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The Matrix Reloaded

THE MATRIX RELOADED may have been the most highly anticipated but immediately rejected sequel of my lifetime. I’m not just excluding PHANTOM MENACE for being a prequel – whatever happened in the rest of the world, I honestly didn’t experience many people hating it until months later, at least. With RELOADED it was pretty instant.

It was the only MATRIX movie I reviewed upon release, so you can click here to see my kinda dumb, mostly still applicable 2003 thoughts on the matter. I seemed to be fielding a backlash against the original MATRIX movie as well as people hating RELOADED, but it was only the latter I found myself feeling I had to defend over the years.

I do think I partly understand why people were disappointed. THE MATRIX ends on a perfect note of letting us imagine what’s next in the “world where anything is possible.” Any definitive answer of what happens next has a hard time competing with the electric feeling of not knowing. Especially when part 1 was a carefully constructed machine of concept, explanation and payoff, while part 2 kind of wanders through a labyrinth of tangential notions and questions before it gets to the battle it’s been promising. And it cuts off in a cliffhanger well before said battle.

But I also think some of the rejection came from what I have always thought was the coolest thing about these sequels: they’re fuckin weird. The Wachowskis took advantage of being the creators of a giant smash pop culture redefining hit movie that nobody really understood until they saw it. That meant the studio had to trust them with their hugely ambitious sequel that yes, delivers hugely on action spectacle and special effects innovation, but also has a bunch of head-scratching business where they go into a restaurant to make threats and discuss causality and orgasms with some French dude (actually not a person, but a program) named The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson, JEFFERSON IN PARIS), whose heart-stopping wife Persephone (Monica Bellucci, TEARS OF THE SUN) makes Neo kiss her like he would kiss Trinity so she can understand the feeling of love. (Note that Bellucci also kinda did that to Keanu as one of the brides in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA.) And all that stuff is easier to follow than Neo having to go to The Source to talk to The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis, HAPPY FEET). It’s like every 1 of blockbuster bombast had to be balanced with a 0 of puzzling idiosyncrasy.

THE MATRIX’s very 1999 concern with the tyranny of unfulfilling jobs (see also: FIGHT CLUB [1999], OFFICE SPACE [1999], and best picture winner that is not nearly as remembered as the other two AMERICAN BEAUTY [1999]) continues when the movie opens inside the code that makes up a time clock, as a security guard punches in for his shift! Otherwise, its interests seem more cerebral – themes of destiny vs. choice, polite discussions of belief systems, whether or not humans truly want happiness, and the blurred lines between machines or programs and humans. By the end the program Agent Smith can take over a human body in the real world, and real world Neo can stop machines by holding up his hand like he does for simulated bullets in The Matrix. I don’t know why. I also don’t feel like I fully understand the purposes of Merovingian or The Architect in The Matrix, or half the shit they’re talking about. Their parts don’t hold up as well as the action, and one has more payoff in part 3 than the other. But they’re part of the whole Wachowski vibe. It reminds me of the talking donkey in Geof Darrow’s comic Shaolin Cowboy, who in each issue gets a long rambling monologue scripted by the Wachowskis. Despite the tightness of those first two films, the Wachowskis’ preferred approach seems to be playfully rambling. And they’re really into this academic stuff – I mean, they cast Professor Cornel West as a member of the MATRIX version of the Jedi Council. Pretty sure they didn’t find him at an open casting call.

It might be surprising now too, but especially in 2003 you didn’t expect to see a big sci-fi action movie where a famous Black intellectual gets a celebrity cameo as one of the wise elders of world civilization. Relatedly, I think this may be the most non-white cast in a Hollywood blockbuster franchise before THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Admittedly, most people think of Reeves (whose paternal grandmother is Chinese Hawaiian) as white, and he and Moss are the two main heroes. But added to the team along with Morpheus, The Oracle (Gloria Foster, THE COOL WORLD), and Link (Harold Perrineau, KING OF NEW YORK) are Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith, SET IT OFF), the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS), Captain Mifune (Nathaniel Lees, MORTAL ENGINES), Seraph (Collin Chou, DR. WAI IN THE SCRIPTURE WITH NO WORDS), plus Link’s wife Zee (Nona Gaye, THE POLAR EXPRESS, BLOOD & BONE) and sister-in-law Cas (Gina Torres, M.A.N.T.I.S.) and Commander Lock (Harry Lennix, GET ON THE BUS, TITUS), who is uptight and gets in the way but is still a good guy.

It definitely seems like Zion is majority non-white, though this might be because all the new white people there are the blandest characters in the movie. Apologies to Anthony Zerbe (THE OMEGA MAN, ROOSTER COGBURN, KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK, STEEL DAWN) as the wise Councillor Hamann, but put a guy like that in a robe giving exposition and all you get is a boring white guy in a robe giving exposition. And I’m afraid The Kid (Clayton Watson, one episode of the ‘90s version of Flipper), who bothers Neo by sycophantically following him around, also bothers the audience, or at least me.

