Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Ebert:1/2 Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
The Matrix Revisited
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
What is the Matrix?
Warning, major plot points revealed! Do not read this review if you have not seen the film and want to retain your ability to be surprised.
The Matrix Reloaded is everything I hoped it would be and more and more and more and more. I went to the sneak preview on Wednesday night, then all day Thursday it was all I could think about so I finally ran up to the theatre and watched it again. I was up in Michigan last weekend so I went to see it again on Saturday. I will probably go see it next week with Holly (who hasn't seen it yet) and then I'll keep going to see it every couple weeks until it finally comes out on DVD. I love it so much that just writing this review makes me want to go see it again right now!
The reviews for the film, one of the most highly anticipated sequels in history, have been mediocre to poor. I have read at least 10 different major reviews for the movie and the only explanation for the poor opinions, that I can discern, is that none of the reviewers understood the film at all. Some of their complaints are valid but most of their criticism seems to be born of ignorance. If you are interested, I have read only one review and analysis written by someone who understood the film. Click here for an informed opinion other than mine.
The problem with the film, if it can be described as a problem, is that it takes a new direction that was not anticipated or alluded to in the first movie. This disappoints those who only wanted to see their pre-conceived notions realized. Additionally, although the special effects are ramped up to the Nth degree, (there are new effects employed that are unrecognizable to the casual observer) there is no new stand out effect (ie. bullet-time) that once again revolutionizes filmmaking.
Last Warning. What follows is a somewhat detailed explanation and synopsis of the film.
The wonderful new story is as follows: 6 months after the first film ended, the denizens of Zion have redoubled their efforts to free the minds of those still trapped in The Matrix. Unfortunately, as seen in the short Animatrix film Final Flight of the Osiris, the machines have determined the secret location of Zion and have dispatched 250,000 sentinels to destroy the underground city and all of it's rebellious inhabitants once and for all.
Neo has been getting more acclimated to being The One and Morpheus is still certain that he is the prophesized savior of humanity. We discover upon their return to Zion that this philosophy and belief in Neo is not shared by all of humanity and is actually only accepted by a small following of believers. Morpheus, with the help of the Councilor Hamann and some of the elders is able to defy the leadership of Commander Lock and await further instruction from The Oracle.
After being defeated by Neo in the first film Agent Smith is now loose in the Matrix as a rouge program with an unknown agenda. His code has been corrupted by his merging with Neo at the end of the last film. He can replicate himself and take over the avatar of anyone inside the Matrix, including people from the "real" world who hack into the Matrix like Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and the rest of the rebellion. One such person who gets absorbed by Smith is Bane, who then returns to the real world with Smith now inside and controlling his actions.
(But how can this be? Smith is an agent. A program designed to work only in The Matrix. It's not possible for him to exist in the "real" world. Right? More will be revealed. Keep reading.)
Neo is finally summoned by The Oracle to meet her at a playground and instructs him to find the Keymaker. The Keymaker is a program that can open the "back-doors" of the Matrix and transport a person inside from one place or "reality" to another. The Oracle instructs Neo to obtain the Keymaker and use him to walk through a door of light that he has come to see in his dreams. During their discussion we also learn that The Oracle is also program of the Matrix and her loyalty to humanity is now in question.
Neo, Morpheus and Trinity head off to find the Merovingian. He has imprisoned The Keymaker and is described as a very old program in the Matrix who was once like Neo. The Merovingian is unwilling to assist the trio and refuses to release the Keymaker to their custody. Persephone, wife to the Merovingian, is more than willing to slight her husband and assist with the cause. For the price of a kiss, she gives them the Keymaker. Much to the dismay of the Merovingian whose henchmen and bodyguards fall upon Neo, Trinity and Morpheus in an attempt to recapture him.
(The Merovingian knows Neo well and mentions numerous times that they have met before but he is surprised by Neo's actions this time and the outcome of their encounter. This familiarity is another mystery that will be explained later. Read on.)
