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The Matrix Reloaded, needs reloading
The Matrix Reloaded (DVD)
Member Name: jonnyfun06
The Matrix Reloaded (DVD)
Advantages: Again amazing visuals and effects
Disadvantages: Overused effects and no story!
It has been six months since the events of the Matrix, and with the aid of The One the forces of Zion have been freeing minds from the machines at an unprecedented rate. It's enough of a threat for the machines to take action, and as the film begins, the machines have begun to tunnel to Zion, to eliminate it once and for all. While the military under Commander Lock are set to make a stand at the gates of Zion, Morpheus believes that the fulfilment of prophecy is at hand. He awaits the call of the Oracle to put into motion the events that will prove the final victory over the machines.
Neo on the other hand is himself beset with visions, and is tormented by dreams of Trinity's death. A visit to the Oracle will set forward a chain of events that will reveal the ultimate truth about the Matrix, and Neo will have to make a choice that will determine the fate of humanity.
The Matrix Reloaded has an absolutely stunning 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer, with what is to my eyes a flawless picture. The minute you see those green computer characters scrolling down the screen and realise that they are glowing with a fire and vitality that was completely absent in the first film's transfer that you realise that you are in for a treat.
The colours, the contrast, the sharpness and the sheer depth of the image is simply stunning, with the expansive sets and brilliant visual effects presented with astounding clarity.
However the downside to the immaculate transfer is the clarity with which the excessive use of CGI becomes apparent. Distracting in the cinema, here it is downright annoying, and I feel it detracts from the overall score.
The sound comes in DD 5.1 English and German flavours. It's a powerful dynamic soundtrack that is difficult to fault. The dialogue (such as it is) is clear throughout, and the superb action sequences take your speakers for an irreverent test drive. The music is in the same vein of the first film.
The extras comprise of "Preload" which lasts 22 minutes and is essentially a making of documentary, with interviews with the cast and crew. Padded with scenes from the movie and behind the scenes footage, it's essentially a brief PR piece to set up the film, the operative word being brief.
The Matrix Unfolds is a six-minute bit that takes an overall look at the Matrix phenomenon, the films, the anime and the game. All of which is repeated in further detail elsewhere on the disc making this extremely redundant.
Perhaps the most impressive piece is the Freeway Chase. 30 minutes of documentary footage regarding the creation and filming of one of the most expensive and massive car chases ever conceived. Filming of the stunt sequence alone took longer to shoot than most movies and involved building a freeway from scratch. This is probably the most rewarding extra on the disc and invites repeated viewing.
Finally there is the MTV Movie Awards sketch, which inserted Stifler and the Trousersnake a.k.a. hosts Justin Timberlake and Seann William Scott into key scenes of the film. Expecting the worst, I found this 10-minute sketch to be quite funny and irreverent.
But the bottom line is that there is no audio commentary and there is only one decent documentary. A film like the Matrix has a wealth of material that could provide hours of background footage, the martial arts training alone that the actors had to endure could fill a whole disc, not to mention the effects and stunts.
First let's get one thing clear, which is I like The Matrix Reloaded a lot. It's an amazing visual accomplishment that that is relentless in its supply of thrills and spills, but as a sequel to the first film it is adequate at best.
It's popcorn for the eyes, chewing gum for the mind that supplies a hit of intense flavour but little or no nourishment. If you are a fan of the Matrix, you probably already own this, and if you are considering buying this then I can heartily recommend it as a stunning piece of visual entertainment. But...
This is where I take my gloves off and start picking at the frayed edges, of which there are many. Whereas the first film had a complex story, rich in cultural references and possessing a unique originality, the sequel seems designed for marketing and visual effect only.
I had hoped that with the technology and style firmly established in the first film, they would make the effort to tell an exciting and interesting tale. After all, you can't invent bullet time again, and the stunning revelations and unique worldview that so enraptured audiences of the first film can't be repeated. Alas the producers went for bigger, better, faster, brighter action and stunts, choosing to neglect the narrative. The Matrix Reloaded lacks any story whatsoever.
The film lasts 2 hours, or 2 hours and 10 minutes if you include the end credits, yet for those 2 hours nothing of narrative value actually happens. As the film begins, machines tunnelling from the surface imperil Zion, as the film ends, machines tunnelling from the surface imperil Zion.
This film acts solely as filling between the two slices of bread that are The Matrix and The Matrix Revolutions. In between the action, we are drip fed revelations of the nature of the Matrix, tantalised with truths and half truths about the machine world and the human world up until the revelatory confrontation between the Neo and the Architect, which is incidentally laden with the most ponderous, unwieldy dialogue since Anakin Skywalker professed his love to Padme in Attack Of The Clones.
Indeed the dialogue and the philosophy of the Matrix have transformed from the elegant simplicity of the first film to pop psychology of the worst kind. Some of the lines that Laurence Fishburne has to spout made me feel sorry for the actor. Fortunately some awesome butt kicking opportunities compensate him.
Neo is somewhat problematic as a character now. Rendered indestructible in the Matrix, it's hard to generate any sense of peril towards him in the film, something that is problematic as he is the central character. He's constantly doing his "Superman" thing, but there is no Kryptonite in the Matrix. Although his laconic observation of "upgrades" when confronted with the new improved Agents hints at more of an obstacle. The film tries to get over this by giving him time constraints, he has to get to a certain place in a certain amount of time to save the day, but it isn't enough. It's actually far more thrilling and exciting to watch the action scenes with Trinity and Morpheus, as there is still the sense that they can be beaten.
While much of the film fails to stand out in terms of characterisation, there are a few bright points, Hugo Weaving reprises his role as the new improved Agent Smith, free of the system and following his own agenda, with some initially interesting new abilities, the strange speech patterns are still there as is the subtle menace.
The high point has to be the introduction of the Merovingian played by Lambert Wilson, a deliciously self centred and self-gratifying creature that lights up the screen. His little byplay with Persephone played by Monica Bellucci does much to enliven the unwieldy script. Also of interest are the albino dreadlocked twins, who briefly bring a little cheek to the film, as well as a compelling final performance from Gloria Foster as the Oracle.
On the downside there is a constipated performance from Harry Lennix as Commander Lock that is far too distracting for words, in an apparently pointless triangle between himself, Morpheus and Niobe.
Finally, if the Matrix Reloaded establishes one thing, it's that CGI humans aren't good enough yet to fool anyone. If there were any moments that pulled me out of the cinema experience kicking and screaming, it were the blatant uses of CGI in some of the stunt sequences. The Burly Brawl was a prime case in point.
For much of it, I was greatly impressed with the sweeping camera work, the multiple Agent Smiths and the fight choreography. Then all of a sudden we switch to CG and anyone who accuses Keanu Reeves of being wooden should hang their head in shame. Plastic CG Keanu looks absolutely nothing like real Keanu.
And what is the point of CGI bullet time. The original bullet time concept was an amazing development that allowed audiences to get a close up view of the action. Doing the same thing in CGI is not only a cheap rip-off of an expensive optical technique, but it only highlights just how fake your CG character looks. This happened far too often for my liking.
The Matrix Reloaded is an amazing sensory experience, which I don't hesitate to recommend. But you can't get away from the fact that in an attempt to go one step beyond the original the story has been neglected in favour of visuals, and what story there is, is stretched wafer thin.
Summary: Watch this but only to get to the conclusion!