May 22, 2003
The Matrix Unloaded

I caught The Matrix Reloaded at an advance showing last week. And was rather disappointed.

If the fight scenes were what enthralled you in the original, youíll be more likely to enjoy the sequel. In fact, thereís very little plot to speak of, just loose connections between long stretches of combat. I was unable to sit still comfortably watching skirmishes sometimes lasting almost 20 minutes. They just didnít hold my interest for that long. In the original, they were impressive, but only adjuncts, not the raison díÍtre of the movie. There are other too-long scenes, as wellóI was surprised to find myself bored by a sex scene which is intercut with celebratory and sensual dancing.

The imagery of Reloaded is very good (and, like the original, heavily dependent on the great Metropolis), but there is nothing that takes your breath away like the scene in the first showing endless rows of pods holding humans in bondage. One thing you do notice is the addition of a great number of black actors and actresses to the cast. Roger Ebert believes this was done because ďAfrican-Americans embody a cool, a cachet, an authenticityĒ that appeals to the movieís mainly white, teenaged fans. But I think itís to impart, especially to the city of Zion, a certain earthy exoticism that contrasts with the futuristic cool of the Keanu Reeves-Carrie-Anne Moss Matrix world.

One of the charms of the first movie was Keanu Reevesí Neo. He is an innocent, ignorant that he, like just about every other human being, is merely a battery for a machine. Even after the universally lusted-after Carrie-Anne Moss arrives to start the process of his liberation and even after its completion, he remains confused, finding it difficult to get his head around such a complete paradigm shift. The character wins a lot of our sympathy. Reloadedís Neo is very different. Heís taken his prophetic position of one who is supposed to save the world rather in stride. And heís now very much an expert on mastering the Matrix. He has become too knowing. Itís not what Reeves does best.

The second film just isnít as much fun as its predecessor. The charming allusions to literature like Alice in Wonderland are gone. And, even more sadly, most of the philosophy that made The Matrix so compelling also has disappeared. There are hints here and there that serve only to highlight the void and the fact that it could have been filled.

Reloaded simply tries too hard. Besides the endless fight scenes, the Wachowski brothers attempt to inject more humor into the story. But it feels stilted, as if they added it specifically for the trailer. Really, the whole movie seems like one long trailer.

The words ďTo Be ConcludedĒ flash on the screen at the end of the movie. Many reviewers urged audiences to look at Reloaded as the setup to the final movie of the trilogy. But why must this be so? The first film was a fine stand-alone movie, as well as a prelude to whatís to come. Reloaded is merely nuts and bolts; The Matrix was philosophical artistry that heralded the arrival of remarkable talents. (It was only the Wachowski Brothers' second movie.) Itís sad that in Reloaded, they donít fulfill that promise.