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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Matrix: Reloaded

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 16, 2003 -- “The Matrix: Reloaded,” like its predecessor, “The Matrix” (1999), is an action movie combined with philosophy. This time the philosophy is more complex, or at least not as clear. While the first movie melded the two themes together pretty well, the sequel ends up with a kind of schizophrenic approach. There is a lot of high energy action, and then, whoa, we stop and talk in riddles for a time about the meaning of existence, free will versus determinism, and other heady stuff. It is sort of like a car moving through heavy traffic, speed up, slow down, speed up. Another annoying thing, it is only half a movie. To find out what happens, you have to tune in later this year for another sequel, “The Matrix: Revolution.” This particular sequel ends with a sort of cliffhanger. Still, it is worth watching, if nothing else, for the great fight scenes, a great car chase and great special effects.

The three main characters are back this time, Thomas “Neo” Anderson (played by Keanu Reeves), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-anne Moss), along with their faithful nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). There is also a new crew member on Morpheus' ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, Link (Harold Perrineau) the new pilot for the glorified hovercraft. Other new characters include Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) another pilot who has a past history with Morpheus, and Zion political leader, Councillor Hamann (played by veteran actor Anthony Zerbe, who usually plays heavies). There are some new villains too, in addition to the usual agents, Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), an unusually powerful and snobbish rogue A.I. program and his two twin muscle men, played by twins Adrian and Neil Rayment. The twins can instantly turn into “ghosts” and pass through walls, or let bullets and swords pass through them, and then instantly rematerialize in order to attack. Very cool.

In "Reloaded" we find that Neo has progressed in his powers. He is now an almost invincible fighter and he can control the Matrix to a greater degree. He is able to fly through the air like superman, for instance. However, we find out that not only has Agent Smith not been destroyed, he is able to clone himself and now there are a whole bunch of him. Not only that, but he is no longer controlled by the Matrix program. He has become a rogue agent by aquiring some of Neo's powers. He is even more dangerous than before. The story picks up with Neo heading back for another meeting with the mysterious Oracle (Gloria Foster). He is sent on another quest, this time to find the key maker (I'm not making this up), and it isn't Rick Moranis, it is Randall Duk Kim. If Neo can get the key to the right door he can actually access the Matrix program which has enslaved most of the human race. If he doesn't, Zion, the underground home of the last free humans, will be destroyed.

Most humans, of course, are trapped in soupy cocoons, hooked up to tubes and wires. Controlled by the Matrix program, they think they are living a real life, but in fact are only dreaming. Their real purpose in life is to act as batteries to feed the energy needs of the artificial intelligence computers who control them. Neo and other rebels seek to free them. There are some important hints in the film about what is really going on in the world of the Matrix. One of these hints has to do with Neo's battle against the machines attacking Zion. I won't go into it here, but the film does give you some important evidence about what will be revealed about the nature of the Matrix in the next film.

The philosophy of the Matrix has to do with free will versus determinism, and phenomenology. Free will is the idea that we can make real choices in life. Determinism is the idea that either we have no real power to make choices, or that we can make choices, but those choices are pre-determined by cause and effect events going back to the beginning of time. One school of thought holds that no matter what choice we make, we can't change the future. This could be called fatalistic determinism. The other deterministic school of thought holds that our choices determine the future. This latter idea, at least, allows for individual responsibility. Phenomenology is the idea that we can't trust our senses to tell us what is going on in the real world. For all we know, we could be a brain in a jar being fed electrical impulses to convice us we have a real life. We know that all our five senses are mere electrical impulses, so, in theory at least, we know nothing about the real world. There are several good essays on the philosophy of the first Matrix film on “The Matrix: Reloaded” web page.

Although the first film explored these ideas fairly well, they are explored in greater depth in this sequel. There is a good deal of discussion about the prophecy of the coming of a savior of the human race. That savior is Neo. The religious connotations are obvious. There is also more discussion about what may, or may not be real in the world of the Matrix. More layers of complexity are added, but the discussion tends to be too drawn out and it does tend to bog down the film. The fight scenes, however, are spectacular, as are the stunts and special effects. There is one great sequence where Neo fights off a whole army of Agent Smith clones. Another great fight is between Neo and the Oracle's bodyguard (Collin Chou). There is also an extended car chase that is truly spectacular. Even though the pace of the film is very uneven and it does get too talky at times, there is plenty of eye candy to keep you entertained. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)