Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...
Next weekend, V FOR VENDETTA hits theaters, and it’s already created a fair amount of discussion and debate here at AICN. Cbabbitt, one of our newer regular reviewers, is a raving Wachowski fan, and he’s going nuts waiting to see the film. He asked me if I’d be interested in running some articles in which he looks back at the MATRIX sequels without the blinding hype that accompanied them upon release. I love it when someone’s passionate about a film or even a franchise regardless of “accepted” wisdom about it, and in the case of the MATRIX sequels, I think they continue to get a bum rap.
So, with that preamble out of the way, here’s Cbabbitt. And be warned... he’s got a lot to say, so pick a moment when you can really dig in:
All Of Life's Riddles Are Answered In the Movies
THE BURLY SEQUELS: HOW THE MATRIX FREED MY MIND
(Click header to go directly to the section)
”This Is Zion!”
”Smith Will Suffice”
”Choice Is An Illusion Created Between Those With Power, And Those Without”
”I Am The Architect. I Created The Matrix.”
It’s been almost three years since the Wachowski Brothers received a surprisingly lukewarm response from movie-lovers worldwide when their supposed magnum opus of science-fiction filmmaking was finally unveiled theatrically. The first of two sequels unfortunately fell victim to the powerfully tragic fate of outrageous expectation and unmeasurable hype, an ambitious venture overwhelmed by an exceedingly disappointed audience that received something strangely unexpected and different from the story that influenced and inspired so many. That unwanted feeling of betrayal and uncertainty carried over to the final sequel in November of 2003, pulverizing all possibilities of redemption, affirmation, and excitement. The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions were greeted with a particularly venomous amount of contempt and resentment from an audience moved by an exaggerated confusion and bewilderment at the fact that both films followed a completely different path than the collective Matrix fan had imagined. Ambition and integrity were lost amidst a colossal backlash of an audience incapable of looking past faults and missteps to see something greater, but just a shocked, disapproving community that wallowed in the easily agreeable nature of collective disappointment. The supposed “Year of the Matrix” became quickly blasted and dismissed, the films unfairly forgotten, and the Wachowskis second guessed for their seemingly uninspired, uncreative contributions. The sequels had been officially deemed unsuccessful by the standards of most critics and fans, an undoubtedly dark moment in the careers of a tremendously exciting duo of cinematic storytellers. Almost three years later, the Wachowski Brothers are ready to release their newest sci-fi venture to a less hyped and more open audience. V For Vendetta has enjoyed a surge of early praise which will hopefully guide to a steady and appreciative embrace. And now that audiences everywhere are more than willing to accept their latest dose of darkly twisted fiction, it’s a perfect time to revisit the moment that almost tragically destroyed them. A moment of epic misunderstanding, cynical glory, dissatisfied nonsense, and vicious reproach. A moment far more significant and fascinating than any in their career. The Matrix Sequels represent one of the most troubled and flawed, but ultimately admirable and creative moments in the history of science-fiction film. Reloaded and Revolutions are unstoppably watchable movies because of both their flaws and their merits. The Wachowski Brothers accomplished something unique and intriguing, and that accomplishment is worthy of another look at a time when so many should revisit it.
The Matrix Reloaded is a deeply complex amalgamation of sensibilities and ideas, a gargantuan undertaking of ambition that represents everything that’s successful and unsuccessful about the trilogy. Reloaded finally revealed the core thematic content and overall direction the story would take, a striking development that divided the most faithful viewer with its narrative leaps and surprising turns. This seemingly sharp deviation from the structure of the original caused more harm than expected, and struck an uncomfortable nerve with its audience. However, is that deviation from the original necessarily a terrible thing? While it certainly calls for a period of adjustment, the narrative has to be more fully explored in order to build an arc. And exploration is always shaky when the established source material was considered so effective. No matter where the Wachowski Brothers took their story, it would be increasingly difficult to deliver on the expectation that had been blown out of proportion. The Matrix Reloaded had a near impossible task of pleasing every fan of the original, and the Wachowskis should be commended for staying true to their material, and exploring and delving into new territory so confidently. Instead of retreading over familiar ground, the filmmakers insisted on creating something entirely new, following their integrity and passion as serious storytellers keen on bringing something uniquely extensive to the screen. To accomplish such aims in a trilogy is something extremely arduous and rare, especially when its completely original material. The Wachowskis definitely stumble throughout the second film, but their vision is so vast and demanding that it carries on through the flaws and still impressively entertains and fascinates. Reloaded is huge, as every middle chapter should be, and it requires a substantial investment that is understandably challenging for an unprepared viewer. But that challenge is exactly why the Matrix films are so special and significant. These films, especially Reloaded, are densely layered thematic triumphs disguised as sci-fi adventures, and that enthralling combination of storytelling is why The Matrix Trilogy matters. Reloaded is a troubled, but pivotal inclusion to that vision.
