THE MATRIX RELOADED review
What is THE MATRIX RELOADED? It’s a film filled with cool images and ideas, that never has the courage to live up to its own imagination. A film that never truly takes flight and always seems to be pulling it’s punches. Is that because nobody ever seems to get bruised in this film? That swords seem to do the same amount of damage in this film as they do in the typical TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLE cartoon?
I have to deal with spoilers, because the only way to really deal with the profound disappointment that I have with MATRIX RELOADED is to delve into the larger failures of the film. HOWEVER, before I do that… I’ll deal with the non-spoilers summary for you folks that just have to know.
If you enter the movie about 45 minutes into the film, you wouldn’t really miss much. There’s Neo’s bad dream, a whole bunch of really really mediocre Zion stuff, a few kung fu fights that are all variations on Punch, Block, Pivot, Kick, Punch, Punch, Block, Block. With about that much emotion. The Rave is embarrassingly bad. The Zion council is bad. Morpheus’ speech to Zion is bad. Anthony Zerbe is really bad. “The Kid” is incredibly bad. The design is cool, the look is cool, although the “Cotton is the fabric of our lives” world of Zion fashion is a bit grating. Nona Gaye shouldn’t act, her eyes convey indifference, instead of love, concern, passion and regret… which seems to be what her character is supposed to be trying.
Then the second the Oracle arrives, the movie begins to have a pulse. In fact, everything that the glorious Gloria Foster says is magic… What she’s telling Neo, the things she’s talking about, the concepts she’s introducing lit my imagination. The idea that we might be headed in those directions thrilled me. I truly mean that. If the film would only deliver on her words… Then this film was going to hit me with surprises worthy of secrecy and hushes. Alas, this film never lives up to its own imagination. It never delivers on Neo’s phone call that ended the last film:
“I know you're out there. I can feel you now.
I know that you're afraid... afraid of us.
You're afraid of change. I don't know the future.
I didn't come here to tell you how this
is going to end. I came here to tell how
it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this
phone, and then show these people what
you don't want them to see. I'm going to show
them a world without you. A world without
rules or controls, borders or boundaries.
A world where anything is possible. Where
we go from there is a choice I leave to you.”
Ok - What did you imagine he meant by that, when he suddenly dropped the phone and flew away? For me, it meant that Neo’s mind was open. That he was going to free others’ minds… Not just by giving them pills, but showing them that gravity wasn’t real. That there jobs were not real. That when they fell and broke a bone, that that wasn’t real. That there are no buildings, no food, no drinks and no clothes. That there were no laws that bound us mentally or politically. That the world of super-beings was in our grasp within the realm of the Matrix. That guns and weapons were useless, that punches and kicks were irrelevant, that once you could see the code you could unravel it and make it your servant rather than it your master. Neo was going to change it all.
Not really. Hell, turns out, Neo doesn’t even teach his best and closest souls how to unravel an agent. He doesn’t even open the minds of those closest to him, much less his own. He’s forgotten the lessons he learned in the last film. He still allows himself to enter into physical combat, though… doesn’t he know there is no blows, no punch, no fist or arm or body behind it?
My disappointment with THE MATRIX RELOADED isn’t that it is a bad movie, it isn’t. It’s good. Hell, there are times when it’s even pretty goddamn cool. However, at nearly every single choice the Wachowski’s made in this film, they chose to be pedestrian, repetitive and boring. The film suffers from being cute and selling itself short. Hell, if we are to believe the hype, this is pretty much the last time we have an adventure IN THE MATRIX. We’ve been told in publicity and by Joel Silver and the cast that the next film takes place MOSTLY in the “Real World” – So they were going to really blow the lid off of the fantasy world of THE MATRIX right? Wrong.
Seemingly, Neo can’t rip someone’s code apart anymore. Not that it is really ever mentioned, only that well… he’s just going into Kung Fu instead of the “higher powers” he left the last film with. I bet like me, you probably think that flying was just one of many “powers” that Neo would unleash in this film… right? Nope, he can fly – and do kung fu, that’s about it…. Oh and stop bullets.
Sad. Sad because I watched this film… watched how bloody wonderful some of it was… I listened closer to this film, than most any film I’ve seen this year and while that first part nearly broke my ears with pain – the part that broke my heart was when this film just ceased caring. If I had to compare THE MATRIX RELOADED to a film, it would have to be THE LAST ACTION HERO.
