|THE MATRIX RELOADED WAS ALMOST GREAT, MAYBE, KINDA.|
|By Matt Dorfman||
Did you see The Matrix Reloaded yet? It's not bad, right?
I mean, I've certainly spent 2 hours in worse ways. I sat through another movie with Laurence Fishburne in it a few years ago called Higher Learning, and I didn't really need to do that.
They give Larry a sword in this Matrix movie for chrissakes. Where was Larry's sword in Higher Learning? I remember seeing him with a curious Jackson 5-inspired headpiece, but no sword. Should history reflect anything of lasting significance on The Matrix Reloaded, let the record state that this movie totally kicks Higher Learning's ass, if for nothing else, then due largely in part to the utility of a certain actor wielding a certain sword. Rest assured, Larry and his sword are both worth your while in spades.
Of course in earnest, history will be prone to remembering The Matrix Reloaded for oodles more than Laurence Fishburne's lesser films.
First and foremost, there are these wonderfully clever digital effects that have quite plainly never been seen before by moviegoing audiences. The Defense Department has probably contracted black bag ops that look like this, but doubtful we cinephiles have born witness.
Secondly, there are these other cooler effects that you see in the movie about twenty minutes after you see the first really cool special effects. These newer effects are even cooler than the ones you saw previously.
Thirdly, there's this chase scene towards the end of the picture that takes place on a freeway, and it employs these other completely ridiculous special effects that are just totally fucking balls-out, tongue-swallowing, giant-woman-in-my-pants awesome. They're really good. I like them. They're better than "Cats." The shit is off the hook, yo.
But it's not the best ever, either.
The only real problem that the movie is forced to contend with (and it's a biggie) is that there was this other movie that came out before The Matrix Reloaded in 1999 called The Matrix. It had most of the same actors, and I think the same two guys who directed this new one directed that one too.
If you've just now ended your five year stint in solitary lock-up or
have just recently turned 14, the general gist of that first film is as
such: Your life is not your own. All the things that you think you do
and feel daily, you actually don't. It's all just a big, beautiful illusion
created by a massive governing virtual reality construct devised by evil
computers to keep your minds active while your muscle-lacking naked bodies
lie plugged in to snow-pea-from-Hell shaped waterbed
Still with me? OK, keep up: Several renegade humans have miraculously escaped from their involuntary slumber and have mobilized to fight back by liberating more and more humans from their respective dreamscapes. One such liberated gent known as Neo (that's Keanu Reeves) is prophesized to be the savior of us all in this struggle for human liberation. However from the outset, as far as he knows, he's just some dude who digs hacking into computers in the "life" that he only suspects to be somewhat disingenuous. Henceforth, once awakened from his virtual slumber, he must be trained to fight by those who released him: Morpheus (that's Larry from Higher Learning), and Trinity, (Carrie Anne-Moss as a leather-clad Venus who can do a spider walk on par with most Marvel Comic Illustrators), Neo soon realizes that the most logical and obvious resolution to combating imperialist computers is with lots of large guns and anti-gravity Kung fu.
Writers/directors/shaman Andy and Larry Wachowski make this particular point very, very effectively. Guns + kung fu = defeat the robots. It's awesome. If you haven't seen it, you should. Incidentally, the Matrix of '99 also had special effects, except they were better than these new ones in Reloaded. They had weight, they had character, and as most humans would hope to have themselves, they had purpose.
Purpose. Much ballyhoo is made of this idea in The Matrix Reloaded -- to the point that it becomes uncomfortably self-damning. Amidst pauses between these crank-addled hyper kinetic displays of special effects that will long justify any silent party's adult diaper investments, the movie pauses to discuss the concept of "purpose;" purpose of the individual, purpose of the collective, purpose of man, purpose of the machine.
I heard this mousy Asian man known only as "The Keymaker" says things like "it is my purpose." I saw Neo periodically ask Trinity (paraphrasing) "what is my purpose?" There is a maddeningly annoying Frenchman who guards the Keymaker ranting about purpose, cause, effect, choices, orgasm-inducing chocolate cake, and wiping your ass with silk.
It would all be very heady and interesting stuff if the movie paused
to entertain the significance of this repetition, but it doesn't. Instead,
Should this be or should this not, fuck the future, this is a problem
RIGHT NOW. As it stands now, I'm a bit unclear as to what
Oh yeah, before I forget to mention, there's also a whole lot of yammering about "choice" too. It's everywhere. Choose this, choose that, wait, can I choose anything if everything is preordained?! Um, preordained?! Doesn't anyone have free will up in this bitch? It feels like it, but do we? Don't expect answers.
These stream of conscience questions all get cut into fourths by the time the movie is over. On one hand, it's exhilarating and ballsy. On the other, it makes me wish I'd spent this past winter brushing up on my Kant.
Problematically, each of these new ideas is handled with an equal lightweight measure of rapid-fire exposition followed immediately with rapid-fire kung fu. Carrying on this rhythm throughout the film's running time, it's nearly impossible to place value on what is sincerely important to the progression of these characters, and what is tangential.
Even Hugo Weaving, playing Neo's arch nemesis Agent Smith, speaks as if his notorious trademark monotone molasses drawl from the first film was quickened and compressed just to cut to the action quicker. Recall the now infamous clips of that absurd sequence where Smith copies himself 100 times over, and Neo must defend himself against all of them, piling over top of him one after another like...well..a pile-on?
Okay, that scene is relentlessly exciting and as deftly miraculous as
anything I've seen on my weekly outings to the ballet, but it's executed
nearly devoid of drama, and offering only the slightest dribbles of tension
and buildup. In the first film, these fight sequences are treated as physical
illustrations of the Wachowski's cerebral pontificating. Here in Reloaded,
the fight sequences seem separate
Oddly enough, as so many of the fight sequences with Neo the human messiah battling his virtual reality agents play intentionally like a video game, (dude, metaphor!), I never sensed any kind of ascendancy to a higher (or at least different) gaming level from the place that I was in the film before the fight began. I felt permanently landlocked, even as the bodies were soaring. And they do indeed soar.
As is given to any ingenious Matrix-like convolution designed to keep you perpetually second-guessing what you see and what you know, I invite the twelve individuals left on Earth that have yet to see the film to entertain the final possibility that it may be quite simply a raging slab of stupid. It is possible.
I don't eat any Gnosticism, I only read Baudrillard after seeing the first movie, and I don't know how to spell Nietzche, that part was copy-edited. I may very well lack the intelligence quota to properly synthesize the penultimate meanings of the philosophy, the kung fu, the mixed metaphors (visual and verbal), the elephant-sized weaponry, the mirror symbols, the giant killer robots, the key symbols, the religious implications, and those more-hardwired-than-thou sunglasses into a judgment that passes as credible.
Should this be the case, I'll be retiring to my dunce corner to re-count the racial epithets in Higher Learning, and I'll probably try to drag most of you down with me.