The Matrix Reloaded (2003): Digitize Harder

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for part 2 of the ongoing review series, “The Matrix Reviewed!” Last week we discussed my thoughts on “The Matrix,” and my opinions for the most part appear to be the same as a lot of other people’s, it is easily one of the greatest sci-fi stories ever told. Like many great stories, this one happened to get a sequel. Or in the case of “The Matrix,” two in one year. Don’t usually see that play out much. Today we’re gonna be talking about the first of those two sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded!” Are we able to load some digital goodness on the screen with this film? Here are my two cents!

“The Matrix Reloaded” is directed by the Wachowskis and stars Keanu Reeves (Point Break, Johnny Mnemonic), Carrie-Anne Moss (Models Inc., Memento), Laurence Fishburne (Event Horizon, What’s Love Got to Do with It), Hugo Weaving (Babe, The Interview), Jada Pinkett Smith (Scream 2, A Different World), and Gloria Foster (Law & Order, Leonard Part 6). This film is the sequel to the 1999 box office smash “The Matrix,” one of the biggest R rated films of all time. This sequel follows Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus as they continue their fight against a machine army. This time, the agents are bigger, stronger, and upgraded. SEQUEL S*IT!

You know that sequel advertsing bulls*it? You know what I’m talking about! BIGGER IS BETTER! Forget the first movie! This second movie is gonna make the first movie look like the zeroth movie! I’ll admit, I was three when this film came out, therefore I never had a chance to watch it in the theater, nor did I get to see the trailers. But even I know that this is one of those films that became a literal phenomenon. Heck, this first film became so big, yeah I know it is a franchise now, but that first film is the one everyone talks about, that they apparently took time to reference it in kids’ movies, despite the R rating! Just look at “The LEGO Batman Movie” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” Both films are from Warner Animation Group, and even though that first film has blood, language, and tons of violence, they still found a way to put it in a Looney Tunes story! The first film was respected, it won an Oscar, it kind of set a standard for visual effects and sci-fi. If you ask me, I think Keanu Reeves has been directed better in other projects, but that’s just a me problem, and it’s one that would be difficult to turn into a me solution. Time travel doesn’t exist, and I don’t work for Warner Brothers.

I want to talk about some things I like about “The Matrix Reloaded.” The action is great, and in some cases, I think it may almost be better here than in the original. The highway chase was epic, the fight in the courtyard with all the Smiths was wildly entertaining (I’ll get into a problem about it in a second), and there was some pretty badass stuff in the beginning and end of the film with Trinity. The visuals of the film still hold up today. I would not say they’re maybe as good as the visuals from 1999, but they’re still worthy of falling into the “eye candy” classification. I also really like, going back to the bigger is better idea, the expanding of Zion. The first movie teased it, but now we get to see more of it here. It’s not the highlight of the film, but I didn’t hate it. There’s one montage that goes on for a bit too long, but nevertheless.

This idea of “bigger is better” is not just something that one would put in the marketing for a sequel, but something you’d actually see QUOTED in a sequel like this one! There’s a scene where Neo is fighting an Agent and he’s trying to kick his ass. When he thinks he’s got it, he senses the agent’s increased in strength, so we get to hear Neo utter “Upgrades.” I like how this film gives our heroes some tougher competition. But it’s a blessing and a curse at the same time. I think the best example of this is during the fight where we see Neo all by himself in a courtyard after talking to the Oracle. So all these Agents come out and take on Neo altogether. Look, the scene between Neo and all these agents is one of the most exciting, thrilling, and perhaps badass things I have witnessed in a sci-fi movie, but by the end of it, the more I think about it, it almost feels like the stakes have been minimized. We get to see fiveish minutes of Neo fending off all these agents like they’re flying stormtroopers.

“Ah! The agents! They fly now!” I don’t know where that came from. Just go with it.

While it’s totally badass, it also makes the recently exposed “upgrades” feel like nothing. Look, they’re obviously referencing these “upgrades” in the sense that the Agents have gotten stronger. In the quality/quantity expression, the upgrades would more likely link to quality. So when we get to the quantity portion about fifty minutes into the film, the upgrades seem to lessen their meaning.

