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The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded

What is the Matrix? Even if you’ve seen the first movie you know the answer, but that doesn’t mean you fully understand it.

After a four year wait, the Wachowski Brothers were finally able to bring the middle chapter of their trilogy to the big screen, with mixed results. As is the case with any sequel, many were disappointed, probably because they had such high expectations (or, as is my theory, they wouldn’t have been happy regardless of how the movie turned out because they have some sort of long, thin device inserted in their posterior).

But being only a moderate fan of the first film, I must say that The Matrix Reloaded surpassed any and all of my expectations to become the best movie of the year (that is, of course, until The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is released in December - hopefully).

An entire swarm of Sentinels (thousands upon thousands, to be slightly more precise) is heading towards Zion, the last refuge of the humans. As the city prepares for the attack, Neo, Morpheus and Trinity are off to find the Keymaker, who can get them into certain restricted areas. Unfortunately for the trio, Agent Smith has been freed of his “agent” status and has cloned himself several hundred times and counting.

There is also a pair of “ghosts” who, if they don’t feel like being hurt, can turn transparent. Sounds like Pac Man, doesn't it?

This brief description doesn’t do the movie justice. This is a highly complex, thoroughly entertaining film that combines a great story with some of the best action scenes ever filmed, if not the best. It’s been reported that $100 million was spent on special effects, which is more than Lord of the Rings and even Star Wars. But these are some of the most seamless, most impressive effects ever done, not just your typical everyday CGI like you see in Gladiator or other big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. The freeway chase is a great mix of live-action and special effects, not to mention the mile-and-a-half long strip of road that was built specifically for the movie. It also features some of the most professional, complex direction I’ve ever seen.

The cast is impressive. Keanu Reeves turns in a Keanu Reeves performance as Neo, but before you cringe, you should realize that he is actually perfect for the role, as if it were written for him (which it may have been; we don’t know for sure). Laurence Fishburne is, of course, Morpheus, and he plays him with equal parts wisdom, intensity, and naiveté. Carrie-Anne Moss is again Trinity, who comes across as smart, sexy, and tough. Hugo Weaving, who was a load of fun as Agent Smith in the original, appears to have even more fun this time around. Fellow supporters Jada Pinkett Smith, Gloria Foster and Monica Bellucci all do a good job, but don’t really have enough to do.

There’s only one scene in the movie that is wholly unnecessary. Near the beginning, Zion is having a rave, where people dance, grind, and have sex. It’s too long, slows things down, and doesn’t have anything to do with the movie. It seems like just an excuse for cheap titillation.

The Wachowski Brothers have created a brilliant series with The Matrix, and despite what some think, The Matrix Reloaded is even better than the first. It’s smart and deep, with a helluva lotta wicked action.

Though it didn’t do as well theatrically as most people expected ($281 million is still pretty impressive, however), the DVD sales will undoubtedly more than make up for it. Warner Bros. has come up with a disc worthy of such a great film, even if it doesn’t quite seem like enough.

First point of note: The Matrix Reloaded is officially Warner’s first DVD to be released in the “keepcase” that so many have longed for for many a year. It’s nice to see them finally casting aside the cheap cardboard case, even if it’s only on a title-by-title basis for now.

But anyway…

The movie is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and Pan&Scan versions SOLD SEPARATELY - so beware! Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. Both video and audio are outstanding. The picture is extremely sharp, with deep blacks that aren’t so dark that they cover up details, rich colors (when there are any), and crystal clear sharpness. There are a lot of dark scenes that, on some discs, would be hard to make out. In this case, however, you never miss a thing. This is quite possibly the best video transfer ever from a non-digital source.

Audio is just as good, with deep rumbling bass, plenty of surrounds, and perfect separation of the individual elements. Dialogue is a little quiet in places, but the action more than makes up for it. All five speakers roar into action, creating the perfect engulfing effect that brings you right into the movie. The music also uses all five channels effectively, but doesn’t overpower the other elements. If the dialogue were a little more audible the entire time, I’d daresay this is a perfect track.

Pop in disc two and you’ll be treated to a series of extras that are pretty good, but aren’t quite enough. “Preload” takes you behind-the-scenes for a little over 20 minutes, and features interviews with everyone involved except the press-shy Wachowski Brothers. It also features plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of filming, training, and pre-production.

“The Matrix Unfolds” runs about five minutes and examines the Matrix phenomenon, including the movies, The Animatrix, and the Enter the Matrix video game. “The Freeway Chase” is the most extensive, focusing an entire half hour on the making of the sequence. When watching the film, you can’t help but imagine how hard it was to make the scene, and this featurette confirms your theory.

“Get Me An Exit” shows a series of designs and advertisements that were inspired by the films, many of which were directed by First Assistant Director James McTiegue. “Enter the Matrix” is another half-hour featurette that shows the making of the video game, which was also written and directed by the Wachowskis.

Finally, there is a trailer for The Animatrix, and a series of MTV Movie Awards sketches parodying the movie (which are, I hate to say, pretty damn funny).

The extras are pretty extensive, but it would have been better to have one big documentary so we could learn about the entire production. And it’s always nice to have the writers/directors involved, so the Wachowskis should really get over their fear and tell us what they have to say.

The Matrix Reloaded, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
138 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16X9 enhanced, 5.1 Dolby Digital
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gloria Foster
Produced by Joel Silver
Written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers


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