Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci, Jada Pinkett-SmithUpdated: Jun 13, 2003 19:47 IST
The Matrix, which had arrived unheralded in 1999, had gone on to achieve cult status, raking in big bucks at the box office. Four years on, the reclusive Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, like a pair of mysterious magicians who have stumbled upon a particularly crowd-pleasing legerdemain, cannot let go of the trick even at the risk of stretching it precariously thin.
Matrix Reloaded is far bigger, flashier and deadlier than the original. Sadly, it isn't better. Matrix Reloaded is, in fact, a clear case of overload. When a spiffy idea loses its element of surprise, it also loses the ability to engage the audience in a discourse/debate that acquires a cultural/intellectual life outside of the film that it springs from.
The martial arts stunts are zingy, the special effects are from the top drawer, and a few of the performances are above average, but Reloaded has as much fizz as an uncorked cola bottle left out in the rain. It offers virtually nothing that The Matrix hadn't. It is not half as witty, elegant and startling as the first jab. Wonder what the third installment, Revolutions, scheduled to be unveiled in November, has in store.
Neo (Keanu Reeves) is now infinitely better at what he does, having acquired the ability to do "the Superman thing". But he is haunted by a vision in which he sees his lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) being killed by an Agent during a foray into a building inside the Matrix. His resolve to defend the last human outpost, Zion, against the Machine Army is, however, strengthened by the love and faith he shares with Trinity.
He heads for the underground colony along with his ladylove on board the Nebuchadnezzer, the ship captained by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Zion, mentioned in The Matrix, is revealed for the first time and it is peopled by a host of new characters Morpheus believes Neo, aka The One, will fulfil the Oracle's prophecy of victory, but Commander Lock (Harry Lennix) is of the opinion that only military intervention can provide the shield mankind needs. An army of tentacled sentinels is hours away from Zion and there is no time to be wasted.
Neo is summoned back into the Matrix by the Oracle and told of the existence of the Keymaker, the only man who can give him access to the Source, the mainframe of the Matrix. The Matrix Reloaded adventure centres on the efforts of Neo, Morpheus and Trinity to spirit the Keymaker away from the clutches of the evil Frenchman Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). Neo receives help from an unexpected quarter - Merovingian's wife Persephone (Monica Bellucci) but not before he accedes to her demand for a full-blooded kiss.
The trouble with Matrix Reloaded is the laxity on the part of the director duo in the matter of cutting out the flab that builds up particularly around the action high points. Most of the film's set pieces drag on for too long. Neo's confrontation with the rapidly duplicating Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), the dizzying chase sequence involving Trinity and Morpheus across a walled-in freeway, and the dance/orgy scene in Zion, which is intercut with a sequence that captures Neo and Trinity in sexual overdrive, look good for a while but they all seem to overstay their welcome.
The focus is squarely on the special effects and the stunts, and that allows the human moments to flit by innocuously. That's a pity. There could have been immense potential in the professional and personal rivalry between Morpheus and Commander Lock (involving their views on the war and their feeling for Niobe, played by Jada Pinkett-Smith) and the hint of sexual jealousy in the Trinity-Persephone face-off are merely alluded to, not pursued with the intent they probably deserved.
Instead, what Matrix Reloaded proffers are prickly pearls of pseudo-religious babble and pop philosophy through the medium of Merovingian, who holds forth on "action and reaction, cause and effect", and the Architect, the creator of the Matrix, who helps Neo perceive the distance between choice and destiny. It is all a trifle brain numbing.
This hi-jinks computer game masquerading as a movie experience is strictly for Matrix junkies. If you are not one, you could still have another look at what martial arts choreography can achieve with actors suspended on wires and what computers can do when filmmakers get too lazy to exercise their own narrative faculties. But be warned: there is little else on offer here.
First Published: Jun 13, 2003 10:43 IST