[doug]Note: I have tried to keep this as spoiler-free as possible. In the first 15 minutes of the film, I wasnâ€™t actually sure I was going to like it. Although the opening featured quite a good look at the long-mysterious city of Zion, it was mixed with a somewhat drawn-out combination of scenes of a mass dance ritual in the â€œTemple,â€ (a bit reminiscent of some parts of Kim Stanley Robinsonâ€™s Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy) intermixed with an uncomfortably erotic scene with Neo and Trinity. After that, though, things really took off.
Reloaded is significantly more complex than The Matrix. Obviously, the war against The System is not over, the machines have improved themselves somewhat, and much is revealed about how various programs operate within the system, and about the world of the Matrix in general. We are also given a much better understanding of how Morpheus and his crew fit in (or fail to fit in) against the backdrop of Zionâ€™s culture and its military and political leaders. The origins or reasons for existence of some key charactes and â€œprogramsâ€ are explained, but without the horribly unfitting and disappointing treatment Lucas gave to the Force with his Midichlorian explanation in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
There were a few disappointments, but not many: One of my favorite characters is not there—although his absence is explained. The background music is not as fitting (or as good) in several places, and sound effects were not quite as good as before, although I have been spoiled by viewing The Matrix in Dolby 5.1 surround at home where every bullet shell casing hitting the ground can be heard, and my son John [john inline] complains that the bass rattles stuff off his desk upstairs. To a certain extent, mostly due to the filmâ€™s larger scope and greater number of both protagonists and antagonists, the film, at times, feels to have been run by a different director.
The combat scenes (and weâ€™ve all been jaded by knock-offs in everything from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to Shrek) were astonishingly well done, intense, and wonderfully choreographed—truly beyond anything Iâ€™ve seen on film. It was not the â€œsame old, same old.â€ The depth of plot and concept far exceed the first film, and overall it requires far more thought cycles to process. Ultimately, this is an amazing film.
Coming in November, The Matrix Revolutions (and if you are patient enough to sit through the credits and music that reminds me of Erciâ€™s cube at MediVation, youâ€™ll be treated to a preview of what is to come).