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The Matrix Reloaded

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: The Matrix Reloaded

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne
Director: Larry Wachowski
Rated: R
RunTime: 138 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genres: Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Matt McColm, Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harold Perrineau Jr., Harry J. Lennix

Review by Harvey Karten
1 star out of 4

Among the differences between art-house films and commercial (though not necessarily popcorn) movies is that the latter imaginatively deal with real human problems and relationships, often using heightened language to get across their points. Art-house fare is frequently satirical (as is Neil LaBute's marvelous new work, "The Shape of Things," about a young woman who manipulates and seriously humiliates her boyfriend in the name of art). Art-house fare often dramatizes real global issues like the less-than-compelling "Tycoon" (about the rise of the Russian mafia with the introduction of capitalism in the early 1990's). Among the most popular commercial movies are those dealing with action and adventure ("X2" for example, about the struggle between mutants and so-called normal human beings) and slick, superficial comedies like "Daddy Day-Care" (about a laid-off executive who finds his zone as the chief of a center taking care of pesky pre-schoolers). "The Matrix Reloaded," which alternates mind-blowing special effects with discussions on the nature of life, is understandably playing at commercial theaters all over the place and, because the picture purports to deliver philosophic truths, at New York's famed art-house, the Angelika on Manhattan's West Houston Street.

"The Matrix Reloaded" is in trouble on both accounts. On the one hand, the special effects, however elaborate and obviously requiring an army of techies in Alameda, California and New South Wales, Australia, are unrealistic, video-game-like rather than the product of stunt people. On the other hand, the dime- story philosophy is even more dismal, spouted by gasbags and bearing the potential to influence college sophomores into thinking that college philosophy departments are crawling with gasbags (which they probably are) and that these highly-paid professors are simply people who sit behind their desks, smoking their pipes, and chatting about the nature of cause and effect, free will and compulsion. Well, OK, maybe they do, but the assignments they give the words of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Locke and Hobbes are difficult, dealing genuinely with first causes, leaving "cause-and-effect" palaver to the bull sessions you'll probably be attending on long Sunday afternoon that are full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

"The Matrix Reloaded," second in the trilogy of Andy and Larry Wachowski, takes off from the writer-directors' 1999 opener about a computer hacker who discovers he is living in an illusion maintained by computers that have taken over the world. Some believe that the hacker is a modern messiah, chosen to save humanity from the onslaught of machines who need human bodies to generate electricity. The Wachowskis re-introduce Keanu Reeves in the role of Thomas Anderson, aka Neo, who wears a pair of cool shades and a long black coat that may have been manufactured in Transylvania. Neo can fly like Superman, which makes us wonder why he indulges incessantly in battles with the enemy when he could easily make a swift getaway as he chooses. Now stationed on a ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, he joins his girlfriend Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a preachy Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), and a navigator named Link (Harold Perrineau) who may remind you of Chris Rock. The mission of the Nebuchadnezzar together which a number of other ships is to defend the last, free city of human beings, Zion, which is under assault by an army bearing the machine guns that are now the staple of action-adventure pics. Defense is not considered enough by some: Morpheus convinces the powers- to-be that the Nebuchadnezaar must go into the Matrix to allow Neo to destroy the program that is enslaving most of humanity.

Pitting Neo and Morpheus against the evil of the rapidly replicating Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), the Wachowski Brothers set up a series of mumbo-jumbo, hot-air dialogues against a flurry of repetitive martial-arts fare in an overlong, expensive vid-game posing as a motion picture. A far classier work, much cheaper to make as well on this theme of oppression by agents of emotionless tyrants, is "Fahrenheit 451" Francois Truffaut's adaption of the Ray Bradbury novel about a future civilization where all printed reading material is banned, leading a select group of the oppressed to form a soulful community of readers determined to keep their humanity. Another film more rooted in a credible kind of alternate reality is the underappreciated "Equilibrium" which does not pretend to be an orientation course in Ethics, Metaphysics and Epistemology coupled with a bloodless series of uninvolving battles. This is sort that is leaves much to be savored if the action-adventure genre is to saved from a pot pourri of soul-less cinema.

Copyright 2003 Harvey Karten

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