Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Helmut Bakaitis, Gloria Foster, Jada Pinkett Smith, Harold Perrineau, Hugo Weaving
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Free your mind.
In the second chapter of the Matrix trilogy, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army. 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.
Budget $127 million.
$91.774 million on 3603 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 138 min.
Release Date: 10/14/2003
• “Preload” Documentary
• “The Matrix Unfolds” Featurette
• “Freeway Chase” Documentary
• “Get Me An Exit” Featurette
• “Making Enter the Matrix: The Game” Documentary
• “MTV Movie Awards Reloaded”
• Animatrix Trailer
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 1, 2003)
With 1999’s The Matrix, directors Andy and Larry Wachowski came in under the radar. Without too much hype – all of which was reserved for The Phantom Menace that year - The Matrix crept in and snagged an impressive $171 million at the box office. That figure allowed it to rank fifth among the year’s biggest hits, just ahead of Disney’s Tarzan.
However, the film’s influence went way beyond its financial success. Imitators abounded, a factor that made it tougher for the Wachowskis to dazzle new audiences with the flick’s sequels. Their innovative use of “bullet time” photography went from something fresh and cool to a tired technique that got lampooned after a while.
It seemed inevitable that 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the trilogy, would have a lot to prove. Did the Wachowskis live up to the hype? Maybe. Sort of. Could be. Ask me again later.
Reloaded opens with an extended action sequence that turns out to be a dream in the head of Neo (Keanu Reeves). However, given his potential status as “The One”, this may not be simple fantasy, and he worries that his recurring vision of the death of his fellow freedom fighter and paramour Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) may be a precognitive glimpse of the future.
We’re then quickly reintroduced to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), their partner and the guy who most heavily espouses the concept of Neo as The One. It turns out that not everyone feels the same way, and the film uses Commander Lock (Harry Lennix) as the mouthpiece for the opposing point of view. He and Morpheus butt heads over their differing beliefs, especially because it appears that the nasty robotic Sentinels will soon attack Zion, the last remaining human city. Lock wants all ships to remain in Zion to ward off an assault, but Morpheus feels one should stay out because he expects a contact from the Oracle (Gloria Foster), the entity who acts as Neo’s spiritual guidance.
Councillor Hamann (Anthony Zerbe) grants Morpheus’ request, and Neo soon meets with the Oracle again. She sends him into the Machine Mainframe to confront his destiny and deal with the Prophecy. He needs to find the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim), a figure being held prisoner by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), a dangerous old program. From there Neo and the others will progress toward some revelations about the Matrix and their place within it. We’ll also see lots of explosions and general butt kicking.
When I went to see The Matrix, I expected it to suck because I thought the trailer made it look terrible. (Apparently I was alone in that regard, as it seems that the rest of the universe regards the ad as being brilliant.) However, the actual film was pretty exciting and terrific.
When I went to see Reloaded, I expected it to suck because I didn’t think the filmmakers could make lightning strike twice. The first film’s style put them in a tight spot. On one hand, the then-innovative approach remained crucial to the new flicks. Without “bullet time”, it wouldn’t feel like a Matrix movie; that technique’s absence would be extremely notable.
However, as I mentioned earlier, bullet time got used up the wazoo over the four years between films. That made it very difficult – if not impossible - for Reloaded to pack the same visceral punch as the first movie. The Matrix took us by surprise and presented something that felt very new. It seemed tough to imagine that Reloaded could create the same aura of freshness.
And it doesn’t. It also fails to live up to the high standards established by The Matrix, especially during its first third to half. Those scenes really felt like slow going most of the time. The segments in Zion seem interesting in theory, but in reality they bog down the story badly. On one hand, I like the concept that we see folks who live outside of the Matrix other than Neo, Morpheus and the rest. The first film concentrated solely on Morpheus’ little gang, so I appreciate the glimpse at the world beyond those characters.
I also understand that the exposition offered in these sequences is important. However, I don’t think the film needs to dally in Zion quite as long as it does, as we get the point much more quickly than the filmmakers seem to believe. Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure out why the film needed the extended tribal dance ritual/rave/love-making sequence, but it won’t happen today; instead, the bit feels gratuitous and overly elongated.
In addition, the first half or so of the movie suffers from too many gimmicks. We see the multiple Smiths and get one fairly butt-kicking fight that involves them. However, right now the Smiths don’t seem to serve much of a purpose. They make little sense within the framework of the story, and they come across like an invention just to spice up the slower parts of the movie.
A lot of the action in the first half feels that way. I get the impression the Wachowskis really just want to involve us in the intellectual and expository concepts, but they also want to make sure they keep us interested. After all, most people see Matrix movies to get some serious action, and the prospect of an hour’s worth of babble without some fighting appeals to few in the target audience. That means that while the battles provide some excitement, they don’t meld with the story in a terribly natural way. The sequences seem tacked on to a certain degree and they don’t connect as well as I’d like.
