The thing that really strikes me about The Matrix Reloaded is that the increase in quality, if it can be said that there actually is one, from the first movie is more the result of an increased budget than anything else. I loved the new movie, but the talent was there in the first one, you can just tell that in the sequel the Wachowski brothers had a virtually endless budget, which allowed them to do pretty much anything they wanted. They have a very distinct style that is clearly evident in all of their movies, even if they are not laden with special effects. The fluidity of the camera movement and the strangely dark tones of their films are only a couple of the techniques that make them recognizable. These things really come to the surface if you watch the Matrix films, some of the most recognizable films ever made, and then watch an earlier one of their movies, like the trashy 1996 thriller, Bound.
That being said, I think it's safe to say that, despite the massive and seemingly unsurpassable genius of the first Matrix film, the Wachowski brothers have made another step up from their last film. It should be noted that the film is the second part in a trilogy, especially before groaning out loud at the sudden ending of the film, which built up and built up and built up and then just stopped, just like the fist Lord of the Rings film did. I won't take time here to go into what the story is about and how it continues the story from the first film, if only because plot summary in film reviews is a total waste of time for the writer as well as the reader, and also because I've only seen the movie twice, which really isn't enough to get a total grasp on the depth of the plots, so I'll just suffice it here to say that the startling complexity of the original Matrix (a complexity which is almost unheard of in a science fiction film) is added onto and expanded in this film, although despite being hard to follow, is never confusing.
I've heard all kinds of talk about the Italian Job having an even better car chase than The Matrix Reloaded and how the chase in this film wasn't even that good at all, blah blah blah. There is a freeway chase scene in this film which recklessly promotes reckless driving (and, even worse, reckless riding), but it is one of the most impressively made and fascinating car chase scenes that I've ever seen. It also contains the characteristic style of the Wachowski brothers, and is famously filmed on a freeway that was constructed strictly for the filming of this scene. I can't remember where, Australia, I think. Anyway, Morpheus and one of the agents are having a kung-fu fight on top of a semi trailer (which the driver never seems to notice), the poor keymaker in struggling to stay out of the way, Trinity is flying between cars against traffic on one of the most badass motorcycles on the road (enter the Ducati commercial), and Morpheus is off doing, as they say, `his superman thing.'
The superman thing is one of the elements of the movie that bordered on being campy, as the multitude of Agent Smiths comment to themselves, `He's still only human.' And then in the next scene he's flying. This is one of the points where you really need to keep in mind that Neo's body is plugged into a machine, in the strikingly less appealing real world, and is basically playing a video game where he'll die in real life if killed in the game because his body will think that it has been killed for real and will shut down.
During the freeway scene, there's a camera shot where the camera literally goes right through the chassis' of a couple of semi trucks as it follows Trinity, which I think got the biggest reaction from an audience in a single scene that I've seen since that Velociraptor jumped up at the ceiling in Jurassic Park. One of the other most memorable scenes is the lengthy fight scene between Neo and the hordes of Agent Smiths, one of the most entertaining fight scenes I've ever seen. It's obvious that the vast majority of this scene is special effects (and not only because there are hundreds of the same guy in it), but it is so well made and convincing and even amusing that the entertainment value of it is massive.
The new villains, by the way, are some of the best new villains since the Reapers in Blade II. I've heard something about an albino interest group that's trying to sue for the way albino's are portrayed in this movie because of these guys, although I can't exactly agree that they're even albinos. These guys are so weird looking they're barely human. If the albino interest groups are trying to sue, why didn't they sue when Me, Myself, and Irene was released? Anyway, these guys have the interesting skill of becoming transparent and therefore untouchable, with the small condition that they are also unable to attack when in this defensive mode, which makes for some great fight scenes as well as some cool tricks, like that of hopping into rapidly approaching Escalades (oh, there are lots of Cadillac commercials here, too). I heard recently that Cadillac is trying to aim for a younger audience than the much older people who tend to drive their cars, and if there were ever any doubts that the rumors are true, they are completely dispelled by their heavy placement in this movie.
There are certainly some scenes in this movie where it drags and seems to even border on being unnecessarily philosophical and confusing, such as in the extensive meeting with the Oracle, who tells Neo all about choices that he has made but doesn't know he's made yet, or needs to make even though fate has already determined what decision he would make, or something of that nature, where after a while we find ourselves (or at least I did) paying more attention to the pigeons walking around in this startlingly different atmosphere than to the deep conversation that they're having. Maybe this is why it takes me more than two viewings to get the complete story of movies like this. Blasted pigeons.
There is a lot of controversy over the quality of The Matrix Reloaded, which is to be expected, since it is a movie that has garnered such a vast amount of attention, even if only because it is the follow-up to such a massively successful film. But like Terminator 3, I personally was hugely impressed with this sequel, and am more than able to accept it as a bridge between the original and the final film in the series. It is the better part of three hours long, but goes by much faster than anticipated because it is so well made and entertaining. Never mind that totally campy scenes, like the bullet removal scene and the dance club scene, because like so many other sequels these days (and unlike so many others), The Matrix Reloaded will leave you eager to see the next one.
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