The Matrix Reloaded opens with the sensational thrills we’ve come to love from the Wachowski Brothers. The opening sequence is a visual feast while immediately creating an interesting emotional dilemma for the characters as well an uneasy feeling of intensity for the viewer. Basically, The Matrix Reloaded begins with everything audiences expected to be promised throughout the entire film: spectacular set-pieces and special effects. Trinity’s introduction is just as crowd-pleasing as her opening battle in the original, only with an added sense of danger and uncertainty since this time it’s all happening in Neo’s mind. The opening sequence of Trinity battling off Agents to her death is quickly revealed as a nightmarish vision our main hero experiences in his sleep, something that will obviously be explored later in the film. This is precisely the way to reload (sorry for the pun) your attachment to the characters and story in an entirely new setting. The Wachowski’s smartly set-up a mysterious sense of danger at the outset the film, something they effectively follow-up towards the conclusion. It also works as an strong reminder of the attachment and connection Neo and Trinity have as one. From this one sequence it’s evident that Reloaded will focus on some sort of struggle between love and death, a clear thematic arc that powerfully works its way into the overall themes of choice and purpose that define the second film. Most interesting about the opening of Reloaded is the sense of vulnerability given to not only Trinity, but our main hero, Neo. He may be an invincible force within the Matrix, but his concern about his destiny and the effect it will have on the woman he loves is the cause of much distress. Right away, we’re challenged with emotional conflict that helps greatly when the story shifts to another place and new characters. The first few sequences on the Neb do an adequate job of re-introducing the main characters, while bringing in a new face. The first major noticeable change in Reloaded is the character Link (Harold Perrineau), the new operator for the Neb. The absence of Tank (let’s ignore the problems with Chong) winds up hurting the film a lot more than expected since Link is given a sufficient amount of screen-time. While Perrnau, an undeniably talented actor, provides a heartfelt performance as the skeptic operator eventually converted to strong belief, it’s already too late in the story to spend so much time with him. The performance is fine, but the character himself ultimately results in dead time. Had Tank still been the operator, our emotional investment and interest would have been much deeper in this character.
Neo and Trinity have a quiet conversation about his lack of understanding his purpose as the one, and the need to contact the Oracle for information. This leads into the first sequence of hefty exposition with the captains of almost every ship conversing about the machines plan to destroy Zion in 72 hours. And this sequence is the very first indication that The Matrix Reloaded will not be flawless. There’s something awkward and clunky about this segment, and not just because we’re being introduced to several new and uninteresting characters. This is the first time we see aspects of the military procedures and operations used by a collective group of Zion captains, and it feels strange and silly. The entire segment seems like an excessive way to get across information, while demonstrating Neo’s commanding force and introducing Agent Smith’s new look. That being said, the battle with Neo and the upgraded Agents is entertaining and expertly choreographed even if it is completely unnecessary. This section just doesn’t flow. It feels like a sequence of exposition in a comic-book poorly translated to the screen. It’s flat and overdone, and an uneasy way to lead into the most questionable and precarious section of the film.
”This Is Zion!”
The deciding factor of how underwhelming The Matrix Reloaded turned out for mass audiences was because of this prolonged section of material in Zion. Expectation of what exactly Zion would look like, what civilization would be like, and how important it would be to the overall film was nearly impossible to determine prior to release. Everyone had a concept of Zion based on conversations in the original film – a concept that was eagerly anticipated in Reloaded. Since everything in the Matrix is built with complexity, it would be wisely hypothetical to expect Zion to follow a similar route of dense sci-fi intellections. Expectation of experiencing something new and ground-breaking was the most enticing element of the sequels, and the eagerly awaited reveal of Zion was the primary focus of that experience. Unfortunately, Zion wound up being far more simplistic than initially imagined. Zion, and this entire section early on in Reloaded is a clear case of imaginative conceptual vision deflated by poor choices, worthless subplots and characters, and uneven pacing. It’s not entirely debauched, since so many interesting ideas are on display, but the majority of screen-time is overly problematic. This section hinders the first act powerfully, and puts the film in a shaky place leading to the second and emotionally charged third acts.