The more interesting new white people are bad guys – the wraithlike Twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment). And it’s cool that Daniel Bernhardt is now backing up Agent Smith as Agent Johnson, because that kicked off his long relationship with 87Eleven.

To me the highlight of RELOADED is its hunger for blasting us in the face with rocket powered spectacle. The main example of that is the long, escalating freeway chase which includes a ton of intense and dangerous looking car and motorcycle stunts, digital Bernhardt super-leaping and smashing vehicles, a kung fu fight sitting inside a car (with excellent use of seatbelts), another one on top of a moving semi (dated background compositing, but good choreography, wirework and camera moves), Morpheus on foot killing an SUV with a kitana, and way, way more. Amazingly, that’s not the climax of the movie!

And of course I always have to mention that they built a mile and a half loop of freeway on a decommissioned Navy Air Station in Alameda to film on. All movies should be allowed to do this, Hollywood.

I think the most hyped scene at the time was another early one – the fight between Neo and 100 Agent Smiths (or Hugos Weaving as I called them in the review), because of the technology they had to invent to accomplish it. I also remember people complaining about it at the time because (gasp) sometimes some of the 101 digital characters in the scene didn’t look totally real.

I say fuck ‘em, the scene holds up for its complexly choreographed super fighting, whether it’s live action or cartoon. If, say, a very popular comic book based studio wanted to do a scene like that now it would not require nearly as much technical innovation (if any) and it would look more convincing, but I doubt it would be work as well. I have always loved the storytelling of it, the way they’re sort of curiously testing each other’s abilities, and Neo is experimenting with different approaches, then eventually leaves. And then the Smiths just kinda shrug and walk off in different directions.

But there are plenty of fights that aren’t so digital. The standout is Neo vs. Merovingian’s men in the chateau while Morpheus and Trinity try to escape with the Keymaker. Neo has improved in bullet stopping, kicking and flipping. It’s a chamber where the walls are covered with decorative weapons, so he fights against swords, spears, a pitchfork, a mace. He spins shuriken. And the camera moves are as agile and dance-like as the fight itself.

There were rumors about them doing some kung fu in zero gravity. A Sunday Express article by Mark Salisbury mentions that “[effects supervisor John] Gaeta even hired a zero-gravity NASA aircraft [the infamous Vomit Comet] and took to the air with Wo Ping’s martial arts team and a camera crew to see what weightless kung fu looked like.“ So I’m pretty sure that means they did it for reference, not that they used any footage in the movie. Either way, I always think of that when I get to this shot:

As far as I know the complaint I addressed in the original review about “the rave” is still one that comes up. If so I have to assume people just remember hating it at the time and haven’t rewatched it to find out that they owe the scene, the hundreds of extras in it and all lovers of music, dance, humanity and sex a huge apology. Flowers, candy, checks, etc. all accepted and appreciated.

What was that rejection all about? My theory is that people were used to movies that crassly force in of-the-moment music trends to attract teens. So they saw dancing, they thought “rave,” their kneejerk cynicism bullshit alarms were falsely triggered, saying “Oh no MATRIX RELOADED you’re not gonna seduce me with your rhythm and movement and sexiness that the teens like. I am above that.” But I think it’s clear this scene is not about selling soundtracks (and unfortunately is not one of the better songs in the movie). It’s so clearly sincere and organically building from part 1’s start in a dance club to the this film’s larger canvas and themes. Before defending their city and humanity from an overwhelming attack, the people of Zion have one night to celebrate life by the thousands in a giant cave. They dance and they sweat and it’s intercut with Neo and Trinity, finally alone, finally getting some. All things that humans do, that machines do not. Things that bring us together, that bring us joy, that are the opposite of violence. Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh no let’s go! Let’s go crazy! Party like it’s 1999! etc.

To be fair, I do think there are people who hate the scene who understand why it’s there, but just don’t like it. Their loss, I guess. When we discussed this scene recently on the 00’s Zone podcast Mark Palermo brought up my love of Funkadelic and Fishbone. That really got me because I thought about the feeling I get at a P-Funk show, the joy of being in a group of strangers, who are in a way like family, because we’re together dancing and sweating and singing along. I look around and see all these people of different races, different generations, the people younger than me who I wonder how they found out about it, the older people I assume were into it from the beginning, and they got all dressed up for the show. All different people but all sharing this love, we know all these songs, we sing and chant and are being moved by this together… it’s honestly a religious feeling for me, and a feeling I would want to have the night before the Sentinels are gonna show up.

And if it was Fishbone, man, that would be the deepest we ever felt “Party At Ground Zero” in our lives. Holy shit. You look over and see Cornel West and Anthony Zerbe skankin around. It would almost be worth Zion getting attacked just for that.

Anyway my point is that if the Wachowskis want to do a special edition where Morpheus is up there on that little stone stage playing “Maggot Brain” after he makes his speech, I think I speak for everyone when I say we for sure agree unanimously that it could use another 10 minutes added to the running time anyway.