Thus begins one of the most outstanding action sequences ever filmed with a 14 minute car chase interspersed with awesome kung-fu battles as the bodyguards of the Merovingian, known as the Twins, and an endless supply of agents attempt to capture the Keymaker.
They fail, of course, and the Keymaker is taken to open the door prophesized by The Oracle. To get the Keymaker to the door, Trinity has to sacrifice herself, as foretold by Neo's dreams. Because he asked her to remain on the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo is unaware of her sacrifice as he enters the door.
Inside the door is a room. Inside the room sits The Architect. The Architect is the physical manifestation (if it can be described as such,) of what I believe to be the A.I. that was mentioned in the first film and the creator and programmer of The Matrix itself. He explains to Neo very succinctly, the nature of Reality. And that nature is this:
Neo is a necessary aberration in the Matrix. Free will and choice eventually destroy the Matrix so a controlled crash and "Reloading" has been written into the program. Neo and the people of Zion are the facilitators of that crash. Zion is built up with the assistance of The One, and then systematically torn down and destroyed at the end of each cycle of the program. What we have seen, starting with the first Matrix film, is the sixth cycle of the program. The battle of the machines versus Neo and the Zionists has been played out five times previous and is completely controlled by the Architect, and his program. At the end of each cycle Neo, the aberration, makes a choice, and the cycle begins anew.
The choice is to save Trinity or humanity. Door number one or door number two. Five times Neo has apparently chosen the door to save humanity but this Neo is making different choices and he decides to save Trinity, which he does.
Back in the "real" world the Sentinels have smashed a pre-emptive attack by the humans that is discovered to have failed because of a traitor. That traitor is Bane, who has been inexplicably infested by Agent Smith. As they out run the Sentinels sent to destroy their ships, Neo senses and is able to disable them with a debilitating pulse, a power that should only have been available to him inside the Matrix.
At this point the movie stops dead in it's tracks and tells us to wait for the last installment in November called The Matrix Revolutions.
What is the primary lesson that we have learned from Reloaded? The Matrix is not real (but we knew this.) It is part of the program designed by The Architect. The rebellion of Zion and The One (Neo) are also part of The Matrix program and it's predetermined failsafe mechanism. And finally, the most important thing to know, based on the Smith / Bane incident and the disabling of the Sentinels in the real world by Neo at the end of the film, THE REAL WORLD IS NOT REAL EITHER. It is just another layer of The Matrix. No one is free. We, including Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and even those who are supposedly born inside Zion, are all plugged into the machine and have never been released from our pods.
I admit that the first time I watched the movie I did not catch all this. I was dazzled by the special effects and too excited to pay close attention to the story. After my third viewing a couple days later I fully comprehended what I had seen. The Matrix Trilogy is nothing short of a masterpiece of Sci-Fi filmmaking and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. I hereby proclaim it to be the greatest Sci-Fi Adventure in the history of film. Yes, I think it's better (way better) than the Star Wars Series. I believe it is on even standing with The Lord of the Rings which I believe to be the greatest Fantasy adventure of all time.
Those that say Reloaded has no story (CNN) have done nothing but pull back the curtain on their ignorance for all the world to see. Those who cannot accept the new, complex, exciting, and highly improved, story line (Harry Knowles) are crybabies acting like children who didn't get what they wanted for Christmas. And finally, to my nemesis, Roger Ebert, I say this in response to your stupid review: You may now fancy yourself some sort of intellectually superior critic who transcends all opinion with your smirking wit and omnipresent knowledge of film, but your reviews are no longer of any use. They are nothing more than the ranting of an bitter old man who has lost all sense of joy and meaning in his career. It's a shame that the Chicago Sun Times continues to allow your smug, condescending idiocy to blemish their pages.
An additional note to all those who say, "I liked the first one better." This statement makes no sense and irritates me every time I hear it. The Matrix is a trilogy. It is a single story that was conceived from beginning (The Matrix) to end (Reloaded/Revolutions) and then filmed in 3 parts. It's a single story. It is not possible to like one more than the other. That's like saying "I thought Fellowship of the Ring was a great movie but that sequel The Two Towers was a bunch of crap!" You either like The Lord of the Rings Trilogy or you don't. And likewise you either like The Matrix Trilogy or you don't. Remember, "It's better to stay quiet and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."
