A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 315 – The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded – January 9th, 2011

Ah, it’s sequel time. I have to admit, I’ve only seen the Matrix sequels a few times. I’ve seen the first movie countless times, but the sequels, while pretty, lack something. It’s a pity, what with the promise the first movie had, but then that’s how it goes. I don’t dislike the sequels, but they disappointed me, so while I do enjoy watching them, and I certainly had moments tonight when I found myself grinning, the spark that made the first movie so uniquely fantastic is missing.

I think part of it for me is that this movie seems to embody the concept of trying too hard. With the first movie to live up to where do you go? More fight scenes, more bad guys, more chases and machines and tech and Neo doing impossible things and oh yes, lots more symbolism. And it’s all crammed in there so tightly none of it really has the space to breathe. There are these wonderfully tantalizing bits and pieces but before we can really get a sense of them there’s another fight scene, and it makes me wonder if the tantalizing bits are cut off because there are too many or because none of them were ever truly thought through.

We rejoin Neo and Trinity and Morpheus well enough after the events of the last movie that they’ve already been back to Zion enough times for Neo to gain a somewhat unwelcome following. People gather at the door to his quarters, waiting for him to come home. They give him offerings in hope that he will somehow be able to protect their family and loved ones. The messiah plot is very clearly carried on here, with Neo knowing he is this figure they’re looking to but not knowing what to do about it. He has horrible prophetic dreams of Trinity falling out of a building and dying (which is the opening scene, so twice now the movies have opened on Trinity kicking ass) and it’s made clear he has no idea what it all means. And I’ve got to give it to Keanu Reeves. For all the disparaging comments made about him and his lack of emotion, there is one moment in this movie where he somehow manages to convey the helplessness and sense of being overwhelmed through a single facial expression. The man can act!

So the ship returns to Zion and there’s a big orgy before the whole place prepares for war, since it’s been discovered that the machines are digging in to reach Zion and destroy it. Morpheus is waiting for word from the Oracle, defying orders of the military commander, Lock. There are meetings of the various ship captains and meetings in Zion with the council and Morpheus has a vaguely Cassandra type role here, being the true believer but being disbelieved himself. There’s a lot of arguing about whether or not they need to talk to the Oracle and whether they can afford to go back into the Matrix when the machines are so close and they need ships but of course they do go back in and the Oracle sends Neo on a quest to find the Keymaker and that leads them to an obsolete program named the Merovingian and his cadre of dangerous goons and meanwhile Agent Smith is replicating himself out of control and that’s not even touching on the new upgraded Agents who are also after them. So basically there are three different groups after Neo and his friends in the Matrix, a crapload of machines tunneling into Zion in the real world, and lots of little conversations about the nature of the Matrix and the programs within it.

It’s so very messy. And I haven’t even gotten to the Architect. I find it frustrating because there are all of these very interesting little moments. Neo’s conversation with the Oracle about how programs do what they’re intended to do and you never notice them. The Merovingian and his group of werewolves and vampires and ghosts and the implications of his cause and effect mentality. His wife, Persephone and all symbolism going on there. The Keymaker and Seraph, programs with very specific purposes. And as soon as they’re touched on there’s a fight scene. The Oracle spouts a lot of stuff about purpose and then buggers off just in time for a mob of Smiths to show up. The Merovingian rambles about causality and then kicks them out. Persephone shows up to give some more little clues and then we get the staircase fight scene with the goons, none of whom are ever really given much in the way of purpose or character. And then there’s the chase scene. And all the while there’s stuff going on in the real world that I’m sure is very important but it’s all chopped up. Oh! And there’s a traitor! Because we’ve got to have a traitor. And his name is Bane. Of course. Because Cypher wasn’t obvious enough.

And that’s my other problem here. The symbolism isn’t symbolism anymore. It’s flat out telling you what to think about the people who get introduced. Bane? That’s not a metaphor, that’s a label. But I could deal with that. It’s not like Neo and Morpheus were terribly subtle in the first place and there are things I like, such as the names of the various ships (Mjolnir, Osirus, Logos, Caduceus, Brahma, etc.). Some things are done well. I really like Zion, which is a giant bunker of a city. I just think there’s too much packed in, so by the time you reach the Architect and he starts in with the SAT vocab test of an explanation of what the Matrix is and Neo’s place in it, it’s just more noise. And essentially he tells Neo what Agent Smith told Morpheus in the first movie: Humanity is flawed and needs suffering. There needs to be a rebellion and a release valve. He just takes ten minutes to say it.

Seriously, I don’t dislike this movie. I just went into it hoping for more answers than I got. It felt like this movie was a lot more style-over-substance than the first one was, which made me sad. Oh, I still enjoyed the gorgeous visuals and the fact that both Trinity and Niobe (one of the captains, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith) get to kick a hell of a lot of ass. I do love the highway chase scene with the evil twins. I love the possibilities and I love the concept. I enjoy the little clever bits like references to Bible verses and classical literature. I just wish there had been some editing done. Maybe instead of three factions trying to get Neo and his pals it could have been two. Maybe a fight scene could have been taken out (the one with Seraph comes to mind – what’s the point there, again?). Maybe the scenes with the real world could have had less back and forth and political wrangling. I don’t know. It’s a lot of fun and has some great stuff in it, it just feels overloaded. Like the Wachowskis came up with so many cool ideas they couldn’t bear not to include them all. It ends with a fantastic revelation about Neo and his power in and out of the Matrix and it’s fantastically fun overall. But it clocks in at over two hours and I refuse to believe that at least fifteen minutes couldn’t have been cut to make it a tighter, sharper, cleaner and overall better movie.


January 9, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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