How do you top what "The Matrix" was at the time it came out? Go all out. How about make it an epic trilogy set to end the war between man and machine? How about push the philosophical elements further up front and use more complicated ideologies? How about make the actions scenes bigger and more intense? Sound like a good idea? Fuck yea it does. That's exactly what "The Matrix Reloaded" intends as the first part of a two part film. Be smarter, faster, and more action packed. For the most part it does succeed. It's more brain racking. More epic. More intense. Unfortunately, it can never blend it like the original one did and it comes off as trying a tad too hard too often.
Neo (Reeves) is now an unstoppable force in the Matrix. His powers are only increasing since his final encounter with Agent Smith (Weaving) that ended in his destruction. Too bad that's in the Matrix. Turns out the machines in the real world have located Zion and are digging to pummel the human resistance to pulp. Now Morpheus (Fishburne), Neo, and Trinity (Moss) have to aggressively pursue the prophecy of Neo as the one to end this potential slaughter. This will take them into all new parts of the Matrix to face rogue programs, the source of the Matrix, and even a new Smith, now in the form of a vicious virus hellbent on power. The Matrix and the real world may never be the same.
Let's analyze the intent of the film to understand why it still kicks some mighty ass, but not as much ass as the first "Matrix". Let's break it down.
MORE ACTION: "Reloaded" definitely has this down to a 'T'. Although it can't re-revolution action like the first film did, it certainly tries to give us everything that we didn't get from the first film and more. Sword fighting? Check. Car chases? Check. More kung fu? Check. More Smith vs Neo? Check, check, check. This film rocks its actions sequences to the hull. With the Wachowski brothers' keen visual flair and some bad ass ideas, "Reloaded" is loaded with awesome sequences. Memorable battles line the film to the hilt with the highlight coming about as the sword fight in the villa leads into one of the coolest highway chase scenes in cinema. Granted, they seemed more keen on using CGI for the film in these scenes that never really works (the Neo/multi-Smith throw down in the park looks like a cartoon by the end), but for the most part it really does achieve its goal on this level.
MORE SMARTER (<---- that's a joke, get it?): This film almost out smarts itself too often. Still retaining its philosophical side and mystery, "Reloaded" tends to bombard its viewers with endless monologues about beliefs and different views of life and how it works. Every larger side character seemingly has to spout off some sort of 'lesson learned' speech that just gets too tiring by the end. It does build the mystery of whether or not the main character's beliefs are being 'controlled' for another's own benefit, but by the end it just seems like it was a bit of wasted breath. Adds some fun ideas to chew on, but it sort of beats you in the face with it rather than being an undertone like it was in the original to its science fiction plot.
MORE EPIC: Indeed, this film achieves this. To its own disadvantage. Although the story does build nicely through out as Neo strives to get to the source, but it ultimately fails at the end. Why? Cause there really is no end. It ends on an odd beat seeming like an episode rather than its own film and just types off "To Be Concluded". What?! I know 2 and 3 are back to back...but...but....COP OUT! It only feels like half a film (essentially it is) so standing on its own it feels a bit lopsided as a film. When paired with "Revolutions" in watching back to back it works. On its own. It doesn't. It builds and builds and just tapers off. The action is more epic. The story is more epic, but it just ends up not feeling complete without part 3.
"The Matrix Reloaded" might have achieved its three objectives, but it was at the cost of something a little greater...balance and pacing. Reeves is perhaps even more wooden in his performance too (which says quite a lot) and the film is just not quite as efficient when it comes down to it. It's a solid sequel and a great beginning to a two-parter, but on its own it just isn't up to par.
Written By Matt Reifschneider