The entrance to Zion is nothing short of spectacular. As the Neb finally reaches the gate, enters the dock, and finds a secure landing space, the overwhelming visuals create a particularly strong sense of wonder and amazement at just how enormous and detailed the environment is. In this short sequence, we get some fascinating insight as to how mechanical and technologically advanced everything is in Zion. We see an enormous defense system compiled of heavy artillery both inside and outside the dock. The visual effects here are mesmerizing. On a purely visual level, the entire layout of Zion - the gate, dock, council chambers, living quarters, and temple are astonishing. The Wachowski Brothers and conceptual designer Geoff Darrow did a tremendous job of envisioning a futuristic city like we’ve never seen. The design works effectively as being human, while subtly raising questions to just how logical and realistic it actually is - something that brilliantly works its way into the perspective altering ending. As the Neb descends into Zion we’re also presented with a beautiful image of the Zion mainframe, that sacred place protected from the Agents set on destroying it. It’s a striking image that follows the conceptual design of the construct from the original film. Once the Neb lands, Reloaded faces its worse stretch of material. This section is marred by its unnecessary simplicity, stilted characters, and surprisingly lackluster plot points.
The very second Morpheus, Neo, Trinity, and Link enter the Zion dock is when the first of many static subplots are revealed. While creating new characters and stories is definitely a necessity when expanding a meticulously detailed universe, many of the choices in Zion just don’t work.
- Morpheus, Commander Locke, and Niobe
The conflict between these two characters exists because of an unnecessary rivalry over an equally pointless character: Niobe. As Trinity dryly puts it, “Niobe used to be with Morpheus. Now she’s with Locke”. This forced romantic history adds absolutely nothing to either Morpheus or Locke’s characters, nor provides any emotional weight for their situations later in the story. Niobe is completely useless in Reloaded. It’s as simple as that. For a movie that has its characters struggling for purpose, Niobe’s is absolutely baffling. She serves no purpose other than a piece of insignificant back-story for two already interesting characters. Niobe’s part in Reloaded has no arc, no pay-off, and no point. It feels like she’s there as a plot-device later in the film, one that winds up being terribly convoluted. This is the first major misstep in Zion’s segment. Because of Niobe, the entire dynamic between Morpheus and Locke is regrettably affected, which is unfortunate since something fascinating exists between the two of them. Commander Locke provides the first indication that not everyone in Zion believes in Morpheus and his dependency on religious, prophetic visions. In fact, based on Locke’s reluctance towards the prophecy of the one, it seems as if the majority of Zion is unsure about Morpheus’ religious zealousness. This material is great - a perfect way to provoke second thoughts about what we understand about this universe. Suddenly Morpheus isn’t an enlightened guru of wisdom and insight, but a man struck by a particularly strong belief. This transition in his character is brilliant. It makes us uncertain about Neo’s quest, while strengthening our bond to Morpheus’ journey. This is another layer of complexity that brings another powerful emotional attachment to our heroes. And that difference between Locke and Morpheus is all that’s needed to justify the animosity between the two, especially since Lawrence Fishburne and Harry J. Lennix are so convincing in their roles. Niobe is excess.
- Link and Zee
There’s really no other way to say this, so, let’s settle the unpleasantness. Everything with Link and Zee is detestable. Every single moment is wasted time, cringe-worthy, and insignificant. It’s not because of unworthy actors or dialogue, but because there is absolutely no reason why new characters should be given more time in Zion than Neo and Trinity. If Link were still Tank, than everything would be fine. Giving a character from the original sufficient back-story would be understandable, especially since that character is so beloved. Link, however, is a new character. A new character without the charisma or charm of Tank, and really no place in an already over-crowded film. Once it became official that Chong would not be reprising his role as Tank, all of the material with Zee should of been deleted. If there’s a character even more useless than Niobe in Reloaded, it’s Zee. She has no depth or appeal for an audience interested in Neo and Trinity. Most disappointing about this section is how little material is given to our main hero. One of the most awaited aspects of Zion was seeing how Neo relates to a community of religiously torn civilians. There’s an excellent moment when Neo and Trinity make their way to their living quarters, only to be greeted by hundreds of Zion natives looking for prayers from the one. This is exactly what should of been explored during this section of the film. Neo doesn’t have a single sequence in the council chambers and very little with other inhabitants of the last human city of which he’s supposed to save. The focus on bland characters like Link and Zee only punctuates that disappointed frustration.
