Matrix Reloaded is a spectacular act of cinema that makes all other modern day blockbusters seem undernourished.
It doesn’t have the emotional brute force of, say, X2, but boy does it have Wow-factor. Make that Wow-wow-wow-wow factor. Like its predecessor, 1999’s The Matrix, it redefines the very nature of entertainment.
Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, the original Matrix had one thing that Matrix Reloaded does not (and cannot): it came out of nowhere with no expectations attached. This benefit of anonymity allowed The Matrix to grab audiences with its striking design, groundbreaking effects, and a narrative that blended references to pop culture, philosophy and a handful of religion tenets into a stylish, savory sci-fi stew. It took repeated viewings of the movie to genuinely appreciate its magnificence.
The same can be said for the sequel, which is almost more dense and impenetrable than the first film. And yet, as one colleague noted after the screening, the overwhelming substance is illusory — you can take it or leave it and just enjoy Matrix Reloaded as an action-driven extravaganza and a celebration of ultra-hip style.
The story continues where the last film left off. Thomas “Neo ” Anderson (Keanu Reeves), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are rigidly adhering to a prophecy that they believe will save the last human outpost of Zion from certain destruction by 250,000 tunneling Sentinels. There is dissent, however, among other Zion commanders who feel that the battle must be fought tangibly, with brute force in the real world and not, as Morpheus feels, within the computerized bit-and-byte environs of the Matrix, where Neo has attained super-superhuman status.
Neo pays another visit to the Oracle (the wondrous Gloria Foster, who sadly, died shortly after Reloaded wrapped), who confounds and further frustrates the would-be reluctant messiah with even more puzzles. (Indeed, if there is one thing to be said for Matrix Reloaded, it opens up a pandora’s box of new questions.) There is much talk about choice — “Everything begins with choice ” and “We can never see past a choice we don’t understand ” — and choice, in fact, becomes a critical component in this film for Neo, who is forced to make a decision that may determine the fate of all civilization, both human and cyber.
If the film’s action doesn’t seem as fresh as the first film, it’s due to a redundancy in many of the martial arts-inspired fights. That said, however, there is one astonishing setpiece in which Neo must confront his old nemesis Agent Smith (the brilliantly corrosive Hugo Weaving), who has undergone a transformation of his own, and, like a computer virus, is able to replicate himself. It’s no secret that Neo fights a hundred Agent Smiths, and this this “burly brawl ” is every bit as astonishing and thrilling as you hope for. There is a second major showpiece — a heart-pounding freeway chase that is so elaborate and audacious, it will be decades before any other filmmaker can top it.
| Matrix Reloaded Directed by The Wachowski Brothers
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Carrie-Anne Moss
The movie ends with a sinister cliffhanger and the legend “To be concluded. ” But those who brave the massive credits at the end will be rewarded with a sneak peek at the forthcoming Revolutions.
Several new characters are introduced — including a pair of ghostly twins, a dripping-with-pomposityÂ Frenchman, and a master program whose appearance sets the narrative spinning in a new direction altogether.
My only real problem with Matrix Reloaded is that it may be too cool for its own good. Style trumps substance here and the Wachowski’s direct with a sense of frosty detachment that ensures we don’t get too emotionally involved. That’s a little weird, if you ask me. But not weird enough to keep me from theatres in November, when this trilogy comes to a conclusion that promises to satisfy us beyond our wildest imaginings.