AT THIS POINT… I’m Going To Begin Heading Into Spoiler Territory. Do not go beyond this point if you want to remain pure…
You remember how in the LAST ACTION HERO, Arnie’s character was all powerful, cuz he was the hero? How when he comes into the real world, and the Charles Dance’s character gets part of the magic ticket… Begins looking through that newspaper circling ads of movies with promising villains to pull from the screen… Like TALOS and DRACULA – and how instead of bringing a 200 ft bronze statue into the center of town, he brings the one villain that we’ve already seen our hero defeat?
Essentially… That’s THE MATRIX RELOADED. Instead of introducing new concepts given realization on screen, they do nothing but reintroduce old concepts for cinematic devices. Agent Smith… we’ve got a hundred of em. Never mind that we already have seen Neo beat him, perish that thought, what’s cool is there’s a hundred of them. And Neo is going to fight them as if he had to. Why? I don’t know. Is he going to win, not really. Is he going to lose, not really. So what’s the point? EXACTLY.
At the end of the last film he could destroy code. This time… apparently he can’t or won’t. Seems the only character that’s learned anything new was Agent Smith, I guess that’s why he would be a more interesting character than Neo… Just as the Joker is more interesting than Batman and Lex Luthor more compelling that Superman. As opposed to Marvel heroes, where the heroes are as compelling, if not more so. But hey… this is Warner Brothers… D.C. rules apply.
Ok, on that LAST ACTION HERO thing, I talk about how the film introduced a really cool concept that it then didn’t deliver on… SAME HERE… The Oracle tells Neo that basically there are strange bizarre “Rogue” programs on the Matrix. Angels, Demons, Werewolves, Vampires. All those bedtime nightmares, and whispered hushed tales of the supernatural… they’re all real here. Ok… I’m on board. Cool. Ready to see all that freaky shit? Me… Too!
Ok, so at this point we get the first “rogue program” showing down against Neo… Agent Smith times 100. A pointless battle that serves no purpose, does nothing for any of the characters and seemingly is multiple steps backwards in terms of the alleged progression that Neo made in the last film. If he can stop bullets, could he not stop all force directed at him? Or maybe his monkey brain isn’t quite there yet.
Ok, to underline how pointless the fight was, he just flies off, and the hundred agents just sort of wander off in this and that direction… Wow, how utterly unthrilling.
Ok, so now we’re supposed to hook up with a very old rogue program that was supposed to be deleted a long long time ago, going by the name Merovingian. In a film with about 10 new awful characters, Merovingian is the jewel. The Twins are not really a character, they’re just visuals, not really any personality at all. Merovingian might very well be the first “Neo” type being in the Matrix. Monica Bellucci’s Persephone tells us that he was once like Neo, but really who knows? They don’t delve into it, but she also informs us that Merovingian employs very old programs that are very difficult to kill, she then pulls out a gun with Silver bullets and disposes of one, and tells the other to leave and tell her husband. OK. Now on the screen behind them, these two were watching BRIDES OF DRACULA, the best vampire film that has ever been… So we’re about to see Vamps or Werewolves or a shitload of cool monsters right?
At this point, I’m extremely frickin excited, because I know we’re dealing with Werewolves and Vampires. That Merovingian, who is a man of style and taste, that has learned every language on the planet and favors the world of Old Europe in terms of style, has a passion for French, cooking and the flesh of fine females. His dialogue about the illusion of choices is my favorite of all the “high” dialogue in the film, till the architect.
When Merovingian shows up to face Neo, Trinity and Morpheus… Trinity and Morpheus take off after the Keymaker and NEO is going to handle Merovingian and his team of old programs / allegedly supernatural beings.
Instead we just get another martial arts battle with weapons that only seem to really affect solid inert objects. Though they’ve opened the door to Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies and what not… We’re not getting them. We just get more kung fu. They fucking opened the door to things cooler than kung fu and all they give us are Wraiths for Trinity and Morpheus to deal with, meanwhile Mr. THE ONE is left to deal with a bunch of pansy ass Red Shirt Kung Fu fools that apparently might be Angels and Demons and things beyond imagining… Oh… but we’re not going there? God forbid one of them AKIRA’s out… or does anything beyond Wire Fu.
