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Matrix: Reloaded

dir: The Wachowski Brothers
[img_assist|nid=1019|title=When millions of Hugo Weavings are barely enough|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=450|height=670]
It's all about the sunglasses...
Even after watching the film twice, I am left perplexed and utterly confused. Not at anything actually in the film. No, what has managed to confuse me tremendously (to be honest, it's not hard to do that, microwave ovens still confound me) is the sheer abundance of people who are vehemently hating this film. In public and in private, in the sanctity of their own bedrooms and on street corners.

See, I've got not the slightest issue with anyone not liking the film and saying that it's a monumental bore. I've seen identical twins hold two diametrically opposed views on the same piece of music, and I often diverge strenuously in opinion with my closest friends regarding certain films. So I don't really get on a high horse about these kinds of things.

What I can understand is the people who hated the first film hating this one too. What I don't get is those who liked the first one hating Reloaded. I flat out don't get it. After all, it's even more like the first one than the first one is!

Too many fights? Style over substance? The sunglasses and the latex? PEOPLE, please! These films were ALWAYS about style over substance, and fighting, and people looking exceedingly cool in the Matrix when they're kicking three shades of fuck out of their enemies. Has anyone hidden the fact that these are essentially live action manga stories writ large across the big screen: overly colourful, loud acting for the cheap seats, oodles of action and convoluted and ridiculously
complicated plots that ultimately fall apart if you probe too deeply?

I've come to realise that practically every action sci-fi film is ultimately flawed in the plot department. I'm sure as shit not apologising for the kind of people that make sci-fi films with Jean
Claude Van Brain Damage in them. I mean even the decent stuff has plot holes.

At least for me there are the times where there may be plot holes, but at least I don't feel insulted by them ignoring something fundamentally flawed in their own construction of their story. Sometimes a film earns your goodwill so that you forgive some howling, gaping plotholes. Other times you just accept them without thinking. But everything, especially sci-fi big budget stuff has plotholes.

Example: People in Star Wars have highly complicated technologies but dress like people who make their own clothes back home on the commune. Driving a space ship is like driving a car and inertia is unheard of (no zero g). You can have planets without stars to orbit around that have day
and night. The people on Naboo democratically elect 15 year old Queens to rule them. Hayden Christiansen is an actor.

Star Trek: Everyone speaks English (forget the universal translator and how it works selectively). Every planet has one city. Every species member has the same hairstyle. All aliens are basically human with stuff stuck to their foreheads. In space you can only really travel in four directions: forward, back, left right. That pesky 3rd dimension confuses people even in the 24th century.

Terminator 2: Arnie pretends to be a human pretending to be a cyborg pretending to be human. He fools no-one. The next Governor of California was built in a secret Austrian lab (possibly connected to Castle Wolfenstein) as revenge for losing WW II. When will you people wake up?

Would the first film have gotten anywhere if it wasn't for the fights? It's ALL about the fights! Whilst I "like" the plot and what it says about idiots living like zombies in a totalitarian, consumerist world, it's the action and the stylishness that gives me the rush I'm looking for.

For not a moment am I saying that I advocate the switching off of the brain, as they say. I feel just as mentally engaged as I need to be to appreciate what's going on in this film or any other. I would argue that this film managed to be more engaging on an emotional level as well.

I can see people opening their eyes wide in surprise, and possibly backing away from their monitors in horror. Yeah, I dug it slightly more. The first one is all clean, shiny, metallic angularity with a
bizarre love angle thrown in at the end. Reloaded has more humanity as well as all the cyber shininess to delight the eyes. It feels like there's far more at stake. They upped the ante. Maybe they've got a winning hand or maybe they're bluffing. I'll have to wait till Revolutions to see, since this, despite the length, was only half a film.

If I lost people earlier in this review, they're going to spit at the screen in disgust right now: I even liked the Zion rave scene. In fact, I loved it. It is a perfect moment of reasserting the messy
humanity of the rebels in all their wet, sweaty, dirty orgiastic glory. I hate rave music but that scene intercut with the Neo - Trinity fuck scene works beautifully for me: it's a defiant yell in the face of the machines, and watching the dancers leap to that song by Fluke is just beautiful to me. Look, no one is more amazed than I am. I'm waiting for feelings of shame to rise up and drown me.

