Overall Impressions (Possible Slight Spoilers)

The Matrix: Reloaded is one of the few movies I've been looking forward to seeing for literally years. In this movie, Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity continue their battle against the machines. The human resistance has learned, courtesy of the doomed crew of the Osiris, that the machines are mining through the Earth to attack and destroy Zion. Morpheus clashes with his rival Lock in Zion over the course their defense should take; Lock wants all their ships to protect Zion, but Morpheus feels Neo is their savior. Morpheus leaves Zion to return to broadcast depth so that Neo and Trinity and the others can re-enter the Matrix to do battle with agents and other hostile programs in an effort to gain access to the system's main computer and destroy the Matrix from the inside out. Meanwhile, Agent Smith returns as a rogue program who has learned a few new tricks.

I liked The Matrix: Reloaded. I really did; it has some stunning visuals and excellent action sequences. Was it as good as the first movie? Not quite. Was it all that I was hoping for? Not quite. Is it worth watching? For sure, if you at all enjoyed the first one. All of the people in our group enjoyed seeing it, though nobody was saying "Wow, that was awesome! Let's go see it again!" afterward. Even the lone curmudgeon amongst us who complained vocally about the movie also admitted he enjoyed watching it.

The problem, I think, is one of editing and storytelling -- there's a lot of flash but not a lot of dazzle in the first hour of the film. Many characters are introduced, we finally get to see the industrial wonders of Zion, plot points are established, people dance and have sex, but much of it feels tepid and some feels disjointed and rushed. Missing is the taut pacing of the first film and the delicious Dickian feel of paranoia, claustrophobia, and sheer mindfuck.

In short, I wanted a good science fiction film with excellent action, but what I got was a decent action movie with good-to-awesome SFnal special effects. Most moviegoers might not see the difference or care too much, but those of us who actually read the stuff do care; while the ideas and plotline of The Matrix are right out of mid-1980s cyberpunk novels by folks like William Gibson, at least we finally got to see a more modern, more thought-provoking brand of SF on the big screen as opposed to the same old pulpy 1950s SF dressed up in a sleeker skin with modern pop culture references. Reloaded, beneath the kung fu and cool clothes and dazzling bullet time, is diminished on the science fiction front.

On the action front, a fight scene that should have been wicked-cool -- the battle between Neo and the Smiths -- is reduced to nifty-keen, undermined by not-quite-realistic CGI rendering (Gollum spoiled me, sad to say). I didn't notice the CGI's seams when I watched the Quicktime trailer -- thus this ironically might be a science fiction film that's better to see on the small screen.

Things start heating up in the fight between Seraph and Neo, but it's not until the scenes on the freeway that the film gets into new territory. Unlike Excalibre, I thought the freeway chase was some of the most exhilarating stuff in this movie; your milage may vary. The film finally finds its legs after that, but the cliffhanger ending left me feeling a bit unsatisfied.

So, there's a lot going for this film -- it just ain't The One. Hopefully the Brothers Wachowski will have gotten their focus back for the final movie in the trilogy.

Other Thoughts (Definite Major Spoilers)

After we left the theater, Braunbeck grumbled that he'd just paid $8 to see a two-hours-plus trailer for the third movie. He has a point. But it's one hell of a trailer, to be sure. The Matrix Reloaded has some very cool ideas at its core, but mainly seems to function within the series to introduce new characters, set up some cool ass-kicking sequences, and to set the stage for what will happen in the last movie.

The main themes of this movie are the problems of choice and fate; these are at the core of Neo's conversations with Councillor Hamann on Zion, with the Oracle, with Merovingian (who has imprisoned the Keymaker), and finally with the Architect.

Neo and Councillor Hamann, in a scene which I agree with Excalibre is one of the finer bits of the early part of the film, go down to Zion's physical plant and talk about how the humans and the machines of the plant need each other. They discuss the nature of control: they agree that humans can control these machines because they can shut them down, smash them to pieces, but to do so would be suicide. Hamann seems to have a lot on his mind, more than he's telling Neo.

