The Matrix Reloaded Review
By Joe Lozito
Everything Old is Keanu Again
I gotta be honest: it's very difficult to review a movie like "The Matrix Reloaded." As a movie, its pacing is off, its characters are thin and its plot is…well, questionable at best. But as a science-fiction phenomenon, it is art. Andy and Larry Wachowski, the fraternal duo that brought us the lesbian noir thriller "Bound" in 1996 and have been living with "The Matrix" ever since, are masters of their craft. As countless "Matrix" knock-offs have shown, no one can do the pseudo-philosophical, kung fu fighting, anime-inspired comic book sci-fi genre like they can. But it seems even the mighty Wachowskis are not immune to sequel-itis.
Obviously, there was no small amount of pressure on the Wachowskis to outdo themselves, so "Reloaded" has something to prove. They couldn't have picked a better name for the sequel to the 1999 blockbuster that launched a thousand slow-motion fistfights; "Reloaded" is filled to the brim with everything that made the first "Matrix" so memorable - the hyper-choreographed fights, the slo-mo camera turns, the bullet time - but little of what made it so much fun. Gone is the critical element of surprise which gave the first film such a visceral charge. We know exactly what to expect from this movie and it is all too eager to show us how well it can deliver.
Ironicially, there is also an element of humanity missing from the film. What do you do with a hero that ended the previous film more or less invincible? And how to do you build suspense around him? "Reloaded" struggles with this problem by making the plot an end-of-the-world scenario, but the scale of the quest is so huge that it makes the memory of the original seem downright quaint. For every long scene of expository dialogue, more questions and plot holes fall by the wayside until we have to be content to sit back and wait for the next fight. Sometimes it's a long wait.
There are, of course, a few great action scenes and a much-touted 1000 special effects shots. But the only scene which truly raises the bar and captures the feeling of the first film involves Neo (Keanu Reeves, still "whoa" after all these years) taking on a playground full of Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving, having as much fun as everyone else should be having). The rest of the action is exciting, well-filmed, well-acted and...well, old hat. The returning characters are so a part of pop culture that they feel like old friends. Carrie-Anne Moss has less to do here as Trinity, but she is a stable, understated presence with a singular ability to be feminine without having to prove it. Laurence Fishburne, madly enunciating every line as if it were his last, is velvety-smooth as Morpheus. Of the new additions, only Jada Pinkett Smith as Captain Niobe and Harold Perrineau as Link are given much screen time. Their characters seem poised to have some purpose eventually.
This is, of course, the first of two sequels, so the movie has that frustrating sense of a being a cheat. However, despite the cliffhanger ending, the movie is long enough that you're happy it's over. It seems as though the Wachowskis may have had enough of a plot for one excellent movie, but they chose to pad it out to two movies by adding scene after scene of portentous babble. I can't say I blame them. The sci-fi genre needed another great trilogy and, despite its flaws, it would appear that this, like its hero, is The One.