Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Matrix Reloaded

I forgot to mention in the last post that the movie has good music too. Solid mix of original orchestral stuff and licensed techno and rock. Anyway, the first sequel had insane expectations that it failed to live up to. I still think it's an entertaining action movie, but it's sadly devoid of a lot of the elements that made the original good. A big problem is that most of the action seems pointless. The sense of fear and tension is missing. The first time around, Agents were scary and powerful, and the good guys were very vulnerable, just doing enough damage to give themselves time to escape. Now, Neo's practically omnipotent, and he treats them like playthings. It's not just him either; Morpheus holds his own against an upgraded model much better than he did against Smith. The danger's just gone. Neo can resurrect people and fly away from any fight, but he sticks around anyway to show off his moves. The ghost twin things chase after our heroes with an SUV and assault rifle; the gunner can fire a burst into any vehicle and cause it to flip over, but he empties hundreds of round at the good guys and nary a scratch. Every time a car crashes and spins through the air, we get treated to a slow motion glory shot from the best angle. The movie spends twelve minutes on the freeway chase, in which the following happens: they get away.

What's funny is that the advanced visual effects have aged worse than the first movie's tricks. The "burly brawl" starts out decently enough, with some interesting choreography as long as you ignore a few obvious stand-ins and the fact that the only thing they seem to be doing is grabbing Neo's shoulder, but as soon as the Smiths really start coming in the fight becomes a slow motion computer-fest as an extremely fake looking Keanu Reeves smacks around a bunch of extremely fake looking Hugo Weavings, accompanied by domino and bowling sound effects. Any time Reeves is replaced by a digital model to do something fantastic, it looks incredibly dated, and they bring the camera way too close to their sad creation. The movie is simply less believable than its predecessor. And outside the fighting, the movie's not that great either. Lots of people like to complain about the rave/sex scene, and for good reason. From when the drums begin to the final shot of Keanu's butt covered strategically by Trinity's leg, about five minutes pass. That's not a terrible amount of time to waste, but in those five minutes, we learn nothing, and the bits of dialogue only reinforces plot details we already knew.

When the movie came out, it was part of a multimedia attack featuring a video game and collection of anime short films. It was cool at the time, but now you see how it weakens The Matrix Reloaded as a film on its own. Why should we care about this dumb kid Neo rescued since the last time we saw him? Why are we just glazing over this apparently important stuff that Will Smith's wife is doing? All the other humans we meet don't really add much to the story. There's a whole fleet of hovercrafts with crews that jack into the Matrix, so how come we met none of them last time around? It kind of seems like the Wachowskis took their tight little science fiction story and wanted to make it more epic. The story works on some level, it just doesn't seem like the logical extension of the first film. I personally didn't mind the philosophizing and blunt exposition that cropped up, but it probably could have been presented more naturally. Also, the cliffhanger was fairly poorly executed. Bane is set up as a villain for the third movie, but at the time Reloaded ended he certainly wasn't memorable enough to get away with revealing him for a split second upside down. There are twists right before the break that really shake up what we believe in an interesting way, but it certainly wasn't a middle on par with some other famous trilogies.

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