Neo doesn't know what he should do with his astonishing powers, so he anxiously awaits another meeting with the Oracle. After he gets past her bodyguard, Seraph, and sees her again with his empowered eyes, he realizes that she is a program generated by the system. He asks if he can trust her; she tells him he can't ever really know. She talks about the nature of Fate, and implies his course is already decided -- he's only come to see her to gain insight into why he's on his preordained course.

After the Oracle tells him he needs the Keymaker, Neo and company confront Merovingian, a powerful rogue program who works as an information dealer. Merovingian scornfully tells them that those with power create the illusion of choices for those who don't have power -- and he pointedly tells the humans that they don't have power.

When Neo finally gains entrance to the mainframe, he enters a video room occupied by the Architect, the master program who created the Matrix in all its incarnations. The span of human life and Neo's life -- cleverly represented by brief clips from Keanu Reeves movies -- flashes across the monitors in the walls.

The Architect tells Neo that Zion has risen and been destroyed many times over, and then gives Neo a "Lady or the Tiger" choice. Neo can go through one door, where he will choose a small group of people to be survivors to found the new Zion after the old one is destroyed (starting the resistance all over again), or he can go through the other door to save Trinity, but the human world will be utterly destroyed.

Neo realizes that he and his compatriots have had the same choices of gamblers trapped in the casino -- no matter what game they play, the games are all rigged and the house controls all the bets. No matter what door Neo chooses, the machines still have control. The "freedom" of escaping to Zion to fight for humanity is another illusion.

Neo's very existence was set up from the start: the system allows the chaotic anomaly necessary to foster human happiness to culminate in the creation of The One: a human mind so powerful it can control the Matrix. The One is the supposed "savior" of mankind, but the flip side of this is to wonder what motivation a person with so much power in the virtual world and so little power in the "real" world really has to want to see the virtual world end. Thus, in the end, the machines still control The One.

At the end, when Neo is able to stop a group of sentinels in the "real" world, something he shouldn't be able to do, we realize that the world of Zion is simply a larger, different Matrix shell. They're all still stuck inside the virtual reality dictated by the machines.

The central idea here is actually pretty cool -- so I wish the Wachowski Brothers had been able to tell the story a little more cleanly.

This scenario explains many of the quibbles people voiced about the first movie, such as why the Agents are limited (for instance, they can run out of ammo). Zion and the human resistance are part of the Matrix and are integral to its evolution; after the first Matrix failed due to its mechanical flawlessness, the Architect realized it had to introduce an element of chaos into the system -- chaos which would inevitably lead to some sleepers trying to awaken and free themselves.

So, the Architect uses the world of Zion as a safety valve -- a place for these restless minds to run to, only to be kept so occupied by the war and the fight for survival that they don't have the time to realize they're trapped in another virtual reality. Zion's cyclic rise and destruction is part of how the Architect keeps refining his creation. The Agents are limited and flawed because they need to weed out the weak and put up a good enough fight to be convincing enemies, but in order to fuel the system's evolution, enough of the members of the resistance need to survive to populate the Zion of the next incarnation of the Matrix.

So, presumably there's another world beyond the world of Zion. Will we see it in the third movie? Presumably. It may be that there is no "real" world and no sleepers-- everybody could be a program.

For those who disagree that the "real" world of Zion is another virtual reality, consider Morpheus' words in the first movie: "What is 'real'? How do you define 'real'?" And how would any of the people raised in The Matrix be able to differentiate between another, different virtual reality and the actual real organic world? The answer is, having had no experience with the organic world, they wouldn't be able to make the distinction. Neo's suddenly developing the power to supernaturally zap the Sentinels doesn't jibe with the established "rules" of the universe: the existence of ESP/psionic powers outside the Matrix hasn't been mentioned. The One's power, while spiritual, has never been presented as being something that manifests itself outside virtual reality. If it turns out that the world of Zion is the real, organic world, and Neo suddenly has the magical ability to zap the machines at a distance, it might be cool, but it'll also be a bit of a cheat. Neo's being able to affect the Sentinels and Smith's being able to possess Bane are both absolutely possible if Zion is another machine-created reality based on a different and more complex coding structure. If they're in the organic world, both events are a little dodgy from a science fiction rules standpoint.

But I could be wrong. None of us will know for sure until the third movie comes out.

And hopefully the next film will, indeed, be The One.

