Harry's additional comments on MATRIX RELOADED after watching the MATRIX double feature opening night!
Published at: May 15, 2003, 2:48 a.m. CST by staff
Hey folks, Harry here… As promised in my First Review, I told you I’d see the film a second time. Tonight, I saw the films in IDEAL circumstances… not at a press screening with critics, but at the Alamo Drafthouse Mega-Matrix Geek Event. This was a 35mm Double Feature of THE MATRIX and MATRIX RELOADED. Before the films they were running an animated Matrix trivia contest asking questions varying from easy to hard regarding the Matrix, and your seat had automated interactive controls so each and every audience member could play.
Folks were cheering and laughing and celebrating winning their prizes. The Matrix-Heinie beer promotion was in full swing and folks were drinking them by the six pack. As the MATRIX played the audience applauded and cheered. As THE MATRIX RELOADED played… there was very little reaction to anything more than the cute jokes that the movie has. There was no applause after any battle scenes. As the film ended, about 95% of my audience got up and left with zero applause, no cheers and left without seeing the REVOLUTIONS teaser. I was shocked. I might have many problems with the film, but there’s no way I would leave before seeing the teaser for REVOLUTIONS. In fact, I’d say the critics’ screening that I first saw the film was more reactive to the film than this screening was. That’s scary.
Watching the two films back to back on the big screen underlines every single problem with the sequel.
1. The first film was covered in darkness… lit by isolated lamps, flashlights, emergency lights and spotty fluorescents and iffy bulbs… Probably to cover the limitations of their budget with darkness. This time, since they had the whole of the Time/Warner/AOL fortune, the film is much brighter to look at. Almost every nook and cranny can be seen. In fact, it’s all real pretty, but there’s an edge taken off the atmosphere here.
2. In the first film the fights were in static environments where the focus was the combatants, this time the fights are typically in highly volatile environments that are either so filled with combatants to render the fights mute…. Or in environments so filled with motion that the eye is naturally drawn to other things than just the fighting. The resulting effect means that the audience doesn’t feel the impact of the fight, but is overwhelmed by the setting. Ultimately making the fights meaningless.
3. Also in the first film, the action sequences were exceptionally organic with all the characters moving forward through the story together, losing characters to death and loss as you went along, meaning that the action was being used to weed the characters down till there could be only one… Neo. Much like the masterful way PREDATOR was structured, where there were many badasses, until there was only THE BADASS. Also in the first film, the fights had a variety of fighting styles. Neo or Morpheus would begin in one style, then, when noticing it wasn’t working, they’d improvise and shift to a different martial arts form, with a certain debonair flair. Here, there’s none of that. Here the fighting is segmented, non-organic and without a sense of unity, but of chaos. The result again is the difference between action that serves a story and action that the story makes room for. Unfortunately this is the case here.
4. The first film was brutal and unforgiving. Here, you never lose characters you like. There really is no sense of true horror. Everything seems so readily solvable. Like there are definite pre-determined answers for all of this. Like there is no self-determination. And I understand that to a degree that’s the whole point of this. That ‘mankind’ is in a chess game of life and death with the machines, and the machines always have the first move, which causes you to react, which in turn makes it so that mankind is merely being lead to the slaughterhouse willingly, but subconsciously. I miss the weight to the events in the first film. The perfect balance of charm, romance, mythology, laughs, tears and taut suspense… oh and action. I never get that hopeless feeling that I felt the characters faced in the first film. Never had the, “What the fuck does NEO think he’s doing strapped to that helicopter?” I just didn’t get the sense of… “OH SHIT, WHAT NEXT?” Never went… “OUCH!” This film never really HURTS the audience like the first one. I mean, tonight… when that audience saw Morpheus’ head collide with the toilet and break it off in the first film… It gasped… They’ve fucking seen that movie a million times, and they still gasped. Never heard that sort of collective gasp. That pole of Neo’s never knocks Agent Smith’s teeth out of his mouth and embedded them into a brick wall. I never saw a broken bone this time. Nothing ever hurt like that bullet in Morpheus’ leg as he’s trying to leap for freedom. Nothing in this film really leaves that sort of impact.
5. Ok, and formally this time… I really miss TANK. The new guy is lame… He’s always there for comedic effect. The touchdown “YES”, the “I can’t take this,” exasperation… He plays like a Martin Lawrence wannabe… Whereas Tank… Tank was a passionate character. Some one with beliefs, personal pain, loss and sacrifice. None of those feelings are felt here. Unfortunate.
Contrary to what I’ve heard, this film didn’t improve with a second viewing for me. It went downhill. Watching with a room of die-hard MATRIX fans… didn’t do a thing for it. If anything, the noticeable sap of energy from Film 1 to Film 2 was shocking. The only applause was when the initial green Warner Brothers shield hit the screen. From there on… flat line.
BTW – I want to correct something from my first review. ZION isn’t destroyed in MATRIX RELOADED. That was a point of confusion for me, sorry if this caused you any problems, admittedly I guess my mind was still on the event that had immediately preceded that conversation.
That was the setting of screen 4 10pm opening night at the Alamo Drafthouse. Hell, the FREDDY VS JASON trailer got applause when it was over. Though LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, KILL BILL, TERMINATOR 3 and LAST SAMURAI didn’t. Odd?
How did your screening go?
Folks, Harry here again... I LIKE THE MOVIE... Everything that the Architect and the Merovingian and the Oracle have to say in the film had me absolutely captivated. Those are the best moments of the film. The reason I'm focusing on the problems is because that seems to be what many seem to gloss over. And for everyone that had a screening with screaming and cheering... I truly envy you folks, that's why I went tonight, I was hoping for a wild audience that would just get into it, unlike the CRITIC screening, but unfortunately... That never happened. They laughed at the 'jokey' moments, but never reacted to the non-funny stuff. Heck, Quint and I reacted stronger at the Critics screening than this audience did. Personally I like the film about the same way I liked the X-FILES movie... Disappointed, but I enjoyed it.