It is a shame. There are so many metaphors that ring true in the Matrix's metaphysical stew. From its inklings of the world's need for a Messiah to its compelling portrait of a world blind to its own enslavement, this is a saga rich with storytelling opportunity. Unfortunately, the filmmakers' preoccupation with action and heavy speeches distract us from the metaphors. Rather than finding a engaging fusion of action, ideas, and storytelling (as Bryan Singer did with X2: X-Men United), the Wachowski Brothers give us an unbalanced, schizophrenic hodgepodge that satisfies only in wowing us with special effects.

Several religious press critics share similar sentiments. Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "It is amazing to watch the technological prowess of the filmmakers. It is just too bad that the Wachowski brothers choose to move the story sideways instead of forward. We learn nothing new about most of the old characters. Perhaps further revelations will come in the final sequel that will tie things together, but at the end of the second film, there are a number of unexplained loose ends that make for a frustrating viewing experience."

Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) shares that frustration. The film delivers, in eye candy, he says, but it's not enough. "While the Wachowskis have made their world more complicated, they haven't made it more interesting. The sense of urgency, danger, or even plot relevance to the fight scenes is lacking."

He adds, "The movie undermines its own clumsy attempts to suggest that 'everything starts with choice' with plot-level revelations that, based on what we know from the first film, make even the most fundamentally human choices—even love itself—inescapably deterministic."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) says, "The film's glamorized violence—earning it a well-deserved R rating—overshadows an otherwise intriguing premise. And while the high-octane sequel leaves the eye-popping visuals of its predecessor in the dust—no mean feat—it breaks no new ground story-wise. While the filmmakers have crammed their film with clever Christian motifs and mythological allusions, the metaphysical mulligan stew serves to obfuscate the overstuffed and at times incoherent plot rather than affect any real philosophical musing."

Steven Isaac and Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) agree: "Reloaded does very little to further the plot of The Matrix. At the end of the first film, Zionites face extinction by the machines and pray that Neo can save them. At the end of the second, Zionites face extinction by the machines and pray that Neo can save them." They conclude, "Reloaded isn't as much a story as a glorified video game. At each stage, heroes fight off attackers in order to finish that level and proceed to the next one."

p>Mike Parnell (Ethics Daily) says the film "roars on the screen like a juggernaut, with both the visual power to stun the senses and the philosophical underpinning to tantalize the intellect." But he too is bothered by "too much exposition [and] … all kinds of speeches … that make the movie drag at the beginning."

Rather than exploring the film's strengths and weaknesses, Steve Lansingh (The Film Forum) shares how the film gave him some insight into his own life. He finds Neo's dilemma—to save his endangered beloved or to save the threatened masses of Zion—to be a picture of his own struggle between the requirements of intimacy and the demands of following Christ's call to give up everything to serve others everywhere.