The Matrix: Reloaded

In 1999, Larry and Andy Wachowski redefined the action movie for a new generation with The Matrix. They took their varied interests and fused them into one, combining a love of comic books, Asian cinema, religion and philosophy, and special effects into a blockbuster movie. In the following years, their new "bullet time" effects became standard in action movies. With The Matrix: Reloaded, the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Bound) continue to build upon their futuristic world where humans battle robots for their survival. The way that the Wachowskis fully realized their world is impressive. They are now pioneering the fusion of gaming and movies, with the game Enter the Matrix, which contains a huge chunk of footage not in the film. They also produced a number of shorts called The Animatrix, which detail some history and offer other stories about this world. "More is better" is probably the mantra they used, since Reloaded takes many of the elements that made the first film a hit and pound them to death here.

Reloaded is like a James Bond movie (this is not a compliment) in that it feels like a series of long action sequences, separated not by bad double entendres, but by overly long philosophical exposition. The dialogue really bogs down the pacing, which moves from lightning quick to molasses slow. Granted, the action sequences are amazing. The virtual world of the Matrix allows the Wachowskis to film sequences wherever they want, from what looks like an inner city playground to a Los Angeles Freeway and French palace. The martial arts choreography again defies gravity, and time again slows down between battles. There is also something really cool about having swords and guns in the same fight sequence. However, this time, everything happens much more frequently (more slow motion, more combatants, more superpowers). Neo (Keanu Reeves, Hard Ball, Sweet November) now flies like Superman and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, Biker Boyz, Osmosis Jones) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, Chocolat, Memento) get much more fight time.

For anybody under a rock, The Matrix takes place in a world where machines enslaved humanity. Reloaded picks up after the original (watching this one without seeing the first will probably result in mass confusion), with Neo coming to terms with his powers and his potential role as mankind's savior. The machines are now digging underground towards Zion, the underground city where the humans live. This forces Neo, Morpheus and Trinity to enter the Matrix to find the Oracle (Gloria Foster, The Matrix, City of Hope), who tells them to find the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim, Anna and the King, The Thin Red Line), held prisoner by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson, Les Tombales, Far From China) and his wife Persephone (Monica Bellucci, Tears of the Sun, Irreversible). Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving, The Two Towers, Russian Doll) is back, and now has the ability to replicate himself.

Other new characters include Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith, Ali, Kingdom Come), another captain who once had a relationship with Morpheus. Now, she's with Commander Lock (Harry Lennix, Collateral Damage, Pumpkin), who leads the rebel forces. Naturally, this causes some really dull tension between Morpheus and Link. The Merovingian has two albino twins (Adrian and Neil Rayment) who can phase through solid matter. The film still looks really cool, with everybody wearing shades and trench coats (and Moss in shiny, shiny leather), and thankfully, Reeves' lines are at a minimum. Neo is a character he excels at playing, because it is less about prolonged dialogue (which always sounds bad coming out of Reeves' mouth) and more about terse sentences and action.

Overall, this is a slightly better film than the first. The Wachowskis faltered by putting in too many speeches to the point where no one will care. Fishburne's character is responsible for most of these lone monologues, bogging down the story to the point of boredom. Storywise, there is not much there at all. The running time is due to the speeches and action sequences. Take them away, and the actual story will probably take about thirty minutes. And what exactly was the purpose of the rave-like party in Zion? The Matrix: Reloaded's problems are endemic to most big Hollywood blockbusters. They focus on eye-popping special effects to the detriment of the story. Yes, it is cool watching Neo battle hundreds of Agent Smiths, or Morpheus on a sword battle on a moving semi, but once the movie is over, there's really nothing of substance to look back upon. The end is extremely abrupt, and not an end at all, since this is a trilogy. It is a cliffhanger ending, but at least Reloaded can stand by itself as a chapter in a larger story rather than half a movie. Oh well. Stay after the credits for a preview of The Matrix: Revolutions.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
2 hours, 18 minutes, Rated R for sci-fi violence and some sexuality.

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