The Matrix Reloaded, 4/7/17, 4.5 Stars
Initializing… Welcome back to the world of The Matrix. The story kicks into high gear right away when we see Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) riding in on a motorcycle, blowing something up, and then getting into a fight with Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), where she gets kicked out and shot. Will she survive? Before learning that, the story rewinds to Neo (Keanu Reeves) waking up next to Trinity on their way to Zion, the last human city on Earth that was mentioned, but not seen. Now it gets to be seen. Neo’s conflicted by the vision he had, and goes through an internal conflict of how to avoid that vision coming true. While on Zion, we learn a little more about the human resistance against the machines, and Neo gets an interesting scene with Councillor Hamann (Anthony Zerbe) where they discuss machines and control in a truly philosophical manner that is still relevant today in the smartphone era. Before that however, we get to see Zion in all its scope and after the announcement of Morpheus’ (Laurence Fishburne) discovery, they party like there’s no tomorrow, and most notably in their sex scene, we get better development of Neo and Trinity as lovers, but it is not enough to layer them like I think they should be, and while I can say this sequel adds more human-character moments that give us the tiniest bit of non-distracting comic relief, I still think character development is weak in this movie, but they do improve. Hamann is also in control of when the plot advances, which is why he lets Morpheus take his crew and the Nebuchadnezzar out to meet with the Oracle (Gloria Foster) who instructs them to track down the “keymaker” to find a way to end the war. What follows is another romp through the Matrix like the first movie, but the stakes are higher, and the action is increased. However, there is a clear middle chapter/part one of two feel to this I can’t shake, because while this is the middle of a trilogy, it was filmed back-to-back with the sequel, and there are a few loose threads left at the end of the movie. I won’t punish it for that, because it still felt like its own thing. Otherwise, the plot is fast and coherent, with some good story symmetry and a whole lot of cool action. Some of it feels really fake, like Neo’s flying looking obviously CGI, but considering it’s only done in the fake reality, I can let it slide on the grounds of “It’s in a computer,” and most computers (even today, over a decade later) don’t render perfect realism, and back from the first movie, it’s the lighting distinction between the two worlds. I’d also like to say that everything felt like it had its place, whether it was the twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment) who seemed like the featured muscle, the addition of Link (Harold Perrineau) to the crew, or the city of Zion and its big orgy scene, it feels like there’s a reason to it, especially if you consider they show that kind of action to show how human the people Zion are. Don Davis returns to score for the humans and machines, and his soundtrack is the right amount of techno whether in the Matrix itself or not, especially Burly Brawl, the music that Neo’s fight with the multiple Smiths is set to, which conveys the appropriate emotions of the situation (fast and advanced). It’s also withheld in a pivotal scene I won’t write about here, but I will say it really emphasizes how important the dialogue is, and leave it at that. As for humor, there is no dedicated comic relief, which would have been really out of place in this kind of movie, but as I said earlier, the more human moments of Neo, Trinity, and even Morpheus drew a chuckle out of me, but no major laughter. Even the twins have a small moment that’ll make you go “heh,” without being a distraction. And once again, the language gets a little salty, but nothing excessive or heavy on the salt. Overall, The Matrix Reloaded is a fine follow-up that still doesn’t make me care about the characters, but is only worse for the dangling plot thread or two clearly there for the sequel released six months later.