In the end it’s hard to precisely quantify RELOADED like with THE MATRIX because it really is, by design, the first half of one long movie. It’s like KILL BILL, it’s a serial, you’re not just gonna watch one of them and consider it complete. In the end it left us with a cliffhanger about a Zion rebel named Bane (Ian Bliss, MAN-THING, STEALTH) somehow having his body taken over by Agent Smith, something that is confusing even to a fan like me. And it left me with many intriguing questions, listed at the end of my original review, almost none of which were addressed in the followup. A little teaser after the credits left us hyped for what we’d be seeing in part 3, and to me it was all about Mifune controlling a mech. Other than Ripley’s power-loader and I guess ROBOT JOX we really hadn’t seen enough mechs in American cinema, so that was what I dreamed about for six months. Humans strapping into machines for the final battle against the machines. Oh shit – would they be doing kung fu in mechs? I didn’t know, but I knew they would do something cool for the thrilling conclusion to the two-part movie, the trilogy and the war with the machines.

And yeah, that was true, sorta. But if we hadn’t figured it out already, we’d soon find that the Wachowskis don’t necessarily want to give us exactly what we expect.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 15th, 2021 at 11:29 am and is filed under Action, Martial Arts, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

31 Responses to “The Matrix Reloaded”

  1. From my POV, this has always been the well liked sequel, but I might be wrong.

    I do however have to admit that it’s definitely the one that I like the least. There is lots of great stuff in it. The Highway chase is one for the ages and still unmatched. (Turns out Joel Silver was right when he said that it will take forever for anybody to top this, simply because the scene takes places in The Matrix and doesn’t have to care about realism.) ALL the action scenes are great! But as a whole I think it feels a lot less focused than both parts 1 and 3. It’s weird how the architect monologue became the object of ridicule, while the whole Merowinger scene, with his philosophical French orgasm pie is the one that I usually skip. Honestly, I still believe you could cut the movie down to maybe 1 hour minutes, attach it to the beginning of REVOLUTIONS and it would work better.

    But the most annoying thing of course is that it’s really just a half movie. Back then it wasn’t as common as today, to just randomly stop your movie and say “Come back in a few months, so that we can tell you how it ends for the price of another movie ticket” and that made it only more infuriating. I talked her several times about how I prefer my movie cliffhangers to at least have the courtesy to end with some plots finished BTTF 2 or LOTR style. Shit, even cashgrabs like HARRY POTTER 7 & 8 or TWILIGHT 4 & 5 give us some kind of closure, while this one just…ends! And now being able to watch the next one immediately, doesn’t make it better.

    So technically while I might not be in the minority with my opinion, I at least dislike it because of different things. (I fucking LOVE the rave and rooftop fight fucking rules, fake looking digital stunt doubles or not!)

    The main problem that my mother had, was the treatment of Morpheus. In part 1 he was the motherfucking MAN! Oozing gravitas, our guide to the world of Matrix, the one who know that Neo would safe us all! Here is suddenly just one of many and nobody takes him serious, because they think his talk about prophecies and “The One” are crazy. An interesting and unexpected development that I can at least appreciate, but I also can’t say that my mother is wrong.

    One thing that I definitely remember is how that movie made me realize how fucking WHITE most movies are! Sure, you had your “token black guys” everywhere, but in this cast, white people seemed like a minority. That was awesome and pretty mind blowing to be honest. (Thank god it came out before internet assholes decided that filling your cast with women and POC means “They are forcing diversity on us”.)

    The soundtrack of part 2 isn’t as good as the one from part 1, but also still holds up, by the way. At times it feels a bit like “Let’s try to catch lighing in a bottle” (Another Rob Zombie song, another Marylin Manson song, another Rob Dougan track, etc) and nothing really stands out, but it still works.

  2. I had no idea anybody disliked this one at first. I thought it was fucking awesome. It’s still the one I’m most likely to pop in, simply because those set-pieces are so bananas. Motherfuckers are still trying to catch up with what the Wachowskis were doing here.

    I will admit, though: There may be some judicious fast-forwarding during the coming-home-to-Zion section.

    I get the point of the rave scene, and it was fine the first time, but on rewatch, it just takes forever and is not interesting (to me, at least) on its own. It’s just, you know, dancing. To a not very good song. And not even very good dancing. The movie is already slowing down to a crawl in that segment while it introduces all these new, not-particularly-exciting characters, so as soon as Morpheus puts on his sexy look-at-my-chest orgy robe and starts speechifying, I’m already getting antsy. I will admit that it does get across the feel of sweaty bodies moving as one, but, unfortunately, that is not an experience I enjoy. I am a small dude who takes a lot of elbows to the face in situations like that. Being in a crowd just bums me out. It does not make me feel a part of something; it makes me feel even more alone. Like, I saw George Clinton once and left well before the end of the concert. I’m a real Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk.

    Also and maybe I’m a prude but I feel like if you’re gonna do a sex scene with a couple like Neo and Trinity, you gotta do it in Part 1. You try it in Part 2 after we’ve gotten to know these people, it’s real awkward, like your roommate and his girlfriend are fucking in the next bed while you’re trying to get some sleep. Honestly, maybe I’m revealing myself as an Agent Smith here, but that whole segment kind of grosses me out. I don’t want to think about how Zion probably smells like feet and crotch. That’s not the fantasy I signed up for.

