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The Matrix Reloaded (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Preload (behind the scenes overview); The Freeway Chase; What is The Animatrix? Enter The Matrix; The Matrix Unfolds; 2003 MTV Movie Awards Matrix Reloaded parody; Get Me An Exit - Matrix-inspired advertising.

THE burden of expectation surrounding The Matrix Reloaded was always going to be a heavy one, especially given the unexpected euphoria which greeted its illustrious predecessor.

For having been hailed as a work of genius, both for its story and for its effects, The Matrix rightly remains a modern classic which set new standards in film-making. Repeating it was always going to be a neat trick.

The good news is that writer/directors, the Wachowski brothers, have come pretty close, for Reloaded is, at times, an amazing, even awe-inspiring, piece of cinema - a bigger, brasher, even more dazzling thrill-ride through blockbuster excess.

There are sequences within that will have action fans purring, such as when Neo (Keanu Reeves) takes on over 100 Agent Smiths, or the 14-minute freeway chase, in which Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) attempt to outrun a pair of ghostly dreadlocked assassins and some agents using any form of transport at their disposal.

In moments such as these, the Wachowski's continue to push cinematic boundaries, and the result is an adrenalin-rush unlike any other - a sensory overload which titillates the eyeballs, while simultaneously putting your head in a spin. Mayhem has seldom looked so seductive.

Yet as stunning as Reloaded remains throughout, there are faults to be found, and there is a feeling, during the quieter moments, that the film is striving to be too self important.

There is a smugness to it, borne out of the success of the original, which provides plenty of in-jokes, while the story itself fails to be as compelling.

Maybe it's because the novelty value has gone, or due to the fact that it is, quite clearly, only half a film (it finishes with a 'to be concluded...'), but Reloaded feels as though it is trying to be more intelligent than it actually is.

The plot picks up pretty much where the original left off, with Neo and co continuing their fight against the machines in order to fulfil 'the prophecy'.

But as Neo continues to come to terms with his own place in the scheme of things, he finds himself haunted by a dream in which his lover, Trinity, is killed, and so re-enters the virtual reality construct of the Matrix in search of the all-knowing Oracle and some answers.

Morpheus, meanwhile, believes the fate of Zion (the last human city) lies in Neo's hands and, while thousands of Sentinels bore their way to the underground haven, sets about finding the keymaker, the one man who can, quite literally, unlock the secrets of the Matrix mainframe.

Standing in his path, however, is an array of new enemies, including Monica Bellucci's seductive Persephone, the aforementioned albino twins (played by Neil and Adrian Rayment), and Lambert Wilson's terrifically malevolent Merovingian, a Frenchman who provides one of the film's more interesting philosophical debates.

Religious metaphors aside, The Matrix Reloaded seems to want to tackle everything from fate and destiny to choice and the meaning of life. Hence, we are asked to ponder issues such as whether Neo, as 'The One', has any more choice than those captured by the Matrix itself, or whether everything we do is, in fact, pre-ordained. Is Neo the Messiah? And are we blinded by our beliefs?

Intriguing philosophical questions, for sure, but ones which the movie ultimately fails to answer - possibly because they are still to come in the third installment.

But then just as things threaten to become bogged down under the weight of their own self-importance, there is always another bravura action sequence waiting in the wings - which is really what audiences have come to see.

And so long as you go in without too high expectations, then you are sure to have a blast. For while the true worth of this movie has yet to be assessed, Reloaded remains both a visually and mentally stimulating experience that continues to set new benchmarks for the chasing pack, and which suitably whets the appetite for the arrival of November's Revolutions.

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