Four years after a unique sci-fi movie with amazing graphics, incredible action scenes and an intriguing storyline wowed audiences, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus return in The Matrix Reloaded, the second of the trilogy.
Preceded by The Matrix and to be followed by The Matrix Revolutions in November, The Matrix Reloaded tells the continuing story of Neo, the man prophesized to be The One to liberate mankind of its robot oppressors. He is nearly unbeatable while in the Matrix, but the real threat may come at Zion, the last human city deep below ground, where 250,000 sentinel robots are burrowing to spell doom for everyone. In the meantime, Neo is searching for the gatekeeper, a "man" that can give him access to the system mainframe that could shut down the Matrix.
The Matrix Reloaded is the second of the trilogy, but - let's face it - at the time the first movie was released, any thoughts of a sequel were only pipe dreams in the back of directors Andy and Larry Wachowski's minds. Once The Matrix became a hit, a sequel was on, but remember how it ended? Neo could fly and it appeared as though the end was near.
The Matrix Reloaded starts off like a sequel that is trying to be a continuing story from a movie that wasn't supposed to be continued. Andy and Larry obviously didn't know where to begin, or what to do, because the first half an hour of the movie is dreadfully awful. It begins with a dream sequence of Trinity dying, and I must say that this is a pet peeve of mine. Only crappy horror movies begin with dream sequences.
The movie then jumps around to a bunch of different characters in a bunch of different settings (both the real world and the Matrix), not taking the time to explain who these people are or where they are. The movie needed to remind the audience of what happened in the first film; after all, The Matrix was released in 1999. These first few scenes seem confused and rushed, but it only gets worse.
We are introduced to Zion, a large city that looks something like a subterranean version of every city seen in Star Wars. There are tons of pathways and long drops everywhere; how come in the future the machines are larger and safety concerns don't exist? Anyway, Zion is nothing to scream about, but the people are even weirder.
Morpheus was pretty damn cool in the original film, but during a speech he gives to his fellow Zionists, all credibility goes right out the window. This motivational speech is so cheesy it compares to some of the lines in Attack of the Clones, and then Andy and Larry decide to interlace a sex scene between Neo and Trinity with a five-minute long rave dance scene. It is never explained what this dance scene has to do with anything, or why the directors didn't cut this part out to shorten the movie from its 138-minute running time, but for some reason this rave scene is left in to bore us to tears.
Actually, the entire first half hour is pretty boring, and relatively cheesy. Neo and Trinity run around trying to find a nice place to have sex, a few of the characters crack jokes that aren't funny, we are introduced to some annoying character that Neo set free from the Matrix, and are shown a basic outline of the politics in Zion, though the story doesn't delve into this nearly as much as it should.
Yes, so the first half hour sucks. It is really disappointing. However, there is good news, and that is the rest of the movie improves exponentially...
First off, the action scenes are pretty impressive. Neo gets to fight about a hundred Agent Smith's at the same time, and while the fight scene does get old after a few minutes (why doesn't he just fly away?), it still deserves props. Actually, I enjoyed the fight scene just previous to the Agent Smith encounter, where Neo fights the Oracle's protector. Sure, it ends peacefully, but the music and choreography has elements reminiscent of the first film.
The other very noteworthy action sequence is a very long and incredibly sophisticated one that starts out with Neo duking it out with a bunch of people with swords and so forth and ends with a gigantic car chase scene on the freeway. The freeway portion of the action scene has some of the best graphics I have ever scene, and some moments paralleled those intense chase scenes in Ronin. If I could watch one part of The Matrix Reloaded again, it would be the freeway action scene.
The Matrix Reloaded is also treading on the line of being a really smart film. Granted, the dialogue is pretty lame for the most part, but the last fifteen or twenty minutes suggest that there are going to be some pretty interesting twists in the final chapter. Honestly, I didn't understand everything that happens in the final moments of this movie (it'll give me a reason to go see this again), but it appears as though Andy and Larry are attempting to pull off something pretty cool. However, we'll have to wait and see if they actually are daring, or decide to go the more action-packed route. Both may work, but it would be sort of neat if the directors decided to finish things off with a twist instead of a big bang.
The Matrix Reloaded is undoubtedly going to be one of the biggest hits of the year, and for the most part, it deserves to be. It plays better as a popcorn flick than anything more, and compared to The Matrix it has neither the element of surprise nor the wowing special effects that set new standards for action films, but The Matrix Reloaded definitely has many fine points. Unfortunately, the first half an hour cannot be redone, but, for the most part, the rest of the movie makes up for its early faults.
Is it better than The Matrix? Most certainly not? Is it better than May's other big hit, X-Men 2? No. But The Matrix Reloaded is still worth the money.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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