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The Matrix Reloaded By Matt Singer
What was interesting to me and my moviegoing companions about the audience of The Matrix Reloaded was how its devoted cult of fans looked; for the most part, like any other average segment of teenagers and twenty year olds. Unlike the cult of devotees of, say, Star Wars, these people look pretty normal. “It’s nice to see that Matrix fans have a nice fashion sense,” my friend Robin remarked with a smirk. Though I mostly enjoyed The Matrix Reloaded, I was disconcerted to see a lot of funny-looking costumes and silly speeches, some intelligent, some less so. Some of the cool is gone, and if this Matrix brand survived with reputation intact, it was touch and go for a while.
Most, if not all, the problems occur during the first hour or so, which lazily introduces us to Zion, the last human stronghold in the future, and the inhabitants the crew of the Nebuchadnezzer have come home to. There are some interesting elements to the Zion sections, but there are also lengthy stretches of boredom and surprisingly bad acting. By now, we know all about Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), but we also meet Link (Harold Perrineau), the Nebuchadnezzer’s new pilot, his wife Zee (Nona Gaye, in the role originally slated for Aaliyah), Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith) a former flame of Morpheus, and her current beau, Commander Lock (Harry Lennix). He poses a threat to Morpheus’ independence and freedom as a captain in the fleet, and an even greater threat to the seriousness of the picture, as his emphatic dialogue deliveries flirt with campiness in every scene.
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You’re waiting for something to happen and, for a while, nothing really does. Even the eternally-cool Fishburne’s record is sullied by a motivational speech before an assembled Zion that is downright cheesy. Then Neo and Trinity finally get their groove on as the rest of Zion boogies down in a primitive rave that never seems to end. By now I’d sat through almost an hour of political wrangling, lengthy scenes of tedious exposition, and scores of extras dressed like Star Wars rejects. Wasn’t the first Matrix a success for all the reasons it WASN’T Star Wars? As the scene after scene of sweaty gyrating future-types washed over me I began to wonder if The Wachowski Brothers, instant directing sensations after The Matrix, had jumped the shark and totally lost their marbles. This was the movie countless millions were waiting for? A dirtier version of Episode III?
At last, relief comes, as the remaining hour and a half of the film gets our heroes back into the Matrix, trying to stop a huge machine assault on Zion through a complex series of fights, chases, and rescues. If the plot is occasionally convoluted, and things still get mired in intellectual conversations only the nerdiest of computer nerds would understand, the much-discussed action scenes deliver on all fronts. There is “The Burly Brawl” where Neo fights off against the self-replicated Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, delightful in what is, at least in one out of the two sequels, an unclear role), which mixes excellent Yuen Wu-Ping choreography with fully computer generated sequences that are impressive, but highly artificial, regardless of what any Wired or Time Magazine article told you. Best of all is the almost 20 minute car chase extravaganza, which has most of the movie’s quota of a cool fights (one aboard a moving semi), images (a character brandishing a sword and pistol to destroy a car), and special effects (a slo-mo, bullet-time-esque explosion and last minute rescue). Most of what you’ll remember and love about Reloaded is in that one chase.
By the time the movie had run its course, I was so adrenalyzed by the action that I had nearly forgotten how crummy the opening scenes are. Perhaps, as some involved in the movie have said, you need this stuff to enjoy the third film. But that does not make it any more entertaining to slog through when you don’t know how things are going to turn out. There so much early dead weight, that I’m not entirely convinced that some judicious editing could have taken Reloaded and the forthcoming Revolutions and made them into one amazing film. I have read plenty of responses to the film, some of which have had interesting ideas and explanations, but nothing has offered a viable explanation of all the early pacing problems. Or those costumes; I hope by the times Revolutions rolls around in November I won’t see similar attired loons standing behind me in line.