Matrix Reloaded, The

Reviewed By Greg Muskewitz
Posted 04/21/04 08:22:13

"Returning to the scene of the crime."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Overloaded is more like it.

The highly anticipated middle sequel to 1999’s highly popular, stylized sci-fi-action film, has turned around to be a turgid, ego-floating f/x joke. Let’s ignore the plastic brand of acting of the predecessor, the convoluted plot, the jagged and impenetrable dialogue, the of-the-moment innovative effects. What we have here is nothing more than an extended filler — nix that, an over-extended filler, to serve as an appetizer to a supposed finality of another sequel (also due out this year), bringing close to the unmemorable questions of the first. Admittedly, it has been some time since I’ve sat down with The Matrix, and the need to do so has not diminished my appreciation of it. But from then to now, the style of computer animation and fight sequences have spawned a married couple’s (with children) grocery list of imitations, copycats, and parodies. What once served as visually impressive is now as tired and agitating as digital video or hand-held cinematography. Of course, as the movie opens to some explosive action, we follow Carrie-Anne Moss fleeing from bullets, soon to slow it down several notches as she falls backwards from a skyscraper window, firing upwards at an agent following her down, gunfire and all. And that re-introduction to the effects, verging on five minutes of it, nearly is enough for a lifetime. The proceedings then turn towards the arrival and docking of the protagonist’s team with an extended break for a completely useless version of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” video. Then it’s time for plot, of the same — if not more so — style of convolution. Plot, plot, plot, plot. Another extended break for an unending car chase (or what would be a car chase if all of the accessories had been stripped away), back to plot, explosions again, and lastly a non-ending, leaving it cataleptic for November’s extended dénouement. The key to what has spoiled the vision of the Wachowski Brothers is as simplistic as excess. Superfluity. Moss doesn’t just have to dodge bullets falling from a skyscraper, she has to do it for five minutes; Keanu Reeves doesn’t have to battle just one Hugo Weaving, he has to battle hundreds of them; the cast no longer must be cool, they must be so über-cool that there hasn’t yet been a word assigned for it yet; the car chase must not only involve cars, but lasts for fifteen minutes, and involve cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc., but doesn’t include the laws of physics. Of course it is never enough that because all of the action takes place mentally so as to avoid explanation of pandiculation, now characters can fly and Neo isn’t just the one, but Superman, too. Even comic books make more of an effort to have super-abilities serve an overall purpose — the possession of a power — not for some prefatory dream sequence to turn around and be the unend’s deus ex machina. The Matrix Reloaded has been done to death before it ever could have been made. Is that the filmmakers’ fault? As far as I’m concerned, in every sense, yes. It is their fault for the repetition of carbon copies from their initial introduction and creation, however forgivable trend-making can be. But it is irreversibly their fault for returning to the scene of the resulting pile-up, their decision to pile on more (twice the amount), and to try and answer the original’s rhetorical question that would simply go better unanswered. (Is there ever a good answer to all the world’s unanswerables?) No, the clear reason for returning to what has become the scene of a crime is for the money; as much money as what they called plot here. On the positive side, there is a brief patch of humor involving Lambert Wilson as a bad guy who prefers the French language (“Cussing in French is like wiping your ass with silk — I love it”). With Laurence Fishburne, Monica Bellucci, Gloria Foster, and Jada Pinkett Smith.

[See it if you must.]

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