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The Matrix: Reloaded - Movie Review

The Matrix: Reloaded - Movie Review

Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

Rating: R (for sci-fi violence and some sexuality)

Release Date: May 15, 2003

Actors: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci, Daniel Bernhardt, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Matt McColm, Harold Perrineau Jr., Harry Lennix, Stuart Wells

Director: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski

Special Notes: Reeves devoted at least seven hours a day to Kung Fu work and soaked in tubs of ice to relieve his pain of swollen joints and muscles. Master martial arts and wire work specialist Yuen Wo Ping trained the actors to do their own stunts and perform in every scene which is unheard of these days. Over 500 digital artists have worked on the virtual effects elements of both movies coming out this year. It took two years to make both movies.

Plot: "The Matrix: Reloaded" picks up the second part of the trilogy with the city of Zion under the threat of attack from 250,000 Sentinels programmed to destroy mankind by boring through the earth. The citizens ban together to fight the machines while freedom fighters Neo (Reeves), Trinity (Moss), Morpheus (Fishburne) and Morpheus' former love interest Niobe (Pinkett-Smith), return to the Matrix to search for the true meaning of Neo's existence and get answers from the Oracle. Along the way they encounter twin bodyguards (Neil and Adrian Rayment), a Seraph (Collin Chou), a Matrix power broker (Lambert Wilson) and his gorgeous wife (Bellucci), and numerous annoying duplications of Agent Smith (Weaving). Our heroes battle at every point of their search for the Oracle and are then led to the "keeper of the keys" who will guide them to their destiny. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the Matrix and Neo's pivotal role in saving mankind. Is Neo really "the one" Morpheus believes him to be? Will he be able to save mankind, protect Zion and wind up with Trinity? As the ending of the movie reads … 'to be completed'.

Good: From the opening explosion and fight sequences to the end-of-the-movie adrenaline rush where the story leaves you dangling (the story abruptly ends in order to continue to the last of the trilogy), this incredible, mind-bending, action-packed tour de force has been dubbed THE movie of the summer to see, and with good reason. This is a "thinking person's action picture". It's not that the audience can't enjoy it on purely an observant level, but if they'll go deeper and consider the philosophical, literary, mythological, theological and technological levels that the Wachowski brothers created it for, they'll enjoy it even more. In other words, this is a densely-layered story that requires an astute attention span and dedicated concentration to understand even half of it. The other half you'll probably have to go back and see for a second time or find out what you missed from "Matrix" geeks who have the answers -- it's THAT complicated. At the very least you will be blown away by the phenomenal fight sequences, incredible special effects, intense adventure that gives you an adrenaline rush, and thrilling martial arts fights in almost every scene that will leave you asking, "how'd they do that?" Truly, I felt like I was watching a martial arts ballet, choreographed with so much detail that it becomes an experience rather than a fight. The fact we are already rooting for our heroes creates an even more enjoyable experience. Neo and Trinity are definitely in love this time around, and that love propels a major plot decision made by Neo. Even Morpheus has a softer side to him when his former flame Niobe joins the journey. There is no doubt that Neo is the hero, and Reeves lives up to that title in every way. Almost every scene involves him in a fight or an amazing feat -- like battling 100 Agent Smiths at once in a Burley Battle, fighting killer kung-fu ghosts and flying like Superman at 2000 miles per hour over the Matrix mega-city (over 10 times the size of New York). And yet Keanu still has that dry sense of humor, boyish charm and a quiet, yet intense, delivery that catapulted him to stardom with the first "Matrix" and endears him to his fans even more. One of the more spectacular scenes that involves the main stars is a life-and-death freeway chase with a martial arts ballet on top of semi-trucks and cars colliding head-on in rush hour traffic. In fact, the filmmakers had to resort to developing a new style of technology called 'motion capture' to create that scene and others. The FX team also created a new way of 'u-cap' – life-like looking actors with computer-generated bodies to be placed in scenes that would have been unthinkable to film. Those elements and others too numerous to mention are what makes "The Matrix: Reloaded" such an incredible movie-going experience. It's not just the charismatic stars, cool clothes, hip sunglasses, amazing stunts, and unusual storyline that make this movie a milestone in filmmaking. It's also the entire creative process that forever changes the way movies are made and truly stretches the limitations of filmmaking in the new millennium. I was enthralled with every minute of this movie … so much so, that I want to see it again to catch all of the stuff I missed the first time around. It's rich with hidden symbolism -- and even some biblical meaning.

Bad: This is an R-rated sci-fi thriller for adults over 17. Now I realize there are some parents who might be tempted to take their adolescent kids or young teens to see this movie because it's easier to take them with you than to get a babysitter. Or perhaps you have kids who've seen the first "Matrix" and are begging you to let them see the two sequels. Let me remind you that "Reloaded" is rated R for good reasons. Aside from the complex adult plot layered with intellectually stimulating dialogue that consists mostly of questions posed as answers, there are other things that might make this movie too "adult" for your kids: Kung Fu violence in scene after scene of fight sequences that result in several deaths, characters that shape-change into Agent Smith, mild language, several religious profanities, and a lengthy (and very steamy) bedroom situation between Neo and Trinity. At the same time that the two lovers are shown in the bedroom, the villagers of Zion are dancing and some are gyrating sexually to the same rhythmic drum beat in the cavernous enclave of the city. It's an intense scene that implies a few of the people are having sex, but it lasts for several minutes and contains partial nudity, building to a steamy crescendo. There's no graphic nudity (it's either under sheer clothing or in the case of Neo and Trinity -- only their backsides are shown in dim light).

Bottom Line: I have to admit I enjoyed this movie more than the first one. There's something to be said for the original because it was so unique and unlike anything audiences had ever seen before. But take all of those amazing special effects and choreographed stunts and amplify it with even more characters, technology, and locations and you have a sci-fi trilogy that will long be remembered as a benchmark in moviemaking history. Many will scoff at why anyone would want to see a movie like this with the above mentioned elements. But let me remind us all that mature teenagers and the twenty-something generation will flock to see this movie. It asks some interesting questions about the meaning of life, religion, and man's purpose here on earth. It explores a deeper realm that is intellectually stimulating to today's younger generation who are desperate for movies that make them think outside the box. I know of a young man who became a Christian after he saw the first "Matrix" because the questions the movie raised prompted him to search for "truth." I'm not so sure this second one will prompt that same kind of search or response, but you never know. Now, do I approve of the language and other elements contained in this movie? Of course not. Clearly it could have been a brilliant movie without all of the language and an implied sexual situation. But I recognize that a movie like this is a powerful voice in the pulpit of movie theaters across America, and teenagers who can get in will most likely want to go see it. So once again, it's up to parents to be discerning for their children -- no matter how old they are. What might make a lasting impression is if parents see this movie with their mature teenagers and afterwards discuss the deeper meaning of this movie ... if they can figure out what that is (smile).