One major problem with Reloaded stems from its existence as the second in a trilogy. Storylines that seem awkward and unproductive now may become clear when the third flick hits screens. For example, perhaps the multiple Smiths will prove more essential there.
Despite the moderately tedious aspects of Reloaded, I’m willing to give the Wachowskis the benefit of the doubt, which they fully earn in the movie’s second half. I can’t claim that Reloaded totally recovers during that part, but it comes darned close.
As much as I love movies, I must admit that I don’t often react in a strong way to them. Largely that occurs because I watch so many of the things; if you check out hundreds of DVDs a year, it becomes much harder to feel impressed. Often I might think “that’s exciting” as I observe an action sequence, but I don’t usually feel that rush that I used to get more readily.
Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to Reloaded is that it restored that feeling in me during its third act. Though nothing in that segment seems truly original or mind-bending, it all comes together in a terrific way. The whole appears to be more than the sum of its parts.
I can’t really explain why the third act floored me like it did, but the effect remains the same. Usually when I see a movie theatrically, I’m ready to split as the end credits roll. However, with Reloaded, I remained in my seat for a few minutes. I didn’t care to read the credits, but I needed a little while to regroup, as I felt stunned and overwhelmed with what I’d seen.
Only a few films have had that effect on me; Se7en comes to mind, though there are others. Would I call The Matrix Reloaded a masterpiece on the same level as that? No, and it doesn’t live up to the standards of its own predecessor. However, it does a lot more right than it does wrong, and it creates the crucial sense of anticipation needed for the middle component in a trilogy. Although it ends very abruptly, unlike the cruelly anti-climactic Back to the Future Part II, Reloaded left me dying for more. Despite all its flaws, Reloaded succeeds as a whole and has me counting the days until The Matrix Revolutions hits the screens.
Footnote: as was also the case with theatrical screenings of Reloaded, you’ll find a preview of Revolutions at the conclusion of the end credits.
The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-
The Matrix Reloaded appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. It seemed unlikely that Warner Bros. would botch the reproduction of a major flick like Reloaded, and indeed, this DVD delivered an impressive visual presentation.
If any problems with sharpness manifested themselves, they eluded me. No issues with softness arose during the movie. Instead, the image always remained nicely detailed and well defined. I saw a smidgen of shimmering due to some truck grilles, but otherwise the movie seemed free of moiré effects. Jagged edges caused no concerns, and I also detected no evidence of intrusive edge enhancement. Print flaws remained absent. Never did I notice signs of specks, grit, or other problems in this clean transfer.
Back when The Matrix hit DVD in 1999, many viewers freaked out due to the noticeable green cast of the image. In fact, we still occasionally see posts at newsgroups and forums that question the accuracy of that transfer. I suspect history will repeat itself with the release of Reloaded, as it used a similar palette.
The colors of Reloaded vary dependent on the setting. Shots in Zion used earthy browns and reds, while scenes aboard the ships looked blue. As with the first flick, segments that took place inside the Matrix itself demonstrated a decided green tint. Within the world of the film, the colors always looked strong. The movie held these stylistic decisions well and presented tones that were tight and cleanly represented. Black levels also were very positive, as dark elements appeared deep and bold. Low-light shots demonstrated appropriate levels of opacity but didn’t come across as dense or thick. Ultimately, the image of Reloaded lived up to expectations.
Though it started slowly, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Matrix Reloaded also eventually matched up with what I anticipated. During the film’s earlier parts, the soundfield seemed a bit less active than I thought it would. The surrounds received acceptable usage, but they didn’t become full partners until the action kicked into gear during the movie’s second half.
Forward definition always remained strong. Music showed good stereo presence, and the rears supported the score well. Effects demonstrated nice delineation and localization, and elements moved across the front smoothly. The rears really came into their own during the freeway chase. While they offered some good audio previously, it wasn’t until that scene that the surrounds became a consistently involving element. From there through the end, a great deal of unique material poured from the rear speakers, and they helped make the track engrossing and involving.
Audio quality appeared fine across the board. I discerned no problems connected to speech, as the lines demonstrated good clarity and crispness. No issues connected to edginess or intelligibility manifested themselves. Music probably could have been a little more dynamic, but the score mostly seemed bright and full. Effects presented good range, as those elements seemed distinctive and accurate. They also powered the low-end response well, with bass that appeared loud and solid. The soundtrack of Reloaded wasn’t one of the best I’ve heard, but it suited the film well and it did what it needed to do.