The special effects of the Matrix are, as expected, first rate. They took everything that was great about the first film and turned the volume up to 11. All the outstanding and amazing effects that we cheered and worshiped from the first film are back again with a vengeance. The "Burly Brawl" with 100 Agent Smiths fighting Neo is already a legendary scene that is in every way the equal of The Government Building Lobby scene of the first film. The car chase sequence, is now, the undisputed best car chase sequence ever filmed. I believe the famous chases in films such as The French Connection and Ronin were outstanding achievements for their time but this one blows their doors off. I would repeatedly pay the cost of admission just to watch these two scenes over and over.
The actors all do excellent work. Keanu Reeves does his standard emotionless dry character, typically criticized as his downfall as an actor, but a perfect fit for the character of Neo. Cyber nerd pin-up Carrie-Anne Moss is back and sexy-cool as Trinity. Laurence Fishburne commands the respect and attention that is due an actor of his experience and creates in Morpheus a leader that the people of Zion (and the audience) respect, regardless of whether they share in his beliefs. Hugo Weaving returns as Agent Smith. His menacingly precise enunciation is like music to my ears. And finally, although she died soon after her scenes were filmed, Gloria Foster is once again magnificent as The Oracle. She's like the world's most perfect grandmother.
In addition to these characters, who were introduced in the first film, we have a huge new cast of supporting characters that help to fully realize the world of The Matrix. Harry J. Lennix as the stern and serious Commander Lock. General and perhaps last hope for Zion. His current girlfriend and former lover of Morpheus, Captain Niobe. Played by Jada Pinkett Smith, Niobe is so distractingly hot during the "Meeting of Captains" scene that I had trouble listening to the dialogue. Sing Ngai is an excellent sparring partner for Neo as Seraph, bodyguard of The Oracle. Harold Perrineau Jr. plays Link, the new "operator" who replaced Tank from the first film. He does a fine job but is mostly comic relief and cheerleading section for Neo's heroism inside The Matrix. Randall Duk Kim does a superb job as The Keymaker exemplified by the fact that each time I see the film I notice a collective wail of despair from the audience when his character dies. Anthony Zerbe does a fine job as the Zion Elder Councilor Hamann. He offers wisdom and objective belief that plays as an excellent counterbalance to the fundamentalist conviction of Morpheus. Helmut Bakaitis plays The Architect with an authority that is so intimidating you can actually feel a gravity-type pull toward his character. Lambert Wilson does an excellent job as the arrogant and snobby Merovingian. Because his scenes were undoubtedly filmed prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom, we can only call it a stroke of luck for the filmmakers that his villainous character has an affinity for French. Adrian and Neil Rayment play The Twins. As body guards to the Merovingian they seem to be a formidable threat and hopefully will once again menace our heroes in Revolutions.
And last but not least, my favorite new edition to the Matrix Universe - Persephone. Monica Bellucci is so stunning, so beautiful, and so insanely sexy that it is hard to believe that she is real. Her scenes are some of my favorite in the movie and are just as fun to watch as the afore mentioned "Burly Brawl" and Car Chase Sequence.
It should be obvious at this point, but let me just say it one more time... The Matrix Reloaded is a stellar achievement in filmmaking. Once it is paired with the final part of the Trilogy, Revolutions, it will represent one of the greatest films ever made. Much like Neo in a fight against 100 Agent Smith's, I will take on anyone who wishes to argue otherwise.
If you are a fan of the first film you will absolutely love Reloaded.
If you didn't like the first film then you're really gonna hate this one.
And if you didn't see the first film, Reloaded will make no sense at all. Don't bother.
Note: Stay through the end credits (which go on forever, there were1943 people who worked on this film) so you can see the preview for Matrix Revolutions coming in November!