Matrix Reloaded

Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.

A review by Mike Shea   Movie Rating: ( * * * · · )    DVD Rating: ( * * * * · )

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When Blade Runner. It perfectly combined themes that were almost totally doomed to fail, kung fu, gun fights, and science fiction. Its characters were superheroes but by design. While Matrix Reloaded is a good sequel, it does not break free of the original. It is the next part of the story, not a story itself. The special effects are grand and the story isn't bad but it isn't the complete shock to the system that the original was.

While the Matrix was simple but extreme, Matrix Reloaded is complicated. There are about three or four scenes that seem to have more words in them than in the entire first movie. Where the first movie has a brilliant conversation between Neo and Morphius on their first meeting with very few words, the second has what seems to be line after line of dialog between our heroes and the Merovingian, a rogue computer program who has something Neo needs. The conversation makes a little more sense when you've seen the whole movie, but there is still quite a few wasted words. The Persephone scenes are worthless and after three viewings, they're embarrassing. It takes a little while for the movie to fire up, but the scenes of Zion are excellent science fiction all on their own.

Reloaded makes up for a lot of this with more of the excellent action we loved in the original. Besides the battles between our heroes and the Agents, we now have gangs of rogue forgotten computer programs to battle. It makes for some excellent battles, the peak of them a huge car chase that puts all Bruckheimer movies to shame. The fight scenes are very well done, but I can tell when they're computer generated and when they are not. In years to come it will be as obvious as the bluescreening in Star Wars. Nothing makes up for live action and in Reloaded, they use live action whenever they can. The kung fu is stronger than it was in the original, the actors spent almost eight months in martial arts training and it shows. The actors continued to do all of the fighting insted of stand-ins. Some scenes, like the fight between Neo and Seraph, seem to be kung fu for the sake of kung fu, but even Neo makes fun of them; "you could have just asked".

The DVD release of Reloaded is excellent but lacks a much desired director's commentary that the original Matrix had. It has an excellent 2.35 to 1 16x9 enhanced picture, a powerful Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that made my walls shake, and a second disc with no fewer than six special features. It is a top notch DVD but desperately needs a commentary track. Once again, I've sworn off DTS sound as an unneeded format that complicates an already overly complicated field and Matrix Reloaded shows there is no need for it.

This week I saw Kill Bill in the theater and was blown away by its originality and by an embrace of violence that so many others shun as a human weakness. It is an original movie in a world of "safe" Hollywood re-hashes and copies of plots done a thousand times before. I like Matrix Reloaded, but what was once an original film has turned into a series that attempts to best itself. While Matrix Reloaded succeeds in being an excellent science fiction action movie, it doesn't shake the world like the Matrix or Kill Bill did.