Matrix Reloaded, The
In the trilogy's second installment, Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue their battle against the Machines both in and out of the Matrix as mankind has just 72 hours before the Machines destroy the human city of Zion.
Sadly, The Matrix sequel suffers from too much anticipation, too much talk and too much action--an obtuse shitstorm apparently resulting from writer/directors the Wachowski brothers' theory that if they throw enough at you something's gotta stick. While the first movie's wow-inducing special effects and groundbreaking action scenes supported the story's mythology and ruminations about consciousness and free will, Reloaded beats you over the head with philosophical mumbo-jumbo and pointless battles that will convince you The Matrix series is really meant for 15-year-old boys into video games. In a nutshell, the ruling artificial intelligence (the nebulous, vague ''Machines'') has learned humans are running amok in a place called Zion, so 250,000 Sentinels are on their way to take care of biz once and for all. Renegade Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), insisting that ''The One'' will save the world, ventures in and out of the Matrix with Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) to fight the Machines while the less courageous rest of humanity stays underground to prepare for battle the old-fashioned way. Meantime Neo wants to find out what's behind his strange premonitory dreams--that we get to see over and over, and over--of Trinity meeting her demise.
Forget the ''real world'' melancholy of The Matrix, the shock and awe of its special effects, its lines of cryptic cyber-wisdom that made little sense but were entertainingly apropos. The new and returning faces of Reloaded are barely more than haute-couture wearing, Zen-spouting caricatures stuck in bad CGI sets with just about as little idea of what they're doing there as the audience has. Their lines alternate between theological psychobabble: ''If you know what I know then I know you know''; Neo's statements of the obvious: ''I wish I knew what I was supposed to do''; and Morpheus bellowing pompous speeches like Demosthenes on Quaaludes: ''Izznn't thaaat worth dyyying fooorr!'' Despite playing all 200-plus Agent Smiths, Hugo Weaving has little to do or say other than smirk evilly, although when he's on-screen the movie regains a little of its predecessor's life. Neo and Trinity are either busy kicking ass or making out, which is great because it keeps them from reciting any more trite and silly dialogue. Reeves wisely sticks to his strong, silent Neo, and Moss proves herself yet again to be a terrific action heroine who doesn't need to say a lot to make her point--its a shame the script sold them short. Lambert Wilson is amusing as campily evil Frenchie Merovingian, and the late Gloria Foster is a lovely breath of fresh air in her all-too-brief appearance as the Oracle--her scene with Neo is one of the film's most--er, few--engaging.
You can practically see the perforation in the film at those scenes that should've been left on the editing floor. To wit: The first 40 minutes offer up development of new characters you couldn't care less about, boring interplay between those returning, and an introduction to Zion (hardly a fantastically realized human oasis but rather an endless well of crisscrossing walkways that lead nowhere, unless it's to some underground Versace factory that pumps out everyone's stylie leather jackets and sunglasses). Things really get bizarre when Morpheus announces to the populace that, um, humans have only 72 hours to kill the Machines or be killed, which somehow compels his audience to break into a heaving, groping, stomping techno-hippie orgy (1,000 years in the future and we still have drum circles?!) as Trinity and Neo are somewhere else getting it on in perfect sync with this impromptu, inexplicable, Afro-Asian cave rave. The film does offer up some seamlessly slick, albeit ultimately pointless and not that new, special effects: Neo fights off multitudes of Agent Smiths although he could've just jetted away like Superman (it's 90 percent CGI, 8 percent real and, after 10 minutes, 2 percent interesting); and a freeway chase has breath-stealing visuals that unfortunately lose some impact after 15 minutes. It's the speechifying that'll kill you, though--by the time you get a clue to Neo's purpose on Earth in a mind-numbing diatribe of Baudrillardian hokum, you'll want to get out of the theater faster than you can say Attack of the Clones.
Some eye-popping special effects and high stylization aside, The Matrix Reloaded is overwrought, over-philosophized, overindulgent and overlong. It'll be better on DVD, when you can skip through the nonsense to the parts worth seeing.