    Other than that, though, this is a great movie.

  3. I’ve got a feeling that this is the movie in the trilogy that most people will feel is the most hit and miss, but still a success overall (not to put any words in mouths’.)

    That’s the way I feel about it – some action scenes are outstanding, especially the burly brawl (great name for a fight,) even though it does kinda look fake, the choreography is fantastic, and the hallway/steps battle is a perfect mixture of slow-motion, wide-angle, deep focus photography etc.

    I never liked the freeway chase – way to obviously fake cars and motorcycles (as a former bike racer movies always get everything about motorcycles completely wrong, basically no car can ever hang with a bike in any circumstance, especially the Ducatis’ in this movie.) I like my car chases real.

    I actually enjoyed a lot of the key master stuff and the associated quest etc. And Jesus – Cornel West in a blockbuster movie – that’s as cool as cool gets. But crap – the council stuff – how many times does a movie do this and it end up being boring, pretentious and trite. Pretty much every time.

    I guess the real thing I notice is that ‘The Matrix’ is nearly flawless – perhaps the only scene that fails is the Cypher/Tank confrontation etc – it goes on too long. Whereas in ‘Matrix Reloaded’ it’s all over the place – good scenes, great scenes, terrible scenes, amateurish stuff, there’s no consistency. That seems too have become a recurring issue with every Wachowski joint since. They seem to fall into the ‘swinging for the fences’ every time category – sometimes they hit it out of the park, but sometimes they go down swinging.’ I can’t hate that too much, better to go for broke than play it safe.

  4. On a completely unrelated note –

    Talking about mega action/gunfights – the final gun battle/showdown in Michael Ciminos’ ‘Heaven’s Gate’ – the uncut 219 minute Criterion cut – is easily one of the best ever filmed – Micheal Mann Heat level – check it out. I guess people don’t no about it because of the unfair hate that movies has – it’s actually pretty damn good.

    And Vern if you read this – check out the 1985 movie ‘Runaway Train.’

  5. Thinking a little deeper about this, I think there’s a very good chance that there wouldn’t be quite the level of backlash that we saw without the rave. I think my earlier point about this not being the fantasy I signed up for may have more truth than I realized.

    Think about it. What was the central hook of THE MATRIX? What common fantasy was it tapping into that made it a cultural touchstone? I think it’s the idea that any old nerd who has spent his life staring at a screen could suddenly become a superhero if his nerd mojo is strong enough. In real life, you might be a pasty dork who throws like a girl and can’t process lactose, but here in the Matrix, you are a god. You dress cool and you kick ass and you can fucking fly. The Zion stuff was just motivation for that fantasy. It’s telling that we don’t even get a glimpse of it in the first one. It’s an idea, not a real place.

    Then what happens once we actually get to Zion? Well, it turns out that you may be a kung fu wizard and a suave playboy motherfucker in the Matrix, but in Zion, you’re the same awkward dork you ever were. This is a world run by tall, attractive motherfuckers with ripped abs and tons of rhythm. They’re comfortable with their bodies and want to show them off. A whole bunch of extroverts just showing off the goods all over the place. You know, the same motherfuckers who make you feel like a hideous insect here in real life. All of a sudden, instead of feeling like you could be the savior of mankind, you’re reminded that you’d be just as much of an outcast in Zion as you are here. That rave proves that this world is for the beautiful people, and Lord knows you’re not one of them.

    So right away, Zion feels like a betrayal. It’s no place for the nerds who loved the first movie the most. You said you loved me for my mind, movie, but it turns out you just want a hot body and a pretty face like everybody else. Why should I fight and die so the popular kids can have another party I’m not invited to? If you don’t feel it in your bones that Zion is something worth fighting for, then there’s nothing there to hold your focus through the sequels’ many epic detours.

    Tl;DR: The Wachowskis made the correct thematic point with that rave scene, but in doing so they ruined the fantasy and turned their audience of introverts against them.

  6. Yeah in my personal circles I remember being the only one of my friends who spoke out about my dislike for this movie, and everyone else cut it some slack because they all had faith that it would all gel together when Revolutions came out. And then when that didn’t really happen everyone let loose on this one being a giant piece of crap.

    It’s certainly better than that (I mean, the freeway action sequence is an all-timer and might actually be the best car chase ever) but yeah, like Majestyk said, the fast-forward button needs to be used alot here. All the exposition scenes here seem deliberately modeled after boring videogame cutscenes – it’s just punishing scene after scene of people telling Neo something like “You need to find the Keymaker”. And Neo going “The Keymaker?” And then they explain who the Keymaker is and then they rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

    Also I just don’t really feel like this movie was made by the same people who did the first one – maybe it’s the lighting or camera angles or color-grading or pacing or editing or whatever, but it just sorta felt like this was some weird impostor Matrix movie directed by different people. Like I’ve grown to actually like Live Free or Die Hard, but anyone can certainly tell John McTiernan is not directing it when you watch it. Still, I appreciate this movie for what it is (an interesting misfire) and hope the new one doesn’t entirely abandon auteur interestingness for 100% dumb action.

