Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #443
Number of Views: Multiple
Release Date: May 15, 2003
Sub-Genre: Cyberpunk Sci-Fi
Country of Origin: Australia/United States
Box Office: $742,100,000
Running Time: 138 minutes
Director: Andy & Larry Wachowski
Producer: Joel Silver
Screenplay: Andy & Larry Wachowski
Special Effects: Jason Baird, Steve Courtley, Hans Metz, Clay Pinney
Visual Effects: Lynne Cartwright, Stephane Ceretti, John DesJardin, John Gaeta, Dan Glass, Bryan Hirota, Rodney Iwashina, John Nelson, Mike Schmitt, Joe Takai, Janek Sirrs
Cinematography: Bill Pope
Score: Don Davis
Editing: Zach Staenberg
Studios: Village Roadshow Pictures, NPV Entertainment, Silver Pictures
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures, Roadshow Entertainment (Australia)
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gloria Foster, Harold Perrineau, Monica Bellucci, Lambert Wilson, Randall Duk Kim, Harry Lennix, Anthony Zerbe, Nona Gaye, Helmut Bakaitis, Neil Rayment, Adrian Rayment, Daniel Bernhardt, Collin Chou, Ian Bliss, Leigh Whannell, Gina Torres, Nathaniel Lees, Roy Jones, Jr., David A. Kilde, Matt McColm, Cornel West, Steve Bastoni, Anthony Wong, Clayton Watson, Tiger Chen
Suggested Audio Jukebox
 Fluke “Zion”
 Don Davis vs Juno Reactor “Burly Brawl”
 Rob Dougan “Chateau”
Talk about a quandary. How the hell do you set about trumping perfection? I would imagine that poser kept The Wachowski Brothers/Siblings, awake at night as they plotted to upgrade their 1999 marvel into a full-blown trilogy. The Matrix is one of three sci-fi masterpieces which have achieved their zen during my filmic development; James Cameron’s The Terminator and Christopher Nolan’s Inception being the others. It simply could not have been improved upon and following it up was always going to prove a thankless task. However, when The Matrix Reloaded finally hit the multiplexes, amidst unparalleled hype outside the Star Wars universe, audiences and critics alike scratched their heads in disbelieving unison and it appeared that the brothers had come something of a cropper.
I think that it is safe to assume that disappointment was the order of the day for most; providing shock jocks ample ammunition to keep them in insults for the next decade alone. Those searching for meaning were left reeling come The Architect’s lengthy monologue, while anybody craving their fix of adrenaline were frustrated by, you guessed it, The Architect’s lengthy monologue. Up until that point, perhaps both camps would have let any earlier indiscretions slide, but that appears to be the moment where the famed Wachowskis’ shit started to stink once more like everyone else’s. While time and repeat views may have softened hard noses some; if you stop a random Joe in the street and ask them their opinion of The Matrix Reloaded, then I can pretty much guarantee two reactions in turn. Firstly, a frown, as they attempt to recall whether you are speaking of the second or third movie. Then, a smirk. I must confess that I find it all vaguely ridiculous.
You see, while I too have my own particular beefs with this mildly pretentious but still joyous sequel, they haven’t stopped me from revisiting it on numerous occasions. My case in point is this: last night I caught it airing on freeview and sat gurning like Randle Patrick McMurphy after a round of shock treatment for over two hours while I drank it in. As I reached the final code, I then switched channels, and lo-and-behold was presented with the freeway chase scene courtesy of the network’s +1 cousin, which I drooled over a second time. Now, call me a Muppet and I’ll light the lights, but the last time I checked that would be considered a distinct positive yes?
In case you haven’t yet noticed; allow me to explain where I’m going with all of this. I could sit here stroking a beard which clearly isn’t present, dropping science faster than Miles Dyson’s kill switch after T-100 tickled his instep, and where would it leave us? Confused probably with me included. Others may wish to wax lyrical on philosophy, name dropping everyone from Plato to The Almighty One in the process, but I’m disinterested in coming across as a smart Aleck. As a mark of respect to the original themeology of The Matrix, I would rather take the red pill and leave all the other ignoramuses harvesting in blissful oblivion. Sure, their steak will taste better than mine but, to coin a phrase from the first film, “to deny our own impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human”. Baffled yet? Then fret not, as all is about to be explained…in Lehman’s terms.
I’m going to ignore the temptation to come across more psychologically dexterous than The Wachowskis and, instead, I’ll keep shit simple. Ultimately, accusations of pompousness aside, that’s what it all boils down to. Once hope has been relinquished of this proving a completely gratifying continuation of our new favorite futuristic lore, and all Star Wars beanies are discarded, we all want to know if it will make our dicks rigid (or docks flooded if the slipper fits). How do the action sequences fare up? What of the new characters? How many Smiths in the infamous Burly Brawl are actually Hugo Weaving? You know; human shit. It is by casting an eye over The Matrix Reloaded from this particular vantage, that you will find the true answer to your conundrum. All things considered, is it actually any good?
