The original Matrix film was an outstanding visual treat and a successful sci-fi film which integrated psychological themes into its story. The movie was based on the fact that reality was not what people thought it was. Machines had tried to destroy the human race, but found that they couldn't survive without them and that humans produce energy which they could harvest for themselves. To do this the machines hooked up humans to a computer program called the Matrix, designed to fool them into thinking they were living the real world. At the same time their bodies were used to produce the machines power. A small number of the humans had escaped the Matrix and one of these, Neo, is supposed to be the one to change all that. Reloaded is the second part in this trilogy and carries forward the story of those who have escaped from the Matrix. The first movie changed the way fight scenes would be filmed and its CGI effects were spell binding, with Bullet time being ripped off by many films which followed, including many parodies.
Reloaded opens with Neo unable to sleep and he is beginning to see the future, this sight only confirms that he is the one. The machines have also upgraded since our last visit to the Matrix and it turns out that Mr Smith is no longer an agent but is in fact a rogue program that is out to get Neo at all costs. The machines are also digging down towards Zion the last human city with the intention of wiping out the occupants for good. But the prophesy must be fulfilled by Neo and after meeting with the oracle he is given the way to end the cycle. We are also introduced to more new characters, some of them human; some of them rogue programs within the matrix. In fact we are told that many programs still exist within the Matrix doing their own thing separate from machines. And then there is the question of choice, does choice exists or are we just following predetermined paths laid out for us?
What strikes me about Reloaded is how badly paced the story is, we are shown many things which just make you wonder what the Director's were thinking about, or if the movie is just style over substance. Take the visit to Zion, we had up until now only heard about the place but we are taken there near the start of the movie. The design and scope is impressive, but what I can't get my head around is the fact killer machines are coming to kill them all, so they have a rave party! What is all that about? Is it symbolic of getting rid of your fears to prepare for war? To me it was just an unnecessary scene which went on far too long without adding anything to the pace of the movie. And there are a few moments like this during the movie where we just seem to stop for a fight scene or stunt sequence, destroying the forward momentum of the story. Then we have the last half hour where things just appear to be rushed and out of sync with the rest of the movie. Alright so this is a middle trilogy movie and there are many things which need to be covered so we can progress to the finale, and there is plenty of good storyline to cover, it just seems to get lost in the quest for style.
The movie needed to move the bar this time around where CGI and other effects are concerned and overall it succeeds. But there are a few moments where the effects seem to fall flat, many being the fight scenes. Where in the first movie there was an element of danger and style along with breathtaking choreography, there are a few fight scenes, such as the park fight, were it falls flat. Yes visually it looks stunning, but when the main characters (Neo and the many Mr Smiths) are switched to CGI to make things even more impressive it just looks silly. But where the movie and effects guys hit pay dirt is the freeway chase, which is absolutely stunning in scope and pacing. This one 14 minute chase will go down in cinema history as the best car chase yet seen in any movie, yes it is set in an imaginary world where normal physics don't exist, but as a piece of action cinema it is breathtaking!
So this time around the story gets bogged down in a movie which struggles with its pacing and where many scenes are just not necessary. But there is enough within the movie which makes it worthwhile watching and the next step in the Matrix story, let's just hope that they get everything right in November with Revolutions.
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