Budget and Box Office

The Matrix was made for about $65 million and grossed a little over $171 in the U.S. and over $455 million worldwide and gobs more than that in video/DVD rentals and sales. The two Matrix sequels had a combined budget of $300 million, allowing for higher star salaries and the glorious excess of FX and stunts mentioned above. Despite the higher price tag, Reloaded looks to be a huge box office winner. It kicked through the opening day box office record set last year by Spider-Man and took in about $42.5 million from 3,603 theaters.

This is quite a feat considering this is a rated "R" movie -- all the biggest blockbusters to date have been PG or PG-13, with the notable exception of Beverly Hills Cop, which grossed a huge $234.8 million back in 1984 when ticket prices weren't nearly as high.

What will good sales for Reloaded mean in the long run, aside for more work for the Wachowski Brothers? Will it mean we'll be seeing more science fiction action films? It's hard to say -- The Matrix has already been hugely imitated. Only time will tell.

Movie Information:

Rating: R

Release Date: May 15, 2003

Running Time: 138 minutes

Directors: Wachowski Brothers

Writers: Wachowski Brothers

Cinematographer: Bill Pope

Cast:

Christine Anu: Kali
Helmut Bakaitis: The Architect
Steve Bastoni: Soren
Don Battee: Vector
Monica Bellucci: Persephone
Daniel Bernhardt: Agent Johnson
Valerie Berry: Priestess
Ian Bliss: Bane
Kelly Butler: Ice
Collin Chou (Sing Ngai): Seraph
Essie Davis: Maggie
Terrell Dixon: Wurm
Laurence Fishburne: Morpheus
Gloria Foster: The Oracle
David Franklin: Maitre D'
Nona M. Gaye: Zee
Roy Jones Jr.: Ballard
Malcolm Kennard: Abel
David Kilde: Agent Jackson
Randall Duk Kim: The Keymaker
Christopher Kirby: Mauser
Peter Lamb: Colt
Nathaniel Lees: Mifune
Harry J. Lennix: Commander Lock
Robert Mammone: AK
Matt McColm: Agent Thompson
Carrie-Anne Moss: Trinity
Robyn Nevin: Councillor Dillard
David No: Cain
Harold Perrineau Jr.: Link
Jada Pinkett-Smith: Niobe
Adrian Rayment: Twin #2
Neil Rayment: Twin #1
Keanu Reeves: Neo
David Roberts: Roland
Hugo Weaving: Agent Smith
Cornel West: Councillor West
Leigh Whannell: Axel
Bernard White: Rama-Kandra
Lambert Wilson: Merovingian
Anthony Zerbe: Councillor Hamann

We've been lucky lately. Attack of the Clones. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The Two Towers. X2. And now this.

All sequels. All superior to their precursors.

Am I certain? It isn't up for debate. There is shit in this movie you have NEVER seen. Because it's never been done before. Not in the first film. Not even close. You may expect me, like many of the people I saw the movie with, to bitch and moan about all the scenes in the film that don't feature fighting. I honestly don't need to. I'm not a fan of the Matrix because its ideas are original. They aren't. I love it because it uses digital effects to reinvent the possibilities for action scenes in a film. I couldn't tell you how many times I've seen it -- ten? fifteen? I do know that when I put in the DVD, I generally skip to the dojo scene, then to the lobby. Even in a kung fu classic like Once Upon a Time in China or Drunken Master 2, it is guaranteed that much of the time will be spent talking, not fighting. It is a staple of the genre. It is nothing to be disappointed by. And this film offers all the action of the first time around -- squared.

NOW ENTERING SPOILERVILLE.


I urge you with all my urging powers to NOT read this until you have seen the film.

I'm warning you. Seriously. Okay, I'm done.

The film opens with the familiar dripping green screensaver code. Again we plunge into the symbols, and they form shapes based on groupings and luminescence, but we're swirling around too fast to clearly discern them. We back out, emerging not from a phone line, but from a clock. It's one minute to midnight.

Shift change for a security guard station at the entrance to a parking lot. Before you can even wonder when the action will start, a motorcycle roars off a roof across the street. The cyclist vaults off backward as the bike crashes into the guard station, causing a massive explosion. The cyclist removes her helmet. It's Trinity. She dispatches the remaining guards with some serious kung fu and she's inside.