- The Kid
The idea of this character and his relationship to Neo isn’t half that bad. His segment in the Animatrix is one of the best, and it’s a shame his character doesn’t really lead anywhere in the sequels. He’s underdeveloped, and the result is yet another few wasted sequences that lead to narrative dead ends. He never joins the Neb, never figures out how he saved himself from the Matrix, and never does anything important until late in Revolutions. Bottom line: He’s no Mouse.
The lack of focus on Neo and Trinity is what hurts Zion the most. This is, after all, Neo’s quest. The main character should be more involved in Zion’s affairs since he’s easily their most prominent figure. In Reloaded, Neo almost feels like an outsider - a visitor inspecting the land in which he just so happens to be interesting in saving. You never get the impression that Neo is bound to Zion or its people. The material he’s given is rather cold and distant.
The infamous celebration in Zion is perhaps the most unfairly maligned sequence in the entire film. The summation of poor sequences leading up to the celebration made it an easy target for strong resentment and complaint. The celebration itself is one of the most intriguing, well paced, and symbolic moments in the story. For a film dealing with concepts of war and death, the dance in Zion is a spectacular demonstration of the body and soul, a uniquely human trait intensely portrayed by an energetic crowd of free spirits. The dance is sensual, sexual, alive, emotional, and dangerous. The feeling of death and destruction looms over every movement - movement that represents the purest and most simplistic joy of the human spirit. Most importantly, it brings a feeling of togetherness and communion through the beauty and elegance of pulsating liveliness. The dance is beautifully intercut with another criterion of human passion, a love sequence between Neo and Trinity. The imagery is exquisitely interwoven, resulting in a fairly potent piece of human symbolism and metaphor. Cinematographer Bill Pope does magnificent work in the entire trilogy, and this particular sequence represents the best of his abilities. He and uber production designer Owen Paterson bring a sufficiently earthy, dark, almost claustrophobic atmosphere to Zion, and this section demonstrates just how vital their contributions are in envisioning this world. And while Morpheus’ thunderous speech is undeniably awkward at specific moments, it’s still effective at presenting his passion for freedom and peace with his fierce leadership. Most special about this segment is a tender moment shared between Neo and Trinity after they’ve made love. This is precisely the emotional content necessary at this point in the story. It’s soft and sweet, a powerful reminder of how close and special they mean to each other. It also returns the focus on Neo, the character that leads the story.
This is about the point in the film when the first major philosophical conversation presents itself. There are four philosophical pieces in Reloaded, two of which work tremendously, one that works satisfactorily, and one that winds up being excessive even though it’s well written and performed. Unfortunately, the first one between Councillor Hamann and Neo in the engineering room isn’t exactly necessary. The sequence itself is solid. Finally, a figure of importance in Zion is taking an interest in Neo, something seriously lacking from the sequences prior. Their conversation, however, is recapping information already established. It’s almost like the conversation exists just in case some of the audience was lost. The symbiosis between man and machine is perfectly clear at this juncture in the story. Machines need humans to survive. Obviously from the technology in Zion, humans need machines for survival. That philosophical conundrum of defining control is well developed simply through imagery. The complexity of the situation doesn’t need to be punctuated by a long conversation. It’s simply there, clear as can be. The Wachowski’s do find ways to insert visual clues for an upcoming twist and thematic messages of purpose throughout the sequence, but it’s not entirely needed. Anthony Zerbe and Keanu Reeves do solid work during this conversation, but it’s still something that could have been left out.
