Revisiting THE MATRIX RELOADED - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The best thing about being Geek Dave is there are so many Geek Daves.

We're getting a new Matrix film. A belated fourth installment for the series. Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss are confirmed as returning, and one-half of the Wachowskis, Lana, is definitely on board.

But are we excited? Well, yes I guess we sort of are, but also hesitant not to let that excitement get away from us and lead to unreal expectations of what we will end up with. You see, back in 1999 when The Matrix first arrived it 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. This all leads me to be overly cautious when it comes to expectations about a return to the Matrix. I honestly think there are times when lightning only strikes once, and The Matrix and the world around it, may just be a perfect example of that.

Let's look back at that first sequel, as that is the one which had the job of expanding the franchise the first time round. 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 Reloaded gradually gains momentum as they enter the Matrix and the Agent Smith battle takes place, but once again it 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. This style of cinematography, which the Wachowski's like to employ, also spoiled Sense8 for me. I'm no prude at all but sometimes it feels like sex for the sake of pushing the boundaries and getting headlines rather than anything at all to do with propelling the story along. If it's unnecessary then who is it in there for? Just watch some porn if you're not looking for a coherent story.

And a coherent story is really what was missing from the first two Matrix sequels. The plot of the first film may have been confusing, but at least it had one. 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. As technology has moved on substantially and there's so much more that can be done visually, it'll be interesting to see if something which rivals the 1999 jaw-dropping effect of bullet-time can be crafted twenty+ years later.

Compared to the original film, which certainly wasn't winning anyone any Oscars for their performance, the acting standard in Reloaded is low. For the most part that is as Hugo Weaving's Agent Smith is interesting to watch. Laurence Fishburne is reduced to a monotonous mentor with poor dialogue (of all the actors, with hindsight, he was the one probably best served in the original). Whether those two return for the fourth film or not I don't know, but it's hard to imagine the Matrix without them.

Keanu Reeves has come a long way over the last twenty years and is a much more interesting performer than he ever was in the 1990s, so I'm glad this new film isn't some reboot and Reeves is returning to the role. I just can't picture anyone else playing Neo, but in Reloaded between all the special effects there is little room for him to make much of an impact. Carrie-Ann Moss is also returning the fourth film. Now, I freely admit to never rating her much as an actress in the first Matrix film, but I've enjoyed her performance in the Jessica Jones series, however she just never seemed to connect with the role of Trinity across either of the sequels to date. Hopefully she manages to channel something more for the fourth film, as to date I feel her part could have been played by almost any other actress and the result would've been the same, or maybe potentially better,

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 - Revolutions is bad, but not as bad as Reloaded. 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 Reloaded is one of the worst. As belated sequels go, let's hope the fourth film channels more of the original Matrix's jaw-dropping "Whoa!", than the two sequel's yawn-inducing "Oh".

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