Friday, May 23, 2003
THE MATRIX: RELOADED
Written and Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne
Carrie Anne Moss, and best of all MONICA BELLUCCI.
Reviewed by Mil Peliculas
I wanted to wait until I’d seen Matrix: Reloaded again before I reviewed it, but I don’t know when that will be; besides, there’s others I want to see once before I see that one twice. I saw Reloaded last Wednesday night with a big, unruly crowd of low-brows at the Big Newport. I usually write my reviews as I’m doing laundry, so as you might surmise, I’m down to my Nehru jacket and parachute pants as I sit down to write this review, the laundry is spinning right now.
Let’s get to it. Let’s talk about Matrix: Reloaded. Do I think it is a worthy successor to the first film? Well, why not? I’m not a huge fan of the Matrix movies, but they do score high on “style” and the story does have its interesting points. The thing that keeps me from diving in and putting on a black trench coat and frame-only sunglasses is that the characters really aren’t all that engaging. Matrix: Reloaded carries on that tradition. I’m sorry, Neo is just a boring guy. Maybe it’s Keanu’s overly sedate performance, or Carrie Anne Moss’s equally overly sedate performance that keeps me at arm’s length. I like a hero that I’d want to have a beer with, or even give a hug to in times of need, like Wolverine, I can hang with Wolverine. Neo? If Neo just came in from out of town and I hadn’t seen him in five years, I’d probably make up some excuse why I couldn’t see him. I don’t dislike him, it’s just—what’s to like?
There might be one or two of you who is not hip to the Matrix films. It takes place in the future, where machines have taken over the world and decided that they needed our body heat to power themselves—using us for batteries as it were, in a very clever way. They harvest us like plants in giant synthetic wombs growing in fields like corn, then they stick us in a pod and feed us intravenously while plugging our brains into a giant virtual cyber world (The Matrix) that is indistinguishable from the one we remember as earth. There is, however, an underground movement of humans who have seen the “truth” and “unplugged” themselves from this fake reality. The cool thing is they can go back in when they want to and because they know it’s a giant program, are capable of superhuman feats of strength and gymnastics.
Laurence Fishburn is great as the mysterious Morpheus, and leads a group of rebels in search of “The One,” meaning The One who will release the humans from bondage: a savior. Morpheus comes to think that Neo (Reeves) is “The One” and yada yada yada, turns out he is The One. Neo and a female character, Trinity, fall in love with each other in the process, and at the end of the first movie, Neo is able to “see” the Matrix for what it is, and achieves a kind of control that no one else seems to be able to have, including the bad guys, who are actually “programs” and far more powerful than any human who’s jacked-in to the Matrix unknowingly. The first movie had some interesting religious imagery as well, including a scene where Neo stops a bunch of bullets in the air, and they tinkle on the ground at his feet, reminding one of the story of the Buddha, who did the very same thing just after achieving enlightenment, only he did it with a volley of arrows and turned them into lotus petals.
So on to this second movie. Reloaded really has the feel of a “middle” movie that’s setting up a third movie, and it has a bit of trouble standing on its own for me. Neo and Trinity develop their relationship a little further in this film, which means they stare blankly at each other for a good half an hour, and have sex in a scene that really made my “what the hell?” alarm go off. Get this: we get to see Zion, which was talked about in the first movie, and is populated by people who have either freed themselves from the Matrix or were born free. It’s an underground city that basically looks like a mish-mash of a lot of other movies where there are underground cities or civilizations. It was reminding me of Logan’s Run, The Time Machine, or maybe At The Earth’s Core perhaps. Cheesy 70’s fare, and who should appear as the “man in charge” of Zion but Anthony Zerbe, remembered best by me as the leader of the night people in Omega Man. The guy oozes cheese, okay, but that in and of itself does not necessarily portend disaster for a movie, I like cheese, I like kitsch, but the problem is this movie takes itself so damned seriously, you just have to laugh.
Back to the “what the hell?” love scene (one of many “what the hell?” scenes on this film). Morpheus addresses the people of Zion decked out in a leathery vest, shirtless, and tells them that the machines are tunneling down to kill them all. But hey, we’re gonna fight them, cuz dammit, this place is worth fighting for! And all that. And the next scene intercuts between a lame love scene between Neo and Trinty, and this incredibly bizarre “rave” style groping party among the people of Zion. Lengthy shots of people dancing and fondling each other sweating, writhing…everything but preparing for the horror that awaits them only hours away. It was a major speed-bump. PLus the love-scene only features a far-off shot of Keanu's arse, and pretty much nothing of Trinity.
There’s also an incredibly half-assed attempt to build a love triangle between Morpheus, Commander Locke (who’s in charge of the fighting forces of Zion) and new female character, Niobi, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith. We find out that Niobi used to be with Morpheus, but is now with Locke. But Locke is such a load that it’s completely unbelievable that any woman in her right mind would choose that guy over Fishburne.
Neo continues in his quest to fulfill the prophecy and free humanity from the Matrix, meeting more interesting characters including The Keymaker, and The Architect of the Matrix. There is a lot of spectacular action, which will no doubt please the hardcore fans, but for me it all has to be tied in with compelling characters, and that’s where Reloaded doesn’t quite deliver. X-men 2is a vastly superior film because they build a good character foundation. Matrix needs to rely on the flashy stylistic fight-scenes which really are straight out of 80’s John Woo and other Honk Kong action and Japanese Anime films. Style over substance. It’s become the mantra for Hollywood now more than ever it seems. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s the same lament we’ve been hearing since the 70’s ushered in the Blockbuster. “Forget about story, let’s just cram in everything that people want to see so we can recoup the giant amount of money we sunk into this thing.” And that was said of movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, which, by comparison, are dripping with great characters and compelling storylines.
As I watched Reloaded, I had to tune out and just enjoy the spectacle. So, unfortunately when Neo has a real heart-to heart with the “Architect” of the Matrix, I had trouble getting back into it, pages and pages of complicated expository dialog, I had already tapped out earlier, then I was asked to invest more thought into a story involving characters that I find uninteresting. But that’s just me. There are some exhilarating moments in the film, and I do plan on catching it again in order to fill in some of the blanks left by the somewhat confusing dialog. And stay through the credits because there’s a preview of the next Matrix film which is due out in a few months.
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Posted by DW Smith at Friday, May 23, 2003