In my review for The Matrix, I touched briefly on the problems with these sequels. It felt like the Wachowski siblings completely misunderstood what people loved about the first film. This sequel tries to cram as many loud bangs and martial arts fighting scenes into a two hour time period as possible.
The second Matrix film picks up not long after the events of the first film. Neo (Keanu Reeves) can now harness his abilities when in the Matrix, making him unstoppable to the nefarious agents from the first film. Unknown to him, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has gone rogue and is now corrupting other members of the Matrix into Agent Smith clones. This leads to much fighting as Neo takes on hundreds of Smith clones. In the real world, the human resistance learns that the machines plan to invade their stronghold, the city of Zion. As the humans gather forces to meet this upcoming attack, Neo, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) set out to find the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim), who can put them in touch with the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), the source of the whole Matrix. He is the only person who can stop the machine onslaught from arriving.
The plot of this film is nothing special. As I mentioned earlier, it really is just an excuse to head from huge explosive set piece to an even bigger fight scene. The Wachowskis completely misread what everyone loved about the original Matrix film. Sure, the fight scenes were cool, but what sucked people in was this cool new world that they had created. The opportunity to explore more of the Matrix and get more of a glimpse of the real world was what the filmmakers should have been aiming for in this second film. Instead we are bombarded with fight scene after fight scene, that does get somewhat tedious after a while. It’s not to say this film is bad, it is just a huge letdown after the epicness of the first movie.
Keanu tries hard again, but he out of his depth, constantly overshadowed by the presence of Laurence Fishburne, who is again great as Morpheus.
The Matrix Reloaded is a huge explosion of a letdown after the awesome first film.
I know many will disagree, but I’ve never felt that The Matrix was a movie that was screaming out for a sequel (or two). The fact that the story was left “unresolved” didn’t bother me. Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus fighting the machines and liberating minds was a given at the end of the first movie. I never had a desire to see their stories expanded or know the outcome of their war.
The only reason I bothered seeing The Matrix Reloaded in theaters was Keanu Reeves. Acting talent aside, he is a very handsome man. I was ambivalent about this becoming a trilogy/franchise, but happily ponied up to support Keanu despite being a near broke college student at the time. As much as I do not like the second and third Matrix films, if further installments starring Keanu were announced, I’d probably see them in theaters.
This movie had the potential to be really cool, but looses me due to multiple overly-long action sequences. Also, there’s a weird orgy/dance party in a cave. Let’s talk about that first:
The audience is finally taken to Zion, an underground city populated by humans freed from the Matrix. The city is under threat, with machines due to reach it in 72 hours. So obviously the first order of business is for everyone to start grinding on each other in one big sweaty mass. I guess if you’re about to die you’d just go for it. The only redeeming factor about this strange scene (there is nothing like it in either of the other two movies) is that it also features Neo and Trinity going to town on each other, so we get some glimpses of Keanu side butt. Still, hardly worth it.
As for the action sequences… These may contribute more to the plot of the movie than the Spring Break: Zion bit, but it doesn’t stop them from feeling bloated and longwinded. The worst of the two is when Neo fights a slew of Agent Smiths. This is cool for about two minutes, not the five or more that it goes on for. I remember feeling bored watching this the first time around, and find it even more so now. What’s worse is that the CGI used is starting to show its age. It’s still damn near impossible to animate a convincing human now, so anything from 2003 just looks rubbery and fake. The freeway chase sequence fairs better with its special effects, but again, it’s just too long.
I understand that The Matrix Reloaded and the other movies in the franchise are action films. It’s just that the action in the first movie was so much better because it was still grounded in some sort of reality. For that reason, the best action is when the machines attack Zion. That threat feels real, while everything the characters face inside the Matrix no longer does. Yes, you can still die while inside, but everyone seems like such a superhero now while connected to the Matrix that I never feel like they’re in danger.
Of course, this does lead to one redeeming feature of the plot– Agent Smith figures out how to escape the program and inhabit a real life body. This was the only bit that made me interested in seeing the third installment. Well, that and Keanu.