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The Matrix: Reloaded
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Randall Duk Kim, Harold Perrineau, Neil and Adrian Rayment, Lambert Wilson, Gloria Foster, Monica Bellucci, Nona Gaye and Anthony Zerbe
Directors and Scriptwriters: Andy and Larry Wachowski
Music: Don Davis
Warner Brothers/Village Roadshow Pictures
Running Time: two hours and ten minutes
Rating: R
Website: <http://www.thematrix.com>

2003 will be the year of the handkerchief. Not only will Lord of the Rings fans be salivating for their last installment of that series of epic books, but Matrix fans will drool for the conclusion of their film series as well. November and December should prove to be box office dynamite for movie fans.

Enter The Matrix: Reloaded, which is a title I have yet to comprehend. Nevertheless, it is the second film--or should we say a "continuation film"--of the science fiction premise in which Earth is ruled by machines that keep humans in a sort of dream world. I thought that's what laptops did? The usual suspects--I mean stars--are back, including Keanu Reeves as Neo, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity and Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus. Neo was a computer hacker who was deemed to be "the one" to break humans from their meager existence. Moss was a female soldier with quite a kick, and Morpheus thought he was right about everything.

Reloaded begins with Trinity breaking through a glass wall on a motorcycle, her favorite form of transportation. After fighting robots, she goes backward through another glass wall, and while falling, is still shooting at the robots. It is at this point that perhaps she may be in trouble. However, we find this is a vision/dream/projection/whatever of Neo, who is now Trinity's lover. We are back on board the Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus' ship that looks like a Disney reject. It seems as though there are several such ships, each with a captain, and Morpheus has a history (not always good) with two of the captains. Anthony Zerbe is head of the human council and decisions must be made about "the machines" that are dangerously close to the human city of Zion. No everyone believes Neo is "the one" to save them. Another problem is that Agent Smith (Hugh Weaving), a robot who was supposedly disposed of in the first film, returns as a sort of "free agent" who can change others into clones of himself. This proves to be bothersome to Neo who has to fight about 50 Agent Smiths in a martial arts scene sure to please fans.

One of the things that confused me in the first Matrix was the psychobabble dialogue. Viewers go from Point A to Point B through J, D, X and K. There is no straight answer, and these characters could be master politicians. While on board the ship, Reeves wears torn-up clothing, but as fighters, he and Morpheus wear long coats like old western riders. One would think all this material would get in the way of fighting, but they seem to beat up the opposition just fine. Must be something in the starch. New characters are introduced (a young wannabe fighter, for example) and then we don't see them again, so we hope the third film will be enlightening. The main characters wear dark glasses, and since no one is warning about ultra-violet radiation, what is this purpose? Zion looks like part of the underworld from Lord of the Rings, and if people have been living here for a hundred years they have gotten used to grime.

The plot of The Matrix films is a series of weird characters, each with their own scenery and partners. When we leave that area, we are directed to another (think The Wizard of Oz). Therefore, for example, we meet a man who lives in a French restaurant with a beautiful wife (Monica Bellucci), but he can't be trusted. In return for her information to Neo, she wants a passionate kiss. How this works into the story is beyond me, but the girls in the audience were enthralled. After leaving this place and picking up twin, white-haired villains, the group goes to "the key maker" (Randall Duk Kim) for help, and this scenario leads to someplace else, more villains, etc., etc. It begins to look like merely story extensions instead of an integral part of a plot.

The stunts are quite simply wonderful. If Keanu isn't kicking 50 Agent Smiths all over the place, then Moss is driving a car on a freeway (which is considered deadly by them), and transfers to a motorcycle while Morpheus is fighting another agent atop a moving 18-wheeler. Neo is powerful enough to fly, a la Superman, and I didn't see this coming in the first film. What could possibly develop in film three? I am sure camera equipment had to be invented to film the stunts, so at Oscar time next year, "The Matrix: Reloaded," at least should get a nomination. The camera is also at eye level at times, which has a feeling of audience participation. I think more than one moviegoer will be putting on the brake.

The Matrix films remind me more and more of the world of Frank Herbert, the creator of Dune. Just as Paul was Dune's savior, Neo is the savior of Zion. Human freedom fighters live underground in Matrix as the Fremen did on Arakis. Machines may rule Matrix films, but machines rule a great part of the Dune series, also. Melange keeps people happy in the Dune world, while humans are kept blissfully unaware of their fate in Matrix Sand worms can be killers in Dune while "sentinels" are the stalkers in Matrix.

