Home > Uncategorized > The Matrix Reloaded – Review

The Matrix Reloaded – Review

May 25th, 2003

Note: For those who are looking for a detailed look at Revolutions, you can find my standard review here, or go look at my Matrix Revolutions: Major Spoiler Review.


First off, this will not be a spoiler review, as I don’t want to have only an entry which gives out secrets of the film, which could hurt the experience for those who haven’t seen it. But if you want spoilers and a deeper discussion of the film, the follow the white rabbit–er, link–at the end of this entry. This review does tell you a bit about the film, but nothing, I hope, that diminishes the experience. On the contrary, the film can be confusing, and I hope this review could help you through those parts, without giving anything away, so you can understand the whole much better.

One good thing to keep in mind when seeing “Reloaded” is to understand that it is a bridge, a middle act, and ends with the words “to be concluded.” There’s a lot of stuff which we don’t learn in the movie, and which is still a mystery. So don’t expect to understand everything.

At the end of the first movie, we had established several points about the universe these characters live in: that there was the matrix, and there was the real world, and that the matrix was constructed to keep humans functioning while acting as an energy source for the machines. Also that the first iteration of the matrix was a paradise, but it failed, as human “programming” could not accept such a perfect world. This is reiterated in “Reloaded,” and may or may not be of some relevance–depends on where the Wachowski brothers take us in the third film, “Revolutions” (more discussion on this in the spoiler review).

We also learned that the matrix was a virtual world, a program; even with this spelled out, and with gravity rules broken in due kung-fu fashion, it was difficult to remember at times; in “Reloaded,” however, you see more computer-world stuff coming to life in the story. The world inside the matrix will have more real-world “rules” broken than in the last film, more computer-hacker tricks played out by people throughout the film.

“Reloaded” picks up some time after the first film ended (I believe it was supposed to be six months later, but I’m not sure). It begins, actually, with a dream sequence Neo has: Trinity breaks into a facility, and then is chased by an agent–straight out a window of a high-rise, down to the street, and on the fatal plunge, shoots her dead. No spoiler, that; you see it in the first few minutes. It’s a dream. The question is, does it come true.

Neo awakens, and he’s there, in bed, with Trinity, and she sees that something is troubling him, but he can’t tell her. Afraid that she might see it as inevitable, perhaps, and that view might contribute to her death. Soon they dock and all enter the matrix, for a meeting between ships’ captains, where they discuss the plot mover for the film: a quarter million machines, “squiddies” as they’re called (you saw them attack the Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the first film), are boring down into the earth. There is one machine for each man, woman and child in Zion. Everyone will be killed.

The captains are told to all return to Zion for a final battle by Lock, commander of Zion’s fleet of hover craft. Morpheus, however, convinces the captains that one ship should stay at broadcast depth so that the Oracle can contact them, as foretold by prophecy. This infuriates Lock, who doesn’t believe in the Oracle, or in Neo; he just sees that Morpheus disobeyed his command.

So all return to Zion, the last human city, where all are told that all could be destroyed within a few days’ time–but not to fear, we will prevail.

That, of course, is yet to be seen, as so much of what we accept about this story is called into question in this second installment.

Various review of the film have faulted it for being lesser than the first film, especially in the area of meaning and depth. This surprises me, because in my view, the ideas become deeper and more interesting than before. There are still plot twists–perhaps not on the level of the first film when we discover that our real world is a simulacrum–but still, the twists and turns are there, and obviously there are a few mind-blowers yet to come.

But philosophy is still at the heart of this movie. For the first film, the themes were faith, love, fate, and the question, “what is real?” Those themes are still present in the second film, but new themes enter the picture: control and choice. These come in as the age-old question of free will vs. predetermination. Are our fates escapable? Will Trinity die as foreseen? Are we capable of making such a thing as a “choice”? This film asks these questions, but the Wachowski brothers are waiting until the final film to tell us what they believe.

In fact, the ideas of choice and control did enter into the first film, but only in passing. When Morpheus first explains the matrix to Neo in the loading program, he notes that the purpose of the matrix is to control humans while they are used as an energy source. He does not elaborate on the theme, however. Also, when Neo meets the Oracle, she speaks about predetermination and choice, in the form of the vase falling, and as the choice Neo would have to make about saving Morpheus.

I believe that many people’s idea of this film not being as “deep” as the first has to do with those questions being unanswered for the moment–as I said at the beginning, it is important to remember that this is the middle of the story and is incomplete. The “long, boring parts” these same critics talk about though, are where the depth comes in. Discussion and interplay concerning fate and predestination.

The characters in the film get perhaps less development than they got in the first film, and certainly less development than the philosophy and the universe of the Matrix itself. Where in the first film we saw Neo gain faith in himself, here Neo just seems to walk through and do what is expected of him, albeit with cooler sunglasses and nifty superpowers. Trinity also stays where she left off, in love with Neo and determined to do whatever she can to keep him safe, not to mention hers (in an interesting scene with Persephone, wife of a matrix power dealer). Interestingly, Morpheus has a better development curve, though we only see it starting: something very important to him, vital to his perception of reality, begins to shake loose.

