The Matrix: Reloaded (2003) Movie Review

Taking place 6 months after the events of the first “Matrix”, “The Matrix: Reloaded” returns most of the characters from the original (with the exception of the Tank character) and adds new ones. This time around the last remaining human city Zion is shown in all of its grungy and magnificent CGI glory. Having made their bones by orchestrating elaborate fights with the aid of Hong Kong action master Yuen Woo Ping, “Reloaded” continues the tradition of highly choreographed and complex set pieces involving slow motion, bullet time, and a massive overload of wireworks.

In “Reloaded”, it is revealed that the machines, having discovered the location of Zion, are slowly but surely drilling their way down to wreak havoc. While Zion’s populace, led by the stout Lock (Harry Lennix) seeks to prepare proper defenses for the coming fight, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continues his quest to seek an end to the 100-year long war within the Matrix itself. With the assistance of the now flight-capable Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and new addition Link (Harold Perrineau), Morpheus seeks out a man known as the Keymaker, who literally has the “keys” to defeating the machines. Or does he?

Basically two-plus hours of pseudo philosophy and a string of $10 dollar words when a .02 cent one would do, “Reloaded” is filled with repetitive and tedious conversations about fate and choice and destiny and blah blah blah. Thankfully for those of us not interested in getting our philosophy from movies, the film is chock full of lengthy and mind-blowing action sequences. But because we’ve already seen bullet time, wirework, and CGI-assisted action in the original and other action fares (most notably the human-to-CGI transformation used extensively in “Blade 2”), “Reloaded” feels a bit, well, unoriginal. Which doesn’t mean the film fails in the ass-kicking department. Whenever the characters break the monotony of snooze-inducing lectures, the film shows why its original was such a sensation. And while the action may no longer be so innovative, it’s still relatively easy to find appreciation when it’s done this well.

While the action is no longer “out there”, the expanded on and very human relationship between Trinity and Neo offers up a suitable replacement. The usually stoic Keanu Reeves seems almost human when he’s pining for the stoic-on-the-outside-but-vulnerable-on-the-inside Moss. The two characters and their relationship are actually the most interesting and entertaining elements of “Reloaded”, and it’s too bad the screenplay constantly shifts away from them to follow others. Even background character Link gets some personal attention, although I would rather have more time spent on our leads instead. I mean, the guy is a background character.

While I enjoyed myself tremendously with “Reloaded”, there were some nagging bits that stayed with me. For instance, if everyone’s martial arts prowess within the Matrix is the product of “downloaded recordings”, why does everyone fight in the same fashion? Neo fights in the same style as Trinity and Morpheus and even the Agents. You would think that if you could just stick a disk into a machine and download any and every martial arts style, that you would download any and every martial arts style. Also, if Neo has learned to stop bullets in the Matrix by manipulating code, why does he still waste time fighting his adversaries? Couldn’t he just change the code of the people he’s fighting? The Agents do it. And Neo is much more powerful than the agents.

The above points aren’t really problems, but rather random thoughts that popped up as I watched the characters engage in the same type of fighting style over and over. On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that the movie is something of a Head Trip film, in that everything is leading up to a Big Revelation at the end. The Revelation is hinted at, mostly in the way people keep talking about destiny and what not. Without sounding too snobbish (or too much like the snobbish French-loving Merovingian), I sort of guessed the bulk of the Big Revelation’s contents. Although it’s interesting to note that the movie’s ending seems to contradict what was said in the Big Revelation. Or does it?

I have heard that “Reloaded” is a bit of a letdown to many hardcore fans. This is most likely the result of expecting too much. I never read all that much into the original, especially its clich’d uses of “the one” and other “prophecy” storylines. But then again, considering the Big Revelation of “Reloaded”, my doubts about the original movie’s driving storyline seem somewhat justified. Or does it? I guess “The Matrix: Revolutions”, to be released later this year in November, will answer everything. That is, if people still care about getting “answers”.

“The Matrix: Reloaded” is good stuff. My suggestion is to take your breaks when the characters sit down and begin talking about fate and destiny and blah blah blah. When they say “downtime”, they must have been referring to the film’s lengthy embrace of pseudo philosophy. But when the ass kicking starts, you’ll want to be in your seat. They may no longer be all that original, but they’re still pretty great stuff.

Now if they can only shut the hell up and shoot at each other already.

Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (director) / Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (screenplay)
CAST: Keanu Reeves …. Neo
Carrie-Anne Moss …. Trinity
Harold Perrineau Jr. …. Link
Jada Pinkett Smith …. Niobe
Hugo Weaving …. Agent Smith
Laurence Fishburne …. Morpheus
Gloria Foster …. The Oracle

Buy The Matrix: Reloaded on DVD