"You've already made the choice to star
in a really disappointing sequel. How
you promote it is up to you."
The Matrix Reloaded
Review written by: Alex Sandell
At least George gave us some warning. By using frightening and foreboding words such as "Jar Jar," "Jake Lloyd" and "directing this one myself, am I," George provided the most optimistic sci-fi fan reason to be skeptical. Andy and Larry Wachowski, the writing and directing powerhouses behind 1999's The Matrix, gave the sci-fi community nothing but hope. This hope allows for the most disappointing cinematic sequel in science-fiction history; The Matrix Reloaded.
The Matrix Reloaded is not much more than Attack of the Clones dressed up in Mad Max and Alien clothing. The philosophizing is cheesy, the dialogue is terrible, and everything else in the film lies somewhere in-between the two. What the hell happened? Everything here is so Lucas; it reeks (but in a pleasant Computer Generated way, of course).
Subscribing to the George Lucas "More is More" school of "thinking," the Wachowskis never quit in The Matrix Reloaded until they're sure the audience will be numb. Why stop with 10 evil Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) when you can have Neo (Keanu Reeves) fighting 100? It's ironic that, as much as the title didn't fit the last Star Wars film, Attack of the Clones would be the perfect name for the newest Matrix installment.
It's been six months since the events that took place in the first Matrix film occurred. During that time, more humans were "unplugged" (unfortunately the unrelenting techno. soundtrack didn't follow their lead) than had been in the past six years. The citizens of Zion have found a newfound courage, due to their shared belief with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) that the prophecy of the One is being fulfilled. Neo, believing that he is indeed the One, has expanded his powers, along with his love for Trinity (Carrie Anne-Moss).
But all's not well in the Matrix universe. 250,000 Sentinels are working their way toward Zion to wipe mankind off the map. Bad dreams are plaguing Neo, concerning Trinity's fate. Agent Smith has developed a taste for humanity, and with a newfound human ego, has turned into a rogue agent, with the power to convert any number of humans into prototype clones of himself. Morpheus's faith in the One is being tested, along with his ability to continue denying his love for Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), the captain of the Logos, and one of the key members of the Zion resistance.
The Wachowski Brothers didn't fail due to lack of ambition. Their over-abundance of ambition is destroyed in the film's execution. Almost every moment of the movie is drawn out for too long a duration. During one goofball scene, the Wachowskis cut between the citizens of Zion performing a makeshift tribal dance, and Neo and Trinity making love. The whole thing is played out in slow-motion, as is much of the film, for heightened ... dramatic ... effect.
The tribal dance/bumping uglies ordeal comes off much like 2 fifteen-year-old boys with a multi-million dollar trust-fund, a camera, and the desire to create an "erotic" sex scene. Mystery Science Theater 3000 could devote a month's worth of episodes ridiculing this one cornball moment. But the fun most definitely doesn't stop there. Wait until you get into the campy philosophizing.
In The Matrix Reloaded, there are so many generic sermons and hackneyed viewpoints flying at you from all sides that your head begins to spin. Half the movie is spent with characters locked firmly in "pot-talk." These are the conversations that seem deep, only if you've taken a couple of extra hits on the bong, and suddenly find yourself bedazzled by elementary school brain-twisters along the lines of, "what if the earth was really all on the tip of a giant's pen, and when he runs out of ink, the planet will be demolished?"
Most shocking of all is that the fighting, action and adventure scenes are less enthralling than the mumbling morals that mix their way into the picture in an attempt to make it seem "important." Almost every fight scene or action event starts out with a great deal of promise. But, with exception made for the sleek and streamlined opening sequence featuring our beloved Trinity, the initial promise of the action scenes turn into 10-20 minute exercises in tedium.
Imagine the finales to most sci-fi films. In The Matrix Reloaded, almost every action scene plays out like the extended conclusion of a better edited movie. The audience is subjected to one "finale" after another, creating more false-endings than Steven Spielberg could conjure up on one of his worst days. By not knowing when to edit the action, the Wachowskis take initially interesting set-ups, and overextend them to the point where the "EXIT" sign in the theater becomes more compelling.
