It drops your jaw to the floor like a Neo on his 'first jump'. Effects supervisor John Gaeta has outdone himself in The Matrix: Reloaded, executing some of the most stunning visual effects sequences ever seen on film. And that's really all you want to know, right? Well, there's more...
Thankfully, the Wachowskis have remained true to their intentions; they haven't swallowed their own red pill and plunged headlong into the sort of demented self-involvement that now sees George Lucas directing his own movies according to a Star Wars universe half-created by fans.
The Matrix is first and foremost an Action/Fantasy adventure, and its success is based primarily on visual impact. It is, after all, the project that first spawned Bullet Time, the rotating digital shot that presents multiple angles of the same moment in time.
What pushes the Matrix franchise into 'all-time classic' territory is its compelling comic-book storyline: the deific Neo, once a lowly computer hacker, is burdened with the task of freeing the human race from a vast virtual reality prison known as the Matrix. Along the way he has to struggle with this responsibility - he doesn't at first believe in his own divinity - and when he eventually actualises it, all hell's to break loose in the Matrix.
In this latest instalment, the machines that enslaved the human race have mobilised to destroy the last human stronghold, an underground city called Zion, where all the liberated humans have sought refuge. Reloaded picks up with the news that the machines have started digging towards Zion. Now, with a real-world do-or-die battle imminent, actions within the Matrix itself are the only hope of salvation.
Whereas the existential debate in The Matrix centred on notions of Reality vs Perception, Reloaded ponders the ideas of Choice vs Reason, as two lengthy exchanges involving Neo are at pains to point out; the first with the now familiar Oracle (Gloria Foster), and the second with the newly-introduced Architect (Helmut Bakaitis).
Many 'intellectual' critics have lambasted The Matrix and Reloaded for 'dime-store' philosophy. Pish-tosh! Translating vastly complex existential arguments into a pop-culture vehicle is no easy matter - it cannot be done verbatim. But Reloaded does use elements of these ideas to advance its own rubric effectively, combining complex, if sometimes perplexing wordiness with plot structure akin to a Rubik's Cube.
There are problems beyond the intellectual, though: The third act speeds unnecessarily through a transitional montage scene, jarring the audience somewhat before the final showdown sequence. There's more than a scent of absurdity in the final reel, too, god or not. Notwithstanding, these won't hurt the cinema run. In all likelihood, it will bring audiences back a few times to figure it out.
Reeves plays his one-and-a-half-dimensional super-character reasonably; Fishburne has great fun hamming it up as the dogmatic Morpheus; and Moss seems happy to have cut back her role as the chief whip of the hero clan. Sadly, Agent Smith (Weaving) has less to do in this instalment, though the storyline does suggest a larger role for him to play in Revolutions.
...speaking of which, we now anxiously await - mission: accomplished. It's going to be a damn good year for Warner Brothers.
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