Michael Cleland

www.michaelcleland.com.au

Cinema and Television

Review: The Matrix Reloaded

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Were we spoilt with “The Matrix”? A “must see” all the same … 7 / 10

This is more of a comment on the experience of seeing the first two Matrix films, with some critical commentary.

My comment is, has Neo had an impact on the geek? I saw “Matrix Reloaded” (MR) at midnight on the night it first opened, just after watching “The Matrix” in the same cinema immediately beforehand.

I’ve seen “The Matrix” (TM) four times now, and each time I derive something new out of it. In fact, it took until the third viewing to understand most of the fundamental concepts of the film. It is definitely a film that one can become immersed in – one that has a pace that doesn’t slow down – the tempo just keeps rising. Leaving the cinema after seeing Neo step out of the phone booth, put his glasses on and slip off – you catch yourself thinking that we really are all in the Matrix – it is all around us. To accept that wanting to live in real world instead of the Matrix is something Morpheus and Co aspire to, is a spin out in itself.

So, coming out of the “reasonably filled” cinema from seeing TM, I encountered a sea of guys. These guys would traditionally be the sweaty geeks – the type that have no regard for their personal appearance. The “Trekkies”, who, when gathered in a cinema, put out a collective BO that is unpleasant, yet somehow reassuring to experience (it lets you know that there still are geeks in this world).

But, for the MR, the sea of guys – literally hundreds of them, all had that Neo cool. Well dressed, many on mobile phones, not too stinky. I’d estimate that 2 – 5 per cent of the viewing audience was female.

This was my reason for going to the first public screening of MR – to not only see the film, but to be part of the experience of seeing it with a kind of brethren. I was reassured that I assimilated with these cool geeks more than your “I don’t get out and mix with normal people too much” kind of geek.

So, what did I think about the film? I came out of it a little disappointed. Now, all of you who have seen TM more than 30 times and are probably, as I type, watching MR for the fifth time since its release 36 hours ago, will probably blindly declare that I am a heathen.

MR just didn’t have the impact of the first film. Some of the most exciting parts of TM were grasping the concepts, watching the stunning visual effects, seeing the story develop and increase tempo, relating to Neo and his troubles with the world. Witnessing the slow motion, normal speed and ramping of fighting scenes, shooting scenes, the warping of the image. All of that stuff. Importantly of all, watching Sydney, Australia as the vital backdrop to this amazing movie. Like New Yorkers having pride that their home town is the key to films like “Spiderman”, Aussies feel the same way about this film – even if I am from Melbourne! (FYI, there is a great Melbourne / Sydney rivalry between people who live in their respective city, but as Australians showcasing our country to the world on films like this, we proudly put those issues aside).

Now, going into MR, we expect all of those visual effects. You almost become complacent, which is a terrible thing. I had to remind myself, “Hey, Neo is being attacked by 5 Agent Smiths!” And a few minutes later, “Knucklehead, Neo is being attacked by 100 plus Agent Smiths! That is a very impressive effect!” All of the Agent Smiths attacking Neo seemed so real, it didn’t seem to be an effect – that is something truly impressive.

As a sign note, I would bet Hugo Weaving, who is an unassuming Australian actor, must get a huge kick out of playing this sort of role and seeing himself projected on the screen in that manner.

Similarly, watching the much talked about freeway action was truly amazing. The way all of the characters ducked and weaved through traffic, even travelling again it, without any hesitation, was a sign of the strength and conviction that Neo, Morpheus and Co have in each other and cause. The quote from Morpheus, “What if tomorrow the war could be over … isn’t that worth dying for?” is shown off throughout the film.

But, most of Neo’s powers are now assumed. He can stop bullets, he is a great martial arts fighter – we’ve had that established in the previous film now, and that’s part of what’s missing in MR. Still, there were times when Neo showed new skills – “Neo’s doing his Superman thing again” – his flying skills were put to great use, both visually and for the story, towards the climax of the film.

Aside from the opening scenes of the film, the first half hour of MR, the tempo was slow, almost falling into melodrama. I wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow if the cinema collective had of yelled out “Finally, some action!!” as the tempo started to wind up. The opening screen, Trinity’s mission, was truly impressive and made me think, “if the start is like this, we’re in for a hell of a ride!” As you know, a common film technique is to flash forward at the start of the film, to something that is significant at the end. I made a note of this when watching Trinity in action.

Then the pace slowed down. We saw Zion, we established that Neo has cult status among his people. We saw the political processes at work in Zion. A necessary evil to establish this background story? Perhaps. But get me back to the action that the Matrix is all about, please!

So, ultimately, I think fans of TM will not be disappointed by MR. We were just spoilt too much with the brilliance of TM on a number of levels – story, visuals, concepts – a lot of things that MR would find difficulty to top. Having said that, MR is obvious a “must see” for all fans of TM. It all concludes in just 6 short months!

Author: Michael Cleland

Michael is a passionate web geek who is sure that most problems can be solved with a big bowl of ice cream. A believer in social good and fan of great, useful content, Michael is an advocate for web accessibility, usability and mobile web based on open standards. You can find Michael on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. You can read more on Michael in the About page.

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