Of course, out of all the people I've spoken to and the reviews I've read, I think I'm the only one that liked it. I haven't met a single other person that could stand it, and the people I've admitted it to
have taken out restraining orders on me. Look, don't ask me, I don't know why I liked it so much. Too much self-knowledge can be paralysing. Oh yeah, and I liked Morpheus' speech as well. So sue me.

Larry Fishburne's portentous and pretentious delivery of dialogue actually made me chuckle in the first film. I thought he toned it down just a tad here, but he still rocked my world. He is given time to
shine both in the 'real' world and during the sensational Keymaker car chase. I still feel he should have been more central, because it felt at times as if he's just along for the ride.

The dialogue is snappy and somewhat amusing (to me). The monologues, well, the exposition, that's another matter entirely. To me a lot of it sounded like it was translated from the original Baudrillard texts from French to Japanese and then translated by the factory workers of Hello Kitty! back into
English.

I've heard the Architect's speech twice, but I still can't remember any of it. Love the scene, though, it's a great scene. But all I can remember is a grumpy old man rabbiting on about anomalies and the impending doom ahead of Neo. The Architect's speech is the single most important sequence in Reloaded. It is the crucial moment (the first at least) that changed everything previously viewed in both films. Thankfully for me I got to see the film on opening day initially and was able to be surprised by all of the big story elements. Joy to me.

I understand the philosophical tenets surrounding the concepts of determinism, causality, Prime Movers, the alpha and the omega, genetic fading in replication & anomalies, purpose and systems of meaning, but I'm not convinced that the Wachowski's do. Kanooie certainly doesn't, and still spends most of the film going around with the "What's That Smell?" expression on his face.

I have to say, Kanooie did a golden job in this one. And this can be put down to the Brothers deciding that they were going to keep him on a tight leash, which, again, is the same stroke of genius that made the first film such a success. Don't let him talk. Ever. The Brothers know what they're doing. They know the score. It's all about the cool coat and the sunglasses. I think he comes out of it as a very strange individual throughout the course of the film, more comfortable with his powers but uncomfortable about the pressure that Morpheus still puts on him, and the worship of the various idiots in Zion. If there are any structural, performance or conceptual problems with the film,
Kanooie's not responsible for them.

Zion worked for me, mostly. Commander Locke's antagonism towards Morpheus was annoying and served little purpose. Except for the fact that it changed around some of my way of thinking regarding Morpheus' role in the Zion community. In the first film I had the impression that Morpheus had a pre-eminent position in the human rebel resistance against the machines; here it's scaled back to show that he is one of many captains, and that Zion itself has a ruling council of old people in amateur community theatre costumes. Goddamn, but they must have run out of money completely when it came to those costumes.

I enjoyed the underground sewer meeting between the various captains and crews, especially the captain that elected to stay back. He unleashed enough jive-talk to have been a minor character in a blaxploitation movie from the 70s. Sassy! I liked the fact that every single rebel whilst in the Matrix, even underground, day or night, has to wear shades. It's funny to me.

Neo's first fight with the agents is a great start to the proceedings. The manner in which they've raised the level in terms of choreography is sensational. The blocking (as in designing the routines and how they're going to be shot for the camera), is a new standard. I don't care one bit for those saying "Oh, well it's all been done before and it's really quite boring ho hum I've seen better kung fu
films from the 70s blah blah blah". Maybe we're inured to the new stuff, desensitised and jaded by the levels achieved in the past, but honestly, I sympathise with the Brothers Wachowski who must be saying to themselves "What more do you bastards want?"

Anthony Zerbe, as the head council guy obviously is either senile or thought he was still stumbling about in that Star Trek film from a bunch of years ago. Overacting one moment, calm and composed the next, I still liked him. His conversation with Neo regarding the symbiotic relationship of man and machine seems like it might be central to the next film, though I can't yet guess how. Actors with glass eyes are always appreciated. I want Columbo in the next one.

