Wednesday, June 18, 2003

The Matrix Reloaded

Finally saw it the other day. Now here's a confession that might get me mugged by a vicious mob of Boba Fett worshipping computer nerds, but I didn't get what the whole big deal was with the first Matrix. I mean, it had a nice visual look, some good action scenes, and innovative special effects - so what? A good cinematographer, choreographer, and a fat chunk of change can get you all those things no problem. The story was ridiculously derivative: Star Wars, The Prisoner, John Woo, the rip-offs were obvious and there didn't seem to be much attempt to conceal them. The chick in the black leather is pretty cute and the shootout at the end was cool but, outside that, not much to really write home about, certainly nothing to underwrite the type of Lord of the Rings-style, pantswetting, lets-hurl-reality-into-history's-dustpin type of lunatic pop cultural obsession its turned out to be. The sequel, as in most cases, isn't an improvement.

The first thing the Matrix 2 does wrong - and it does a great many things wrong - is to throw out all the things that made the first installment watchable, if not exactly earth-shattering. The fast pace is sacrificed to ludicrously verbose pseudo-philosophical soliloquies which seem to occur every five minutes, plus a totally incomprehensible rave-in-a-stalactite-covered-cavern scene that looks like it was edited by a chimpanzee on 'ludes. The carefully crafted green/black, rain soaked visual schema of the first film is shattered by scenes which look like they were culled from a low-budget biblical epic from the '50s, culminating in a sun-blasted setpiece chase down a California freeway which goes on for a long, long, long time. The whole atmosphere of mystery and paranoic dread that was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the first Matrix is lost to a more agressively obvious sci-fi look that probably impresses the comnerds, but not many others. Worst of all, the characters which were, at least, moderately interesting in the first film are reduced to walking models for the digital effects. Keanu Reeves barely changes expression during the whole film. The leather chick, who never had much to do in the first place, has a few good moments, but she's still window dressing. As usual, Laurence Fishburne is the best thing in the film, but he looks like a refugee from the Batman TV series most of the time, and his dialogue is a laughable amalgam of Yoda and Malcolm X.

But the biggest problem is the talking. And there's a lot of it. Talking and talking and talking. Talking about choices, and being, and levels of control, and the One, and a host of other might-be-philosophical-if-they-weren't-being-spoken-by-men-in-leotards buzzlines that make the people who write their religion as "Jedi" in job applications gasp in revelatory ecstacy while boring the hell out of the rest of us. By the 500th time the characters launch into a 40 minute speech about saving Zion, you're not even amused by the fact that, in the original Hebrew, the mispronounced "zion" means "penis".

Now, its not all bad. There's a nice twist at the end that answers a lot of questions without making the whole story seem trite, not an easy feat. There's also a couple of good action scenes, and the special effects are extraordinary, if not exactly imaginative. But all in all, I wouldn't waste ten bucks on it.

Oh yeah, and Cornel West is in it. He wears what looks like an upside-down harmonica around his neck. Nuff said.


Post a Comment

<< Home