July 11th, 2003
Adam Roberts has written a rather fine critical review of The Matrix Reloaded. He's particularly good on the differences between the original film and Reloaded:
[The Matrix Reloaded…] dramatises precisely the melancholia that first attends the realisation of the illusion of Free Will and the inevitability of Eternal Return. This explains not only the pervasive mood of anti-climax (and how could the film possibly have built on or extended the supreme climactic excitement of its predecessor?); it also explains the sense of deja-vu with which we, as audience, witness yet another brilliantly choreographed kung-fu display, yet another team blowing up a city building, yet another attack upon a Zion ship by the arachnoid Sentinels. This is not a failing in the Wachowski brothers' abilities as film-makers: this is an inevitable and central aspect of the whole project. And it suggests ways of appreciating the movie in ways that move beyond first disappointment: to – for instance – dwell on the present beauties of motion and grace in every moment of the burly brawl rather than asking vulgarly 'but who will win this fight?' (you always already know how this fight will end). The specificity of this film is extraordinary: the attention to detail minute and appealing, the design and form harmonious and beautiful. Watching the film a second time, and watching it again and again, means we can see these beauties as if for the first time.
Having seen Reloaded three times now I'm inclined to agree with Roberts: it's unquestionably a film which rewards a second look, and not just to make sure the Architect was saying what you thought he was first time round. Another shoot-em-up would have been boring, but there's enough going on in the middle film to suggest that the ending will be worth the wait. I could be wrong – we could end up with a 'turtles all the way down' ending – but I'm willing to bet that's not the direction the story will take.
The current trailer for Revolutions emphasises the action elements of the story, but then the trailers for Reloaded didn't hint at Neo's meeting with the Architect or the Merovingian so the absence of any hint of depth in the trailer probably doesn't tell us anything significant about the direction the film will take. The bottom line is that every time I see the trailer for Revolutions I find myself grinning from ear to ear, just as I did every time I saw the trailer for Reloaded. After two such entertaining films (plus Bound, which was a lot of fun) I'm prepared to trust the Wachowskis to give us something special in November.
(Having mentioned the Reloaded trailer, I have to ask: does anyone else find the creepy close-up of Agent Smith laughing demonically in the Revolutions trailer oddly reminiscent of a gone-to-the-bad David Fisher from Six Feet Under?)