As it stands, The Matrix: Reloaded is a puzzling story to me because of dialogue that doesn't go anywhere. There is a fine line between action and dialogue, and this film crosses over into maxi-action and mini-words. Perhaps the last film, Matrix: Revolution will explain everything, but right now I am beginning to doubt it.

Copyright 2003 Marie Asner
Submitted 5/18/03

Expectations. I probably write too much about them, but I'm becoming more and more convinced that what you expect out of a movie greatly influences how much you enjoy a movie. I have a theory that the moviegoing public likes summer blockbusters so much more than critics because of expectations. The former read the latter's negative reviews, expect the movie to be terrible, and are then pleasantly surprised when it's "not that bad." I offer for your consideration, Exhibit A--The Matrix Reloaded.

The original Matrix came out in 1999 and revolutionized the action movie genre. The Bullet Time sequence--in which time seems almost to stop as the camera encircles a hero dodging gunfire--has been imitated in countless movies, commercials, and music videos. But it wasn't just this fusion of Japanime, Hong Kong aesthetics, and Hollywood cool that broke the mold. The Matrix fused this sense of style with an opera-meets-scifi sense of grandeur, as our human heroes sought to defeat the machines who had
enslaved mankind in its Matrix.

Matrix Reloaded picks up in the middle of the war between humans and machines. Those humans who've been able to escape the Matrix have retreated into the center of the earth and created Zion. Still, there's fear in Zion as word spreads that the machines are tunneling through the earth and will soon descend on their refuge. Commander Lock (Harry Lennix), a resolute military man, wants to organize a defense force to head off the machines. But Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) has other ideas. He firmly believes in a
prophecy that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is the One who will save humanity. All that's required is to wait for the Oracle (Gloria Foster) to give instructions, and Neo will come to the rescue. Morpheus and Lock have quarreled before, particularly over the affections of the beautiful Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), but this time the High Council sides with Morpheus. They will put their trust in Neo.

Neo, for his part, is putting more than just his trust in Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss). In the first movie, Trinity saved Neo's life, and now their relationship has developed/descended into something much more sexual and obsessive. He's had a dream foretelling her death and wants to do everything he can to keep her safe. But when word comes of a message from the Oracle, Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and their trusty sidekick Link (Harold Perrineau) take off in their ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, to go back inside the Matrix.

The appeal of the first movie rested on its incredible action sequences and a provocative dose of philosophy and metaphysics. That last combination isn't one we usually find in a blockbuster, but directors and screenwriters Andy and Larry Wachowski were able to draw the audience into their elegant brand of dystopia. Internet users argued for months about what exactly the Matrix was, who Neo represented, and why the Wachowski brothers used so much Christian imagery and lingo. The advent of the sequel has only
intensified these musings, and critics and moviegoers alike have wondered whether the filmmakers could top themselves in creating a truly mythic universe.

And for my money, herein lies the problem. The expectations were too high. To expect the brothers Wachowski to create another revolution and top their last effort is to set yourself up for disappointment. It also misremembers the first film. The original Matrix was genuinely mind-blowing in places, but it also had its share of pomposity and dead moments. If you liked parsing out the Alice in Wonderland kind of paradoxes it could be exciting; but let's be honest, the movie starred Keanu Reeves, and that's rarely a good thing. And though the action sequences inspired a certain kind of awe, some of them also went on too long and featured enough bullets to arm the First Infantry Division.

The Matrix Reloaded also features some long action sequences (too long if you ask my friend Garth), but they strike me as more integrated than in the first movie. The scene with Neo and 100 Agent Smiths is a beautiful video game-inspired martial arts sequence, revealing the Wachowski brothers as the master of the slo-mo shot and reminding us why all their many imitators are just posers. And the justly celebrated freeway sequence is simply awesome. I'm not sure it needs to go on as long as it does, but it seems churlish to complain. Were you actually anxious to get back to the philosophizing?

I agree with the naysayers that the deep thoughts and conversations of Reloaded aren't as interesting as those of the original. The focus on the debate over predestination and free will just isn't as sexy as the thought that we're all being brainwashed in a simulacrum of images and pleasure. And the movie's final encounter between Neo and a "man" named The Architect is baffling. In fact, the film's final 25 minutes are pretty disappointing. The movie's trying so hard to set up for the third one that it gets lost in its own plot mechanics.