”Smith Will Suffice”
While Zion enjoys the warmth of celebration, Smith is busy copying himself on different hosts in the Matrix. No longer an Agent of the system, Smith becomes a virus bent on destruction and chaos, a symbol of nihilistic determination that could overthrow the stability of the Matrix itself. The reversal in Smith’s character is fascinating. Once a lifeless program that obeyed the laws of the Matrix, now an exile fueled by a passionate desire to disobey and destroy. He’s a computer generated entity indulging in a human need of self-satisfaction. And his satisfaction is apparently relishing the absurdity of existence by shattering it. The Wachowski Brothers create a mind-bending concept of bringing Smith into the real world by copying himself on a rebel and then using a hard-line to jack-out of the Matrix. The idea, like many in the film, is conceptually intriguing, but surprisingly unfulfilling. He’s central to the outcome of important circumstances later in the story, but the execution of this subplot is surprisingly dry in places. His material in Reloaded is obviously meant for further exploration in Revolutions, so every time he appears on-screen it’s a bit dull. He doesn’t feel as threatening as he should, nor does he add a sense of forthcoming tragedy or danger. That being said, his material in the real world in Reloaded is few and far between, so it doesn’t distract too much from the main story.
Speaking of the main story, our heroes return to the Matrix and the film begins to find some sure footing. But not before slipping a few quick times!
Neo returns to the matrix for information and guidance from the Oracle, and has one hell of an experience in the process. His encounter with Seraph is one of mystical and uncommon proportions, a challenge he’s never faced with a being unlike any he’s ever seen. The image of Seraph in Matrix code is stunning and dangerous, and the sequence that follows is thrilling and different. Seraph’s challenge is essentially the highest level of Neo’s training, designed specifically for the one. This sequence creates a wonderful symmetry with Neo’s training in the original, just under a more weighty and unexpected situation. Once Neo has proven his worth, Seraph reveals a new layer of the Matrix, appropriately titled: The Portal. These are tunnels used for programmers - a new discovery that leads Neo to question just how deep The Matrix leads. It also becomes perfectly clear that the Wachowski Brothers have many, many surprises up their sleeves. The world of the matrix is changing, and each new change is increasingly fascinating. Seraph reveals himself as the Oracle’s protector, and leads Neo to her. Time for the second notable philosophical conversation. The reunion of Neo and the Oracle is comforting and fascinating. The sequence works in several ways, even if some of the dialogue is clunky at times. First and foremost, it’s an absolute pleasure to see Gloria Foster reprising her role. She’s fantastic as the Oracle, the most charming and sophisticated character in the trilogy, and her playful sense of humor is somehow perfectly fitting to the serious tone of the story. Her chemistry with Keanu Reeves is just as good as ever in this sequence, which is especially impressive considering the content of their conversation. In this one conversation, the Oracle becomes a figment of uncertainty. She’s revealed as a program, and a whole new layer of manipulation and control presents itself to Neo. Can he trust her? Is she controlling him? What exactly is her purpose in the matrix? One of the great things about Reloaded is how brilliantly the Wachowski Brothers raise so many different questions. The entire film is about questioning the nature of the system, and this sequence between Neo and the Oracle is extremely important to that train of thought. Each new concept the Oracle presents is intriguing - programs, exiles, Trinity, the source. The world of the matrix is expanding, and the Oracle makes it perfectly clear that its not exactly what it seems. The Matrix isn’t just a system made to enslave humans, it’s a home for programs and machines. It’s not a simple matter of good and bad anymore. As the Oracle says, “I’m interested in the future, Neo. And the only way to get there is together”. As layers and layers of the Matrix are peeled away, it becomes increasingly difficult for Neo to understand his path. This predicament is what develops Neo as a character. His journey is not an easy one. It’s not just about who he can defeat in battle, it’s about understanding the full capacities of the world he’s attempting to change. This conversation with the Oracle is excellent. Beyond the adventure, these movies are profound, and that substance is what matters. As for the adventure itself, well, it’s time for that to sky-rocket as well.
Enter the Burly Brawl.