It's a sci-fi thrill to watch as the two, then three, then ten Agent Smiths take on Neo in the already talked about "burly brawl" sequence that is prominently displayed in the trailers for the film. But the "EXIT" sign begins to draw your attention away from the screen when the brothers decide to add 90 additional Agent Smiths for Neo to do battle with.
How many different Agent Smiths can you see kicked, hit or knocked off their feet before growing tired of it? It's excessive, and there's also no way to choreograph a scene as large as this without using CG characters. Despite what you've heard from the WB publicity department, this all looks preposterously artificial. Even when they're not fighting, there are moments when both Neo and Smith are 100% computer. The look is so stunningly phony, I thought that it was a plot point, and something was going wrong with the programming in the Matrix, turning the characters into video game images.
Nearly every action scene plays out this way. The fights are longer and louder than they were in the first, but far less imaginative. And then there's the already infamous Freeway Chase. This scene was a potential classic. The albino twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment) are the most compelling baddies in the picture. The two can morph into a ghostly form to fly through walls. Too bad their key sequence takes up nearly 10 minutes of the picture, before they hit the freeway and the much-touted road-rage truly kicks into gear.
The Freeway Chase suffers immensely from extensive use of CG and motion capture. When Morpheus is fighting an agent on the top of a huge 18-wheeler, the CG causes him to look like a long-lost Tiny Toon. To see main characters such as Morpheus converted into cartoon form distracts from the action. The Freeway Chase isn't an absolute waste: Trinity on her motorcycle is a wonder to behold. Your pulse should quicken when you see her zooming through oncoming traffic at what appears to be 80-100 MPH.
Although the god-awful CG diverts from Yuen Wo Ping's fanciful wire work that made the first film such a memorable experience, he definitely didn't take it easy on the actors this time around. There are a considerable number of fighting sequences in The Matrix Reloaded, but due to the overuse of CG, none are as breathtaking or believable as those given to us in The Matrix.
And then there's the dialogue. Yikes. It is the worst that I've heard in a big budget event flick, this side of LucasFilm. The romantic lines between Trinity and Neo are only a step above the drivel we were given between Anakin and Padme in Attack of the Clones. Morpheus is given less to say, but says more of it, throughout the picture. Apparently Laurence Fishburne did nothing but take a load of downers so ... he ... could ... spew ... out ... his ... elongated ... philosophical ... ramblings ... at ... an ... even ... slower ... pace.
I was also disappointed with the set design in The Matrix Reloaded; Zion in particular. It's a dismal place -- almost all Computer Generated -- and doesn't do the job. Imagine the Ewok Village designed by Tim Burton with ILM hired on to create the CG city.
There are things to like in the movie. When Neo is given strong clues as to whether or not he is really the One, he's offered a choice between two doors. One door leading to humanity's salvation. The other leading to a chance at saving Trinity. Which door will Neo choose? You'll have to wait and find out.
The scene would fit in well with 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's involving, intense and eventually moving (I'd like to say more, but I don't want to spoil it). Hopefully Andy and Larry Wachowski will swallow their pride and do some heavy editing for The Matrix Revolutions. If they edited back the action scenes and fortune-cookie mumbo-jumbo, along with adding more genuine emotional conflict for our heroes to go through, they just might have a really good movie on their hands.
If you're a fan of The Matrix, I wouldn't miss Reloaded at the theater, but I wouldn't pay full price for a ticket. Hit a dollar showing, or, at the very least, a matinee. To label the film as a "bad" movie would be too harsh. It's not a bad movie. "Earth-Shattering disappointment of monumental proportions" more accurately fits the bill.
The Matrix Reloaded deals a lot with "choice." One line reads, "Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without." Now's your time to send a message to those with power, letting them know that those without can make choices of their own free will. Sure, The Matrix Reloaded will have one of the best opening weekends ever, but it's up to you to choose whether or not to go back and see it a second time. Let this one die a quick death, and hope for better with The Matrix: Revolutions.
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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].