Let’s start at the top shall we? Our first pre-requisite when handing over our Washingtons at the box office would be action right? Make no mistake, The Matrix resonated on many levels, but ultimately most of us remember it for its lobby scene and surrounding second act dynamics. This was our pay-off for breaking bread with the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar and certain snapshot moments are still amongst my most treasured to this very day. So clearly the Warchowskis were always going to give us more second time out right? Indeed they do and the result is a number of debilitating set pieces which are pretty much beyond compare with regards to expelled adrenaline.
The aforementioned freeway skirmish, comprising its own custom-built interstate and shot over a three-month period, is exhilarating in the über-extreme and worthy of anyone’s top ten list or I simply ain’t Keeper. It pits Trinity, our beloved Morpheus, and the freshly cut Keymaker, against three of the most hideous threats imaginable: impending agents, a pair of ethereal rogue twin jellyfish, and relentless rush-hour expressway traffic. This scene also stands out in particular given that every character other than our leading man is ultimately disposable and is also the reason why the shatterproof Neo’s multiple bouts aren’t quite as engaging second time out, in spite of additional adversaries, some outlandish wire gymnastics, and a scary amount of CGI, most of which works while some is vaguely overkilled.
The Burly Brawl is almost entirely faux-footage and, if we wish to be pedantic, maybe the cracks begin to show a little. However, film is all about suspending disbelief, even if that means squinting our eyes on occasion. What the pair achieved is still pretty fucking preposterous in the very best way. But it isn’t all buttered scones and Earl Grey for the Wachowskis as there is something lacking, at least, for a trigger happy slinger such as I. There simply isn’t enough gunplay to fully sate my appetite for destruction, since Neo mastered the art of butchering airborne bullets. This is a personal gripe as many of you out there are all about the bar room brawl but, regardless, I missed the alloy carnage of the first film a little.
So on to the characters and it is here that I take the greatest umbrage with The Matrix Reloaded as, too many chefs may not necessarily spoil the broth, but they will make your kitchen a tad overcrowded. Like Back To The Future Part II, the experience suffers from trying to be a touch over-ambitious, introducing us to many cool characters in the interim and then negating to flesh them out sufficiently. Sure we get Link (Harold Perrineau) but his position as the ship’s flight operator renders him superfluous to peril for the most part. There is also a tantalizing hint of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and she even gets to attach the aviation cables during one brief instance of aerobatics. But what of Soren, Ghost, and the other leather-clad nobodies? Many of them are far too expendable and given the Switch treatment before we can ask them if the crotch rides up in their pants. Others just aren’t afforded the screen time to care about their fates as much as we wish to.
With regard to the enemies, there are a number of flash new additions. The Twins (Former TV handymen Neil and Adrian Rayment) are a white chocolate delight, phasing through solids with chalky dreads flailing wildly during their fifteen minutes of fame. Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and Persephone (Monica Bellucci) are a welcome addition also and the restaurant exchange is veal of the highest order. For the record, Merovingian’s outburst “Nom de Dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculé de ta mère” actually translates to “Goddamn Whore Filthy Shithouse Jerk Bugger of your mother” proving, without resistance, that swearing in French really is the best thing ever.
Speaking of Bellucci again for a further moment, we don’t need The Architect to explain what is running through Neo’s head when she requests a little lip service. The fact that Trinity is scowling behind his back, itching to spout “dodge this” to the home-wrecking harlot in question, while he soundly slathers her tonsils, just makes him all the stiffer. If you look closely; even Morpheus is concealing an erection.
It was always going to prove an impractical challenge for the Wachowskis opening the Matrix universe further and not expecting to leave themselves stretched, particularly given that the secondary dynamic which set the original apart was the time spent hanging out in crew quarters while we learned of the bogus system threat for the first time. Here, there simply isn’t time to make things that personal. If wham! and blam! are words that ignite your pleasure dome then jack yourselves in as The Matrix Reloaded certainly can’t be accused of leaving the safety on. All things considered, it is still an absolute joy to watch, which peeks over the firewall a little more with each subsequent reboot. I shall refrain from signing off with a quote from The Architect, although he does make sense once you learn to forgive him his inexorable vis-à-vis and ergos, and “denial is the most predictable of all human responses” would have been a doozy to end on. Instead, in the words of Merovingian: “Choice is an illusion created between those with power and those without”. I implore you to make the right choice Grueheads. You’ll thank me once you do.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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