by Susan Starr and Kevin Kocur
“Matrix Reloaded” is the sequel to the hit 1999 move “The Matrix.” Most sequels try to improve upon the original by giving you more. And boy does “Matrix Reloaded” give you more. More action, more ideas, more plot, more special effects. Unfortunately, in this case, more turns out to be less. As a science-fiction fan, I loved the first movie’s idea-heavy plot. But here, there are so many plot points that I lost track of what was going on or what our heroes were trying to accomplish. The special effects, which seemed so exciting in the first movie, seem too familiar and are over used. The only really cool action sequence in the movie was an extended chase scene on the highway. Kevin excitedly told me the make and model of every motorized object on the screen.
Keanu Reeves is back as Neo, along with his love, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and his mentor Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). They stop at the underground city of Zion where the humans who have escaped from the artificial reality of the Matrix are making their stand. Everything in Zion looks dilapitated yet arty, as if it were furnished from a post-apocalyptic Pottery Barn catalog.
Neo has a battle with the wonderfully evil Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Smith shows up and sneers at Neo, delivers some incomprehensible dialogue and then they start fighting. It turns out Smith has developed the capability to endlessly copy himself in the Matrix so Neo ends up fighting dozens of Smiths at the same time. They fight, we get slow motion of shots of particularly impressive moves, one of them gets thrown through the air, then they fight some more; more slo-mo shots and more flying through the air and on and on for way too long. Until Neo flies away. I suppose we aren’t supposed to wonder why Neo didn’t just fly away in the first place. Maybe he needed the workout the 30 minute fight with Smith provided him.
Morpheus is given some background in this movie. His ex-girlfriend, Niobe (Jada Pinkett-Smith), is now with the leader of Zion’s forces. He and Morpheus are at odds over whether the best course of action is to follow the prophecy about The One (Neo) or just get ready for battle. There is a council meeting in Zion which seemes as exciting as a Minneapolis city council meeting. All of Morpheus’ dialogue is given as solemn pronouncements. It should sound ridiculous, but I love Laurence Fishburne’s delivery of these lines. Neo has to decide between the end of all mankind or saving Trinity’s life. They all spend the whole movie rushing around trying to achieve one objective or another but I don’t know what they were trying to accomplish. The whole movie is full of references to history and literature such as characters named Merovingian and Locke. Unfortunately, I got my degree in Engineering and have no idea what the signifigance of the allusions were.
It’s really hard to not like a movie in which, during an opening scene, a motorcyle crashes down through a glass rooftop of a building. Forget about your straight piped Boss Hoss, that’s the way to make an entrance! None the less, I found “Matrix Reloaded” to be a merely average sci-fi flick.
I’m gonna just cut to the chase-the Freeway Chase scene, that is. Absolutely the best part of the movie is the chase! Here’s the scenario: Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity have nabbed an important figure named the Keymaker. Of course the bad guys want him, so a chase ensues. Both the good and bad guys use Cadillacs and the parking garage they leave from contains a few vintage Caddies. The chase ends up on a freeway and that’s where the fun really starts. More cars crashing and flipping over than you average episode of CHiPs! Somehow Trinity and the Keymaker end up hoofing it after their ride meets its demise. She spies a semi loaded down with Ducatis (why they’re on a car carrier and not crated up beats me) so she grabs him and they jump onto the carrier. As luck would have it the Keymaker has a Ducati 998 key on his mega-sized key chain, and they launch the bike off of the carrier onto the freeway. Some great shots of the bike weaving in and out of traffic along with some spectacular special effects make for a very enjoyable scene.
What really makes the Freeway scene fun is that on the second disc of the DVD set is an extra that explains how the whole scene was made. Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity) really did learn how to ride a bike for the movie and went to a Hollywood high performance driving school so she could put the Caddy through its moves. They show you how they launched the bike off of the car carrier as well as showing her stunt double really working the Ducati. All of the special effects involved actual vehicles (very little CGI stuff, just a few extra cars whizzing by) and you get to see how they did it all. You get to see all of the camera vehicles, which include a Honda Superhawk camera bike and another camera rig made from a sidehack.
But the best part of all was the freeway itself. After searching and searching for a proper piece of pavement, and being denied the use of, they went ahead and just built their own. Yup, over a mile and a half of urban asphalt was built on a piece of desert property. Brilliant.