[This review originally appeared in SciFiDimensions.com in May 2003.]
Reality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The Matrix is a vast computer simulation feeding the minds of humanity, whose bodies (housed in row upon row of nutrient-filled cocoons) provide energy for the Machines who have conquered their creators. As far as everyone “trapped” in the Matrix is concerned, it’s the year 1999.
Opposing the Machines is Zion, the last free human city buried deep underground. The soldiers of Zion can tap into the Matrix and occasionally free select individuals. One such liberation was that of Neo (Keanu Reeves), who was freed by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), who is now Neo’s lover. Morpheus believes Neo is “the One,” a person whose mind can break the rules while in the Matrix: stop bullets, perform superhuman feats of strength—even fly! Neo has shown just such abilities, even destroying Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), one of the powerful security programs that lives inside the Matrix, finding and killing Zionites when they hack into the system.
In The Matrix Reloaded, the machines have located Zion and have begun digging. If they overcome Zion’s physical defenses, the war will be lost. Morpheus believes their only hope is Neo, and begs the ruling council to allow a trip to the surface so Neo can plug into the Matrix and somehow put a stop to it.
But once inside the Matrix, Neo makes a shocking discovery. Agent Smith is back, but now he’s independent of his Matrix masters, and has somehow gained the ability to duplicate himself. Now Neo has to deal with not one, but a hundred or more Agent Smiths! Can he overcome this new obstacle and put a stop to the Matrix before it’s too late?
Holy $#!+… Ho Hum… Holy $#!+… Ho Hum… Holy $#!+… Ho Hum…
The Matrix Reloaded returns to the same visual sensibilities that made The Matrix such a sensation: the eye-popping martial arts, “bullet time” special effects, and the leather-and-latex supercool of Morpheus and Company. It fails, however, to jack into the lean and relatively comprehensible philosophical underpinnings established in the first film (What is reality? Would you know it if you saw it? Is mind over matter possible?). The lulls in the action are filled with tedious, boring and incomprehensible ramblings about fate, free will, and other stuff (rest assured) you won’t understand. The film opens with Trinity going mano-a-mano with an Agent—in bullet time—while falling backwards out of a skyscraper window! Lull… Morpheus becomes a cross between Thulsa Doom and Ernest Angley while speechifying to the inhabitants of Zion. Then Neo kicks the snot out of 100 Agent Smiths and flies off like Superman. Lull… He has to talk to the Oracle (Gloria Foster) ad infinitum ad nauseum about his place in the universe, etc., etc. You’ll see what I mean.
Don’t get me wrong. This is a wonderfully entertaining film, but it’s dragged down by too much rambling, pretentious pseudo-philosophical claptrap.
The Matrix Reloaded makes itself worthwhile in topping its predecessor with more action and new, inventive special effects, including the nefarious albino Twins, who can ghost in and out of reality, moving through solid objects. Not to mention the unbelievable extended chase scene which takes place on a busy downtown freeway.
The Matrix Reloaded ends on a cliffhanger, with many questions left unanswered. Won’t the Machines themselves have to do something about the uncontrollably duplicating Agent Smiths? And won’t all the destruction wrought in the climactic chase scene disturb the slumber of the human residents of the Matrix? We’ll find out this fall in the third and final installment: The Matrix Revolutions. Neo has his work cut out for him.