Then suddenly she's dozens of stories above the city, crashing backward out a window as an agent leaps after her. You wanted bullet-time? Here we are, two minutes in and it's an orgy of bullet-time. Thousands of tiny shards of glass follow them down like silver snowflakes. She's got twin submachine guns. He's got a Desert Eagle. And we follow one of his bullets as it punctures her heart. We crash back into real time as the impact of Trinity's body crushes a car.

Cut to Neo waking up, with his arm around her. (And I'm thinking, that's odd, the whole midair-battle = dream-sequence opening was ripped off The Two Towers, only it couldn't have been, since both films were scripted years ago.) He won't tell her about the dream. But it's not the first time he's had it.

We're back on the Nebuchadnezzar. The crew is Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and, in place of Tank with no explanation (but it's okay, because lemme tell ya, that actor really sucked) is a new operator named Link. They reach a broadcast point for a meeting of ship's captains being held inside the Matrix, and they go in.

Here we meet Niobe, captain of a ship called the Logos and ex-lover of Morpheus. They discuss the rumors that 250,000 Sentinels, one for each human in the city of Zion, are burrowing through the earth to destroy it. Is that even possible? They can't seem to agree. It becomes clear that not everyone believes, as Morpheus does, that Neo is The One.

Outside the building, a car pulls up and the driver exits. Though his face is blocked by the glare of the headlights, we can tell from the stride and the music that it's Agent Smith. OH YES. He gives the guard at the door an envelope, then, strangely, walks away. Neo comes to see who was knocking. He opens the envelope to find Smith's earphone. Does this mean Smith's no longer working for/part of the Matrix? Before we get any answers, three agents kick down the door and Neo takes them all on no sweat. (Can't he just dive into them and shatter them, like he did with Smith in the first film? Probably, but as we'll see, he'd be sorry if he did.) He leads them away from the meeting, then takes to the air. The ground ripples under him as he takes off, "reality" deforming in his wake.

Around the corner, Smith smugly talks to himself -- that is, to another himself. There's two of him. The meeting ends. Morpheus: "Where's Neo?" Link: "He's doin' his Superman thang." Cut to Neo swooping above the night's clouds under a full moon. I'm a little more reminded of Batman, actually. Anyway, who can blame him? Wouldn't you?

The Neb enters the gates of Zion. Home at last. In the all-white "control tower" room which grants ships access, the broadcasters use touch-screen computers disturbingly like Tom Cruise's in Minority Report. Again, this was likely shot (and certainly designed) before that film was released.

We spend a long time here in Zion. The design of the city is epic, with several distinct sections. In the landing bay, men toil inside huge armed mechs (think of the yellow loader Sigourney Weaver piloted in Aliens, only three times as large) which I suspect will be put to the task in the third film. It is established that six months have passed since Neo's liberation, and in that time, they've been able to free far more minds than they could before. One of them pesters Neo with hero worship. Dozens of others ply him with gifts...wishing their loved ones freed as well. This is the downside to being a Messiah.

You can tell Neo and Trinity are deep in true love because as soon as they have a second alone in an elevator, they make out. I know it sounds like I'm being sarcastic, but I'm not. I've been there, and I appreciate the honesty of that detail. Much of the humor of the film comes from things like this that aren't technically jokes.

Meanwhile, back in the Matrix, there's still one shipful of rebels. The last one is about to exit through a phone when Smith smashes through a skylight and, shoving his fist into our man's chest, transforms him into another Smith. The second Smith then picks up the receiver, downloading himself somehow into the real world.

That night, Morpheus addresses the assembled people of Zion in a temple, carved from out of a giant cavern. He informs them of the impending threat of the Sentinels, and tells them that he knows it will be defeated, for after all, haven't they lasted this long? The crowd seems to buy it, and Morpheus declares, in celebration, they DANCE. I really wanted him to holler "CAN YOU DIG IT???"

