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The Matrix: Reloaded

Every full moon, a pesky mole on Keanu’s shoulder grows into a fully functional head that berates Keanu for his choice of mediocre film roles.

Every full moon, a pesky mole on Keanu’s shoulder grows into a fully functional head that berates Keanu for his choice of mediocre film roles.

Rated 2.0

While it’s a respectable thing that the Wachowski Brothers have attempted to go all out with The Matrix: Reloaded, alas, technology and their own scriptwriting abilities have let them down. While not a torturous experience, Reloaded is full of special effects that stem from ideas which are too big for current genre capabilities. It also features some of the worst, hammy dialogue you are bound to hear this year. Considering the solid experience that was the original, the first sequel is a major letdown.

The story picks up after Neo (Keanu Reeves) and his cronies have led a small revolution resulting in many humans being released from those icky, energy-sucking, embryonic thingamaboos in which they were imprisoned in the first film. The story is simple: Neo and his gang must overthrow the machines and destroy The Matrix.

It’s fun watching Reeves’ Neo take to the sky, looking like a cross between Superman and U2’s Bono. In fact, Reeves does nicely, once again, as the Jesus Christ of the computer world, saying his few lines with that bemused, withdrawn tone that just screams “Keanu!”

Too bad the Wachowskis couldn’t be a little more subtle with their religious imagery and their blatant rip-offs of countless other big budget extravaganzas. From Star Wars to The Fast and the Furious, it feels like no current franchise is safe from their pilfering. They even throw a little Twin Peaks into the mix when Neo has a showdown with some boring-assed villain called The Architect in what comes off as a computerized version of David Lynch’s infamous Red Room.

The Wachowskis don’t rip off with originality and finesse. What was once stylish and original becomes routine and flat. The sequel offers few moments of genuine excitement on par with even the smaller moments of the original. Even worse, there are stretches where it simply looks like shit.

One of the big action sequences involves Matrix baddie Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) in a showdown with Neo. Smith manages to copy himself to the point of forming a small army. As the Smiths battle with Neo, it’s shocking how glaringly sloppy the computer animation work is, subjects that are supposed to appear human look cartoonish.

Another problem is the soundtrack, with pulsing music that feels dated and repetitive. When hundreds of surviving humans thrash about in a celebratory dance sequence, it plays like Disco Matrix 2003. While the sights and sounds of the original film gave off a creepy vibe of isolationism and alienation, the blown-up sequel often plays like a bad, overcrowded rave.

Faring the worst is Laurence Fishburne returning as Morpheus. While his character was amongst the coolest in the original, there was nary a moment he spent on screen in Reloaded when I didn’t want him to go away. He delivers his lines with painfully obvious, pomp and circumstance cadence that screams “Acting!” It’s intolerable.

The production value ranges from bad to semi-impressive. The surviving humans look and talk like rejects from a bad Star Trek sequel. In fact, the film’s religious imagery reminds one of the goofy attempts at profundity in William Shatner’s overblown Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

I have no problems with cliffhangers. I withstood the tragic hanger-on of the ‘80s, when George Lucas traumatized millions with the ending of The Empire Strikes Back, so I can tolerate the waiting now. Still, the ending of this film, an unexciting set-up for The Matrix: Revolutions to be released later this year, is abrupt, sloppy and cheap. It’s mediocre filmmaking, which is pretty much what can be said for the entire movie.