Matrix Reloaded is so-so. As “middle chapters” go it’s sure no Empire Strikes Back, and it ain’t no Two Towers either. And that’s understandable, I guess. But what’s really disappointing is that, when you get right down to it, Reloaded isn’t even on par with The Matrix itself.
What The Matrix did so well was to reveal just enough of its secrets to be interesting, but not so much as to give everything away. It’s clear, for example, that Keanu Reeves can act about as well as I can kickbox, but they disguised this by giving him almost no dialog whatsoever. Furthermore, the philosophical mumbo-jumbo that permeates the script doesn’t hold up to any intellectual scrutiny, but every time you thought “hey wait a minute, that doesn’t make any …” they would cut to an action scene and leave you admiring the gunplay. And then, just when it dawned on you that the fight scene doesn’t make any sense either, they switched back to the Buddhist hoohaw.
Matrix Reloaded, unfortunately, blithely exposes what The Matrix so craftily concealed. Reeves is given entirely too much to say. The philosophical monologues go on well past the point where your bullshit detector has kicked into overdrive. The fight scenes go on and on and on until you become so bored that you start thinking about the them (never a good thing), and you realize that there is no logical reason for the combat to be occurring in the first place.
Worst of all, Reloaded cavalierly reveals the biggest secret of all, the thing that the Wachowski Brothers worked so hard to obscure in the script to the first movie. It’s the answer to question at the very heart of the series. It’s the question that drives us. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did: “What is the Matrix?”
What is the Matrix? Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matrix is Tron.
This didn’t even occur to me in the first movie, but here it is painfully obvious. Characters walk around describing themselves as “programs” that fear “deletion.” Agent Smith might as well be named Agent Sark. Neo seeks out the heart of the computer world in an attempt to take down the Master Control Program (or whatever it’s called here). And the CEO of ENCOM shows up under the pseudonym “The Architect”. It got to the point where I kept expecting a “bit” to show up.
Okay, so I’m joking around a little bit, here, but surely you see my point. The Matrix seemed startlingly original at the time, but much of that was smoke and mirrors: the “life in a computer” thing had been done (Tron), the “war between machines and man” thing had been done (Terminator), the “wire-fu” had been done (Iron Monkey), the whole “he’s The One” thing had been done before (Bible, New Testament), and so on. But a tight script and crafty direction kept things moving at such a fast pace that you never really caught wise to this fact. Reloaded, unfortunately, lacks such subtly. In fact, everything about this movie seems half-again too much: the fight scenes are half again too long, the speeches are half again too lengthy … indeed, the whole movie could have been trimmed by a third.
This excess not only makes for a movie that’s slightly dull, but also a chapter in the Matrix Trilogy that feels like a stall for time. Despite all the sound and fury in Reloaded, not a whole lot has really happened by the time the end credits roll (and much of what does happen takes place in the last 30 minutes). Like the kind of video game this movie emulates, much of the story revolves around the characters receiving and completing self-contained Quests (“Now you must locate … The Keymaker!”) which don’t really get them any closer to their objective. Matrix Reloaded fulfills its primary duty (i.e., gets us from part 1 to part 3) but doesn’t do a whole lot else.
By the way, The Queen wins Quote Of The Week with this comment about the Zion scene: “Apparently life in the future is going to be one endless rave. No wonder the machines want us dead.”
End Of Line.
The comments of this review are not spoiler-free, so caveat emptor.