The Matrix Reloaded
The real sequel is in November.
by Andy Patrizio
"Surprised to see me?" - Agent Smith.
There is a principle in psychology, and I wish I could remember what it's called, that says the greater the expectations for something or someone, the less likely those expectations can be reached. No matter what you do or deliver, the expectations will always be higher.
It's hard to apply this to Hollywood because in most cases, the big let-downs have come from a film that just plain fails to deliver, not because our expectations were too high. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle was one example.
X2: X-Men United delivered big. Both Lord of the Rings films delivered huge.
The Matrix Reloaded did not.
"Where's mah puss- hey!" - Link
It's been six months since Neo (Keanu Reeves) traded hacking Linux code (yes I'm being facetious) for a Spartan life on the Nebuchadnezzar. Unlike most hackers, he gets to wake up next to a hottie every morning. He and Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) are now a solid couple, although he's haunted by constant dreams of her death at the hands of an Agent.
The Nebuchadnezzar returns to Zion, home to 250,000 humans not plugged into the Matrix. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) has to face the music with the Council and Commander Lock (Harry Lennix), who doesn't believe in the prophecy that Morpheus clings to so strongly. There's also more than just a little schoolyard jealousy as Lock is hooked up with Commander Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), Morpheus's old girlfriend.
Morpheus brings bad news from the field. A ship called the Osiris found news that the machines are drilling straight down from the surface and bringing 250,000 sentinels with them. During this visit, Neo had a disturbing encounter that hints at the return of his nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving).
The council wants to assemble all available ships to fight back, but Morpheus wants to depart to contact the Oracle (the late Gloria Foster). Before departing there's a party/rave/orgy in Zion that's the source of the most spleen against the movie. Well, if you're going to die tomorrow, might as well get laid one last time (or more).
The next day, a returning crew tells Morpheus of a message from the Oracle, and the Nebuchadnezzar departs. Neo finds her and she says to look for the Key Maker. Neo is off on his scavenger hunt, but not before running into Agent Smith. And 99 more Agent Smiths.
I'll skip the rest for the one or two people who haven't seen the film. So where do I start? The brilliance of The Matrix lay in its mystery. All during the spring of 1999, people were asking "What is The Matrix?" It was a marketing campaign not seen since The Blair Witch Project but with a bigger payoff. Forty minutes into the film, Morpheus held up a Duracell battery and we got a shock not seen since "Luke, I am your father."
For the sequel, either the Wachowski brothers couldn't come up with a new shocker, or they just ran out of ideas. The revelation from The Architect simply doesn't cut it, mostly because he is so bloody obtuse. He sounds like a cross between Plato and Frasier Crane.
Instead they just upped the volume and dropped the substance. The fights are bigger and more spectacular, the car chase is amazing, and there are a lot of new characters, only one of which I liked. But upping the volume doesn't continue to enhance the storyline, which basically was Neo as a Christ-like savior.
The Wachowskis decided to make an all-encompassing story with the Enter the Matrix videogame, The Animatrix animated film, plus this movie and the third film, Matrix Revolutions, all tied together. I think this was a mistake. The Matrix Reloaded should have been an entirely self-contained story, with the game and anime as supplements and subplots that build out, but aren't needed to fully understand the story.
I don't know anyone who has seen Final Flight of the Osiris who doesn't think it should have been in the movie instead of that silly rave. That was a complete waste of time, far too long and played like an extended Christina Aguilera video.
Of the characters, The Merovingian really was the only memorable one. Not only for his deadpan delivery, but because he is the one who gives us the one bit of new information in this film. "I have survived your predecessors and I will survive you." Well, that got my attention.
In the end, the movie's spiritual, psychological and philosophical elements become window dressing to an audio/visual spectacle for your eyes and ears, not your mind and heart. I admire the effort of these actors. Carrie-Ann Moss broke her leg during the shoot and Hugo Weaving struggles with epilepsy. In the extras, he says he's only really good for right-handed punches, not lefts or kicks. These people are troopers. So the failure isn't theirs.
I don't think Andy and Larry Wachowski lost it, but they got very full of themselves and misfired. When The Two Towers ended, the overwhelming feeling was I could not wait for The Return of the King. My only feeling toward The Matrix Revolutions is that I hope it's the sequel we were expecting last May.
Score: 7 out of 10
"My goodness, look at you. You turned out all right, didn't you?" - The Oracle.
Outstanding. The 2.35:1 anamorphic print is near perfection. I can't say it's perfect because 1) perfection is impossible, even for LotR, and 2) I have minor quibbles. More later.
The bitrate is a healthy 7.5MB/sec. and the transfer is on par with The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It is that good. The colors are rock solid with zero grain in background images, which is where I usually see it.
There's nothing for edge enhancement and despite spending two hours squinting at shoulders, where ghosts often show, I didn't see one. Everything has a clean, sharp edge to it with no bleed.
The fine detail is outstanding. You can see every pockmark on Fishburn's face, every last bump and detail in Neo and Morpheus's clothing, all the grit and rust on the grimy buildings of Zion. The sharpness is amazing. During motion, the fine detail does not blur at all.
