The Wachowskis bring us back to The Matrix with The Matrix Reloaded, the continuation of The Matrix story with bigger set pieces, a bigger story an certainly more high stakes, a new serious threat arises in the Matrix itself, meanwhile the rebels and Neo are made aware of the threat of the machines who are 72 hours away from Zion itself.
The cast of The Matrix returns with a few new additions, Soren (Steve Bastoni), The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), Persephone (Monica Belucci), the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim), Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) and the cast is mostly good. Keeanu Reeves as Neo is more of the same from The Matrix with some added emotional edge this time around, though he still brings a mostly stoic, flat performance, Carrie Ann Moss and Laurence Fishburne are great hough, Fishburne especially with some great lines and more of his fantastic delivery as the ever ambitious Morpheus.
Reloaded does a few things very well and and some other things not as well as The Matrix but for in terms of what it does well – story, the film is straightforward and flows well enough, with a split amount of time in the Matrix and the real world, we get a fair amount of time in the real world and see Zion for the first time as well and get a sense of where humanity is and the the world they live in which is highly technological but almost rural and very spiritualist, the Zionists – a possible reference to the actual religious movement, worship Neo and see him as their saviour. And in Zion we do get that rave scene/scene of passion that at did feel like it went on a bit too long for me, though I see why it was included, scenes like this underline a problem with Reloaded that isn’t present with the excellently crafted first film, there are a few scenes that feel a bit extraneous and arguably pointless.
The plot plays out interestingly and it’s straight into the action with the beginning, taking place in the matrix, showcasing Neos’ improved fighting and that he’s now superior to the former basic agents, the scene is well done and is just a snippet of the fantastic action that exists throughout Reloaded. Which is full of a great, extended action sequences from that long car chase with a tonne of collateral highway car damage, to one of the best action scenes of all time (imo) in the Merovingian brawl with Neo against a set of programs, the film excels in its action scenes and ups the ante from The Matrix with more elaborate sequences as Neo realizes what he can do in the Matrix.
Reloaded, while being divisive has of course gotten praise for its’ visuals and action, the fight scenes are choreographed to perfection and the visual spectacle in the film is pure sci-fi and the Wachowskis’ imagination brought to life with some great special effects from Agents’ replicating themselves, explosions galore and some great action, it’s a feast for the eyes for the sure but the action isn’t everything.
Agent Smith is an interesting antagonist and also developing character just as Neo is, they both discover they are anomalies in the matrix, they both discover they have new powers and go toe to toe in increasingly big, spectacular fights, Hugo Weaving plays the role to the level of a theatrical villain and is one of the best parts of the film.
Character development is a key part of the story and something you wouldn’t even think of if you’re ever reminded of Reloaded but it is a big part of the story, Neo definitely develops as a person and continues to believe that he can make the difference, we see him still a bit doubtful and insecure when he visits the oracle about half way through. But we see a different character near the end when he saves Trinity, Trinity meanwhile doesn’t get as compelling of an arc as Neo and neither does Morpheus, though as ever he is still pivotal in a few scenes and has some great lines.
While Reloaded does seem to dwell on sequel-itis, that feeling of trying to capitalize on the huge success of the first film and replicate it, it’s good sequel with some of the most iconic action scenes and set pieces ever and in The Matrix trilogy, it’s not the perfectly well rounded and compact story that The Matrix is but it’s still an easy re-watch and some great entertainment.
. Fantastic action scenes and great set pieces
. Plot flows very well, engaging throughout
. Parts of the film feel overly long and out of place (the architect scene, Zion rave)