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"The Matrix Reloaded"

Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski.
Written by Andy and Larry Wachowski. 
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
Release Year:  2003
Review Date:  5/16/03 

Folks--

So, for those of you that haven’t seen this film, go ahead and stop reading this review, as all I am gonna do here is talk about what I liked and didn’t like.  In that respect, I’m just gonna give things away for you, so go ahead and read this when you’ve seen the film!

I haven’t been this excited for a film...ever.  Surely this is the “Star Wars” of my generation, and every time I see the poster on the streets here in town, I get all excited.  I think that is saying a lot given the number of films I see every year.  My expectations were high, and on most fronts, “The Matrix Reloaded” delivers the goods.  The first 45 minutes are quite slow, but by the time Neo shows up at that courtyard after visiting the Oracle...

Pros:

-->The visual effects in “Reloaded” are simply stunning.  There are a number of shots that took my breath away, and effects supervisor John Gaeta (The Wachowski Brothers jokingly refer to him in the making-of feature for the first film as “Enter the Gaeta”) has come up with a number of cool shots to ensure that “Reloaded” will be nominated for an Academy Award.  I can’t really say which one was my favorite--but, when Morpheus takes out that Escalade with that auto-pistol accompanied by the monster explosion was pretty damned cool.  The highlight that got an ovation in my theater was the sequence where Neo takes on multiple Agent Smiths in the courtyard; even seeing that in the commercials won’t ruin how spectacular a sequence it is mid-film.

-->The Wachowski Brothers did a very good job of balancing out Neo’s newfound skills with a suitable number of enemies.  I was very afraid that Neo’s ability to fly and kick everyone’s ass would make him too ridiculous in the sequels, but he now commands skills that only make him capable of competing with upgraded Agents, Smith, and multiple bad guys within The Matrix.

-->The Twins--awesome.  Did anyone else feel like they were getting a Matrix version of Greedo or Boba Fett from the “Star Wars” films with the Twins?  The kind of cult bad-ass enemy that has unexplainable powers but everyone thinks they are cool?

-->I like what has evolved out of the Agent Smith character; clearly, he is Neo’s only capable nemesis and his cloning ability allows us to enjoy just the facial expressions of actor Hugo Weaving as Neo flies out of sight to the bewilderment of Smith’s 50 alternate selves.  Lovely.

-->This is what I was talkin’ about with Monica Bellucci (Persephone):  flat-out hot!  Now that I have seen her in three films this year (“Tears of the Sun”, “Irreversible”) with a fourth due in November, I must watch some of her back catalog to get more Bellucci.  Sassy!

-->After watching the trailer for “Enter the Matrix”, the video game based on the film, I can see now what the directors meant when they said that the game fills in some of the blanks.  You may have noticed that Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Ghost (Anthony Wong) do not have many scenes in “Reloaded”, but that is because their off-screen actions are explained in the game.  With about an hour of movie footage contained in the game, you can get a good fix of “Matrix” lovin’ by picking up the game.

-->This film has more laughs than the first film; there is clearly a better, more subtle attempt to entertain an adult audience, not just the teens and the college kids with a sci-fi story.

-->The subtext and “the little things” in “Reloaded” are awesome.  The screens behind The Architect.  The fact that the two cars involved in the main car chase are expensive Cadillacs, but every other car on the road looks like a Saturn, Honda Civic, or other cheaper, compact cars that get blow’d up real good.  All of the people still “stuck” in the Matrix don’t seem to ever have sunglasses on in the daytime outdoors, but all of the “free-minded” folks like Neo and Trinity have shades on.

Cons:

-->As I mentioned, the film does start off quite slow.  Too much time is spent showing us Zion, and that Morpheus speech/Lionel Ritchie goes techno “All Night Long” video as everyone in Zion takes time out to dance half-naked was just plain crazy.  I don’t mind that you need to have a scene that mixes up the shots between the sex scene and anything else, but from what I could tell, these people were banging congas and drums and all I could hear on the soundtrack was “Blade”-style industrial techno.  WTF?

-->Overall, I was not happy with the music of “Reloaded” at all.  You may remember that in the first film, there were normally songs tied to each action scene, like the Propellerheads’ “Spybreak!” in the lobby shooting spree sequence.  In “Reloaded”, there is only an original score that is used repeatedly during the fight scenes; it gives the fight scenes a little less punch than I wanted.  Worst insult?  Probably the fact that the end credits are done over a Dave Matthews Band cut set to house music.  What?  This is DAVE MATTHEWS.  The guy isn’t Timo Maas, he isn’t Oakenfold, he isn’t anything related to the world of electronica.  Hmm.

-->Even for the logic tied to “The Matrix”, some of the scenes here stretch my already-suspended disbelief.  One such example occurs during the highway sequence.  For all of its cool points, why is it that one of the Twins--using a machine gun that looked like it was a mini-cannon--can’t seem to shoot out the tires of that silver Cadillac that Trinity is driving, after firing an astounding 500 rounds of ammunition?  It looked like the whole right-hand side of the car was awash in bullet holes, and yet there it was, still fine on four wheels.  Finally, after shooting at them for about two minutes of screen time--oh, and not RELOADING--the Twin just throws the gun into the Escalade and has a look that says “Fuck it.”  Or, the fact that the Keymaker seems to be completely nonplussed by the fact that all manner of mayhem is taking place around him.  To me, the Keymaker looked like an old Asian guy that was not exactly, uh, “trained for combat.”  But, he was fine to jump off a bridge onto a moving motorcycle carrier, or to get shot at left and right, or in the worst case of this, when the one Twin flew into the silver Cadillac and sat right next to the Keymaker...my man the Keymaker just looked over at him, annoyed!  Come on!  Or when Trinity and Morpheus try to shoot at any of the Agents--they told us in “The Matrix” that you can’t shoot these guys.  So, why do they continuously try to do that?

-->I knew that it was coming, because I read about it last year, but you won’t be happy with the fact that the ending of the film really is a cliffhanger unless you are prepared for it.

-->In an interesting irony, “Reloaded” rips off many of our older classics just like many modern classics have ripped off “The Matrix”...so, there you have it, a scene where Neo puts out the fist (“Superman”) while flying, and he does so while trying to outfly flames (Lando in the Millenium Falcon in “Return of the Jedi”) out of a bad-guy command center (yep, The Death Star) just before the whole thing blows up.  This shot was so frame-for-frame thievery that I may have to send the Wachowski Brothers a letter.  There is “Empire Strikes Back” imagery in about a half-dozen scenes here in “Reloaded.”

The story of “Reloaded” is quite interesting and lays the groundwork well for the finale set for November.  It is a bit hard to follow at times--especially at the end, with The Architect, who was speaking in such dense tones that by the time he dropped a “vis-à-vis” in his speech, I thought I would have to get up and drink another Mountain Dew to focus and understand all of the mumbo-jumbo/gobbledy-goop/biddely-boo that was going on.  (Note to other midnight show attendees--if you are clear on what it is that Neo needed to know, you are a monster, cause I was struggling at my late-night show tonight to stay with The Architect, even after he said “Ergo” for the fourth time.)

And, this means that as the middle portion of a three-game set, the stage is set for quite a grand finale.  The pros outweigh the cons for me, and you simply must see this film in a nice theater, maybe even twice, to be able to fully soak this bad boy up.  To get a glimpse of what is coming in “The Matrix Revolutions”, be sure to stick around after the credits are over to get the trailer.  Aww yeah....

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09