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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Directors: Andy and Larry Wachowski

review by Christopher Geary

Lacking the Philip K. Dick styled revelatory intrigues of the original (where the modern world is a virtual construct concealing human slavery to machine intelligence, and the computer hacker hero is invited to take a pill to discover the true nature of reality), The Matrix Reloaded could never hope to match the twin impacts of mind-bending paranoia and innovative visual effects which set an influential new standard for fantasy action cinema. Instead, what we have here is an excessively talky yet straightforward mega-budget action thriller about rebellion and moral conflicts, with political and philosophical diatribes interrupting some excitingly staged but necessarily over-the-top fighting and pursuit sequences (well, the makers had to strive for an even greater spectacle than before), ending with the hero's last minute race-against-time to save the heroine.
Neo discovers he's a TV star
Now dressed in priestly black robes, Keanu Reeves returns as Neo, the messianic One. Carrie-Anne Moss is back as Trinity, once again carrying the opening scenes as she tries to evade an inhumanly powerful enemy. And there's also Laurence Fishburne as Captain Morpheus, of the hovercraft Nebuchadnezzar, grimly accepting it's his duty to meet the deadly Sentinels' ultimate attack on the subterranean city of Zion, humanity's last refuge and stronghold of freedom. As thousands of squid-like machines dig through the Earth's crust towards Zion, and the rulers debate with their military chiefs how best to defend their hidden metropolis (which, ironically, looks more like the rather grotty home of The Time Machine's Morlocks than a futuristic haven for mankind - in the manner of Things To Come), Neo re-enters the Matrix world to consult the Oracle, and find the Keymaker, who controls access to the Architect...
Trinity visits the bad guys
Although there is no denying that Matrix Reloaded looks absolutely stunning, delivers its expected quota of impressive visuals, and holds audience attention for well over two hours, it struggles - and fails - to achieve much beyond filling the narrative gap between The Matrix (1999), and the eagerly anticipated finale, Matrix Revolutions. It suffers from the curse of stopgap pragmatism that affects many second instalments in genre trilogies in that its whole purpose is defined entirely by transitional scope: it's just the middle of the story arc between the beginning and the ending, without a starting point or a finish line of its own. Yes, there is narrative development, and a couple of amusing plot twists to ponder, but sadly the substance of the film is little more than designer violence and superhuman action. A digitally replicated Hugo Weaving, as the legion of Agent Smiths, dishes out some of the best martial arts, while Neo flies around the Matrix world like Superman, and everybody else does their utmost to look cool in a variety of proverbial "nice outfits" (the glamorous Monica Bellucci looks very fetching in the crème de la crème of party frocks).
Morpheus versus Smith agents
Apart from Neo's prolonged encounter with the numerous Smiths (why didn't he just fly away in the first place?), perhaps the most memorable sequence in the whole film is the wholesale car and bike chase on a busy freeway. Here, amazing stunts and CGI combine seamlessly, to present some of the most electrifying and stylish road rage ever seen, and if the Wachowski brothers could only sort out their regrettably self-indulgent weakness for allowing such extended action to outstay its welcome (unfortunately resulting in the feeling of an indefinitely postponed anticlimax), the conclusion of this saga should really be something to look forward to.
The Matrix Reloaded

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