My review is going to be very harsh. I am going to slam this film hard. Just be advised that my overall view of this film is a B. It is worth seeing. But boy oh boy is it flawed and those flaws need to be discussed.
I have had some time to reflect and think about MATRIX RELOADED and I am of the opinion that this film is similar to many inferior sequels, for a variety of reasons. Without getting long winded (edit, looking at this review, I did get very long winded), I will say that like HIGHLANDER 2, The MATRIX RELOADED has more money and visualistics than the original it has followed, but with less cohesion and inventiveness. It also has changed the rules on us, somewhat like the Planet Zeist thing that killed HIGHLANDER 2. By no means is RELOADED as bad as that dreaded sequel, but by no means is it a worthy follow-up to the original film.
RELOADED is much like BACK TO THE FUTURE 2, which was an overlong, unnecessary bridge to BACK TO THE FUTURE 3, where the story finally got moving. This storyline could have been told in 30 minutes, but instead we got strung along for 2 hours and 20 minutes, with a lot of sheer boredom on the way. The Zion scenes went on and on (as did the fights) and one Zion lecture in particular was a chore to watch (and I donâ€™t mean the pathetic Rave sequence) and it was the fact that this scene was so pointless that I realized it was important in setting up the third film. This scene also confirmed my guessing the â€œsurprise endingâ€ to RELOADED and I am 98% sure I know exactly what will happen in REVOLUTIONS.
Like THE MUMMY RETURNS, The MATRIX RELOADED has a bigger budget and gobs more visual effects, but to its own detriment. This time, instead of 100% Keanu Reeves vs. 100% Hugo Weaving (or other actor/stunt-man), we have a large percentage of completely CGI fight sequences and they are so blatant, so in your face, that you are violently yanked out of the film, making it impossible for you to forget that you in a movie theater. The Burly Brawl is a case in point. After 2 minutes of sensational realcombat, Neo picks up a pole and turns into Neo-Binks, a fully CGI fighter, surrounded by fully CGI Agent Smithâ€™s. BANG! The scene is destroyed. You are now watching a video game, ala some sequences from BLADE 2 (an inferior sequel if there ever was one). At no time did this opening night crowd applaud, cheer or gasp at the film. At no time did they get rowdy. They just sat there, dead in their seats. Itâ€™s the exact opposite of the reactions the first film got back in 1999.
The first MATRIX has, hands down, the most realistic visual effects of all time for a science fiction film. They are seamless and do not draw attention to themselves. You do not question that helicopter smashing into the skyscraper. You do not question Neo or anyone else defying gravity. Itâ€™s real. Period. And therefore you are never yanked out of the film. The Wachowski brothers have misjudged the importance of this, thinking audiences wants more and more vfx. We donâ€™t, if those vfx are not real.
And what fun is a fight scene if the conclusion is pre-determined. Neo is the one and therefore cannot lose. Therefore, you cannot have any sense of danger. Therefore, you sit there, bored, wondering when he will just end it. Even the fights with Trinity and Morpheus vs. agents suffered, because at no time did I think they were outmatched. Agent Smith beating the tar out of Morpheus in the original was a kinetic, balls to the walls event. You feared for your hero and knew he was in deep ****. This time, I sensed none of that. Yes, the freeway chase was sensationally shot and edited, but who cares? It was fun, but I did not sense any danger.
Letâ€™s move onto the music score, which is easily one of the most disappointing aspects of the film. Don Davisâ€™ score for the original film is one of the best of the 1990â€™s. I have listened to it a thousand times. This time, however, he has utterly failed. It just doesnâ€™t work. Why, I cannot really describe why. But I was not the only one from my party who thought this. And for the love of God, who decided to stick that heavy metal trash song over those ending credits at decibels that would shatter glass?! I have never seen so many people run for the doors with their hands over their ears. I kid you not. At least a third of the audience was covering their ears. That song will appeal to about 10% of this filmâ€™s audience. Meanwhile we all run for cover.
Last two points before I move on to spoilers. The editing in this film called attention to itself. The crossing between three different events that took place at three different times is an example (during the finale). It was confusing, drew attention to itself and sucked the life out of what looked to have been three good scenes. It didnâ€™t add suspense. It just added confusion. As a matter of fact, I could hear people around me asking friends what was going on. Thatâ€™s bad.
The opening sequence for this film, which features Trinity on the attack, utterly failed. It was a boring slow motion opera. All visual. No impact. Starting the film off with a confusing, almost entirely slow motion action sequence does not make the heart flutter. It is speed and adrenalin that accomplishes that and the first film proved it. My wife and I sat stone faced in the theater last week, not caring one bit about that opening scene. It was just 100% eye candy with no passion. What a shame.
OK, onto spoilers. Yes, SPOILERS. So donâ€™t read on if you have not seen the film.
This Box within a Box thing is, quite frankly, annoying. Itâ€™s a slap in the face to everything we learned from the first film. Who could forget not being able to even breath as Neo woke up in that chamber, finding that he was a human battery? That was surprise. That was a revelation! That was really great filmmaking. And it is utterly betrayed with this Zion is part of the Matrix BS that so brings back memories of Highlander 2 and the â€œAlien explanationâ€ that contradicted all that we learned before.
I knew the surprise for this film before I saw it last week. After reading a post from someone that compared the ending to how disappointing it was to find out Highlander 2 made the immortals aliens, it took me all of ten seconds to figure out what was what. The boring Neo talks to the council member dialogue just confirmed it. One can hypothesize from that scene the answer to how the third film will resolve the storyline. Think about it. The answer is in the dialogue.
RELOADED, to me, is a fun action film and nothing more. At no time did it reach the storytelling levels of the original film, which was loved and even worshipped by nearly everyone who saw it. This time the responses are all over the map, with a large minority going so far as to say this film is as bad as The Phantom Menace. I can see their point and understand why they feel the way they do because this film is NOT anywhere near as good as the original. The fact that so many people hate it is proof enough. If the film was as good as the original, or even nearly as good, the negativity that we are seeing all over the internet would not be happening. I say let them bitch. They have the right. Me, I will look at RELOADED and see a film that is not bad, was fun at times, and that will become a great demo piece for my home theater next year.
That all being said, the third film, REVOLUTIONS, looks as though it might be a return to greatness for the Matrix, ala Back to the Future 3. The rules have changed. All the â€œhumansâ€ may very well die. Neo is not a God. He can lose. And we know that there will be no #4, so that sorely lacking sense of danger may, in fact, return for part 3. I hope so. The trailer for it was quite good. Better than the 2 hours and 15 minutes that preceded it.
See you in November.