  7. I guess it’s nothing new, but it is kind of surprising to me how much some films in the internet age no one would admit to liking 6-24 months after their release pretty much set the scene for much of 21st century blockbusters. THE PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES not only set the standard for CG dominant environments, but convinced Hollywood that audiences, for all the cheap stand-up routines to the contrary, actually are interested in origin stories and demystified takes on iconic pop mythology. Before PHANTOM MENACE every franchise considered going the prequel route, but would ultimately decide eh, it’s not worth doing this just to avoid paying Shatner another million. After PHATOM MENACE? Welcome to origin story city, population: everyone. MATRIX RELOADVOLUTIONS showed that you could sell part of a story at full ticket prices, which led to a lot of “Part 1” sequels (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN, HARRY POTTER, TWILIGHT, HUNGER GAMES etc) which was taken some steps further with the proliferation of shared universes. And one day some brave soul will write a history of early 20th century Hollywood which is honest about just how much influence the first three Bay TRANSFORMERS films.

    All that aside, yeah I guess I’m part of the crowd that considers this hit and miss but ultimately a success…kinda, just about, maybe. I missed this in theatres but saw it on ye’ VHS (still clinging on to being the dominant format in the UK at the time) soon after it became available to rent. I kinda liked it but definitely thought it had peaks and valleys compared to the sustained high of the first. I didn’t see REVOLUTIONS until last year; between my so-so feelings about RELOADED, the largely negative word on REVOLUTIONS, and my friends FORGETTING TO TELL ME WHEN THEY WENT TO SEE IT, it just feel through the cracks for me for over 1.5 decades.

    Watching the trilogy in full for the first time last year, being your trademark older millennial dinosaur who wants those IP shared universes to stop playing on his lawn, I expected to love them as an example of the kind of unbridled creativity you simply wouldn’t see at this kind of budget any more. To my surprise, I felt the same about them as I did in 2003; the first is great, the second is a mixed bag with great moments that never quite come together, and I still don’t feel qualified to say much about the third, which went in one eye and outside the other, leaving little impression outside of a mild sensation of boredom. But I’m open to giving them another shot some day (and I’m hearing some interesting things about RESURRECTIONS).

  8. Unfinished sentence; how much influence the first three Bay TRANSFORMERS films have had on the MCU and DCEU films, and probably much else beside in terms of the action staged and certainly in making movies that seem like they’re made for people with extremely short attention spans but which have really, really generous running times.

  9. Should have used Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers for Nathaniel Lees

  10. My issue with the Neo/Trinity sex scene is that it’s so….antiseptic. Which is the general feel of the MATRIX films, where sex is concerned. It’s simply not a horny place. I liked a comment Vern made in the ANIMATRIX review with regards to the “flight of the osiris” segment where characters look like they’re horny for each other, slicing clothes off each other’s back. I would have liked a little more of that in the movies. Which is why I never completely bought into the Neo/Trinity romance. It just feels so…chaste. And it doesn’t help that Reeves and Moss act more like estranged siblings just getting reacquainted.

    For example, at the start of RELOADED, it is clear everyone onboard the ship knows these 2 are an item, and yet Neo/Trinity still play it coy. No stolen glances or the occasional smile to hint “Hey, I love you and dig you and am so excited that we’re sharing a bed”. So when they land in Zion and then suddenly start pawing each other in the elevator, it just feels off. Then the elevator door opens, there’s all these people wanting to talk to the Neo Messiah, Trinity leaves and Neo says “Wait, I need you” and she responds “We have time”. Both lines delivered with all the passion of a funeral dirge. C’mon, Wachowski Siblings! You have been in love right? You have experienced the throes of a New Relationship where sex is on the menu every night and often several times a day?? Is that how couples in that stage talk? And you guys made BOUND, which was sexy as fuck! You had Gina Gershon fingering Jennifer Tilly at the 15 minute mark! (On that note, I do feel you were unduly harsh on that movie’s first half Vern. One fisting and one fucking does not a Shannon Tweed Soft Porn make)

    I needed to feel that longing in Neo, where his line delivery needed to tell me “Trinity, all I want to do is bang you in every conceivable position our bodies can contort into until the Nebuchadnezzer is refueled, because I have a raging hard on so potent, it threatens to rip through my pants, fly off the handle and circle Zion like a heat missile”. And Trinity, as women have had to do since the dawn of time since the emergence of the first erection, needed to sell that placating line with the feeling of “I want you too Tiger, but be cool. I’m not going anywhere. And we have time”.

    Which is why I fucking love the Merovingian! Here’s a guy surrounded by people who deliver lines in a dour, flat, half whispery monotone like they’re in the middle of a funeral wake, and he’s the guy hitting on one of the mourners and asking where the bar is. He’s got the So- Gorgeous-My Eyeballs-Hurt Monica Bellucci as his girlfriend and he gives a cake induced orgasm to another woman while providing a running commentary on what she’s experiencing! And then follows her to the bathroom for a Flesh Flute Recital. He’s a cad no doubt, and in a real world would most likely be embroiled in at least half a dozen sexual harassment lawsuits while his wife is initiating divorce proceedings to liberate him from at least 70% of his earnings, but he’s so much fun! He’s the spark Pantoliano was in the first MATRIX (I’ll write my thoughts about Cypher in that comments thread) From a pure tonal perspective, everyone else is cheap sandpapery toilet paper, but the Frenchman is truly exquisite silk on your ass. You stay horny, Merv!

