The Matrix Reloaded is often considered to be a poor sequel, and while that may be the case (the original is a hard act to follow) is it still a bad film by itself? When it came out in the cinema I didn’t think so, I thought it was frankly “awesome”, and while my opinion has changed from my 18-year-old self in the subsequent re-watches I still think it holds up as a fun two-ish hours. Let’s take a look!
Freedom fighters Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army, unleashing their arsenal of extraordinary skills and weaponry against the systematic forces of repression and exploitation. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s pivotal role in the fate of mankind.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Trinity falling backwards out of a skyscraper firing two uzis in slow motion… is your opening scene of the movie!
The film is split into two parts: the underground city of Zion is just days away from being invaded by swarms of killer robots with the last survivors of mankind having to try and defend itself; and Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) entering the Matrix to consult the Oracle (Gloria Foster) and then go on a journey to enter the “source” of the program with the help of someone called The Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim). As you tend to find with this series the scenes in the Matrix are really fun whereas the scenes in Zion / the real world are often rather dull in comparison, something that helps this film as it mostly takes place inside the false reality but something that hinders the next one as it’s mostly outside of it.
Two other key plot points are Neo having visions of Trinity’s death and the former Agent Smith now being a rogue program that starts to copy itself like a virus. The latter point is great fun as a massive brawl between multiple copies of Smith against Neo is still one of my favourite fight scenes in the series due to its bizarre nature and how well its shot (so long as you don’t stare too long at some of the Smith copies in the background, the CG hasn’t dated all that well…) Smith also copies himself onto an human named Bane and therefore enters the real world, though that plot point is only relevant in the next film. So Neo, Trinity and Morpheus take on the job to find the Keymaker and in doing so run into a rogue program named “The Merovingian” (Lambert Wilson), who has existed through several different versions of the Matrix so is more than familiar with the concept of “The One”, and is also a rather obnoxious character who takes great pleasure is speaking with an over-the-top French accent and gives random women orgasms while eating cake for a laugh (and to later have sex with them…)
Absolute madness, in the best possible way.
Anyway, Merovingian refuses to give up the Keymaker so our lead trio have to take him back by force, which includes a great fight between Neo and a bunch of guards with a variety of weapons and a long motorway car chase with lots and lots of action set pieces. It’s great fun. We then get to a well planned “break in” to the door to the Source which includes destroying a power plant and taking down the emergency backup power, the latter having to be done by Trinity in the end, despite Neo begging her not to enter the Matrix. It leads to the very death Neo foresaw, but before he knows this he meets The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis), literally the program or machine that built The Matrix as well as the five previous ones. He informs Neo that “The One” emerging is actually a program to counter a bug in the Matrix that always emerges that if left unchecked would wipe out all the humans linked to the machines, then adding that given Zion is soon to be wiped out by invading machines would mean the end of the human race. Neo finds out about Trinity and is given a choice: save Trinity and then watch as all of humanity is destroyed or reboot the Matrix as he is destined to do and take a small handful of survivors to start up a new Zion after he destroys the current one “for the fifth time”.
Naturally love conquers all (or kills all in this case…) and Neo catches a falling Trinity and uses his One powers to heal her from death. They all then escape The Matrix only to see their ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, get found out and destroyed by the machines, everyone making it out just in time. Neo then somehow connects and disables a couple of machines in the real world to save everyone, though the experience knocks him out. Everyone is saved but is told an effort to stop the machines from reaching Zion failed after an EMP device was detonated too early and that the only survivor was Bane, or in other words Agent Smith sabotaged their efforts. The last shot of the film is of Neo and Smith/Bane laying on beds next to each other. Overall it’s a fun film, and while the core concept of a false reality isn’t new any more the idea of Neo being The One as less special and more a necessary debugging program was fun to find out back in the day. That and the idea of multiple Zions and how that was also part of the Matrix design. It made the fact that Neo broke the cycle even more exciting going into the next film… which is a shame really…
Morpheus, as he looks like in the real world, a.k.a. the same but no leather or sunglasses… which makes sense as there aren’t any cows or sunlight!
Apart from not having that “unexpected hit” boost and admittedly none of the action scenes quite match some of the ones at the end of the previous film (though some are great!) I still think this was a worthy sequel. That being said: there are a few niggles, like I will once again say that I find Neo and Trinity rather plain as characters thanks to the pair of portraying them coming across as quite wooden at times. Not enough to take too much away from the film, but it’s there still…
While a big speech by Morpheus is good fun there is a long scene in Zion where everyone is dancing to heavy dance music while Neo and Trinity are having sex that goes on way too long. Also just before that is a scene where a bunch of people wish to give Neo things to bless and help them with in the most on-the-nose Jesus analogy ever. That annoys me, they could’ve just left it as an obvious thing to figure out without literally spelling it out on screen. Also while it would unfair for it harm this film’s rating, knowing how all this pays off is always a bit of a downer, that cliffhanger is always screaming “well, that’s the fun half over!” to me…
Neo looking extremely… Neo.
While not the all-guns-blazing five-out-of-five its predecessor was I still find The Matrix Reloaded a fun film to watch, full of a fun sci-fi plot and plenty of crazy action sequences. It’s just a shame its half a story and that the other half is Revolutions…