from Film Forum, 05/15/03

As Film Forum was being wrapped up this week, Christian film critics were just beginning to post their reviews of this weekend's surefire box office champion, The Matrix Reloaded. For moviegoers who want to hear early reports about Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and Agent Smith, the word is this: Don't set your expectations very high.

Reloaded is big on dazzling visual spectacle; it sets new standards for CGI-enhanced kung fu, digital animation, and car chases. But the plot meanders, stringing together redundant, even tedious action scenes that are short on new ideas. The intriguing philosophical questions that made the first film so compelling and relevant are reduced here to a marathon of dull and dizzying monologues. In the areas of character development and storytelling, the movie is running on fumes. Here are links to reviews by Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films), Michael Elliott (Movie Parables), and David DiCerto (Catholic News Service). My own review is at Looking Closer.

from Film Forum, 05/22/03

Whenever a highly anticipated action movie like The Matrix Reloaded arrives, most moviegoers have the same question on their minds: Is it as good as the hype?

But beyond that, discerning viewers have other questions on their minds: Is there more than just entertainment on the screen? Is there anything worthy of praise? Is the experience edifying or challenging? Does it offer us glimpses of truth or cleverly packaged lies?

Parents add even more questions to the mix: Is the movie safe for my kids? Should I let them sit with their friends, or should I be sitting next to them?

Regarding The Matrix Reloaded, critics will give you different answers to the first question. Some are thrilled, but others feel it is not quite what the hype promised.

Reloaded takes the most notable aspects of the first film and super-sizes them. There are more awe-inspiring visuals, more stylish and thrilling kung fu, more superhuman and CGI-enhanced feats, and more brain-bending ideas about reality, illusion, freewill, and determinism. But in my opinion, these excesses should qualify Reloaded for an "Oversized Load" sticker. The philosophical riddling becomes too talky and convoluted. The awe-inspiring fight scenes run too long, are more Sega than saga, and deliver few surprises and zero suspense. And the movie carries us along at such a rapid pace that we fail to develop a sympathetic connection with any of the major characters the way we did in the first film. (My full review is at Looking Closer.)

Kid-safe? Absolutely not. This is science fiction for grownups. And even discerning adults will have to filter carefully what they see and hear. As filmmakers, the Wachowski Brothers are too quick to indulge the baser appetites of the audience. The violence is harsh, excessive, and often completely unnecessary. A scene set in the city of Zion shows the masses preparing to face an advancing enemy by indulging in a dirty-dancing marathon (gee, you'd think they'd want to load their weapons, pray, or do some stretches). The scene is intercut by an unnecessary and explicit sex scene between the hero and heroine.