Sometimes movie previews can be deceiving.
Menacing machines stalk the smoldering, post-apocalyptic ruins of Earth. Explosions rock the darkened city skyline as a figure emerges on the horizon – the one person who can save humankind from annihilation from the machines. Who is this man? Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.”
“Aren’t we about to see this movie?” asks one voice in the dark movie theater minutes before the premiere of “The Matrix Reloaded.” The answer is yes, but the suggested similarity between the two movies is more Hollywood marketing strategy than artistic plagiarism.
In the four years since the release of “The Matrix,” the futuristic world created by the brother/writer directing duo Larry and Andy Wachowski has become a serious part of pop culture iconography.
So does “The Matrix Reloaded” break its own cliches and meet the hype? Well … yes and no. It’s your choice. “Reloaded” is a much-welcomed summer blockbuster, following a calm six months at the box office. What “Reloaded” isn’t, however, is a compact movie. New characters are introduced, new places in the real world and in the matrix are revealed, the mythology of the story is expanded and the almost-two and a half hour movie ends with a puzzling cliffhanger.
Buzz has been building behind “Reloaded” since filming completed eight months ago. As elements of the plot were leaked and pictures from the set released during post-production, the story began to take shape. Neo (Keanu Reeves), still thought to be The One, must save the human city of Zion from an army of a quarter-million machines drilling their way to the city. To do so, he must find the answers inside the matrix from a mysterious older man known as the Keymaker. Neo is also having prophetic dreams about his lover Trinity’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) death.
Despite the movie’s immense topical coverage, several scenes have created the buzz a bit more than others.
Zion is the last human refuge on Earth, a city with 250,000 inhabitants located deep under the planet’s surface. Visually the city is stunning, but the flat dialogue between Zion’s politicos could benefit from the help of Aaron Sorkin. The large crowd scene, which featured Morpheus preaching from the mountain top, quickly shifted from a solemn ceremony to a war rally, to an orgy of scantily-clad extras with muddy feet. In a movie already running well over two hours, this scene was unnecessary. If the Wachowskis wanted to show Neo and Trinity having sex, there was no need to be all artsy and incorporate it in with a bunch of booty-dancing hippies.
The Burly Brawl – a massive fight between Neo and 100 Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) has to be cool, right? Well, not really. While virtual cinematography (AKA Bullet-time v2.0), allows both Reeves and Weaving to look and move like super heroes, there is little emotion involved in the fight. Agent Smith is supposed to be Neo’s nemesis, but the interaction between the characters has been reduced to drop kicks and side punches.
The freeway chase – One and a half miles of roadway were built for this scene where Morpheus, Trinity and the Keymaker try to escape from a slew of agents and a pair of freaky twin bodyguards (Neil and Adrian Rayment). The action does not stop during the entire 14-minute chase as cars are crashed and flipped. Morpheus battles on top of an 18-wheeler and Trinity zips past both against traffic on a motorcycle. The only thing that is perhaps slightly unbelievable is the cemented look of Trinity’s slick hair.
Much of the movie’s exposition is uneven compared to the action and fight sequences. Neo’s diatribes with the-mysterious Oracle (Gloria Foster) and Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) are two scenes that seem to have escaped the unrelenting press hype, nevertheless, they should be mentioned.
The Oracle reveals some shocking secrets about herself that will certainly surprise moviegoers. In this scene, Reeves plays Neo with a steely calm that works for his character. Despite the weight of the dialogue, the scene remains subtle allowing it to pose more questions than answers.
Neo meets the Architect towards the end of the movie while navigating the hidden passageways of the matrix. An older man with a gray beard and grave voice, the Architect could possibly fill the position of God in “The Matrix’s” biblical character chart. He too tells Neo secrets about the matrix, but ones that seriously endangers the validity of his destiny.
Much like Neo and Agent Smith, the Oracle and Architect present a dichotomy to one another both in character and beliefs. It is this opposition that should really drive audiences to see the third part of “The Matrix” series.
“To be concluded,” reads the title before the credits roll, but be sure to stay seated for the 60-second teaser for “The Matrix Revolutions,” set for release on November 15. While at times a bit drawn out and overly verbose, “The Matrix Reloaded” certainly delivers a cinematic punch worth experiencing. Whether or not the sequel meets the expectations of moviegoers is hard to say. But considering the momentum it has created, the hype over this revolutionary trilogy may just be met.