16 May 2003 by Published in: entertainment No comments yet

Kurt and I went to see The Matrix Reloaded yesterday with a crowd of people from his work. Our general impressions were : it was a good movie, worth seeing in and of itself that was nevertheless not as good as the first one. I thought they pushed too hard to try to come up with visual fight scene effects on par with the first movie and largely failed. The effects seemed contrived most of the time (though where they worked, they worked extremely well). There were some great fight scenes with some neat effects, but I did find myself tapping my foot impatiently in the middle of some of the action sequences and wondering just how long this was going to go on. Kurt thought it was too talky, and I thought it wasn’t quite talky enough (or at least, not the right kind of talky) since I apparently came away with a different (likely incorrect) interpretation of what was going on in the movie than everyone else I saw the movie with.

Spoilers in the rest of my comments, read more at your own risk.

One particularly disappointing thing about The Matrix Reloaded was the lack of iconography from other literary and religious sources. The Alice references of the first movie are all gone, replaced instead by references to the first movie. This was, perhaps, to be expected, as the first movie is now its own legend and that phenomenon was naturally going to be exploited to some degree, but I felt it took away from some of the texture and depth that the first movie had. I’m not sure why they couldn’t do both. Presumably the matrix functions on some level as our collective unconscious, and in this sense references to literature and religion should be incorporated (as they were, so richly and delightfully, in the first movie).

As for the effects that weren’t as cool as I felt like I was supposed to feel they were, the stop effect is at the top of my list of annoying. I thought it worked very well in one or two places, and the rest of the times was just disorienting and stupid. The interstate scene was way too long, and I was dissatisfied at the end of it, because I didn’t understand the lethality of it. Why did Morpheus warn them to always stay off the freeway? I thought there’d be some extra special risk there, but it turns out it’s just agents like anywhere else in the city.

Now to talk about my skewed interpretation of the movie. Kurt tells me that what’s going is that there are essentially two matrices, and that zion is another matrix designed (by the oracle) for that miniscule portion of the population that requires choice (or the illusion thereof) in order to be accept the mind control program. I must have glazed over during the endless talking done by some of the characters, because I didn’t get that at all. I thought that Zion was still real, it was just engineered to segregate the people that didn’t accept the imprint of the mindcontrol program from the rest of the matrix. Thus the need to wipe it out every so often, before the momentum of the people shunned from the mainstream matrix destabilizes or destroys that matrix. I’m told that the flaw in this theory is that Neo controls the sentinels at the end. He shouldn’t be able to do that unless they too are merely programs. However, it’s clear to me that Neo is supernatural. He has prescient dreams. He has an intuitive understanding of code so deep that he can manipulate it without needing to know how to program it or hack it. Maybe these are all part and parcel of him being the anomaly of the matrix and not indicative of real powers, but to me he’s essentially a superhero (heaven knows they made the parallels to a conventional superhero as forcefully as they could). There’s this big huge speech from the head of the council about the symbiotic relationship of machines. Is that guy a program? Is he the previous iteration’s Neo? That speech implied to me (and only me, apparently) that there’s some unarguable connection between man and machine. I also felt like in the matrix, I was always shown Neo’s perception of the code of it, whereas before he stopped the sentinels I was not shown that he realized the programmatic nature of them. Not only that, his reaction to stopping them (making the choice to turn them off, essentially) was radically different his reaction to affecting the matrix. Never has terminating an agent put him in a coma. Meanwhile the head of the council or whatever had practically told him that turning off the machines, while an option, would cause them a direct, presumably harmful, effect. Maybe it’s a stretch. Clearly there are characters in the movie that are lying, and everyone’s speechifying can’t be taken at face value. The Oracle says the Keymaster is obsolete, yet he’s the only way the One can get to the core, something that according to the Architect is a requirement of the matrix (matrices?) endgame. It’s also possible some of the ambiguities I see as an alternate interpretation are intentional on the part of the directors, so that they can be resolved and explained in the third movie. Maybe I just missed the line where the Architect said “Zion is another matrix, dumbass”. Maybe all my complaints about movies being dumbed down have resulted in a movie that’s not dumbed down enough for me.

Oh well. Now back to criticisms : I felt like there were a lot of unnecessary scenes that were just there as setup for the third movie. For example, why did we need to see the sequence of the ship docking? It can’t have been for the cool factor of it, because it wasn’t that cool. I also felt like the mechas we saw were just thrown in so we can speculate about how they will fight in the next movie, an idea confirmed by their appearance in the trailer for the next movie. If this is so, why did I need to see them in this movie?

Unlike the first movie, sometimes the music jarred me, particularly during the car chase scene. Overall, the music wasn’t as good as it had been in the first movie, and sometimes it was outright distracting.

I did enjoy the movie, though. I thought the Zion dance scene was spectacular, possibly the best of the movie. The Keymaker was a wonderful and charming character. The new operator was well scripted and fabulously acted. I was tickled by Persephone (her little smirk and “Have Fun!”) was the equivalent of Trinity’s “Dodge this!” from the first movie for me. The world of the matrix is immersive and when I left the movie I felt a little stunned that there was still sunlight and cars and my quiet little town, which is the mark of a good movie experience. As I said at the beginning, well worth seeing.


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