(In theaters, May 2003) Yes, this film has flaws. Deep, serious flaws that show the self-indulgence in which the Wachowski Brothers were allowed to wallow. Falsely profound dialogue, pretentious pontificating, overlong fights, flaccid editing, ordinary writing and lopsided structural beats. Those would be enough to give pause to anyone not already plugged into the Matrix. But that’s my case, and as a fan boy, I’m pleased as punch with this second volume. The Matrix was an accident: A nerd-triumphant story that touched a mainstream nerve thanks to a few conceptual kicks and an impeccable sense of style. Matrix Reloaded is all geek no mainstream: I would be bold as to suggest that if you don’t understand why there’s a Giant Robot scene in this film, you don’t deserve to watch it: The Wachowskis now have all the means in the world to put on-screen every single little geeky obsession they’ve dreamt about for years, and they’re going to do it. While the result can be exasperating (some oh-so-profound dialogues are really meaningless –or worse, trite!) they are as often exhilarating: The “gratuitous” Seraph-Neo fight is straight out of kung-fu clichés, the equally-motivated Neo/Smith fight is an anthology sequence and that fourteen-minute car chase scene, well, it redefines the standard for action goodness. The conceptual punch of The Matrix Reloaded is equally as strong, though unfortunately back-loaded in the last five minutes, leading to a badly-paced film that could have used some tightening. Ditto with the editing, though fortunately the Wachowskis still have an impressive flair for fantastic camera work. (Best example: the gorgeous rave scene, which runs too long, diluting the strong images into something approaching self-parody.) But enough with the unkind comparisons to the original, or to our own long-idealized sequel: The Matrix Reloaded is a heady SF/action blockbuster, a perfect blend of geeky stuff I’m actually content to pay to see. The Matrix Revolutions can’t come soon enough.
(Second viewing, In theaters, June 2003) Yikes; I was afraid that a second viewing might lead me to this unpleasant conclusion: No, The Matrix Reloaded isn’t as good as its prequel. The editing is loose, the dialogues are average, the pacing is slow, especially when you measure it against the ideal set by the Wachowski Brothers in their previous effort. Oh, I don’t regret paying to see it again; even on a second viewing, the film still holds up better than most other first-run viewings. The action sequences are deeply impressive, especially considering the flawless integration of most CGI. (Unlike the first film, there are only two obvious “bullet time” moments, and they flow a lot better than previously) The images are strong, and so is the direction. A lot of the plot doesn’t make much sense (and threatens to make even less less sense the more I think about it), but I’d like to maintain reservations on that topic until I see the sequel. At this point, five months away from the concluding chapter of the trilogy, it’s difficult to get a proper grip on The Matrix Reloaded. Well, except for one thing: It could have been much better. Closer to what we wanted to see, that is.