Movie Review: The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

“Free your mind.”

2 Stars
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)


Director: The Wachowski Brothers

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Synopsis: Neo and the rebel leaders estimate that they have 72 hours until 250,000 probes discover Zion and destroy it and its inhabitants. During this, Neo must decide how he can save Trinity from a dark fate in his dreams.

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The Matrix Reloaded opens with a sequence in which Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss – Memento) is followed out of the high-level window of a skyscraper by a suited, sunglass-wearing agent of The Matrix.   She pumps shots from two guns at the agent as she falls backwards, while the agent returns her fire with equal ferocity.   They fire and they fire and they fire, and they miss and they miss and they miss, and a small part of me sort of hoped that The Matrix Reloaded would be a dud so that I could use that opening sequence as a metaphor for the movie in general.   Alas, it wasn’t to be.   The Matrix Reloaded might not possess the first-viewing impact of its predecessor in the trilogy, and the combination of fan-boy action and metaphysical philosophising is a poor fit at times, but it still packs quite a wallop thanks to some impressive action set-pieces and its expansion on the themes introduced in the first movie.

It’s six months after the events depicted in The Matrix, and not only is Neo (Keanu Reeves – Knock, Knock, Exposed) now an established member of the rebellion against enslavement by virtual reality which has subjected most of mankind to life as a human Duracell, but he’s also considered as some kind of saviour by those who subscribe to the Prophecy which predicted the arrival of a Chosen One who would rise up to destroy the machine and save humanity.   Answering an urgent recall to Zion, a subterranean city which is the last refuge for those who have rebelled against the machines, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne – Assault on Precinct 13, Man of Steel) learn that 250,000 sentinels are boring through the earth towards the city, and that their arrival in 72 hours will result in the destruction of the city and the death of all those who reside within its walls.  But as Zion prepares itself for the onslaught, Neo is summoned to a meeting by The Oracle (Gloria Foster), during which she reveals that she is actually a programme within The Matrix.   It is the first of a number of revelations which completely change everything the rebels believed they knew about The Matrix and their existence outside of it.

Often, the second film in a trilogy does nothing more than set things up for the grand finale in part three, but The Matrix Reloaded proves to be a dynamic spectacle of its own while building upon the foundations provided by the first movie to create a fully-realised if, in practical terms at least, rather improbable world.   It’s true that there’s a fair amount of expository dialogue throughout, but it’s a complex world The Wachowski’s are dealing with here, a world which can’t be explained in a six-sentence voiceover.   Once again, Neo and his cohorts jack into The Matrix in much the same way that gamers connect to the worlds in the games they play.  In fact, the film’s structure closely resembles that of a game in which the player must successfully overcome their foes and acquire pieces of knowledge before moving a level closer to their objective.   The foe is once again the indefatigable Smith (Hugo Weaving – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Last Ride) who, no longer an Agent but a rogue programme, has learned the handy trick of cloning himself, which paves the way for one of two remarkable set pieces.   The first, in which Neo has a bruising encounter with a swarm of Smiths, is spectacular enough, but it’s easily eclipsed by an 18-minute sequence in which Trinity and Morpheus do battle with The Twins, wraithlike henchman of the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson – The Lazarus Project), another rogue programme who is holding captive The Keymaker, the man who holds the key to the Source, and one of the Matrix’s agents on a fast-moving but congested interstate.

If the above sounds a little convoluted that’s because it is.   The Matrix Reloaded demands a high level of attention from its audience, not because it is particularly complicated, but because the Wachowskis hide key plot developments within layers of detail so that they are easily missed if attention falters.   While it’s always refreshing when a filmmaker credits his audience with a reasonable level of intelligence, the Wachowskis sometimes seem to forget that first-time audiences aren’t privy to the bigger picture that no doubt seems so clear to them.   And as The Matrix Reloaded piles on the symbolism and metaphysical philosophy, it remembers those in the audience who are simply there for the fights and the explosions.   The tightly choreographed fights are more like ritualised dances, with each participant’s perfectly-timed move complementing that of his opponent.   Sometimes, when Neo and the Oracle’s guardian are bumping elbows, for example, it looks a little comical, but the Wachowski’s are attuned to the fanboy mentality, slowing or even freezing those moves that look particularly cool for us to drool over.

Robbed of the first-viewing impact of its predecessor, The Matrix Reloaded compensates by delving deeper into the complexities of the worlds both inside and out of the programme.   Its failure to use the time available to it to explore the characters as well is something of a disappointment, as is one predictable reversal of a situation from the first film and Neo’s transformation into something of a Superman figure, but overall The Matrix Reloaded comes up with enough intrigue to persuade its audience to stick around for the concluding instalment.

(Reviewed 25th April 2016)

Click below for a free preview of the Kindle book, The Films of The Wachowskis.   The book, written by the author of this review, features reviews of all of the directors’ films, and is available for anyone to buy, or to read for free if you’re a member of Kindle Unlimited.   You don’t need a Kindle reader – Amazon’s Kindle app works on most popular devices and can be downloaded for free from their site.






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