Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writers: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Is it a bird, is it a plane — is it Superman? No. It’s Matrix Reloaded. Not quite machine, not quite human, not quite movie, not quite video game, Reloaded is so much faster than a speeding bullet that the comic book transmogrification to big screen makes leaping tall buildings at a single leap seem like child’s play. Matrix Reloaded is no Matrix, but for the kid in all of us, heroes who can counteract the modern madness of terror are welcome. Too bad it’s just a movie.”
Caught up – as I was – by the extraordinary ability of the first Matrix to reach beyond the common place, turning Hollywood’s familiar simplistic and dualistic resolutions of the never-ending fight between good and evil into an inspirational Zen koan, I naturally anticipated something less from its sequel, Matrix Reloaded. Matrix had spun the complex, elusive psychological concepts of personal integration and transformation into a world class film. It aroused hearts and turned minds toward a hopeful vision — an ordinary human being could overcome the enemy within, fighting back against war in the world by means within personal grasp.
Very satisfying. And not, in my opinion, needy of a sequel.
But I’d heard that Matrix Reloaded redefined the meaning of space and time in movies and so, if for no other reason than curiosity, I bought a ticket. I wanted to see how close the Wachowskis could come to spinning the straw of their mind’s eye into the gold of cyberspace. Sure enough, they did just that.
They don’t beat the Matrix. They don’t tell a better story, embellishing poorly on the old one with a nod to the triumph of love over death that fails to create anything more than old-fashioned romantic chemistry. They reload the issue of mind over matter but create more laughter than thoughtfulness. The idea of imagining reality into existence, a mystery of Aborigine origin touched upon in the first Matrix becomes, as I said, like leaping tall buildings in Matrix Reloaded. Funny book time, not timelessness. Special effects take over, delighting the eye with tricks that require no explanation and make no demand. Updated, with an invisible someone pushing the red and blue buttons of choice on the controller.
Matrix Reloaded is open to so much criticism of character, plot and meaning that the only way to engage is not to. If you can, don’t think of it as a sequel. Reloaded actually unloads what was significant in Matrix. In Matrix, Neo integrated Agent Smith, bearer of an evil machine reality that stole the human soul, but now Smith returns with the human ability to clone himself without restraint. This guts the original Matrix promise that evil can be integrated and transformed by an enlightened consciousness. You could identify with an underlying scheme of truth and possibility in Matrix, make it your own. The characters felt both real and not. The plot seemed plausible and not. The significance held true, entertaining the adolescent and affirming the adult. But in Reloaded, heroic feats are so far beyond human accomplishment that they deny personal identification.
The point of invisible marionette’s strings is to stimulate a participatory emotion, creating an empathic connection between audience and puppet. Reloaded goes the other way, separating observer and actor by making it impossible for viewer to identify with character. Stereotyped to the max, love and affection as well as lust and thrust are flattened, stripped of messy feelings that could get out of control. A mob scene with no heat? A love scene on a concrete pedestal? And the high jinks on the freeway are beyond anyone, suitable only to a super computerized action figure. No real person could ever catch himself by the toes of his shoes on the back end of a truck roof traveling seventy miles an hour on a freeway. Yet for the kid in all of us who loves a game where no one stays dead for very long, no high speed chase scene could go on for too long because there’s always the next wild, way out, over-the-top, gravity defying feat coming up.
Funnily enough, Reloaded gives away the secret of what keeps a kid (and lots of adults) sitting for hours playing video games. It’s a form of soft core gambling! Repetitive, newfound chances to win against all odds keep popping up, leaving the player swimming hopefully upstream against a powerful downward spiraling current of adversity. Magical forces and splendiferous entities morph into different concoctions of good and evil to pit their wits against one another, momentarily claim power and then lose it. The good guys fight against despotic rules and regulations for the sake of freedom and love. The bad guys bear down like evil weevils, attempting to suck the life out of the good guys’ core of motivation and determination. That’s the spin. And the reloaded truth, “Some things never change, and some things do.”
Not without redeeming features; Matrix Reloaded jams from beginning to end with life-saving conquests, overlapping realities and doors of perception. It leaves a few questions hanging in the air for now and future consideration. When is a dream not a dream? Who’s really in control? What’s the role of belief, purpose and prophesy? What’s choice got to do with it?
The Wachowskis reliably bend time and space into a thrilling, never-seen-before action event that, most likely, will change the way we see things in film for a long time to come.
And it’s not too much of a stretch to see Lois Lane morphed into Trinity; she still needs to be rescued by a super man.
Take your earplugs. Be prepared to laugh. It’s no sequel.
“Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound —
‘Look, up in the sky,’ ‘It’s a bird,’ ‘It’s a plane,’
‘It’s Superman….’ ” Reloaded.