak preview for The Matrix Revolutions.
  • Actress/Singer Aaliyah was originally cast in the role of Zee but was killed in a plane crash on August 25, 2001. Gloria Foster (The Oracle) also died before the end of shooting the second Matrix film.
  • There were several injuries on the set. Carrie-Anne Moss broke her leg training for a wire stunt, Laurence Fishburne fractured an arm in another training incident and Hugo Weaving put out a disc in his neck while being pulled back on a wire.
  • This film and the sequel (The Matrix Revolutions) took four years to make, and were filmed back to back.
  • The 2-mile loop highway was built specifically for this film for a chase scene on the decommissioned Alameda Point Navy Base at a cost of over $2.4 million.
  • GM donated 300 cars for use in the production of the movie. All 300 were wrecked by the end.

Groovy Quotes

Seraph: You do not truly know a man until you fight him.

Trinity: You always told me to stay off the freeway.
Morpheus: Yes, that is true.
Trinity: You said it was suicide.
Morpheus: Then let us hope…that I was wrong.

Commander Lock: Not everyone believes what you do Morpheus.
Morpheus: My beliefs do not require them to.

Twin #1: We are getting aggravated, aren’t we?
Twin #2: Yes, we are.

Bane: Oh God!
Agent Smith: Smith will suffice.

Merovingian: French is the best language to swear in. [stream of curses] It’s like wiping your ass with silk.

The Architect: I am the Architect. I created the Matrix. I have been waiting for you. You have many questions and although the process has altered your consciousness you remain irrevocably human, ergo some of my answers you will understand and some of them you will not. Concordantly, while your first question maybe the most pertinent you may or may not realize it is also the most irrelevant.

Neo: But if you already know, how can I make a choice?
The Oracle: Because you didn’t come here to make a choice, you’ve already made it. You’re here to try to understand why you made it.

The Oracle: It seems like every time we meet, I’ve got nothing but bad news. I’m sorry about that, I surely am. But for what it’s worth, you’ve made a believer out of me.

The Oracle: Every time you’ve heard someone say they saw a ghost, or an angel. Every story you’ve ever heard about vampires, werewolves, or aliens, is the system assimilating some program that’s doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.

Agent Smith: I’m looking for a man named Neo. You see, he set me free…

Trinity: Touch me and that hand will never touch anything again.

Agent Thompson: You!
Agent Smith: Yes, me. [clones himself into Thompson]
Agent Smith: Me, me, me…
Smith Clone: Me too!

Neo: So we need machines, and machines need us. Is that your point?
Councillor Harmann: No, no point. Old men like me don’t bother in making points. There is no point.
Neo: Is that why there are no young men on the council?
Councillor Harmann: Good point.

Morpheus: I have dreamed the dream, but now that dream is gone from me.

[Neo stops a few hundred rounds of ammunition with his open palm]
Merovingian: All right, you have some skill…

Agent Smith 1: If you can’t beat us…
Agent Smith 2: Join us!

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • The Matrix
  • The Animatrix
  • The Matrix Revolutions
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5 Comments

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