Black levels are solid, as are white levels. Early on there is a scene when the Nebuchadnezzar is arriving at Zion, where we see a room full of, for lack of a better term, air traffic controllers. The room is blinding white. Yet there is no blooming, you can see the edges of their clothes and the seats they are sitting on.
My one quibble: there are moments when the CG is really, really obvious. The two worst offenders are the Neo vs. 100 Smiths fight and the Morpheus vs. Agent Johnson on top of the 18 wheeler. Trinity's fall from the high rise isn't too good either. When CG/blue screen is obvious, it kills the suspension of disbelief. But I'm not docking points for that offense.
Score: 10 out of 10
Languages and Audio
"Go ahead, shoot. The best thing about being me is there are so many me-s." - Agent Smith.
Definitely, we have a winner here. The movie comes in a Dolby Digital 5.1 English or French soundtrack, with English, Spanish and French subtitles, and it's super. Everything is crystal clear, from the voices to the techno soundtrack to gunfire to explosions and flying glass.
If there is a complaint to be had it's that the voices are often very, very soft. Smith and Morpheus are the two worst offenders, but Trinity does it when she's supposed to be fretting over Neo. Then it becomes very hard to hear, which is a bit of an annoyance since nothing else about this film is subtle.
The use of positional audio is also top notch. When bullets are fired, they whoosh from the front speakers to the back. Explosions also jump around the speakers. All in all it's quite immersive.
They really pumped up the LFE channel quite a bit. There's fight scenes where every punch is punctuated with a thump from the subwoofer, almost to the point of overkill. The Neo vs. 100 Smiths fight sounded like Slayer's drummer double bass drumming, and wait until the building with the mainframe explodes at the end. Advise your neighbors to run. Or come watch it.
Score: 9 out of 10
Packaging and Extras
"You'll handle this? You know, your predecessors were much more respectful." - The Merovingian.
The two-disc set comes in an Amaray case with a swinging disc holder in the middle. It comes with a flier to sell Matrix products, plus a fold-out flier with a chapter list and the listing of all the extras on disc two.
The trailer for The Matrix Revolutions that was shown in theaters after the credits rolled is here, as well. That super new one released earlier this week is, regrettably, not available.
For a movie of this caliber, the extras are a monumental disappointment. It seems not only did X2: X-Men United give us a better movie, they gave us a better disc set, too. For starters, there is no commentary track at all. The Wachowski brothers actually have a clause in their contracts with the studio that they don't do interviews, so they sure aren't going to do a commentary track. Unfortunately, no one, not even their spokesman producer Joel Silver, spoke up.
Disc two contains four primary documentaries with some ancillary stuff as well. All of the documentaries are in full screen, Dolby two-channel format. First up is the 22-minute Preload, the behind-the-scenes making-of with on-location footage and interviews with cast and crew. Mostly they talk pre-production issues and how this movie would be so much more so from the first. There's a lot of talk about the training involved for the actors, and building the sets.
The Freeway Chase is a 30-minute look at the whole freeway chase scene. The scene was almost filmed in Akron, Ohio, the one city that would let them hijack a freeway for a ten week shoot. But it was the dead of winter and the snow was not conducive to a movie shoot, so they went to Alameda, California and built a 1.6 mile stretch of fake freeway.
The Matrix Unfolds is a five-minute look at the first movie, its impact, and then the complimentary products for the movie; namely, the Enter the Matrix game and The Animatrix animated DVD.
Get Me An Exit is an utter waste of seven minutes focused on Matrix-inspired commercials. I really could care less about the custom phone made for this movie, or the commercials with a Matrix influence.
There is also a preview for Enter the Matrix and The Animatrix, Web links to the Warner sites, and the 2003 MTV movie awards parody with Seann William Scott and Justin Timberlake.
There is a decent DVD-ROM interface if you load it into your computer. It links to all things Matrix, including more than a dozen interviews with production people. It really favors a high speed connection. I shudder to think what these links would be like on a modem.
No deleted scenes, no outtakes, no commentary, none of the stuff people really like. That's it, from the number three grossing movie of 2003.
Score: 5 out of 10
IGN's Ratings for The Matrix Reloaded
The Movie: 7
More of everything from the first, except substance.
The Video: 10
An outstanding, richly detailed print.
The Audio: 9
Superb use of sound, a little heavy on the LFE.
The Extras: 5
Really stingy for a movie of this caliber.
(out of 10 / not an average)
1. The Matrix Reloaded DVD Menu.
2. Get your hands off him, bitch, before I go Irreversible on you.
3. We'll miss you, Gloria.
4. Your car key is over there on the left-hand wall.
5. I told you fanboys, I'm married!
6. Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
7. No, I am not Colonel Sanders.
8. Hello me. Meet the real me.
9. CAAAAN YOOOOOU DIG IT?!
10. Milli Vanilli? Never heard of them.
11. Say hello to my little friends.