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IN SHORT: The Matrix: Rehashed. [Rated R for sci-fi violence and some sexuality. 138 minutes]
Before we begin, it is important to remind everyone that most important "rules" of this site is that you shouldn't have to know the Source Material to follow the movie. We relax that rule a wee bit for movie sequels, most of which manage to recap all the necessary information from earlier episodes in a sentence or two. We know that it isn't hard to condense everything you need to know into two sentences. [wanna bet? "Mutants have superpowers. Humans hate and fear them." defines either X-Men movie; or "Earth is ruled by human-like machines. Humans hate and fear them." That's The Terminator though it could apply to The Matrix just as easily.] The Matrix: Reloaded kind of blows that allowance out of the water. Not only is it based on The Matrix, the film, it is also based upon Enter the Matrix, the videogame (as the promo states: "The movie is incomplete without the game, and the game is incomplete without the movie"). Sorry, too much prior knowledge required. Did that affect our ability to follow The Matrix: Reloaded? Nope, because we have no idea what we're missing. Then again . . .
The other rule of this site is that each film gets only one viewing before review, just like it would be in real life. Long term readers also remember that, while we thought the action sequences in The Matrix were top notch, we didn't have the slightest idea what the hell the story in that first flick was supposed to be. By our fourth view (thanks HBO) we'd finally figured it out. Covering all bases, we RSVP'd for two viewings of The Matrix: Reloaded because once we heard all the cast members raving about how this film better emphasized the "philosophy" of the matrix, we suspected we'd once again have a problem making sense of it all.
We didn't have much of that problem with Reloaded. It is, though, a film whose story offers no beginning or conclusion -- it is the middle of three, after all -- and whose action sequences, as with the first film, overwhelms everything else. If you haven't seen The Matrix, do so or you'll be stranded, grasping desperately for an understanding of this film's story; wondering why seemingly insignificant characters have as much screen time as they do. Yeah, yeah, it's a Trilogy. We know. We know.
Fans can explain what "The Prophecy," mentioned endlessly in this film, is to any of their friends who foolishly walk into Reloaded without having seen the first movie. Simply: what humans are left on this particular Earth have been looking for a messianic being called The One to liberate them from the control of machines that rule the planet and seek to exterminate them. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) believes he has found The One, a computer programmer/hacker named Thomas Anderson aka Neo (Keanu Reeves), though members of Humanity's ruling council think Morpheus' religious leanings are nutzoid. Neo is hunted by the machines' enforcer, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and is loved by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) who fights at his side onboard the ship christened Nebuchadnezzar, now piloted by Link (Harold Perrineau) due to events in the first movie.
Oh, boy. We look at every movie as an individual unit, and as an individual unit, The Matrix: Reloaded is nothing more than a two hour setup for what will hopefully be a slam bang finish. It starts in the middle and ends in the middle because it is the middle. The few in our audience who did not know that Reloaded would end on a cliffhanger booed. They should not have been surprised as Brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski have gone out of their way to warn fans about that and wisely shot the concluding movie at the same time as this one so you'll be able to see The Matrix: Revolutions in a mere six months. Which is a good thing because just about all the new material in Reloaded falls into the category of "spoilers," meaning almost anything we could include in a summation will spill surprises that shouldn't be spilled.
Let's put it this way: In addition to all of his Superman-ish powers, Neo is also developing some precognitive ability. Agent Smith, freed of his enslavement to The Matrix, is really pissed off at Neo for unlocking his emotions and ego. Smith has also developed the ability to reconfigure other "persons" to his look and thought processes. That means Neo gets to battle hundred(s) of Smiths instead of just the one in what is truly the most spectacular SFX scene ever created. Gotta give proper credit where it's due. We also get our first look at the remaining bastion of humanity, the underground city of Zion and the ruling elements there. Some believe as Morpheus does. Some do not. While an attack on the city is believed to be imminent, the ruling council assigns two ships to accompany the Nebuchadnezzar back into the Matrix, for one more rendezvous with the Oracle (Gloria Foster). Morpheus' ex-love Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), now the better half of Morpheus' political opposite, Captain Lock (Harry Lennix), is captain of one of those ships.
Oracle dispatches our heroes to rescue "The Keymaker" (Randall Duk Kim), the man who wrote the Source Code for all that is. The Keymaker is held captive by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and guarded by a photogenic pair of Twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment). The Merovingian's wife Persephone (Monica Bellucci) will allow access to the Keymaker because her husband is a pig. Her action brings Neo face to face with The Architect of the Matrix and unleash one whopper of a surprise upon our hero's understanding of all that is. And, as expected, the film tops off with another action sequence for which the series films will become legendary. Two hours and a whole lotta miles offscreen, the world comes crumbling down and you're all set for the conclusion of the trilogy and an explanation of the why and how all that is. We're sure about the first part, not the second.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Matrix: Reloaded, he would have paid . . .
We were never sucked in to the illusion of the wonderfulness of The Matrix to begin with. The Matrix: Reloaded is nothing but a set up for whatever tops the bill. Hope for a quick rush to rental before the release of The Matrix: Revolutions and save some money, so you can see the big finish a couple of times.
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