The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded is finally here and it’s one of the most frustrating things to watch – it’s not a movie, rather it is just half of one (we have to wait till November for the rest of it). Where the original Matrix film could be watched as a stand alone film, the first of the sequels is just frustrating to watch at times.

The first film was spoofed and mimicked so much (Shrek, Charlie’s Angels, Scary Movie to name but a few) that the mastery of the original was lost to a degree. Luckily the directors, Larry and Andy Wachowski realise that they needed to up the stakes to stave off the copycats – which visually they have.

The plot outline will be kept short as most of the film needs very little illustration. The film opens with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) breaking into a secure facility – in one of those It Will Be Important Later scenes. The film then moves to the real city of Zion deep in the earth where the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar arrive to relax and recuperate. The crew consists of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity, Link (Harold Perrineau) and Neo (Keanu Reeves).

Here in Zion it is revealed that the machines are burrowing towards them at a fantastic rate and once they arrive 250 000 robots will kill every living person in the underground city. With Commander Lock (Harry Lennix) trying to gather all ships together to protect the city and prepare for the unwelcome arrivals in 36 hours, Morpheus and his crew are given permission to go to transmitting depth to allow themselves to be plugged back into the Matrix. Morpheus believes that by allowing Neo to enter the Matrix again, they can shut it down before the machines get to Zion.

To begin with; the negative aspects of The Matrix Reloaded of which there are quite a few. After the first five minutes, the film slows to a ridiculously slow pace. Almost the whole of the Zion sequence is dull, including the barley registered love triangle between Morpheus, Commander Lock and the focus of both their affections, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). Why the film makers decided to give the home relationship of a new character, Link and his wife Zee (Nona Gaye – Marvin Gaye’s daughter) is a mystery. His character is a replacement for Tank from the first film as the Operator onboard the Nebuchadnezzar – the actor who played Tank was dropped because he wanted too much money to return and is currently suing the directors. So why bother focusing on his replacements relationship with his wife so much (it doesn’t seem to have any bearing – perhaps in the next film?).

The screenplay is full of clunky dialogue and a lot of thesaurus-heavy philosophy which some people will understand, some will be confused and some will just watch as it flies overhead. A lot of characters are introduced who spew forth some of the most forced hokey monologues to date. For example, a pseudo-religious rambling from a character called The Architect (who looks like the Colonel from KFC) was too long, too late in the film and too condescending.

As mentioned before, the first five minutes are great, followed by nearly 45 minutes of Zion (i.e. dull) which includes Morpheus’s daft speech to the inhabitants of Zion, before a 10 minute mosh pit style rave (what was the point?) and Neo making puppy-dog eyes at Trinity - having said that the film does kick it into high gear when Neo and chums return back into the Matrix.

There are some stunning set pieces that include the much talked about battle between Neo and 100 Agent Smith and the freeway sequence. The special effects in the film are stunning for the most part. There are a few CGI rendered shots that let it down, for example parts look like they were lifted straight out of a video game. The most notable is during the Neo versus Smiths fight. Having said that the stunt teams involved are exceptional and the freeway chase, where people fight around, through, over and between the traffic is stunning.

The performances are overshadowed by the effects to a large degree, but for the most part are good. Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss pretty much carry on as they did in the first – just slightly more comfortably. Hugo Weavering is great as Smith (no longer an Agent, now a free thinking rouge program) and has humour to go with his madness. The much featured Twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment) don’t really appear on screen for more than about 10 minutes, but still come across as a right pair of badasses.

On the whole The Matrix Reloaded doesn’t disappoint. Ignoring the many, many speeches and posturing about choices and prophecies, and the weak first half, the film delivers. Ironic that this is almost a negative review, but its not by a long shot.

The action is superb and the standards have definitely been raised. Fortunately the wait for the next film is only a few months (no three year George Lucas style waiting here! – speaking of George Lucas, let’s hope the Wachowski brothers avoid the Lucas path and concentrate as much on dialogue as they do special effects for the next film).

Just two things to remember to be aware of; the huge frustrated sigh from the audience when the letters TO BE CONCLUDED appear and to make sure you sit through the most boring credits in the world to see a glimpse of The Matrix Revolutions.

Score 6/10