The first Matrix movie was a sensation. It was a fun, gonzo cyberpunk kung fu comic book movie with striking visuals, intriguing concepts, and great action sequences. Naturally, when the sequel came out, fans were tremendously excited.
And then they were tremendously disappointed.
Reloaded set out to expand the world established in the first movie. It showed us Zion—the last refuge of humanity—and it delved deeper into the history and composition of the Matrix program. We even learn about the history and purpose of The One, and, like Neo, we’re none too happy with the revelation.
Purpose is an important word when talking about this movie. The loss of purpose, the pursuit of purpose, and the very nature of purpose are perpetually pondered and pontificated upon. Neo frets about his purpose as The One, Agent Smith whines about his lack of purpose, and the Merovingian (who gets his name from a dynasty of Frankish kings that ruled from AD 450-751) goes on and on about causality. They all talk like first-year philosophy majors (well, except Neo), and what I’m sure is supposed to sound thoughtful and insightful comes off as so much pretentious prattling. The best stories do have multiple layers of subtext, but they operate under the surface (hence their being called sub-texts); when every villain monologues about some variation of the same theme, it’s like a philosophical baseball bat to the viewer’s skull.
This monologuing drastically slows down the movie and becomes tedious, but that’s not the only part that makes the movie drag. The first Matrix featured some great Hong Kong-style fight sequences that were fast, fun, and more than a little cartoony. Reloaded increases the amount and the length of the fight scenes, but it becomes too much. After a while it becomes boring watching Neo or Morpheus or Trinity do their slow-motion flippy strikes and you just want to watch somebody throw a decent punch. The action is so stylized in this movie that it lacks any kind of impact. It’s more balletic than anything else—pretty to look at, certainly, but it fails to convey any real sense of danger or pain.
And then there are the problems in logic. The first movie moved quickly, and that plus the novelty of the visual effects made it fun enough to overlook some of the logical fallacies inherent in the story. The pace is slower this time around, giving us more time to think. First of all, these people dress way too flamboyantly to go incognito when inside the Matrix. I have no idea why the Agents aren’t programmed to look for anyone wearing skintight pleather and sunglasses.
But this is a minor quibble when compared to Neo’s abilities as The One. Either the Oracle greatly oversold The One’s abilities, or Neo is just too stupid to use them to their full potential; whichever it is, his powers seem limited to being able to see the Matrix as code, minor feats of telekinesis, and fly. Considering he has the ability to rewrite the code—the very substance of which the Matrix is composed—he should be warping reality just by being there. He should be able to make people disappear, buildings crumble with a snap of his fingers, rain fire from the sky, and so on. Instead, he pretends he’s Superman, flying around, punching people through walls, and the like. Keeping in mind that this is the battle for the survival of humanity, Neo’s actions appear reckless at the very least. Maybe such feats are too much for him to do, but if so there should have been a scene explaining that so Neo doesn’t look like such a putz.
The Matrix Reloaded could have been great, but the heavy-handed philosophizing, the hyper-stylized fighting, and the time to ponder the logical fallacies greatly took away from what should have been a fun ride. There were a few interesting moments and ideas, such as vampires and werewolves being holdovers from previous versions of the Matrix, but they weren’t enough to make this good.
The movies is presented in Widescreen, 16×9 aspect ratio in 1080p High Definition. There are five language tracks: English in Dolby Digital TrueHD, and English, French, and Spanish (both Castilian and Latin) in Dolby Digital 5.1. English, French, and Spanish subtitles are provided for the hearing-impaired. In terms of quality, the movie looks great, but the sound was surprisingly low. I had to turn up the volume extremely high to be able to hear. Other than that there were no problems.
There is a metric ton of features on this Blu-ray, most of which I found rather boring and redundant, but fans of extras will be very happy with this release. I will say that it is impressive that they got Dr. Cornel West to record a commentary track. Also, I did enjoy the In-Movie Experience, where small videos are shown during the movie, featuring behind-the-scenes information and brief commentary by the cast and crew. I like this method better than the traditional commentary track because it’s more focused and there’s less rambling. But that’s just me.
Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers
Commentary track by philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
Commentary track by critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson
Behind the Matrix Documentary
Enter the Matrix: The Game Documentary
Enter the Matrix
Car Chase Documentary Gallery
Teahouse Fight Documentary Gallery
Unplugged Documentary Gallery
I’ll Handle Them Documentary Gallery
The Exiles Documentary Gallery
P.O.D. Sleeping Awake Music Video
Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots
I greatly enjoyed the first Matrix and the concept in general, but there are too many places in this sequel where it just falls flat. This was a very disappointing sequel. Not recommended.
Warner Home Video presents The Matrix Reloaded. Directed by: The Wachowski Brothers. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Gloria Foster. Written by: The Wachowski Brothers. Running time: 138 Minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: September 7, 2010.