Depth Can't Be Faked - "The Matrix Reloaded" Review
How can you exceed or at least equal a masterpiece? Sometimes, even with a remarkable effort, you simply cannot.
Interesting enough, it cannot be said that the Wachowski were lazy designing the sequel to The Matrix. If anything, The Matrix Reloaded suffered from an insane amount of energy focused in the wrong direction.
The Wachowskis were heavily involved in a fantastic anthology of high quality animated shorts called The Animatrix. Those animated stories explained many loose ends and introduced new characters to the saga. The Animatrix also was connected with another cultural product, also directed by the Wachowski: the video game Enter the Matrix.
But when it comes to the actual film, The Matrix Reloaded seems to be designed to cheat its way into convincing us that it has a lot of depth instead of having it organically. Where The Matrix had complex philosophic discussions enclosed in simple conversations, Reloaded is full of tautological, repetitive and sometimes even unnecessary dialogues.
Don't believe me? Here are some examples of phrases directly taken from the movie, decontextualized for bigger impact:
“we’re all here to do what we’re all here to do”
“we’re not here because we’re free, we’re here because we’re not free”
“Some things never change and some things do”
“We do only what we’re meant to do”
“I know because I must know”
It should be noted that none of these phrases belong to the, perhaps on purpose, infamous character of The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), that arrogant white old man whose existence seems to be a plot device to explain the mythology better but ends up leading one of the most frustrating moments (with some unintentional comedy!) in recent cinematic memory. I doubt there is a person on this planet who understood his entire explanation in the first viewing.
The Matrix Reloaded leaves in the background the philosophical debates (which unlike the original movie, feel forced here) to focus on trying to solve the logic of its own universe.
That same unbridled and poorly channeled effort is technically seen in some sequences, where the ambition or obsession for the "bigger and better" (classic sequel trope that takes elements of the original and multiplies/enhances them) clearly exceeds the final result. The Wachowski, almost in exquisite irony, relied too much on the machines and ended up "betrayed" by them.
For example, after analyzing the 100 Smiths fight (AKA "Burly Brawl") sequence, it was determined that it would be impossible to make the scene using the bullet-time technology. The CGI animation then came as a replacement and did the work, but in the long term came up short, sentencing the film to an early "mortality."
Only a couple of years later, those Neos and Smiths were already perceived as low-quality-mid-rendered animated characters. The PS3 and Xbox 360 graphics were already superior.
What's Your Rating For The Matrix Reloaded
Of course, even with all these setbacks, The Matrix Reloaded is way above the average blockbuster. That "Burly Brawl" scene, even with its "Polar-Expressy" feel, it's an outstanding display of choreography, rhythm, musicalization and direction and its technical legacy is undeniable. The same can be said of other sequences such as the highway chase or the battle with the Merovingian's henchmen.
The new characters don't pack the same punch that the original ones had the first time we saw them, but visually manage to be memorable enough to be remembered. Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), Monica Bellucci (Yes, her character is called Persephone, but we all know her as "Monica Bellucci in The Matrix"), the twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment) and even the arrogant Architect have the sufficient dose of good design and pertinence in the plot to fit in the mythology. Link (Harold Perrineau), on the other hand, fail to hide the noticeable absence of the beloved Tank.
Unfortunately, all of the few pros are aesthetic. The richness of themes and ideologies perfectly compiled in The Matrix are for the most part absent in Reloaded.
The Matrix Reloaded show us programs that goes rogue and behave like viruses, A hint of a Matrix-within-the-Matrix theory, a twist on Neo's role and a look at Zion, the last human city on the planet.
It wasn’t enough. Sometimes, the bar is just unreachable.
Title: The Matrix Reloaded
Release Year: 2003
Director(s): The Wachowski Brothers
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards