Jun 20, 2014

[Movies] The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Continuing my review of the various movies that make up The Matrix franchise, today we're exploring the mess that was The Matrix Reloaded. The first movie wasn't exactly perfect, but it did have a rather significant impact on how the Western world thought of action movies and what was possible with special effects. But the rest of the movies in the franchise seemed to get worse and worse as we got lost in the rather convoluted narrative that The Wachowskis had come up with.

The Matrix Reloaded had a lot of hype leading up to it that admittedly got even me excited. There was the release of the Enter the Matrix game that expanded on the story and introduced new characters that would later be introduced in the movie. And there was also The Animatrix, which was a collection of animated shorts further building on the world of the Matrix.

So all this sequel really needed to do was to continue what all these "expanded universe" style stories and take the story to its logcial progression. But instead we got...this movie.  And as much as the ending of the first movie was pretty bad, this sequel ended even worse.

Synopsis: The Matrix Reloaded is a 2003 science fiction action movie and the second feature-length movie in The Matrix Trilogy. Like the first movie, it was written and directed by the Wachowskis.

About six months after the events of the first movie, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and the others continue their efforts to take down the Machines that run the Matrix. Neo and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are now romantically involved and Neo's powers within the Matrix continue to grow as well. Then Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) receives a message from Captain Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) of the hovership Logos calling for an emergency meeting of all the different captains working to protect Zion.

The subject of the meeting is the last transmission of another vessel, the Osiris, that was destroyed together with all of its crew in an effort to get this message out. It appears that large army of Sentinels is now on its way to Zion and will probably reach the last human city within 72 hours. Naturally the first instinct is to recall all ships and focus on the defense of Zion. But Morpheus insists that at least one ship remains out there in order to await a message from the Oracle. And while all this is going on, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has somehow returned to the Matrix in a much more powerful form.

The good stuff - the fight scenes remain pretty awesome, from a cinematic perspective. Or maybe I should qualify that; the live-action fight sequences are pretty awesome. Putting aside all those concerns about how much the Matrix choreographers referenced other fighting movies (particularly Hong Kong action movies), they're still a lot of fun to watch. They only really get stupid when they started to push the CGI, like with that big fight sequence in that weird back alley park thing.

The decision to turn Agent Smith into a much stranger villain was a weird one. He was pretty cool in the first movie and Hugo Weaving did a lot with that character. But now they decided that he was so good a villain that they'd replicate him over and over and rely on CGI to make it look halfway realistic. That didn't quite happen, but it did make for an interesting visual every now and then.

The Twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment) were potentially interesting villains, although they really weren't much more than mindless muscle. And the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) had a lot of potential as another antagonist, but he sort of ended up as a caricature and a weird spoil for Monica Bellucci.

But the real travesty of this movie was bringing in The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) and his overly convoluted explanation of how the Matrix worked and how things were inevitably going to resolve for the humans of Zions was...well, far less than satisfying. And given all the effort that went into everything in order to lead up to that moment and we get a long-winded explanation that makes little to no sense? Yeah, that really doesn't help anyone. And it really killed the movie - even more than Trinity's reveal of what the Oracle had told her in the first movie.

The Matrix Reloaded was a sad follow-up to the first movie, but it's still a good enough cinematic romp. Stop trying to understand the plot or what supposedly deep message that may be woven into plot and just enjoy the action sequences. It's all about the popcorn. The movie gets 3 crazy moments on the freeway out of a possible 5.

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