    All that shit above should in no way imply I disliked the movie. In all other aspects, THE MATRIX RELOADED is an awesome and ambitious sequel and compulsively rewatchable for me. The action is incredible, you just had to wait for it which is what some of the frustration over the sequel was, I think. Expectation was double the kung fu and gun fights off the gate, but the Wachowskis were like “hang on Red Meat Lovers, it’s coming, but first I gotta feed you the damn veggies. Zion, rave, Neo and the Councilor talking about how machines need us and we need them, is that the point, maybe there’s no point etc etc”

    And then the Architect’s speech which is I believe the first and last time words like “contingent affirmation”, “concordantly” and “vis a vis” were used in dialogues in a mainstream mega budget tentpole.

    It’s amazing actually what the Wachowskis were able to get away with. And I think RELOADED is richer for it.

  11. I’ve always appreciated Reloaded’s action sequences. It’s obvious the Wachowski’s & co. *really* pushed themselves to make the action scenes much more intricate & unique. For the most part, they succeeded (the way *everything* turns into cg at the end of the Burly Man Brawl still bugs me— the live action stuff is so much better)

    Reloaded has never managed to engage me when it comes to story and character, though. Neo going from a super-empowered man with a plan at the end of the first movie to a confused guy who doesn’t know what to do and is waiting for his appointment with the oracle has always annoyed me. After that, almost every dialogue scene feels repetitive and padded.

  12. This is just speculations, but being asexual is a growing community in the world. I don’t know anything about the Wachowskis’ personal preferences, but my guess is that the rave scene is supposed to be seen as “we have to get over the whole everything-ending-in-sex philosophy”. So, everybody around you are half naked and ripped, we’re just dancing here. Park that lust outside and join the fun.

  13. Oof, I really dislike Reloaded and Revolutions, but mainly because I can’t help comparing them to The Matrix (that’s fair though, right?). Neal2zod took the words right out of my mouth – it does feel like the sequels were made by someone other than the absolute geniuses who did The Matrix.

    I guess my main problem with the sequels is one of storytelling economy. Even with the ticking clock element of the approaching machine army, the sequels are so dull. The story comes to a grinding halt every time a character does one of those philosophical monologues. That stuff was so neatly embedded in the original movie, when they actually bothered to dramatize it. I’m sorry to say the same about some of the fight scenes, where there’s fighting just for the sake of it without any story progression. Obviously the freeway chase is the standout action sequence because that one has some actual stakes.

    My other big problem with the sequels is that despite all the technological advancements, I think they lack the kind of visual invention that made the original such a stone cold classic. Whereas The Matrix had those graphic novel-y, carefully considered image compositions and camera movements, I feel like they only did standard “coverage” when doing the sequels. It didn’t help that they seemed to have jettisoned the noir influences. I mean, at least everything is shot and edited more clearly than most action movies, but I feel like the sequels have more in common with a videogame than a graphic novel.

  14. Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time, for ya’ll have knocked her up.

  15. Another problem that I have and didn’T mention, is that the sequels smell a bit like “It wasn’t REALLY supposed to be a trilogy until it became a success”.

    It might be all in my head, but there are just some signals, that make me think the main reason why part 1 is pretty much perfection and parts 2 and 3 aren’t, is that the first just feels very standalone. Sure, it ends kinda open, but in a “We assure you, humanity is safe now” way and not a “Oh, wait, there is a lot more story to tell!” one. They kill almost the whole cast before the last act. I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t have kept at least some of them around for another movie or two, if they had planned it beforehand. They already had a “Kid” in Morpheus’ crew, so they kill him and give us another one, who is important enough to become a hero at the end, but also not important for most of two movies? You can’t tell me that Mouse couldn’t have done the same? Maybe even the ol’ shitweasel Cypher would’ve stayed a bit longer, being able to cover up that he was the traitor until he was the one who gets “possessed” by Agent Smith!? (Okay, that part is pure fanfiction.) Oh, and Agent Smith. It’s great that we all got to see more of Hugo Weaving’s brillantly slimy performance, but why killing him in part 1 and then just resurrect him like: “Uhm, by the way, he didn’t die, he became a virus!”

    Okay, there is this very huge possibility that they actually had the story planned out, but wisely decided to rewrite the first 1/3 into its own movie, in case “The script that nobody understands” will never get a sequel. But I also think in that case they probably would’ve made smarter decisions that made the sequels more connected anyway.

    The (for me) more logical explanation would be that they had IDEAS of bits and pieces that could happen. The Architect, the Merowinger, a virus threatening the Matrix, etc, but they had then to rush to put it all into scriptform, because WB already had a start date set.

