The Difficult Second Movie - THE MATRIX RELOADED

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In 1999 The Matrix arrived and blew everyone away. Not only was it visually fantastic but also curiously thought provoking in its Twilight Zone-ish manner. It balanced style and substance to achieve the unthinkable - it out Star Wars'ed Star Wars! In the respect that by the end of that Summer more people were obsessing about a film with Keanu Reeves in than the first of the long awaited new Star Wars prequels (which is nothing short of ridiculous when you think about it). There was always going to be sequels to The Matrix, no matter how much we were told otherwise, as no movie studio worth their salt would not milk this cash cow for all it was worth.

Four long years passed. Four years of anticipation. Looking back now it's easy to see that there was no way The Matrix Reloaded could have ever lived up to its hype. But it could have at least matched up to its predecessor. Sadly, it didn't even compare with it.

After a great opening sequence where Trinity is shot in a dream you feel firmly back in The Matrix territory and quietly confident that The Matrix Reloaded is going to deliver the movie you've been hoping for. But immediately after that the film takes a nose-dive for a good 45 minutes and becomes a slow, plodding, nonsensical, overly talky affair that zaps any enthusiasm you may have had for the feature.

Eventually the film gradually gains momentum as they enter the Matrix and the Agent Smith battle takes place, but once again Reloaded loses itself with the 14-minute car chase sequence (spectacular yes, but it just goes on and on for what feels like an eternity) and a dreadful groan-worthy twist at the end. The worst scene of the film, for me anyway, is the overlong Zion Rave scene. Not only does it have absolutely nothing to do with the plot, but it just feels like a pathetic excuse for a softcore porn moment set to depressive dance music.

The Matrix Reloaded is really little more than a series of stylised diversions edited together in an attempt to prevent you from realising just how empty a movie it actually is. The first film had some great plot twists, but here it is too linear to be even remotely interesting. The Wachowski's seem to have been adopted the 'bigger is better' principle and consequently they just end up descending The Matrix franchise into nothing more than a special effects drenched misfire - much like that Star Wars prequel it previously bested.

The bullet-time aspect of The Matrix was amazing, making you go all 'whoa' in a Keanu Reeves fashion, but by 2003 it had been used to death in so many other movies that it just didn't have the same impact. Of course it's right of Reloaded to feature bullet-time, but it mistakenly overuses it throughout the film to the degree that it just seems boring.

The acting standard is low, for the most part. Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith is the only one to be slightly interesting. Keanu Reeves is the definitive Neo, but in between all the special effects there is little room for him to make much of an impact. Laurence Fishburne is reduced to a monotonous mentor with poor dialogue, and Carrie Ann Moss, who I freely admit to never rating much as an actress in the first film, just confirms that Trinity could have been portrayed much better by almost any other actress.

All round, The Matrix Reloaded is a poor, thrown-together movie. A disappointment to any fan of the original and the biggest deterrent to anyone who may consider watching the third film in the franchise (which is bad, but not as bad as this). Reloaded is an endlessly confusing, nearly two-and-a-half-hour mess of a movie full of numbingly dull action sequences. As difficult second movies go this is one of the worst.

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