Genre: Sci-Fi Adventure and Martial Arts Running Time: 2 hrs. 18 min.
Release Date: May 15th, 2003 MPAA Rating: R
Director: The Wachowski Brothers Actors: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci, Randall Duk Kim, Harold Perrineau, Jada Pinkett Smith, Gina Torres, Anthony Zerbe
his one begins with a bang as Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), once again decked out in shiny black leather, immediately attacks a building’s security center, tossing a motorcycle into the computer station before self-defenestrating from a skyscraper – for extra panache. Now that the realities and functioning behind the Matrix are known, the exaggerated action is far more understandable. It’s also a dream sequence, imagined by Neo (Keanu Reeves), who previously saved the vessel Nebuchadnezzar and its captain Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne).
“The machines are digging.” As the malicious A.I. of the real world continues its search for the last remaining human city, known as Zion, the scattered members of that resistance force wait for a sign from the Oracle (Gloria Foster), who may have pertinent information on the machines’ plans. And those schemes may involve hundreds of thousands of annihilative sentinels programmed to wipe out every living organism, hot on the trail of Morpheus and his ragtag crew.
“The prophecy will be fulfilled soon.” It’s quite strange that in a sci-fi environment centered on computer programs that pragmatically govern the world through mind-manipulation, the remnants of society would largely turn to religious ideas as a source of inspiration for salvation. But perhaps that’s simply a reflection of persecuted, oppressed people – resorting to something otherworldly as an escape. This merger of sci-fi and theological themes, though somewhat unfitting here, is amusing – something akin to “Dune” and “Star Wars,” even if it lends to cultish dance festivals and overdramatic speeches. “Not everyone believes what you believe.”
Just like with the citizens of Zion, the real world is a drag – a bit of a commonplace postapocalyptic premise about the fall of mankind. It’s the fantasy of the Matrix that is most engaging; and in lieu of much of a story – a rough continuation from before, an epic battle between slaves and captors in a digital construct – this sequel falls back on the martial arts action inside the anything-can-happen Matrix. Unfortunately, this film deals far more with the underground society’s defenses than the imaginative virtual reality – a trade-off for grungy last-of-humanity milieu reminiscent of a “Star Trek” scenario.
The primary villain remains the same, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), while a slew of new supplemental antagonists arrive. These include the information-trafficking gangster Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and his moll Persephone (Monica Bellucci), a pair of albino twin assassins, and numerous other henchmen anomalies, providing innovative, exciting hurdles (most utilizing sharply choreographed martial arts melees with exotic weaponry). Plus, new allies abound, such as Link (Harold Perrineau), Captain Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), and the politician Councillor Hamann (Anthony Zerbe), though these personas are generally used as uninspired participants in ever more complicated missions to arrive at the very simple showdown between man and machine.
Circular logic about free will, fate, and destiny pile on top of spontaneous side quests that build up a path designed for conveniently increasing conflicts. There are virtually no sensible explanations or answers, yet lots and lots of wordy dialogue nonetheless – often spouted by unnecessary characters (“I know because I must know”) – intent on ferrying the heroes from one locale to the next to engage in repetitive battles with flying fists and endless bullets. It’s more of a teenage fantasy than ever before, overflowing with stoic figures in black garb, machine guns, stabbing weapons, car chases, and seductive women, even if it’s difficult to discount the utterly mesmerizing, sustained highway chase sequence – an unmatched orgy of slow-motion (mostly done right), exploding vehicles, and kung fu fighting. This lengthy scene doesn’t make the movie, but it’s certainly one of the best action moments ever put to celluloid.
“There is a building…” instructs the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim), a contrived character who explains a fresh mission in an equally contrived effort to orchestrate further adventures. “There’s a powerstation…” he adds. Ultimately, this follow-up wasn’t required, even though a wealth of further stories can be told about the Matrix and its human survivors, feeling very much as if an expected capitalization on the success of its precursor. And despite the fact that the love story is still the most effective part, and that the special effects have advanced to aid in spectacular set pieces, it’s of particular note just how disappointing the conclusion is: a setup for a third part (scheduled for release a few months later) that literally cuts to black with the rarely used intertitle: “To be concluded.”
– Mike Massie