  16. I’m curious if anyone on here is willing to go to bat for RELOADED and REVOLUTIONS being actually philosophically interesting. Or if you’ve ever heard someone try and make that case. They both seem to me like movies which feel insecure about their lack of a solid stoner-philosophy hook like THE MATRIX had, and try and run cover for it by intentionally making the ideas they do offer as obtuse as possible in the hopes that you’ll assume the problem is you. But none of this feels very well-thought-out or rewarding. I kind of like the idea that in the sequels the Machines and their motivations are explored a little more and made more sympathetic, but even that doesn’t feel like something the movies really explore so much as bloviate about.

    The action is so bangin’ that I would love to be wrong about that, though. Anyone want to take a swing at convincing me that Neo having magic in the “real world” makes sense or is interesting, for example? Or what the visit with the Merovingian adds, other than another awesome fight without any real stakes?

  17. I’m not smart enough to debate that part. For me, stuff like the Merovinger’s monologue felt to me a bit like Tarantino-esque “I’m so in love with my own dialogue”. I won’t rule out that they really dropped the ball in the sequels and Will Ferrell yelling “ERGO! VIS A VIS!” on MTV was maybe the smartest interpretation of the architect scene, but the first movie was so layered, we are still unpeeling it after more than 20 years and the Wachowskis have proven themself to be damn smart, soooooooo if anybody here would explain to me how the orgasm pie was actually based on a mathematical theorem that originated in Buddhism or whatever, I would not just not be surprised, I would also definitely believe it.

  18. Though I like the sequels and find them interesting, I think the first movie does a better job of integrating its action and philosophy into a classical story. In RELOADED, those scenes are very separated, so that the movie sometimes grinds to a dramatic halt where a character will explain our co-dependence on technology on something. But I disagree that the movies are merely trying to sound like they’re saying something. If the first movie was about waking up to the system, the second movie is really about finding freewill and autonomy within it. It gets better every time I see it.

  19. I don’t know, can’t speak for anyone’s subjective enjoyment of Matrix, Animatrix, Matrix sequels, and our upcoming Matrix rebootquel whatever–but this seems to me to be where, ironically enough, all the metaphors and themes start to break down, despite the characters spending ten times as long talking about them than they did the first time around. The Machines are a metaphor for white supremacy patriarchy capitalism, right? Oh, but they’re also an oppressed minority that was just defending themselves from the humans. But the humans that did THAT died out centuries ago–it’s not really fair to Neo and Trinity that they still have to check their human privilege, is it? So the happy ending is making peace with the white supremacist patriarchal capitalists and the real bad guy is Smith, who is a computer virus now, trying to destroy the system–wait, don’t we hate the system? Isn’t destroying it a good thing? And he’s the Antichrist, I guess, but Neo isn’t really the One because there is no One, that was all a way for the Machines to control people…

    And so on and so on. The magic of the first movie was how all the different metaphors–cyberpunk, computer, religion, society–all came together and seemed equally applicable. Whereas with the sequels, it seems like they’ve stopped making sense, or only make sense on one level but are bewildering on another.

    Also, they introduce this whole love triangle with Morpheus, Niobe, and Locke, but never bother to resolve it or really even develop it in any way. What was the point of that?

  20. If someone started extrapolating the “Orgasm Cake” scene along the lines of mathematical theorems, quantum physics and philosophy, I’d tell them to take that shit elsewhere. Ole Mero doesn’t require such levels of over analysis:

    He’s a Digital Dick. A Cyber Snakehead smuggling exiled programs for a cost. And Merv’s a Perv.

    He’s also a broad stereotype of the Euro Snob, the type who’d spew stuff like “I do not watch American Movies, I sink ze are intellectually bankrupt”.

    Which is kinda ironic, because across 3 movies, the Wachowskis manage to assemble a rich and diverse cast, but still couldn’t resist depicting a Frenchman as a Snooty Fop.

  21. “sequels smell a bit like “It wasn’t REALLY supposed to be a trilogy until it became a success”.

    Yup I always got this stench too. There may have been notes, scribbles in the margins about where to take this story, but I doubt the idea of a Trilogy solidified until THE MATRIX grossed millions and became a Pop Culture Touchstone. After which the Wachowskis got Carte Blanche to do just whatever the fuck they wanted with Parts 2 & 3.

    It’s like Shyamalan got a brain wave to put SPLIT in the UNBREAKABLE world at the last scene, and then suddenly GLASS was announced and the party line was “It was always conceived as a trilogy”. Riiiiiight.

  22. I don’t really know how that’s a complaint. It’s from a time when it wasn’t normal to plan every movie as a franchise. A better time. (But yes, obviously they had thought of some ideas but didn’t have it meticulously planned out for years, as they had for the first film.)

  23. No biggie, but these guys have been on record saying “This was ALWAYS planned as a trilogy” which isn’t quite true. Should have just said “we had some ideas, but with the success of the 1st movie, felt this was a great opportunity to expand them”. You know, just to placate nit-picky assholes like me.

