Pugnaciously Invigorating Matrix Reloaded Flies High
That’s my initial reaction to the sure-to-be-classic freeway chase that helps close out The Matrix Reloaded. A smorgasbord of speed, noise, violence and unmitigated how-did-they-do-that glee, this might be one of the most incredible, eye-popping actions sequences I’ve ever seen – even with the cheesy techno music.
Granted, William Friedkin (The French Connection) and John Frankenheimer (Ronin) didn’t have the technological resources Lana and Lily Wachowski got to utilize. They also never had a Hollywood studio build an entire freeway just for them, especially constructed so it could be systematically destroyed piece by piece. That’s quite a gift, but hot on the heels of the monstrously successful 1999 original, Warner Bros spending a few bucks on a disposable piece of asphalt likely felt like money well spent.
The chase begins with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) trying to bring a mystery man known only as “The Keymaker” (Randal Duk Kim) out of the Matrix. He is integral in trying to save the last human city, Zion, from imminent destruction. The machines have discovered its secret underground location and are currently burrowing through the Earth’s crust to destroy both it and the remainder of an emancipated humanity.
It is up to this small band of heroes to save Zion from destruction. But this is far from the only thing weighing on Neo’s (Keanu Reeves) mind. Ever since he woke to the realization that he may be “The One,” he’s been plagued with disquieting visions of the future. He’s been having them about Trinity, too, and the last thing Neo wants is for her death – the woman he loves so passionately – to be on his hands.
There’s more a lot more going on in The Matrix Reloaded. Too much more, actually, and unlike the first installment, this sequel is cluttered to the point it practically bursts apart at the seams. It doesn’t help that the Wachowskis’ pastiche of Eastern Religion, cyber-punk science fiction, comic book prophesizing and martial arts mayhem has grown slightly stale since the groundbreaking first film hit theaters. Too many imitators have dirtied the soup, making this story’s melodramatic seriousness a tad bit tiresome.
Not that this should stop people from seeing it. My reservations notwithstanding, this is still one of the most visually fascinating films released to theaters this year. The directors make the pyrotechnics and special effects pop right off the screen. It’s incredible stuff, so viscerally enthralling I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
A perfect example is the so-called “Burly Brawl” where Neo fights off an army of Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving). It’s suitably impressive, but there is much more going on underneath the surface as this fight isn’t just a feat of dazzling technical wizardry. Sure, the fight is grand, but it’s what is happening behind Neo’s eyes as he realizes how great a threat this new Agent Smith is to, not only humanity, but the Matrix as well.
It will be interesting to see how audiences react to this second chapter of this trilogy (The Matrix Revolutions has already been shot and is scheduled for release in November). The Wachowskis assume audiences know exactly who Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, Agent Smith, the Oracle (Gloria Foster) and the rest are, so there’s not much in the way of a recap. The directors also hit the ground running and don’t waste a ton of time on exposition, going from one big event to the next leaving viewers to put a lot of the pieces together on their own without a lot of assistance from them.
But there is that car chase. I still can’t get the images of Trinity weaving in and out of oncoming traffic like a human version of a Tron light cycle or of Morpheus flying through the air like he was shot out of a cannon out of my head. This freeway smash-and-dash is pure poetry of motion, the Wachowskis working at a level of kinetic visual supremacy that’s extraordinary. It’s pugnaciously invigorating and, even if it did take two hours of new age cyber-hokum to get there, thanks in large part to moments like this I simply did not want The Matrix Reloaded to end.
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)