What follows is a sweaty steel-drum rave, intercut with Neo and Trinity in their quarters, having extremely naked sex. Since the Matrix is tinted green and the real world's ships and tunnels have a bluish cast, it doesn't take an art degree to deduce that the palette for Zion, near the earth's core, would belong to the third primary color of light, red. I thought the point was well-made, and with a realistic view of human nature not typically seen in post-apocalyptic movies: if you're about to die any day, you're gonna fuck and rock all you can.

("BORING!", as someone in the front row put it. Fine. Onward.)

A communique from the Oracle (Gloria Foster, who died just recently -- good thing they finished shooting her scenes) reaches Neo, and he goes back into the Matrix alone to meet her, (unbeknownst to him) narrowly avoiding a stabbing from the goateed dude who is secretly Smith. He emerges in a Japanese restaurant and meets a mysterious man named Seraph. (I think this is the role Jet Li wanted too much money for.) I say "man", but Neo's x-ray vision reveals that he glows yellow, not green -- he's a sentient program who doesn't work for the Matrix, just like (as we soon discover) the Oracle.

The two of them fight, hopping across tables. Every time I use the word "fight", please just pretend that your jaw is on the floor, because there's really no point in me going into detail. Seraph abruptly halts, saying that he merely had to test Neo. He leads him through a hallway of "back doors", a password analogy, and they walk onto an urban playground halfway across the world where the Oracle sits waiting on a bench.

Then: exposition/philosophy. She knows about his dreams of Trinity's death, and she knows what he'll do in that moment when the time comes. It's not what, she says, but why, that he came to her to understand. She tells him to seek out the Keymaker, another sentient program with the power to get him into the Matrix's mainframe, who's being held captive. Seraph leads her away, and a familiar figure strides toward him, causing a murder of crows to scatter. "Mr. Anderson!"

Smith reveals that he has, through some incomprehensible intersection of code, been altered and freed. This scene, like the podrace in The Phantom Menace, is more and better action in the middle of the movie than most flicks can give you all the way through. Neo battles eight Smiths. Then twenty. Then, ripping a metal pole from the ground and using it as both bo staff and pole vault, something like a hundred. The digital control of camera speed in this scene is masterful - going molasses-slow, then lightning-fast for one second, then micro-slow, then merely ballet-slow, all in one whirling shot. Of course, eventually Neo just flies away, but not until you're breathless and clapping.

So, after a little bit of real world strategizing, Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus head back in to meet (the?) Merovingian, the Keymaker's captor, who turns out to be a stereotypically haughty Frenchman who again elaborately informs Neo that he (Neo) is not making decisions based on free will. He feels the rebels offer him nothing, therefore he dismisses them.

On the way out of the building, however, his wife Persephone offers them the Keymaker in exchange for one thing: a passionate kiss from Neo, so she can remember what it was once like to be loved. Trinity's reaction to this is fiercely funny, but she has no better ideas, and Neo gets it right on the second try. Persephone leads them through a backdoor to the interior of her ornate mansion. In the basement, they liberate the Keymaker, a small, old Korean man played by Randall Duk Kim, and prepare to exit.

But they are blocked by Merovingian and his heavily armed henchmen. Persephone gets in a few choice words to her husband and triumphantly stalks out. The Keymaker runs and Morpheus and Trinity follow, and Merovingian's white-suited, white dreadlocked twin bodyguards are ordered to follow them. Neo is left to dispatch five baddies, which he does in eminent style, using the arsenal displayed in the hall, including swords, sais, and some kind of massive stick with pointy bits on the end.

Merovingian uses backdoor technology to keep Neo from chasing him. Then, so do the twins. Link informs him the mountain chalet he's standing on the balcony of is 500 miles away from the city Trinity and Morpheus are in. Wasting no time, he leaps into the air to find them.

Meanwhile, in the mansion's garage, Trinity and the Keymaker jump in a sedan while Morpheus turns to face the twins with a katana. He quickly learns their programming allows them to phase out of physical reality, floating like ghosts. He uses his submachine gun to buy a little time and hops in the car, and as the twins pursue them in an SUV, they take the exit onto the freeway.

Let's pull out and stop for a moment: If there's a lazy linguistic trend that annoys me above all others, it's reaching for the ultimate superlative without taking into account the lessons history has taught us. So while I'm sure I should come up with something more eloquent and creative than "BEST CAR CHASE EVER!!!" ...I won't. Because it is.