They suggest that it might be coming, then don’t go there? FUCK THAT! This film features about 5 fights of Neo fighting folks Kung Fu fashion… BIG FUCKING DEAL, we got the idea at the end of the last one, that he could tear an Agent apart from the inside. But now… well now he’s very limited by his mind. He seems to have built fences all around it. Just as the Wachowski Brothers seem to have built around their own imaginations.
I wouldn’t be ranting about not having the Vampires and Werewolves and Angels and Demons and what not had they never suggested it, but they did. They said it could happen, then they gave us Kung Fu… Again… against the one character in this film that we know you don’t fuck with with Kung Fu.
The film truly feels like an unexplored first draft that nobody ever added a suggestion to. It feels like a hyperactive version of the first film, lacking all the emotional journey. Hell, when at the end, they break the news that Zion has been destroyed, it literally feels like… “Oh yeah, Zion was destroyed dude… Total suckage! They’re all kaput!” Like a vaseline covered toilet seat, it’s just… WHOA! What the fuck did you just say? Zion is destroyed? You mean, you’ve been wasting my time with Kung Fu when you could have been showing me the last human city on earth’s fight against the machines? I mean, talk about complete and total irrelevance of events. 12 people fucking around the Matrix or hundreds of thousands of robots versus men in power armor, rayguns, city defenses and that desperate fall of mankind? Which would you want to see? Which is the more significant event?
For NEO, definitely its his meeting with the architect, which was a pretty damn good condescending sermon to the monkey boy Neo. Btw… watch the TV monitors, when the Architect is talking about the foulest most evil people of man’s past, they flash from Hitler to George Bush – I’M NOT SHITTING.
Ok, now admittedly I like where we are at the end of this film. Prophecies don’t mean shit, mankind seems totally fucked, everything we know doesn’t mean a thing and where the hell do they go from here… But dear god, it is like all that Zion stuff at the beginning was just worthless because… apparently most of those people are dead and not a part of the series from here on out, so it’s like… “Here’s what Zion is… Yeah, it’s like if New York were set in Carlsbad Caverns and if everyone wanted to party cuz the end of the world is coming.
The dialogue in this film is very spotty, the music is fairly annoying and sometimes painfully calls attention to itself.
What did I love? I loved Frenchie’s discussion about choice and the special slice of dessert he concocted… best moment of the film. The Big Brawl is pointless, but cool. The Highway scene is ultimately underwhelming… The fight on Semi-top doesn’t feel like it is on a Semi-top going 60 mph… Don’t get me wrong, the background is certainly blurring past at that type of speed, but I never get the idea that the wind is affecting either Morpheus or the Agent or the Keymaker. Trinity’s motorcycle ride with the Keymaker is AWESOME! The Twins are very cool, but we learn nothing about them, but the mere existence of them made me hunger for the characters that Neo was fighting to be every bit as out of the ordinary as they were… instead of stock bad guys from sub par Joel Silver Martial Art films.
I’m seeing the film again this Wednesday at the Alamo Drafthouse as part of a double feature with the original Matrix. I’m told that apparently the movie is better upon second viewings, cuz we apes obviously need to see it once before seeing it the first time so our simian lobes can wrap around it.
So I wonder if seeing it once will improve the dialogue of the first hour or so, or make that lifeless retarded rave interesting, or those terrible Zion actors better performers? I wonder if a second viewing will allow me to understand why the Neo in this film isn’t the Neo we left in the last film? Or why the film seems so distracted by making cute winks regarding the various Matrix materials out there, instead of telling a compelling story. I wonder if I’ll think these characters are smarter than Frank Darabont’s characters in NIGHTMARE OF ELM STREET 3: THE DREAM WARRIORS, cuz once they knew they were going into a dream, they developed and opened their minds and released their potential, whereas here… nobody is living up to their potential?
I was never disappointed by THE PHANTOM MENACE or ATTACK OF THE CLONES, cuz I expected George Lucas to overtly play to children with his new films. I loved the original MATRIX, in many ways I was the first fan of it outside the production world cuz I got that script about 2 years before the film existed. I loved that script because at every turn it made the smart choice. Here… in a film that seems to talk rather incessantly about choices, the characters and the filmmakers made a lot of bad ones.
If you go in and you don’t think too terribly hard about the film and you kind of half listen to the dialogue, you’ll come away loving it. But don’t let the potential of anything anyone says give you an idea that you’ll see anything in this film that ups the level of imagination over the last film… Cuz unfortunately… it just ain’t gonna happen.