This is arguably the most spectacular set-piece in Reloaded while simultaneously being the most frustrating. The burly brawl is the ultimate comic-book set piece. It takes the concept of what limitless imagination is possible in that medium and admirably tries to bring it to life on screen. The conceptual vision of this sequence is incredible, and it’s a testament to the Wachowski Brothers abilities that it even remotely works. First off, Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weaving, and the many stunt men should all be commended for their absolutely stellar work during this piece. The choreography by master Yuen Woo Ping is complex and astonishing, and the actors do amazing work in making it seem so fluid and believable. The structure of the burly brawl is nearly flawless. Its pacing is precise and lean, its score and sound effects perfectly tuned and executed. People are fairly dismissive of the overall success of the burly brawl because of the CGI excess towards the conclusion of the sequence. For the most part, the scene is exactly like any other in the trilogy, only increased in size and scope. The prolonged shot of CGI characters battling in and out of bullet time is where the Burly Brawl becomes uneven. The idea is imaginative, but the result is flustering. Good, old-fashioned bullet-time would’ve been much more effective, rather than a completely unnecessary use of motion-capture. The effect disrupts the sequence, even if the imagination involved is incredible. The only truly astonishing piece of effects on display is during the final shot of Neo bursting through hundreds of Smiths. The image is awe-inspiring, comic-book spectacle that only the Wachowskis understand how to accomplish on film. And most importantly, the burly brawl hints at a connection between Neo and Smith that becomes extremely significant later in the story. It’s a great sequence, and a perfect way to lead into the strongest stretch of the entire movie.
“Choice Is An Illusion, Created Between Those With Power, And Those Without”
The infamous chocolate cake sequence with the Merovingian is one of the most pleasing, entertaining, and philosophically intriguing in the entire film. As a complex conversation about the nature of choice, reason, and understanding, its one of the best written pieces in the trilogy. The Merovingian has one of the most deliciously pretentious personalities imaginable, and his smooth, intellectual condescension is one of the most enjoyable segments in the film. Lambert Wilson does priceless work. His sly sense of humor and elitist passion make him surprisingly likeable, even if he is a “pompous prick”. The Wachowskis could make an entire movie about the Merovingian’s past since his character is so interesting and entertaining. His insight is fascinating, and his manner is exactly what makes this sequence so classic. The restaurant and chateau are my favorite sets in Reloaded, and Owen Paterson and the Wachowski Brothers did excellent work in imagining these locations. The detail and atmosphere is meticulous and slick, and the results are tremendous. Many interesting characters are introduced at this point in Reloaded, and all of them have terrific material. Monica Belluchi is particularly good as the sneaky, vampire like sex bomb Persephone, and her chemistry with Lambert Wilson and Keanu Reeves is great in their respective sequences. The Twins are simple representations of comic-book “cool”, and they deliver on that promise in spades. The Keymaker is a wondrous little character, one that I hope gets appropriate back-story in some other medium. The premise of a program that has access to all the different facets of the system is an interesting idea that should be fully explored. It’s that good.
The struggle to obtain the Keymaker leads to the longest stretch of set-pieces in the film, and the only way it can be adequately described is “epic”. The chateau battle is my absolute favorite piece of choreography in The Matrix Reloaded, a sequence that represents the best of Yuen Woo Ping, Bill Pope, editor Z. Staenberg, Keanu Reeves, and of course, the Wachowski Brothers. This battle between Neo and several of the Merovingian’s ruthless programs jumps up and down the magnificent two story set by Owen Paterson with beautiful elegance. It also contains the most strikingly beautiful image in the entire movie.
The chase sequence is the most gargantuan, ambitious, daring, and confident set-piece in Reloaded. Like the Burly Brawl, the Wachowski Brothers are determined to create the ultimate spectacle that film can possibly handle. This sequence is long and enthralling, and it really speaks for itself. What they accomplished here is simply extraordinary, and it will be remembered forever.
”I Am The Architect. I Created The Matrix”
The last act of The Matrix Reloaded is the most rewarding in terms of ingeniously structured and profoundly original storytelling. The last thirty minutes of Reloaded reveal a startling discovery about the very nature of the matrix and the function of the one, changing everything we know about the universe itself. Discoveries such as this are what define these films, and the Wachowski Brothers do an outstanding job of increasing interest and thought about how complex and inspiring their imaginations are. The final act is the most important moment in the story up to this point. It’s the mission that defines the meaning of each character, about the war between man and machine, and the outcome of the prophecy. Reaching the source of the matrix is where the path of the one ends, and where the prophecy is supposedly fulfilled. As Morpheus clearly states, “What if the prophecy is true. What if tomorrow the war could be over. Isn’t that worth fighting for? Isn’t that worth dying for?” This is the moment of truth for every character, figuratively and literally, no matter what concept of truth they have. The objectives needed to reach the source involve a few too many characters and turns for its own good, but achieving this mission shouldn’t be an easy task. The Wachowski Brothers do a relatively smooth job of cross-cutting the exposition and execution of the mission, building the suspense and creating a rather looming presence of forthcoming danger. Once the moment of truth arrives, you can hardly stand the excitement. And does the moment deliver? Absolutely.
