The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski

When a sequel is made or, in the case of The Matrix Reloaded, the second movie in a series (in this case, a trilogy, like The Lord of the Rings), it inevitably is compared to the first. The general consensus is that this film is The Matrix on steroids. Visually, this is certainly true. In terms of the story, it’s also true – at least in a sense. It is more convoluted (and the original was fairly complex to begin with).

The Matrix Reloaded takes the first movie and does variations on it – again, visually and in story terms. There is more action and more complicated action. There are more characters and more complicated relationships. It is almost a growing biological organism. In fact, the operative word really is “more.”

And this is what a follow-up film is intended to do (though “follow—up” is a poor word choice). It gives its audience what it liked in the first movie, and more of it. But in this instance it also takes what the filmmakers liked about the first and allows them to do more.

Generally, it succeeds, and succeeds exceedingly well. One of the elements added to this movie that was largely lacking in the first is stronger, better enunciated character relationships.

The first is the romantic relationship between Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss). But it’s not there simply for having a love element in the film.

The relationship becomes key to the entire plot of the movie.

There are also the relationships (usually romantic) of other characters, like Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). And, as another key relationship, Neo and the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis).

These relationships provide threads, almost breadcrumbs, we can follow through the numerous and lengthy action sequences. Thus, there is no sense of tedium through lower key scenes or expository moments. I think the Wachowski brothers know that the action, spectacular and eye-riveting though it might be, is not enough. What holds us is the humanizing of the characters (trite though this may sound).

Where the first movie established a world, and established principle characters, and enthralled us by technique and technology, this second film does the unexpected, at least for this kind of movie. It wants our heart along with our attention and, largely, it gets it. It gives us style and special effects but it also gives us more interesting characters and a more compelling story.

My one gripe is the ending, which is an unabashed, “To be concluded,” finish. I personally think that even in the case of a trilogy a film should be able to stand alone, outside the context of the trilogy, even if it suggests a further instalment. In The Matrix Reloaded, I think the film could have ended a few scenes before it did. Those last few are almost tacked on as a teaser for the final film. From a marketing perspective, this probably is a great idea. From an artistic perspective though, I think it hobbles the movie.

But I suppose that’s a minor complaint. This is a great movie and more than outdoes the first film, which was itself great. It is multi-layered movie, so it allows for many viewings (and not simply to scene the special effects again).

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