The Matrix Reloaded (**)

Posted on May 1st, 2003 in Movie Reviews by EngineerBoy

We just got back from seeing The Matrix Reloaded. It was exactly what I expected, which was all the lamest elements of the first one, magnified. To put this review in context, I was singularly unimpressed by the first Matrix movie. The effects were certainly interesting, and some elements of the story were mildly non-stupid. But the movie, as a whole, didn’t do much for me. But you could see the budget on the screen, and there’s a certain amount of entertainment value in that. The same is true with Matrix 2. There’s more (much more, numbingly more) fantasy fighting and other various effects. The cast members seem to understand that they don’t need to “act” in this movie, only pose, posture, and pontificate pretentiously.

The movie takes place in two “places”. The first place is the matrix, which is a computer generated world into which most of humanity is plugged, where they assume the identity of themselves and interact the way we do, in a world that resembles our world. But in reality their physical bodies are kept sedated and are connected to some massive energy production/storage system, and the machines have created the computer world in order to give their minds something to do, so that the bodies stay healthier. The world of the matrix is policed by “agents”, which are programs that work for the machines and ensure that the denizens of the matrix keep doing things the way the machines want them done. I’m sure I’ve got some of that wrong, and I urge all of you who wish to correct my errors in Matrix mythology to feel free to just keep it to yourselves.

The second “place” is the real world (apparently) which is peopled by humans who have been awakened/freed from the matrix. In this installment there are 250,000 free humans, and they live in an undergound city called Zion. The city of Zion looks like it was conceived by a collaboration between the production designers of The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Mad Max, and Survivor: Spelunking. Also, apparently, in this reality there is no such thing as stainless steel, Comet, paint, or needles and thread, as everything is dull, dingy, rusted, and/or artfully frayed.

The plot of the film is…irrelevent, as far as I can tell. Something about robotic octopi digging down to destroy Zion, and Neo (Keanu Reeves) trying to get into a really secure computer room. I know that sounds dismissive, but the plot just isn’t the point of a movie like this. If it were, I probably wouldn’t have these questions:

  1. If machines are smart enough to take over the world, then why aren’t they smart enough to know there are far more efficient ways to store energy than in the horribly inefficient bodies of humans?
  2. How did the guy who is the commander of the human defense forces get to be in charge if he’s such an ineffectual, whiney loser?
  3. Humans can’t find a better way to zip into and out of the matrix than the telephone?
  4. Why is it that whenever our plucky band of humans enters the matrix, they all wear sunglasses and choose to dress like rejects from Who Wants To Be an Art-Rock Star?
  5. If Neo can fly at will, why does he spend so much time standing and fighting when what he really needs to do is get going?
  6. Can…Laurence….Fishburne…..speak……any……..more…………ponderously?
  7. Why do the humans/avatars/agents/programs insist on having so many fights, when, with the exception of one bullet (out of thousands) and one minor flesh wound no one in this movie seems to be able to inflict the slightest damage on anyone else?
  8. During the striving-to-be-deep-but-laughably-shallow attempts at intellectualism, morality, and mysticism, did anyone else keep waiting for Neo to say, “Philosophize with him, dude!”.

But seeing the Matrix 2 was not a complete waste of time. For instance, it’s nice to see Edgar and Johnny Winter getting some work. Also, when my attention wandered during the movie, it was fun thinking up alternate, more accurate titles for the film, like:

The Matrix Regurgitated
The Matrix Rebloated
The Matrix Reloathed
The Matrix Real Odious

Now, I know there are those who will love this film, and who loved the first one, and more power to you. There are also those that will point out the impressive box-office numbers as an indicator of the popularity of this movie. I’ll be the first to say that this movie is very popular. After reading the paragraphs above you might conclude that I was disappointed by the movie, but I wasn’t. It was exactly what I expected, which was an overblown, campy film that is a fun shared cultural experience. But impressive numbers at the box office and popular popularity do not a great film make. Take a look at this list of movies and see if you can figure out what they have in common:

Home Alone 2
Mrs. Doubtfire
The Mummy Returns
Planet of the Apes (the *new* one)
Three Men and a Baby
What Lies Beneath

They all have at least two things in common. First, they are all in the list of top 100 grossing films of all time. And secondly, they all outgrossed little films such as the Godfather, Schindler’s List, Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and Alien, among many other widely acknowledged classics. We all know that Matrix 2 will soon outgross these classics as well. And I don’t begrudge this film its due. It *should* make money, not because it’s a good film, but because it is an *event*. And that just about sums it up…this movie sucks, and I recommend that you go see it.

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