MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Matrix Reloaded" Review

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The second installment in The Matrix trilogy, written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers. Keanu Reeves returns to play the role of Neo as he and the rebel leaders estimate they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) from a dark fate in his dreams.
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MRR's Action Movie Month - "The Matrix Reloaded" Review

-- Rating: R
Length: 138 Minutes
Release Date: May 15, 2003
Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi

It would have been a lot easier to pay attention in school if college-level classes in the history of philosophy had featured young women in tight latex ramping motorcycles into exploding buildings and wild, over-the-top gunfights in the streets. "The Matrix Reloaded" combines philosophy with action movie sequences in the second of three movies in the "Matrix" trilogy by the Wachowskis.

The movie picks up six months after the events of the first film, and we learn that Neo (Keanu Reeves) has been growing into his potential as "The One." Powerful enough now to terrify the machines and even to see the future, Neo, together with the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar, has spent the last few months liberating people from the shackles of their virtual prisons in the "real" world. Unfortunately, the machines have decided to put a stop to the human resistance by sending hundreds of thousands of sentinels to burrow down to Zion, the last human city. To stop them, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) must help Neo find "The Source," which the audience is given to understand is something like God. Meanwhile, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has reappeared outside of the Matrix and is on a mission to . . . well, that part isn't really made clear, but he seems really mad about something.

The actors in this film were restricted by having to perform many of their scenes against a green backdrop instead of on a proper set. It can be hard for actors to remember who their characters are and what they're supposed to be doing during a take, and not having the slightest idea what the audience is going to see behind them doesn't help with the emoting. Call this the "Attack of the Clones" Syndrome, as it seems most pronounced in big-budget CGI movies such as "The Matrix Reloaded." Allowing for this issue, the performances were competent even if certain aspects of the characters' supposed motivations were sometimes hard to swallow.

No discussion of a modern sci-fi movie can be complete without mentioning the special effects. Here "The Matrix Reloaded" really delivers on the promise of the original movie. Scene after scene ramps up the physically impossible stunts with a realism that the audience never thinks to question. Every effect is seamless, every CGI object has solid borders, and every transition happens smoothly and without fuss. Movies of this type often get carried away trying to shoehorn in as many cool effects as possible with a lavish post-production budget. However, the Wachowskis resisted the urge to show off too much, which allows audiences to suspend their disbelief.

The script for "The Matrix Reloaded" is very uneven. In places it seems as if the filmmakers were so busy trying to build up a coherent metaphysical backdrop that they forgot to write an actual story. Events happen without any explanation, characters are introduced only to go nowhere, and endless sweat is expended getting our protagonists from the last gun duel to the next swordfight.

The funny thing about the script for "The Matrix Reloaded" is that it would be a mistake to judge the movie by these faults. The script isn't written with traditional Hollywood goals in mind. It's intended to explore some of the dustier corners of Western Civilization's philosophical attic, such as the essentially Gnostic idea that the world is a wretched test created by an aloof-or even evil-god who is represented here by some kind of avatar (semi-divine proxy). Another idea the movies toy with is the notion of metaphysical antagonism. That is, Agent Smith is the exact equal and opposite of the savior Neo and as the power of one increases, so must the menace of the other. These are all very powerful relics of early- and pre-Christian thought in the West, with some ideas going back to the Hellenistic period. Whatever the shortcomings of "The Matrix Reloaded," the Wachowskis deserve some credit-and a lot of slack-for even daring to tread these intellectual waters in a commercial film with a mass audience.

"The Matrix Reloaded" is a versatile movie that audiences can enjoy on many levels. It's an action/adventure shoot-em-up, a dark sci-fi dystopia, and an introductory philosophy course. Just like the Matrix itself, it's interactive . . . but only for those who have already freed their minds.

Rating: 4 out of 5