Jada Pinkett Smith is blink and you'll miss her, as are a whole bunch of people. She is, as are most people in this film, plot devices instead of characters. And the poor girl looks very tired. Perhaps she
should have a lie down somewhere peaceful. There are literally dozens of other actors that get a line here or there, quite pointless ones in fact. But I'm sure it looks good on their resume. I'm not sure how they're credited though, it may be something like "Sunglasses Prop Number 435".

And what wonderful sunglasses they are too. Everyone has a different pair! And they're all available at the website! Aren't we lucky to be living in such times? At some stages you have to wonder whether there should be a new category at the Oscars: best sunglasses category. Either that or the inaugural Forrest Gump Best Regular Person Playing a Retard in a Motion Picture category. Which actors love. It's like crack to them. Or at least more crack.

The so-called Burly Brawl, in my unhumble opinion, looked great and was quite funny. The whole Smith replication thing was probably only created purely for that fight sequence, and then that left them wondering what to do with Smith for the rest of the film. The fact that there are hundreds of Smiths would seem to be a serious phenomenon for the AI that runs the Matrix, because if he kept
replicating exponentially the entire Matrix would be Smiths, with nothing to stop them. Doesn't this mean that all those precious meatbag humans in stasis are dying? Or that Smith has taken over their
consciousnesses as he does with the Zion freed individual known as Bane? Which means there's hundreds of humans who are somehow Smith? If they're freed, won't they just be nasty Smiths in human clothing? Have I put more thought into this than the people that made the film?
Surely not.

If the sequence does have problems, and it does, it's in the sound, the fact that it's so bloodless, and the fact that it doesn't mean anything. A cool idea with no story-relevant application, since we've already seen that he can do it.

I will say that the way that Neo ends the fight did kind of undermine the point of having it in the first place except for the pure spectacle of it, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. Too many
computer generated Hugo Weavings are barely enough. Utterly loved the crows flying away from him to herald his appearance. Classic money shot.

The Oracle is great, again, as the lead up to the brawl with the Smiths. I think we get a different sense of what she is now; a program, but a strange program with a purpose, as is Seraph, her
bodyguard. I like the way Neo can 'see' the differences in different elements of the Matrix, it keeps reminding us that the representational is what allows us to understand phenomena, which has
nothing to do with 'reality' itself. To put it quite simplistically.

Representation and constructs aside, I think they go further in this film with the idea that the entities (ie more people than just Neo and the Agents) with power in the Matrix are essentially programmers. The programmers have this power because of knowledge of the parameters of
the Matrix and the ability to rewrite the code. The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), a strange French antagonist illustrates this perfectly, with a decidedly amusing sequence involving a cake with a truly orgasmic taste. It must make all those overweight soft drink guzzling computer-work based
shut-ins feel good all over to have programmers lionised in such a fashion :)

Other points of interest, at least to me: vampires, ghosts and werewolves etc exist in the 'real' world of the Matrix, and are as a result of coding errors. Neo is not the first Neo. The Oracle is probably just a program, but a strange one all the same, whose job continues to be the dispensation of depressing information to our hero Neo. She won't be in the third film, due to a slight case of death on the part of the actress that plays her (Gloria Foster), and she will be sorely missed. Computer programs can get jealous, especially from blowjobs. Blowjobs, rightly so, have an incredibly destructive power, and are liable to make people give up your most valuable possessions
to your enemies. Christ I wish the French couple had played a bigger part in the film. Neo as Superman looks great. The effect towards the end where chunks of buildings and vehicles are following in his wake is a favourite moment, just wonderful.