Trinity, at the wheel, has to dodge attacks from the twins and from a cop car full of agents. One of the twins warps into the backseat and attempts to murder the Keymaker with a straight razor, and Morpheus has to expel him from the vehicle. When our heroes get a bit of a lead, they abandon the bullet-riddled sedan. Trinity and the Keymaker leap off an overpass onto a car carrier, choose a motorcycle, and zoom away.

Morpheus stands in the road as the SUV bears down on him. At the last second he rolls to the side and slashes the fuel tank with his katana, then blasts away as the truck flips in glorious slow motion. In the explosion, the twins are ejected to who-knows-where -- the middle of the next film, probably.

Trinity's roaring forward in the breakdown lane, but one of the agents takes control of a black tractor trailer and tries to crush her with it. So she turns around, heading through the oncoming traffic. It's easy to say everything's done with computers, but this sequence carries the genuine thrill of palpable danger. She heads between two more huge trucks, and Morpheus braces himself between their trailers to snatch the Keymaker up out of harm's way.

Then Morpheus must battle an agent while standing on the roof of the trailer, as the camera hovers and spirals impossibly. He gets knocked off the back, onto the hood of a car...driven by Niobe. She pulls around to the front so he can leap up at the agent from behind. But soon he loses that advantage too. The agents coordinate their efforts, and the black truck comes smashing the wrong way down the freeway. As the two behemoths collide head-on, we revolve around them in 360 degrees, and see Neo fly in and snatch Morpheus and the Keymaster out of the ensuing explosion just in time.

But, as with the helicopter impacting into the skyscraper in the first film, this is not the end. There is more.

The plan now is for Neo to use the Keymaker's key to open a "door of light" into the mainframe, in a specific building. To do this, they must take out the electrical grid powering several city blocks. Niobe's team infiltrates the power plant and explodes it spectacularly, but the power goes back on before Neo can get to the door. There's a backup power plant. This was supposed to be dealt with by a third team, but Sentinels got to them and took out their craft. Trinity, who had promised Neo she would stay out of the Matrix, sees no choice but to go back in and help him.

Remember back in the beginning of the first film, before Neo ever left the Matrix, when he was taken into custody by Agent Smith, and we saw multiple screens full of security-camera views of him? Ever wonder what room we were watching Neo from? After going through the door of light, he enters it. Nothing but television screens floor to ceiling, and in the center, in a comfortable office chair, is a white-suited, white-bearded man. Neo has met, for all practical purposes, God. He calls himself "the Architect". It was he who built the Matrix.

Each of the screens depicts Neo's face, with another group of screens behind it. Altering the images to display scenes from Neo's life (including much of the first film), he reveals to Neo that Neo's powers are a systemic anomaly resulting from the program's design. Five times previously, he claims, the One has arisen, and been defeated by him, just as Zion has been five times destroyed. (I got the impression, looking at Zion, that it predated the Matrix. Could the Architect be lying?)

Then the screens are switched again to show what's happening to Trinity, right at that moment, and the images are from Neo's dreams. He can proceed and end the war, or he can go back, dooming mankind, and save her. Love is the weakness of all humans. And so, a third time, Neo is told that his actions are already written. (Question: If you're the Architect, why give Neo the option to destroy you, even hypothetically? Is this like the part in the Bond movie where the villain sets up an overly elaborate death, then just assumes everything goes to plan?)

Trinity falls from the window, as we saw once before. Neo soars across the city, his jet trail tearing burning holes in buildings. The bullet impacts her heart. But he catches her just before she reaches the ground.

He sets her down on a rooftop, and (this is shown in x-ray code-view) extracts the bullet from her heart with his fingers. But the damage has been done, and she flatlines. Mirroring the climax of the first film, he refuses to accept her death. He reaches his hand back into her and massages the green symbols representing her heart. She pops back to life. "I guess we're even," she says.

Again: not the end. I was honestly expecting Trinity's pseudo-death to be the cliffhanger that ended the movie. Hmmm.