All of the package’s supplements appear on DVD Two, where anyone who expected a stuffed special edition will mostly find disappointment. Disc Two opens with a documentary called Preload. This 21-minute and 58-second piece offers the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from producer Joel Silver, director of photography Bill Pope, production designer Owen Paterson, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, first assistant director James McTiegue, fight coordinator Yuen Wo Ping, conceptual artist Geof Darrow, storyboard artist Steve Scroce, costume designer Kym Barrett, previs supervisor Colin Green, visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, and actors Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Harold Perrineau, Monica Bellucci, Adrian and Neil Rayment, Hugo Weaving, Lambert Wilson, and Cornel West.
Fairly general in nature, “Preload” provides a mediocre look at the flick. It covers basics like story and character elements, actor training, effects and visual components, and stunts. Much of it feels quite puffy, as all involved try to convince us what an amazing movie it is. We see some good behind the scenes footage, but overall this program seems average at best.
After this comes a short featurette entitled The Matrix Unfolds. The five-minute and 19-second clip covers the connections between the animated Animatrix, the videogame Enter the Matrix, and the two sequel movies. We find examples of these, some behind the scenes material, and interviews with Silver, Moss, Pinkett-Smith, Reeves, Fishburne, Pope, and Interactive Producer Rosanna Sun. Basically just a promo reel, “Unfolds” tells us little of value other than how terrific all these things will be.
We find the package’s longest program next. Freeway Chase runs 30 minutes and 45 seconds as it examines the creation of the movie’s big action sequence. We get the standard complement of movie snippets, shots from the set, and interviews. The latter include remarks from Silver, Moss, Fishburne, Paterson, Gaeta, McTiegue, Rondell, Pope, Adrian and Neil Rayment, supervising art director Hugh Bateup, construction supervisor Butch West, first assistant camerman Greg Luntzel, production manager Dean Jones, lead pre-vis artist Laurent Lavigne, art director Mark W. Mansridge, extra driver coordinator Tom Dryden, freeway extras Damu Dailey and Brian C. Sampson, actor Daniel Bernhardt, and special effects supervisor Clay Pinney.
Overall, “Chase” covers its subject pretty well. It goes from the sequence’s origins to preparation, training, and execution. The behind the scenes footage dominates this one, as we get lots of clips that demonstrate how they brought about the sequence. As with the DVD’s other programs, this one occasionally suffers from excessive hyperbole, but it nonetheless gives us a fairly complete examination of its topic.
Another fairly brief featurette shows up after this. Get Me An Exit fills nine minutes, 40 seconds as it examines some Matrix-related ads. We get clips from these, footage from their shoots, and comments from McTiegue, Silver, and Paterson. They cover items like the Powerade commercial that ran theatrically and the Samsung Matrix phone. Despite all the promotional material that inevitably appears, it’s interesting to learn more about the creation of these ads and how they were integrated with the Matrix universe.
Unrelated to the film proper, Making Enter the Matrix: The Game takes 28 minutes and seven seconds to examine its topic. It uses the same format as the other programs. Here we hear from Pinkett-Smith, Silver, Paterson, Gaeta, Yuen Wo Ping, Rosanna Sun, Shiny Entertainment’s President and Lead Designer David Perry, actors Lachy Hulme, Roy Jones, Monica Bellucci, and Anthony Wong, motion capture supervisor Demian Gordon, lead programmer Michael Persson, programmer Soren Hannibal, sound designer Dane Davis, and 3-D character artist Sean Ekanyake. The program goes over various aspects of the game’s creation. We learn about how it fits into the Matrix universe, different parts of its creation, and a lot about the story and execution of the product. Unsurprisingly, this piece presents a lot more puffiness and promotion, as it often tells us how amazing the game will be. (Many disagree; I’ve not played it, but every review I read panned it.) Still, it’s interesting to learn parts of how they created the game and tried to meld it with the movies, so it’s worth a watch despite all the advertising elements.
Finally, after a trailer for The Animatrix, we find Matrix-related excerpts from the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. This segment lasts nine minutes and 38 seconds as we see hosts Seann William Scott and Justin Timberlake act in this introduction to the program. It integrates them into movie scenes and also features quick turns from Wanda Sykes, Andy Dick, and Will Ferrell. It’s not a laughfest, but it includes some funny moments and at least it bests the somewhat lame Lord of the Rings parody from the prior year.
It may not pack the innovative punch of its predecessor, but The Matrix Reloaded creates a powerful flick on its own. Inconsistent but ultimately satisfying, it leaves me wanting more and anxious for the final chapter in the trilogy. The DVD presents very good picture and sound but the extras seem skimpy and lackluster. The absence of many solid supplements make The Matrix Reloaded a moderate disappointment, but since the DVD presents an interesting movie in a high quality manner, it still merits my recommendation.
Viewer Film Ratings: 3.7466 Stars|| Number of Votes: 75|