Something that comes to mind regarding the films is a question of ethics, or morality. A particularly humanistic person I know routinely criticises the first film saying that they couldn't appreciate it
especially due to the fact that Our heroes often if not routinely kill innocent people. People just doing their jobs who are still in thrall to the Matrix. More of the same occurs in this film, one could say.
However I've subsequently worked out that it's easier to accept when you realise that the Zion rebels, Morpheus and Neo and everyone else are essentially terrorists... :)

Why the Merovingian is called the Merovingian is a mystery to me, as I know what the Merovingian dynasty was, and I know who Persephone is in Greek mythology, but as to what any of that means could be either something that seems to have more significance than it actually does, or will be explained in the third film. I suspect it's not really going to matter, and just makes the Wachowskis feel clever to sneak all these little quirky details into the film.

Monica Bellucci is officially the most beautiful woman in Europe, probably. She plays a tiny but significant role as Persephone, the wife of the Merovingian. Actually, I'm probably being too kind, she is really nothing more than eye candy in a beige latex dress. Still, there are times when one wonders as to why Neo would be so reluctant to tongue kiss a woman like Monica as well as save Zion at the same time when all he's had recently to go on is the increasingly bony Carrie Anne Moss...

Another character, the pretty weird Keymaker is another of these entities that can effectively circumvent the parameters of the Matrix with his artful programming, in the form of, you guessed it, dildos and cumberbunds. No, I meant keys. He might be strange and kind of plot device-ish, but his existence does lead to the car chase between various Agents, henchmen of the Merovingian called the Twins (who were pointless but effective, I guess), Trinity, Morpheus and a stack of cars going boom in new and wonderful ways. A new standard in car chases. I want laws passed that say any future car chases have to be done just as well if not better, or they're not to be done at all.

There are incredible images in this film, and amazing sequences for all concerned. The Wachowskis have the time and the money to do whatever they want, and obviously no fear of alienating audiences, which one could argue they have done with this film. I loved the action sequences (barring possibly the fight at the Merovingian's manor, which was kind of pointless), and appreciated the increased complexity of the scenario. And it does get complicated, and initially depressing, but paves the way for the third instalment in November.

I do feel kind of ambivalent about the way the film ends. Towards the end of the film there are two major, profound revelations, one that occurs in dialogue, the other in something that happens, after which the film just ends. To me it was kind of like if Empire Strikes Back had ended with Darth Vader saying to "Luke, I Am Your..." and cutting it right there, waiting to continue the rest of the sentence in the next film. It's less of a cliffhanger and more of a deeply frustrating smack in the fucking nuts which makes you wonder whether the journey there was worth it. And waiting for the credits to roll in order to see the trailer for Revolutions was truly a waste of my highly
valuable time.

All the same, I would go so far as to say that it's even more entertaining film than the first. You could even (rightly) argue that the first was a film that didn't really need a sequel, but I'm glad enough that they made Reloaded and Revolutions. For now.

Except.

There's stuff that happens towards the end of Reloaded that worried me quite profoundly. If they go the way I think they're going, I'm going to hate the Wachowski brothers until after they're dead and gone to Rich Man's Heaven, because if they pull a Thirteenth Floor or Patrick
Duffy getting out of the shower in Dallas, I'm going to convince the current US Administration that the homes of Larry and Andy not only have multiple weapons of mass destruction, but that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden are hiding in their basements. The flames will be visible from
orbit, I shit you not.

Now that the hype has died down a bit, and people are salivating over the next week's releases to come out, we can also see that it's all a bit of a fucking joke. This marketing frenzy stuff traps many of us more completely than the Matrix ever could. It sure as hell works on me sometimes.

Must...

Get...

New...

Sunglasses...

Following on from that, the expectation level was insanely high, and opinion often dawdles on a knife's edge between satisfaction and feeling terribly gypped. Everyone expected it to be the Second Coming and were ready to damn the Wachowskis right from the start if it wasn't exactly as awesome as they wanted it to be. As did I, having downloaded and watched the 68 meg trailer at least fifteen thousand times in practically masturbatory expectation prior to its release. But it was a joy to watch for me, ultimately. It's enjoyable popcorn big budget cinema that doesn't leave me feeling dirty and cheated like the standard Hollywood crap. Let's hope Revolutions is even better.

700 Hugo Weavings out of 1000

--
"Me Me Me."
"Me two!" - Agents Smith, Reloaded.

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