One of the most confounding things about the response to The Matrix Reloaded is how a film with this amazing a finish could ever be completely resented. No matter how many flaws appeared during the first and second acts, the final sequence more than makes up for it with its genuine vision. Reloaded was certainly troubled before arriving to this point, but once it reaches it, everything should be at least slightly forgiven. The sequence with the Architect (the most fascinating character in the trilogy) is one of the best written and performed moments in film this decade so far. There is something almost mystical about how effective, brilliant, and perplexing the Architect’s monologue reveals itself. It’s the ultimate plot point, the ultimate dialogue, and the ultimate sequence in the film. The Matrix movies are intellectual undertakings, and this one, single sequence truly represents the best of the Wachowski Brothers, and how sincerely historic their achievements will be. The brothers are highly underrated as writers, and this one speech should be highlighted among the great screen-writing in contemporary film. I’d like to use this opportunity to present the best piece in the entire conversation, so eloquently delivered by expert performer Helmut Bakaitis:
Architect: The function of the one is now to return to the source allowing a temporary dissemination of the code you carry, reinserting the prime program. After which you will be required to select from the matrix twenty-three individuals, sixteen female, seven male to rebuild Zion. Failure to comply with this process with result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the Matrix, which coupled with the extermination of Zion will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race.
The reveal of the prophecy being another level of control, the Matrix being centuries older than anyone knows, and the truth of the construction of Zion is all exceptionally done. The information in this sequence is released rapidly and densely, but its incredible material handled with vision and originality. The unveiling of the truth is shockingly unexpected, yet completely sensible when looked at realistically. Of course the prophecy is another system of control. Of course the machines built and rebuild Zion. Of course the one is an anomaly within the program used to restart and reprogram the Matrix. All of the reveals make perfect, logical sense when closely examined within the context of the universe. The Wachowski Brothers stay true to the internal realism and philosophy they initially created, and their pure imagination on display is astounding. The universe of the Matrix is deeply complex, and this sequence demonstrates just how dark and disturbing this futuristic landscape truly is. The sequence with the Architect basically debunks all of our hopes and wishes for the success of our heroes, leaving the characters and audience in a particularly dreary and helpless state. The machines are clearly in control, and absolute victory over this oppressive force is absolutely incapable of happening. The complexity, integrity, and imagination of the core truth to the matrix is nothing short of epic. Neo’s choice at the end of the conversation is a classic hero’s moment. He’s faced with the most enormous choice imaginable, and follows his heart and love to sacrifice Zion and the humans connected to the matrix to save the woman he loves. This is a choice his five predecessors couldn’t fathom, choosing to sacrifice the one in order to save the many. Neo, however, isn’t our typical hero. He’ll sacrifice everyone in Zion and kill hundreds of matrix-connected humans to save Trinity from eternal doom. The overall weight of his path as the one becomes insignificant when challenging his passion for the woman he loves. This view on the character could be troubling for many people. Neo doesn’t consider the consequences for choosing to save Trinity and not returning to the source. He simply saves her because he has to. Where he goes from there is uncertain and possibly devastating, but that risk is exactly why he ends up prevailing. The Architect sequence is what truly makes this movie work. The adventure is as thrilling as it is because the ideas behind it are visionary and fascinating.
The Architect is who really frees Neo’s mind, and once Neo has possessed the vital information given to him, his true connection to the machines begins to unravel. Neo is an anomaly created by the machines in order to facilitate a connection to humans, while acting as a tool to stabilize the world in which they inhabit. His fullest capabilities are slowly revealed to be much greater and surprising at the end of Reloaded, something that brilliantly leads into the final film. Reloaded raises all of the questions, and makes you eagerly anticipate the answers. And it’s that sort of excitement that solidifies Reloaded’s place as a more than worthy middle chapter in an extremely accomplished trilogy.
To Be Concluded...