On the plus side of the ledger, however, Keanu is better this time around. I remember watching the first 30 minutes of the original wondering if the script was really bad or if it was just Whoa!-man (my nickname for Reeves). It was only when Laurence Fishburne came on screen that I realized it was Keanu's fault. In Reloaded the Wachowski brothers have found a way to utilize his permanent deadpan and make something stylish out of it. Reeves still can't hold a candle to Laurence Fishburne, though. As Morpheus, Fishburne practically defines the art of cool. When he pontificates, "I do not believe it is a matter of hope, merely a matter of time," I sincerely believe that's the coolest line of dialogue this year. And when he pulls out his sword on the top of a truck, well it made me want to sign up for whatever martial art uses a sword. And Hugo Weaving as the various incarnations of Agent Smith has a wonderfully grim sense of humor. Note to the brothers: use more of that in the third installment.

Is Reloaded a better movie than the original? Probably not. And there are certainly some glaring weaknesses (the Zion sequence is pretty dull actually). But the good parts are very, very good, and those are the parts that most moviegoers want to see anyway. If you don't take it too seriously, if you don't get caught up in the expectations game, you're going to have a fine time. Ignore the Critics. Free Your Mind. Thus sayeth the Critic. 

j. Robert Parks 

Amidst production delays from the deaths of supporting players and injuries to lead actors, Matrix Reloaded has arrived. The wave of hype surrounding the film resembled the "Star Wars" and "Harry Potter" releases, and is the first of two sequels to complete the trilogy. Reloaded continues the story of a band of humans who are locked in a deadly struggle against machines. The majority of the population is suspended in a blissful dream state unaware that the world they live in is an illusion. Those that are able to be free of the dream state battle the invasion over a vast network known as "The Matrix" by enabling cyber implants in their bodies. While in the Matrix, people can fight the invaders and accomplish missions using a variety of skills and weapons.

Despite production delays caused by the deaths of supporting players and injuries to lead actors, Matrix Reloaded has arrived. The new film picks up after the events of the first film about a band of humans who are locked in a deadly struggle against machines. Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn) return to the last free human city, Zion, to recharge their ship from battle and to prepare for another mission. But the forces of evil are burrowing toward the buried city and will soon arrive for a cataclysm. There are those amongst the humans who believe that Neo is the chosen one, and others that do not believe the prophecy that Neo is the savior and this forms a point of contention for the human leaders. The majority of the population is suspended in a blissful dream state unaware that the world they live in is an illusion. Those free from the dream state battle the invasion on a vast network known as the "Matrix" by engaging cyber implants in their bodies. While in the Matrix, people can fight the invaders and accomplish missions using a variety of skills and weapons.

The film is awash in effects as Neo and his crew set off on a mission to save humanity but sadly, the story seems to get lost along the way. While the film has plenty of effects and action, none of them seem particularly exciting. Much of it has a “been there, seen that” look to it despite upping the quantity. The bullet-time effects are getting stale and it seems to be the only trick in the film’s arsenal. The film’s creative team goes to that well far too many times giving a sense of tedium to what are otherwise well designed and crafted scenes. There is no tension in the film. Reeves’ lack of emotion and his monosyllabic delivery made it hard to really get behind the plight of the characters. It is hard to make sense of many of the plot elements and the characters were not well defined or developed.

The wave of hype surrounding the film resembled the Star Wars_ and Harry Potter releases but this is a just a film that has some nice effects that quickly become boring. The setup and execution have no tension and the plot no cohesion making it difficult to get caught up in the film. I found myself trying hard to like the film but despite the impressive number of effects, they were so ho-hum it was as if I was watching a FX reel rerun; many of the best effects had already been shown in the previews. Let's hope that Matrix Revolutions can end the trilogy on a high note, but Matrix Reloaded is a misfire.

Gareth Von Kallenbach5/18/2003

If you consider yourself a movie buff, like myself, you were a bit tired of the hype surrounding the original Matrix.  I use “original” in a very loose sense here, because things such as “bullet time,” the “matrix” and the camera circles, hich enable the rotating of a subject, effectively giving that third dimension to the scene, are not original ideas.  The choreographers involved in the movie are the same people largely responsible for some of the best Eastern movies out there such as Once Upon a Time in China, Black Mask, Iron Monkey, and more recently, Crouching Tiger and Charlie’s Angels.  With such a big budget and so much firepower in the martial arts department, the fights are expected to look amazing; not groundbreaking, but amazing.  With the Wachowski brothers at the helm, the first Matrix kept everyone at the edge of their seats.  But, they are pretty new to big-budget movies. Could they manage to put out the whole trilogy and keep everything kosher from the plot to the dialogue, the casting and the CGI?  No.