The great thing about the first “Matrix” is that we see Neo kind of go through a transition from ordinary person to hero. Yes, the hero’s journey trope been done numerous times. But it is often a successful route to take a story. Who doesn’t love a hero? While there is some struggle or newfound obstacles in this sequel, Neo doesn’t come off as someone who is trying to make a massive change amongst himself. Much of the struggle that we see from Neo as a character comes at the end of the film, which is not a terrible thing. That’s kind of the moment where you want a character to fall to their lowest point. It’s the whole thing about getting back on the horse. You may be down but you can get back up.

Now I’m not asking for every movie to be the hero’s journey. That would therefore make every movie the same as the next. I’m just saying that I prefer seeing a Neo find his way through the Matrix and learn about its roots. I feel like the first film gave us a better opportunity to unravel Neo’s personality. Now he’s kind of a robotic god.

You know what’s also bigger in this movie? The slow motion! But it ain’t better! If we learned anything from the “Sharknado” franchise, it’s that too much of something can make that something become worse. I’ve heard this statement through the walls of the Internet before, but I’ll say it because it is kind of true. This movie could have been trimmed in half in terms of the runtime… Okay, maybe not that much, but the trimming would be significant, if the slow motion was not a thing. This film is two hours and eighteen minutes long. Granted, I don’t have a huge problem with the runtime. The pacing was okay. It could have been worse, but if you take out the slow motion, I think you could have trimmed down that runtime quite a bit. Maybe I’m imagining things, I don’t know. But in that first movie, the slow-motion felt like it meant something. But similar to the “Star Wars” prequels where nearly every scene had a lightsaber (not that I’M complaining), it felt like every other moment of the film had some semblance of slow motion. It was kinda ridiculous. Slow motion is cool! But you know what’s also cool? Ice! And if you touch it for too long your hands are gonna go numb so let’s cool down the slow motion a bit!

KEANU REEVES in Warner Bros. PicturesÕ and Village Roadshow PicturesÕ provocative futuristic action thriller “The Matrix Reloaded,” also starring Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss and distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. ©2003 WARNER BROS. – U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA. ©2003 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LTD – ALL OTHER TERRITORIES (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED USED BY PERMISSION). PHOTOGRAPHS TO BE USED SOLELY FOR ADVERTISING, PROMOTION, PUBLICITY OR REVIEWS OF THIS SPECIFIC MOTION PICTURE AND TO REMAIN THE PROPERTY OF THE STUDIO. NOT FOR SALE OR REDISTRIBUTION

I also really didn’t like the end of the film. I think part of the climax had some cool action, and seeing Neo fly through the city is something that will forever be in my memory. I love seeing that on screen where he’s flying and all these cars are continuously piling up behind him. It’s iconic. But for those who have not seen this movie before, there are a couple key moments after that which I liked less. One involves a character I mentioned already and a situation that feels totally impractical, and the other one involves something that I feel didn’t have the impact I thought it was trying to go for. I don’t know, this movie goes bigger, but really minimizes the oomph in the final moments. Strange.

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) - IMDb

In the end, “The Matrix Reloaded” had some glitches. While it is not the worst sci-fi film ever, it is a massive step down from the original. I talked about how my one big con from the original film is the way Neo was portrayed, which I assume mostly had to do with directing. Even though I think he could have been portrayed better in the original, I still think was written better in the original. He’s written worse in this film, but Keanu Reeves’s performance here, in his defense, matches the slightly more lackluster writing. Again, the like bigger is better thing, it’s a blessing and a curse. I’ll always remember the first “Matrix” as one of my favorite sci-fi films. The second film, not so much. I’m going to give “The Matrix Reloaded” a 5/10.

“The Matrix Reloaded” is available on VHS, DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Blu-ray, and is also available to watch on HBO Max.

Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to stay tuned for next week, December 19th to be specific, because I will be reviewing “The Matrix Revolutions,” capping the ongoing “The Matrix Reviewed” review series and ending the ongoing trend of reviewing older movies in 2021. Until my top 10 best and worst of the year, which may end up coming out late, just so you’re aware, I will solely focus on reviewing films released in 2021 including “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “West Side Story,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” just to name a few examples. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Matrix Reloaded?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite slow-motion scene in film history? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

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