After everyone has jacked out of the Matrix, the Nebuchadnezzar is attacked by Sentinels, and there is no time to retaliate or flee. The crew of four abandons the vessel on foot, stumbling across the eerie tunnel wastes, and watches the ship burn. Sentinels come rocketing toward them and though they know they can't run, they have to try. Neo stops. "Something's different. I can feel them." He reaches out his hand, and a blue bolt of electricity zaps all the killer robots lifeless.

Cut to the sick bay of Niobe's ship, where Neo is collapsed in a coma. Across from him, ostensibly recuperating, is the recovered body of the goateed dude we know to be possessed by Smith. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN. "To Be Concluded."


A trailer for the third film is after the credits, so if that sounds like something you'd want to see, make sure to stay. In closing, I guess all I have to say is that I paid my ten bucks to see some kickass superhero action, and nothing deep -- just like I did the first time -- and Holy Christ was I beyond satisfied. So to any who weren't, I'm sorry, but I don't know what to tell you. No one achieves happiness expecting apples to be oranges.



It is now early Saturday morning, and I have just returned from a second screening of the film with an audience, who, not being obsessively determined to see it as soon as possible, felt much freer to laugh in response to its tightly buttoned-up, super-serious tone. This is what I wanted to do the first time, mostly remaining silent out of respect for those around me, but I believe this is the reaction the Wachowskis desired.

Having heard so many negative responses to the film's dialogue scenes, I challenged them to grate on me. They refused to; in fact, they went down much smoother. I am convinced I will enjoy this film just as much on the tenth viewing. I think it's designed that way, with more emphasis on repeated screenings (on DVD) than on the primary theatrical experience -- the how, not the what. (Nor, as the Oracle suggests, the why. There is no why here. We'll get to that in a bit.)

I'd like to take this opportunity to respond to my peers. No personal affront is meant to anyone; this is all in the spirit of healthy, friendly debate, and so I apologize up front if anywhere I sound like an ass. =)

Excalibre: If long action sequences were not what you wanted to see, I don't know why you would buy a ticket to a kung fu film. You seem so in the grip of the story being told that you are unable to study its mechanics. You might as well be saying, "That whole Darth Vader being Luke's father thing came outta nowhere! What's the point?"

This film is the middle section of a much larger story. According to classical dramatic formula, once the hero has accepted his task at the end of the first act (film), by the end of the second, it must be complicated to such a degree that it seems completely impossible. Hence you appear to gullibly swallow the Architect's supposition (which he at no time offers a shred of proof for) that Neo is a tool of the Man. I feel it is entirely predictable that in the third film, once the stakes have been sufficiently raised, we will discover that Neo will succeed where the Five before him failed. And yet, this does not disappoint me. It is simply playing by the rules of the game.

Lucy-S: I do not believe, as you do, that Neo stopping the Sentinels indicates the world of Zion is also virtual reality, and there is some third upper level. David Cronenberg's virtual reality film eXistenZ, which was in theatres concurrently with the Matrix, and which they therefore surely paid attention to even if most of the world didn't, ended with this exact twist. In addition, the Wachowskis' two worlds are far more intricately designed than Cronenberg's interchangable ones, and to presume the existence of a third, which somehow was not shown to us in The Matrix Revolutions' trailer, seems incredibly unlikely. It would make the story a giant mess. I can't imagine this happening without the audience yelling "BOO!", and I can't imagine a way that scenario could be resolved in just one more film, given that it would negate all the progress our heroes have made.

Neo's control of the machines can in fact be explained based on the rules we've been given. They run on orders from the Matrix. Neo controls the code of the Matrix. He doesn't do it with his "digital self", he does it with his will, which is located wherever his consciousness is. See how easy that was?

WolfDaddy: Right on. One of the few juxtapositions in the film that goes unmentioned by the characters.

Alla you mofos: Both films contain many more disturbingly contradictory themes which no one has addressed. Why do the characters use Eastern fighting techniques with no acknowledgement or understanding of the Buddhist principles of meditation and pacifism which complement their teaching? Why does a story which claims to be about egalitarian revolution and "a world without borders or boundaries" rest on salvation by an arbitrarily chosen single person? As Alan Moore pointed out almost twenty years ago in Watchmen, the superhero myth is inherently fascist. Why can't everyone have Neo's powers? A debate about free will vs. determinism carries no weight whatsoever in a fictionally contrived and scripted film in which every event is unavoidably determined by the author, and hence should be completely disregarded by the intellect.