Other characters pass by and through, but none with the depth or captivating character of the three principles. Commander Lock, in charge of Zion’s fleet, comes across as one of those unnecessary characters that exist only to throw roadblocks into the way of the protagonist. He and Morpheus are in a love triangle with Niobe, captain of the Logos, former lover of Morpheus and present lover of Lock. Niobe seems like a central figure and shows up to be useful from time to time, but doesn’t really do much as a character. Also in Zion is council member Hamann, who complements and offsets Lock. Hamann doesn’t entirely believe, but he’s willing to give Morpheus a chance. He also offers an interesting take on the relationship between men and machines.

Link is the new crew member, replacing Tank. Some people ask, “where is Tank?” He was one of the survivors from the first film… but in this film he is declared dead (perhaps complications from the shot Cyber took at him?). Link, in any case, is his replacement, and also doesn’t do much that any other character couldn’t do. He is married to Zee, who is Tank and Dozer’s sister, and worries that her husband may suffer their fate.

Some characters fly through the story, like The Kid. A young guy, who we hear unplugged himself from the Matrix, but idolizes Neo. We get introduced to his backstory and wonder, “what was that about? Who is this guy?” Well, you’ll know if you get “The Animatrix” DVD, a Japanese-produced set of cartoons which fill in backstory for the movies. Also in The Animatrix is the “Flight of the Osiris,” a tale about how Zion gets informed of the digger machines; we hear it referenced in Reloaded, but the full story is elsewhere.

In the matrix itself, we see several new faces. Merovingian, a hedonist and broker of information and power in the matrix, who both writes software for it and keeps various discarded programs; Persephone, his aforementioned wife, a temptress and somewhat tragic figure; the Keymaker, kept prisoner by Merovingian, and possible ‘key’ figure in taking down the matrix. Then there are the twins, bodyguards to Merovingian, two all-in-white programs with trademark razors, who have the ability to become insubstantial, materially speaking, so they can move through floors, walls and windshields, and avoid bullets and blades.

We also meet the Oracle again, now with her bodyguard Seraph, who comes to know Neo by fighting him (I think it was just an excuse for another fight, though). We see the Oracle as being the same as before, but now in an absolutely different light.

And then there is the ubiquitous agent Smith, who really gives new meaning to the word “ubiquitous” in this film. Thought destroyed by Neo in the first film (though he was supposed to be “a” Smith, as I recall), he returns with a vengeance, not to mention a free pass at Kinko’s, it would seem. Copies of Smith abound; he claims that when Neo entered him, something of Neo transferred to him. We have yet to see what this may be, or what Neo may have gotten from him.

But there is one more character, floating in the background, but very important to the story: Bane. It’s easy to get confused about this character, because it’s easy not to recognize him from scene to scene. He looks like a background character, but is not. We first see him in the matrix, sending his partner through the land-line phone to get word from the Oracle to Zion. Then he goes back to the real world–sort of. Look for him, later on, in a hand-cutting scene, then trying to get his ship’s captain to go up to help Morpheus, and then at the end of the film. But pay attention to that first scene where he sends his friend through with the Oracle message. It comes right before one of Neo’s dream sequences, so it’s easy to dismiss as a dream; but what happens there is not a dream, and is central to the plot. So watch for it, and consider it.

Those of you who don’t care as much for the philosophy or the people, but would rather get awed by the action and special effects–you won’t be disappointed. Astounding fight sequences, a chase sequence to end all chase sequences, explosions, computer graphics… they’re all there, squared and cubed. I thought Neo’s Superman bit at the end of the first film was too much, and gave him too much power; I thought it would limit the possibilities in the following films. I was wrong. It is nicely integrated here; he can do “his Superman thing,” as Link puts it, but is hardly omnipotent.

All in all, I was duly impressed. The story, the dialog, the action, the effects, all were as good as one could hope. But as I started out saying, it is the middle of the story. It needs an end. So final judgment will have to wait… until November 5th (Nov. 15th here in Japan).

Oh, and don’t forget: at the end of the credits (quite a few minutes of very loud music, by the way), there is a teaser trailer for “Matrix Revolutions.” That’s why so few people are leaving the theater.

Images copyrighted by Warner Bros., Inc.

To see the spoiler review, click here.

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  1. Chris Yu
    May 26th, 2003 at 00:59 | #1

    To see the preview at minami-osawa did you need to get tickets in advance or line up early?

  2. Luis
    May 26th, 2003 at 02:14 | #2

    Chris:

    I got the tickets on May 10th, as soon as they came on sale. That got me primo seats, but I think there may still be tickets available for the show in May 31st. There was hardly any line when I got them. Check out:

    http://www.virgincinemas.co.jp/minamiosawa/index.html

    Or call them at 0426-79-6180, and ask. During business hours, they have a real person to speak with you.

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