Matrix Reloaded is what Matrix was, a rehashing of old concepts, repackaged in that slick Hollywood “Black leather is ultra-cool” box.  Now, to be fair, there is some good acting (not from Keanu of course; he will always be Ted) and some good cinematography. Compared to the other current top 5 movies, excepting X-men 2, Matrix 2 is pretty good, but still, it gets lost within its own plot, much like X-men 2 did.

If you consider it an action movie, you will be fairly happy, but if you think of it as more than that, and actually try to comprehend the techno-babble, you will not only find inconsistencies, you will also find that reality, even for a sci-fi movie, has quietly left the building and gone on its way, perhaps to go watch MTV’s The Real World.

WARNING!!! SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

The most interesting part of the movie is the spiritual imagery.  The Wachowskis’ are not the kings of subtlety, and their imagery becomes outright plagiarism (though in half-truths) of some themes of the Bible.  We have a ship named Nebuchadnezzar, and guy named Neo (which, I’m told is significant, because it can be rearranged to spell “One.”), a girl name Trinity, a dude named Morpheus (god of dreams), and some believers, some non-believers, and some computer programs.  Throw it all in the mix and you get a dude who is prophesied to save the world, but then it turns out the prophecy is wrong.  But yet, somehow, though he can’t save the world, he can bring back people from the dead, and somehow, even when not in the Matrix, he turns out to have some sort of strange power.  Does it get weirder?  We will just have to wait till November. 

Joshua Arritt 5/22/2003

Four years after the original, the Wachowski brothers have “reloaded” the matrix in the form of a two-part sequel—The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions to be released in November.  There is no way these films could live up to expectations, but Reloaded appears to be a worthy successor.  For the two people who have not seen the first Matrix, the gist is that a software engineer code-named Neo is brought to the realization that he is living in a fantasy world called the “matrix.”  With the help of the idealistic Morpheus and the love-interest Trinity, Neo (a.k.a. Mister Anderson) is freed from the matrix, brought into the real world and taught how to manipulate the matrix.  He becomes the first human to defeat an “agent” (a dangerous computer program played by Hugo Weaving) in battle and is thought by almost everyone to be “the one”—a messiah who will defeat the machines who imprisoned humans in the matrix.

In Reloaded, the free humans assemble in Zion, their home city near the earth’s core, and prepare for battle with the machines.  Only the Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus’ ship, remains near the surface so that his crew, especially Neo, can attack the matrix from within.  While inside the matrix, Neo learns that Agent Smith has found a way to replicate himself and fight in large numbers.  Neo also receives another prophecy from the friendly Oracle and encounters interesting new characters like the Keymaker, the twins (two programs who can transport through space) and the Merovingian (historical reference: the Merovingians were medieval rulers who claimed to trace their descent directly to Jesus Christ through Mary Magdalene).

The special effects are everything we could have expected and the plot is nearly as ambitious as its predecessor.  More than ten minutes are wasted early in the film by what can only be described as some sort of rave in Zion.  This rap video montage fades into the background so we can gawk at Neo and Trinity’s gratuitous love scene.  There is no nudity, but this entire sequence lowers the film’s IQ and made me wonder why bother saving this city if sweaty dancing is the only thing that goes on there.  Where are the children?  Where are the businesses?  I am suddenly grateful that George Lucas only gave us Jar Jar Binks but spared us a steamy Han and Leia sex scene in an Ewok tent.

Laurence Fishburne excels again as Morpheus.  When he insists his ship stay near the surface so Neo can destroy the matrix from within, he is told briskly, “Not everyone believes what you believe.”  Morpheus calmly replies, “My beliefs do not require them to.”  By the end of the film, however, Keanu Reeves as Neo uncovers something most bogus—a new paradigm for understanding the matrix and his own purpose.  Saying more would give too much away, but it suffices to say that the dominant Christian imagery of the first film has been backtracked, at least for now.  I have a theory how the new information we learn might be resolved in the third installment, but if the resolution of the loose ends is unsuccessful, it will reflect poorly on both of this year’s Matrix films.

Dan Singleton 5/22/03

 

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