  24. It’s more a meta-complaint, I guess. “We had the sequels planned before we even shot the first one” sets the bar of expectations much higher and makes the disappointment more disappointing than “”We just came up with it, have fun.”

  25. Clearly the situation of making the sequels was totally different from the first one. But I think it’s generally true that “always planned as a trilogy” just means you have ideas for what the other two would be about and hope to make them, not that you wrote them all as one big story.

  26. I’m with Vern. I think we can give them the benefit of the doubt. “Planned” can mean “had initial ideas for that we then got to fulfill.” Interpreting “planned” to mean “had full beat by beat outlines” seems like it’s imposing an expectation that was never intended by the creator. Lucas didn’t actually write 9 Star Wats films in the ‘70s either, and he even changed his mind along the way in the first trilogy, as artists are wont to do.

  27. I like RELOADED, but don’t love it. It has too much navel-gazing. Whether this was the Wachowskis’ intent when they first envisioned a sequel or a product of the ridiculous “meditations” and “analyses” that popped up after the original I don’t know, but I found it tough to abide by what I wrote in my comment on THE MATRIX: “I’m able to enjoy the movie at face value. I’m able to enjoy it as ridiculous meditation on computer overlords.”

    Face value was now out of the question with it’s jump-cut setup through it’s internal philosophical arguments to it’s overlong set pieces. Despite trying it’s damnedest not to appear meandering, that’s what it is.

    Ridiculous meditation was out of bounds as well as they tried to explain things that were happily left to be laughed off in the original. Whether the siblings just lack any real knowledge of computer hardware and software or they decided that what we took as metaphor in the setup wasn’t really the intent, only the Architect’s speech had any real payoff while things such as Smith becoming a virus to silicon and flesh were just head-scratchers. And once again I won’t go down the route of all the laughable assertions and takeaways the technology lays bare.

    I am one of those that loathes the big dance number. This is coming from a giant goof who’s been tasked as a lone dancer on a 100-person floor to get the night started as well as the head-bobber happy to enjoy the music on his own. I’ve been in freak-chains, danced on bartops and raved every weekend for months years before this movie hit so I don’t have a problem the sentiment. But the execution has so many issues from the un-Morpheus rushed-speech setup to this giant cavern of shoeless people who are in intense fear of being heard yet somehow manufactured a huge number of mechs and the accompanying oridinance.

    Majestyk’s theory is a good one as well, and while I wasn’t thinking about the fantasy element of the viewer, I was subbing my chin in wonder of the lore where it was obvious–to me at least–that they were “freeing” a certain type of person, and that’s not who you saw in that gyrating mass, especially in terms of age. A lot of it goes to the whole “we don’t free minds after a certain age” claim in opposition to the now “we haven’t freed so many” implication that Neo’s ascension has changed those rules. We just don’t hear about so many things that this scene seems a waste of time and a tonal failure.

    Waste of time is my big problem with the set pieces all of which have great ambition and I probably would love to rewatch if they were each at least a third shorter in runtime. The Burly Brawl is probably the biggest offender here but the “car chase” is just as bad. I see many people try to claim this as some great example when it has none of tension of Friedkin’s joints like RONIN much less THE ROAD WARRIOR, actual chase scenes that keep the veritable throttle floored.

    Sucks Harry Lennix didn’t get to bring his usual Lennix game. Horrible how Smith’s infection was so peripheral in a world where everything is being watch so closely. I’ll stop there, plenty of people enjoy parts or even the whole and it’s too easy to denigrate my own enjoyment by focusing on so much of the negative. Hey, it still looks great!

    I really wanted to love RELOADED, and I still can enjoy it but it was a big letdown. For half of a story it sure drags.

  28. Watched this again and it still slaps hard. The reason is the choreography is good even if there weren’t VFX. So the VFX are just bonuses. You’re already getting an awesome action scene regardless.

  29. Speaking of VFX, it’s weird to think that the Matrixes were big CGI movies at the time, but now they seem positively loaded with squibs, practical effects, real stunts–like the Star Wars prequels, the CGI-there-is is so in-your-face that it’s easy to forget all the real shit you’re seeing. But these days, something like the freeway chase would just be Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Mackie sitting in two chairs on a green-screen. Okay, that’s unfair, they’d be in leather costumes if it were a Marvel movie.

  30. When real world Neo was able to stop machines by holding up his hands, I figured he was still in the Matrix. That might have been a cool twist. Guess he was just the Messiah with attendant abilities.

  31. Hostile – yes, for all the crap-talking people (including me) did about Reloaded, that end twist – where it implies the “real world” is just another level of the Matrix, was a great WTF moment. Even though that kinda directly contradicted what the Architect just said two minutes ago, and even though it’s barely explained or followed up on in the sequel. (Which goes to show the Wachowskis maximized their carte blanche with the studio by throwing in every half-baked idea they could think of).

    Interestingly, Snowpiercer (SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT) actually does follow up on the “revolution is really still part of the machine” concept. It would have fit perfectly as a twist in the Matrix storyline, especially since the eventual ending is “Neo can’t punch the machines to death, he has to make peace with them”. Instead, most people (including me) tend to forget this plot point was even there.

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