The Matrix Reloaded

Thursday, May 22nd, 2003

So I went to see The Matrix Reloaded and, gosh, what can I say? Maybe the movie I saw was different from the movie the rest of the world saw, but I thought it was awesome.

Every review of this movie that I’ve read has found something to complain about: the action sequences are good but there’s too much talking; the philosophizing is good but the action sequences are boring; the philosophizing and preaching are silly and the action is just more of the same old thing; the story doesn’t go anywhere; the story goes in too many different directions; etc. etc. etc.

Well, here’s my review in a nutshell: the action sequences are at least as good as, and occasionally better than, the first movie; the "talking bits" are relevant and revealing; the story has been taken to a higher, and far more interesting, level than the first movie; and the religious and philosophical undercurrent gives substance to something that would otherwise be all style.

I think that the Matrix Reloaded has encountered a few sadly predictable hurdles. First of all, there was the hype, of course. Even though there was a remarkable lack of studio hype for this movie, the hype on the part of moviegoers was still there. Unfortunately, hype almost inevitably leads to disappointment - and disappointment was the common thread running through nearly every review of the Matrix Reloaded that I read. If I had just one tip for pleasurable moviegoing, it would be to go into the cinema expecting nothing. Then you may just be pleasantly surprised. It worked for me with X2 , and it worked with this movie. It’s an old mantra, but a true one: don’t believe the hype.

The second problem facing the Matrix Reloaded is - well, Matrix number one . The action sequences in the original Matrix film were like nothing any of us had seen before. But the Matrix wasn’t even out of cinemas before ad agencies had started using "bullet time" to sell everything from mobile phones to yogurt, so audiences became very jaded very quickly. However, while there may not have been any enormous leaps in special effects technology between the first and second Matrix movies, I think the choreography of the action sequences in the Matrix Reloaded was still interesting and exciting. And just because we’ve kind of "seen it all before" (a major complaint in most reviews I read), it doesn’t mean it’s not still cool.

The other major complaint in a number of reviews was that there was too much talking, philosophizing, preaching, declaiming, what have you. There is certainly more exposition in the Matrix Reloaded than in the first Matrix film, but I think the extra dialogue successfully fleshes out a story that would otherwise be incomprehensible. As for the way the lines are delivered - as if every single statement is filled with great portent - I didn’t see any difference between the Matrix Reloaded and the original Matrix. Yes, the acting and line delivery are, for the most part, deliberately stilted and oddly artificial (except in the case of Keanu Reeves, where I don’t think it’s actually deliberate), but it’s been like that all along. It distracted me the first time I watched the Matrix, but I’ve since gotten used to it, and I guess now I just accept it as being the way it is.

There’s one other thing I wanted to comment on, and that is the Wachowski brothers’ attempt to tackle philosophical and religious themes in the Matrix films. Ultimately, both Matrix movies face one major hurdle here: they’re popular. What’s worse, they’re popular and they take themselves seriously. Many self-professed intellectuals and serious cineasts would have us believe that the movies’ popularity precludes them from aspiring to anything higher than providing us with mindless entertainment. The argument seems to be that popular movies have no business addressing serious subjects - or that if a popular movie attempts to address a serious subject, it will fail by dint of its being a popular movie.

I couldn’t disagree with this argument more. I don’t think you have to sit through long, obtuse films from self-consciously artsy Scandinavian directors (Lars von Trier, I am looking directly at you) to get your dose of deep thoughts for the day. For my part, it is precisely the philosophy and the religion - the whole "who are we" and "why are we" and "what is real" thing - that make the Matrix movies (and, actually, the entire cyberpunk genre) so much more interesting than your average flashy action flick. The philosophy may be pretentious, but at least the Matrix films provide a bit of brain candy along with their eye candy.

Now, whether you buy into the philosophy or not is another issue entirely. If you bought the philosophy in the first movie, I don’t see why you wouldn’t buy it in the second. If anything, the philosophical and religious aspects of the story become more believable as the intricacies of the matrix itself are revealed. I happen to be willing to suspend disbelief in this case and buy into the philosophy almost 100 percent, which is why I get such a kick out of the whole Matrix mythology. But even if you don’t buy into the philosophy, I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that the Wachowski brothers have made an honest attempt to elevate their action films above the level of truly mindless entertainment. You might not think they’ve succeeded, but I don’t see how they can be criticized for even daring to try.

So, to sum up, what do you have in the end? Well, as I see it, a pretty impressive combination of style and substance and a sequel that succeeds in building upon the movie that came before it, while at the same time creating high, high hopes for the movie that is yet to come. And that all adds up to a most satisfied moviegoer.



Excellent comment. I also thought that the various comments I’ve seen written on this movie were very diverse and could only be chalked up to a feeling that “it’s not as good as the first one,” which people brought to the theater with them. I am looking forward to the last one in 45 days.

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