I am not denying the value of gnosticism and self-actualization, or the presence of these themes in the first film. If that film happened to be your primary encounter with these ideas, well, I guess that's better than none at all. They've gotta fill up the space between fights with something, right? Why not that? I'm all for it. If you feel it helped you, great. But you shouldn't ever go to a Hollywood film expecting your mind to be blown. It's like panning for gold in a diamond mine. You'll come home empty handed, and you won't be able to appreciate what you had in front of you. Film thrives on emotional reality and kinetic energy. It seizes the heart, not the brain. If it's ideas you want, you're gonna have to crack a book.

And now that I've become as preachy as Morpheus, I thank you for your time, once more hoping I have made no enemies, and I bid you peace.

A partial list of trivia and annotations for The Matrix Reloaded follows. See also "The Matrix" for references and trivia dealing with characters in both movies.

  • The Osiris, the ship which discovered a quarter-million machines digging toward Zion before it was destroyed, is named after the Egyptian god of the dead who was first a pharoah, killed by his brother and torn to pieces before being reassembled and resurrected to immortality. The name foretells both the death of its crew, but also humanity's inability to be exterminated by the machines.
  • When Agent Smith pulls up in an Audi at the beginning of the film, his license plate is "IS 5416". In the King James Bible, Isaiah 54:16 says, "Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy."
  • Smith's message to Neo is that he "set him free", a possible nod to the Christian belief in life after death through Jesus (Neo).
  • In Judeo-Christian beliefs, a seraph (plural: seraphim) is an angel of the highest order, said to have a radiance so bright no other being besides God can look upon them. This is symbolized in Neo's "special sight" by Seraph's unusual yellow radiance amid a sea of green code.
  • Neo dreams (according to the Oracle) about a door of light at the same time he's dreamed about Trinity falling from the skyscraper. Light is often considered a symbol of wisdom and truth in dreams, while doors represent opportunity and locked doors, blocked opportunity. In this sense, Neo's dream would foreshadow a revelation of truth he subconsciously doesn't want to know -- which is exactly what lies behind the door when his dream finally comes to pass.
  • When Smith first confronts Neo after he consults the Oracle, a flock of ravens flies away from him and towards Neo (and the viewer). In Greek and other mythologies, ravens are a symbol of war and death or imminent death.
  • Persephone kills one of the Keymaker's guards with a silver bullet, well-known to kill werewolves and, less often, vampires. (They are watching "The Brides of Dracula" (1960) when Persephone enters.) Similarly, the twins appear vaguely skeletal and thus doubly ghost-like when they phase. Both ghosts and vampires are cited as examples of AWOL programs within the Matrix by the Oracle when Neo consults her.
  • The Merovingian's restaurant ("Le Vrai", literally "The Truth") is on the 101st floor of his building, and the freeway chase takes place on Highway 101 and 303. In The Matrix, 101 was Neo's apartment number ("The One") and it is one-third of 303, the hotel room Trinity ("Three in One") occupies at the start of the movie and where Neo runs to at the end.
  • Morpheus, Neo and Trinity meet the Merovingian at high noon, according to the clock above the building's entryway. In the old American West, "high noon" was the traditional time to meet for a duel. It also parallels their later break-in to the Source of the Matrix at exactly midnight -- traditionally the darkest part of the night and the time when magick can be performed most effectively.
  • Behind the Merovingian's restaurant table is a tall stained glass window covered with clear and green squares, some of which are subdivided into smaller squares themselves. The pixelated effect is an obvious reference to the digital reality of the Matrix.
  • While the name of the character Link symbolizes many things in the context of computer networks, that of his wife Zee is probably a nod to the popular Nintendo game "The Legend of Zelda" and its sequels, in which Zelda was the princess in need of rescuing by the elf-hero Link.
  • To hack into the emergency power systems, Trinity uses Nmap (version 2.54BETA25), an actual port scanning tool, to locate an SSH vulnerability (port 22) in the system. She then resets the root password using "sshnuke", a fictional program presumably created by the character herself.

Some information obtained from IMDB.com

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