The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded

Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gloria Foster. Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski. Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 (anamorphic). Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French). Two discs. 138 minutes. 2003. Warner Bros. 28648. R. $29.95.

Picture ****
Film ***

I don't read reviews of films before I go to see them in the theater. They tend to prohibit you from forming your own opinion. But before I saw The Matrix Reloaded in the digital theater at The Grove in Los Angeles, I overheard some wannabe hipsters talking about the ending. I won't spoil it for you by revealing their comments, but let's just say, when I saw the film, I was prepared for the worst. I was pleasantly surprised when, despite my annoyance with the unsolicited, eavesdropped critique, I loved the sequel to The Matrix almost as much as the original.

Most folks claim that Reloaded was too abrupt, that the action sequences are overlong, and that the philosophical musings in the film are hard to grasp, perhaps because they aren't philosophical at all, just sound that way. This leads me to think that American audiences have become intolerably jaded if they can't simply sit back and enjoy a couple of hours of nonstop, over-the-top action and good fun. If the deeper meaning escapes you, why not have fun over a burger and a beer after the show trying to figure it out? And if the film seems abrupt, consider the fact that the next installment, The Matrix: Revolutions, will be out in theaters by the time you read this. It's a "To Be Concluded," and it's not as though we have to wait two years for that to happen. While film school 101 maintains that every movie should be a self-contained unit, with a beginning, middle, and end, I think it's refreshing to see the Wachowski brothers thinking outside the box.

The second installment of The Matrix saga combines all the usual elements of a great action flick—special effects, chases, romance, heroes, villains—and gives us a glimpse into the iceberg that lurks below the surface only discussed in the first film: Zion. We travel down into the Earth's core to experience the community that defies the machines that use humans for electrical energy. The most criticized scene, in which Zionists participate in a rave-like exposition of dancing and rallying for the machines' coming attack (they'll be arriving in only 36 hours!), does feel a bit like a Diesel-inspired music video.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) has learned to fly (this is where the CG shows its colors), which begs the question: When being attacked, why doesn't he simply fly away? I suppose that would make for boring action sequences.

Toward the end of the film, we start to see characters that are sure to have more prominent roles in Part 3, including Matrix Architect (Helmut Bakaltis), who presents Neo with some existential conundrums that aren't really resolved by film's end, leading to more complaints by critics.

The DVD is reloaded with extras, including Preload, a behind-the-scenes featurette; The Matrix Unfolds, a look at the trilogy's phenomenon; a documentary on the making of the freeway chase scene; yet another featurette on the making of the game; and much more.

The sound and picture are both first-class. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is plenty exciting, with tons of surround-sound action, especially in the car-chase scene, with natural dialog and music. The video displays no artifacts, and is crystal-clear. Of course, this isn't the most colorful film, its visual palette being slightly skewed toward the greenish end of things which, of course, is intentional and coincides with the look of the first film.

In short, Reloaded is an exellent DVD and film. A must-have for your collection of reference discs.—KR