The Matrix Reloaded (15)
I recall being unimpressed by The Matrix on its release four years ago, so in a way I felt vindicated when The Matrix Reloaded burst onto the screen and I found it just as incoherent, stultifying and laced with sci-fi psychobabble.
My review of the first film called it “one long, unfathomable vortex of impenetrability” with “flashes of brilliance”. I stand by those words, even though the film went on to make zillions and the sequel is arguably the most hotly anticipated ever.
Alas, Matrix Reloaded is no better. In fact, it’s worse in the way only a blockbuster sequel can be – especially when the largely untested filmmakers the Wachowski Brothers have been given both a blank cheque and a blank canvas. One is bad enough; two is unthinkable.
The films’ basic premise is that the human world is an illusion created by The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence that aims to wipe out mankind. Existing outside of The Matrix is a band of guerrillas, including Neo (Keanu Reeves), a superhuman figure known as ‘the one’ who, says an ancient prophecy, will deliver mankind from annihilation.
Following on immediately from the events of the first film, Reloaded takes almost two-and-a-half hours to tell a flimsy story, but does it in the most dazzlingly dense fashion possible.
In this one Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and the other regulars are given a mission: break into the mainframe of The Matrix to prevent an invasion of the underground haven known as Zion. If they succeed, Zion and its people – 250,000 of them – survive. Fail and the city falls. The result: genocide.
The film opens with a part slo-mo bike stunt involving leather-clad actionwoman Trinity (Moss), a massive explosion, the demolition of a number of heavies and her death (we suppose) as an agent pumps a bullet – in slow motion again – into her chest. The Wachowskis then propel forward what passes for the plot as Neo, Trinity, Morpheus (Fishburne) and an array of newcomers seek to prevent the machines from reaching Zion.
In truth there exists merely a sliver of plot amongst a barrage of special effects, fight sequences and myriad other eye-popping wizardry. The problem is that the battles and martial arts moments appear to be there not to add to the story but instead of punctuate long-winded speeches packed with arcane dialogue and prevent audiences descending into torpor.
It doesn’t work. Ninety minutes in this reviewer was bored witless by the meandering narrative. It doesn’t take a genius to understand the plot but it takes an idiot to be taken in by Warner Bros. and the actors’ conviction that what we are watching is a picture of such import, such epoch-making mysticism, that the message – with its quasi-Biblical connotations and references to a cyberpunk messiah – is in there to find and it is up to us to find it.
What rot. The truth of this King’s New Clothes movie is that it is overblown and underwhelming to the point that it eventually disappears up its own euphemism. The new Star Wars movies have failed through being underwritten; Matrix Reloaded is overwritten to the extent of raiding the thesaurus for all the long, complicated and impressive-sounding words – just like a high school kid trying to impress in an essay but succeeding only in creating confusion.
It’s the Wachowskis’ catastrophic failure that the script, with its cod philosophy and mystic overtones, bamboozles its audience when it should impress them. After all, that’s what Peter Jackson did with Tolkien’s words in The Lord of the Rings. The Wachowksis should follow his example.
The Matrix Reloaded gets two reluctant stars for its technology. The rest is drivel.
Star rating: **