The Matrix Reloaded (2003) dir. Andy and Larry Wachowski
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Monica Bellucci
No, that’s not a typo up there. Yes, I confess “The Matrix Reloaded” is my favourite of the Matrix Trilogy. It was four years since the first Matrix blew the minds of action and sci-fi junkies. While the fresh and energetic mix of big ideas with Asian-style kung fu and gun play in the first film gave audiences hope of the next great sci-fi franchise the sequel, “Matrix Reloaded” was a massive let down to most people.
I never had the reverence for the first film that other people had, so I was easily caught hook, line and sinker by its expanded and deepened mythology, bigger ideas and bigger action.
When we last saw Neo (Keanu Reeves), he had just discovered his full abilities to manipulate the Matrix and defeat the evil Agents. Neo is introduced on board the Nebuchadnezzar, Morpheus’ battleship which trolls the underworld of the robot-ruled Earth. Neo is also fully in love with Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) but is stressed because of a series of recurring nightmares of her death.
Neo needs to see the Oracle again and get more information about his destiny and how he can save the precious human colony Zion from the robot onslaught. He’s told to go to “the source”, which holds all his answers. To do this Neo, Trinity and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) navigate their way through the Matrix to find the ‘keymaker’, who holds the key to the source. The trio battle more kung-fu badasses and multiple Agent Smiths in their race to save Zion.
One of my main complaints about the first film was a love story which emerged quickly in the final act and served as the deus ex machina which saved the day. In “Reloaded” Neo and Trinity’s love affair is fully palpable. They are even given a sexy love scene during the hypnotic rave scene (really, I didn’t mind that scene). Neo’s choice to save Trinity has gravitas where none was present in numero un.
Action is taken to another level of ambitiousness and technical bravura. While the Wachowskis earned points for chutzpah and technical innovation in the first film, I actually felt the execution of many of the scenes didn't hit the mark. Keanu Reeves is clearly a better fighter in “Reloaded” and his tussles with the Merovingian thugs, Seraph and especially the 100 Agent Smiths are choreographed with perfection. Watch the making of featurette and you'll see how, despite having the top CG artists at their disposal, Yuen Woo-Ping and the Wachowskis actually used old fashioned techniques as much as possible to create the multiple Smiths.
The lengthy trip into the Matrix takes up most of the second act, a full 45mins of sustained tension. The Merovingian’s (Lambert Wilson) coterie of badasses, including a luscious Monica Bellucci (a great bit of casting) arguably are the best baddies and supporting characters in the entire series. The climax of this sequence of scenes of course is one of the best car chases ever filmed - still a stunning sequence of stunts and action.
The central mythological question posed is about “the One”. How did the Oracle know Neo is ‘the one’? And what the hell does "the One" actually mean? Some found Neo’s visit to "the Source" a laughable scene of incoherent dialogue. But in between the big words, I found the architect’s revelations thought-provoking and meaningful within the context of series. We are told "the One" was planted in the Matrix by design to give hope and purpose to the human civilization, thus allowing the imprisoned human lives to generate more power, which, thus, sustains the robots. A symbiotic relationship, where one species can’t live without the other. All of this is foreshadowed in various conversations throughout the film.
We are also introduced to “Zion” which is only referred to in the first film. We get to meet a number of military leaders who spew endless clichéd military rigmarole, and are, unfortunately, as soulless as any of the virtual Agents or robots. In fact, the major crutch for the Wachowskis in each of the films is that the virtual world is so much more interesting than the dull Zion world.
"Reloaded" ends with a great cliffhanger, a humanized version of Smith in the real world, in a coma next to Neo. Unfortunately the Wachowskis set up an insolvable puzzle - ideas just too abstract and philosophical to be solved with mondo action. But more on that when I review “Matrix Revolutions”. In the meantime. I confess, that I enjoy “The Matrix Reloaded”. Bring it on!
"The Matrix: the Ultimate Collection" is now available on Blu-Ray from Warner Bros Home Entertainment
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