May 2003
© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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The Matrix Reloaded (Warner Brothers) Premiere: May 15 2003
Review by Alex Lightman

 This is a war and we are soldiers. What if tomorrow the war could be over? Isn't that worth fighting for? Isn't that worth dying for?
Film Teaser:

Reviews should say whether a movie is worth seeing, so let’s get that out of the way.
Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.  - Alex Lightman

Offical Website: IMDb entry:

Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski Writing credits: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Cast: Keanu Reeves .... Thomas A. Anderson/Neo / Laurence Fishburne .... Morpheus / Carrie-Anne Moss .... Trinity  / Hugo Weaving .... Agent Smith  / Matt McColm .... Agent Thompson  / Jada Pinkett Smith .... Niobe  / Monica Bellucci .... Persephone / Lambert Wilson .... Merovingian  / Harold Perrineau Jr. .... Kain / Harry J. Lennix .... Lock  / Clayton Watson .... The Kid  / Daniel Bernhardt .... Agent Johnson / Christine Anu .... Lazarus

The Matrix Reloaded - NeoThe Matrix Reloaded - TrinityThe Matrix Reloaded is both the second movie in a trilogy, and, like the city of Zion, a property near the boiling hot center of an ever expanding sphere of ideas, images, and associations. The first Matrix told us the story of a beauty named Trinity, a crew of the ship Nebuchadnezzar, and mainly Thomas Anderson a.k.a Neo, a software developer by day, hacker by night, who is offered a choice of pills (he chooses red, and departure from a software world), of lives (he risks his own to save his pill proffering mentor Morpheus), and of destinies (to be just like any other guy, or The One who can lead humanity to victory). At the end of The Matrix, Neo told the machines that he would show humans a world without machine control, and soared upward like Superman, if Superman wore sunglasses and long black coats.

The Matrix Reloaded - Agent SmithThe Matrix Reloaded - MorpheusThe Matrix Reloaded picks up a bit later from the first film, and follows Neo as he travels with Trinity, Morpheus, and Link (brother-in-law to two slain crew) to Zion, through the torn tunnels that worm across a future version of this world, and again into the Matrix. Neo flies, and, with Morpheus and Trinity, fights Agents of The Matrix, upgraded Agents, the uber-upgraded Agent Smith who has some of Neo’s divine essence, ghostly twins, weapon-wielding yes men, and doors into and out of hyperspace. Neo is treated as a lover, a god, a punching bag, and the ultimate decision maker, with the fate of the world in his hands and terrible choices only he can make.

The Matrix Reloaded - TwinsThe Matrix Reloaded - PersephoneThis is a movie with so many layers and levels that what a reviewer says about it tells you as much about them as about the movie. Time magazine gave a spoiler laden account that was so detailed that it missed the essence. Reviews should say whether a movie is worth seeing, so let’s get that out of the way. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. I don’t mean that it needs to be seen a thousand times, though undoubtedly some people will end up seeing it that many times, because within the thin, fragile frames and dust-like pixels of its effects, lie the questions and answers, past and future, of human existence. The Matrix Reloaded is The Matrix reloaded with fractal patterns of other movies of many genres and cultures, reloaded with people, reloaded with a bigger picture than we saw in the first film.


Alex and Ernest have put together an essay on the classical origins of the Matrix for serious geeks: Geeks or Greeks?

SF Fans should also read Edward Carmien’s review of: Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix by  by Glenn Yeffeth (ed}this issue, and look for Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present" coming in our next issue.

Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix"



Exploring the Matrix: Visions of the Cyber Present"



In the first film Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix represents the world of 1998, while actually being around 2100. In The Matrix Reloaded, in a twist almost as big as when Neo learns what The Matrix is, we learn that the sentient machines have destroyed Zion five previous times, and each time started over with, we are led to believe, about 25 humans. Since Zion has what looks like over twenty thousand inhabitants, each repopulation cycle would take centuries, even millennia, so the machines have ruled the Earth for over a thousand years, if the Architect of the Matrix is to be believed. This leaves room for prequels, and this reviewer would be happy to have them if they are done by the Wachowski brothers, who will probably be getting more fruit baskets and gifts from fans than Neo did in Zion.

Science fiction fans usually appreciate homage to previous movies, and readers of would be advised to take notes during the film if they want to try to catch every parallel to another SF property, many of which, though unintentional, still hyperlink to other properties.

There is the exoskeleton, half Gundam, half loader a la Sigourney Weaver in the end of Aliens, the burrowing towards the center of the earth of The Core, the killer machines of Terminator. The Wachowski brothers seem to enjoy the superpowers of Marvel comics heroes, such as the variable density of the ghost twins similar to the powers of Marvel Comic’s The Vision, the multiple copies of Jaime Madrox the Multiple Man, the flying after a fist hammer blow like Thor, and the fighting style of Daredevil, using whatever works to take the many adversaries down. It’s hard to resist continuing, and this sort of parsing will make for an army of DVD buyers.

The fight scenes include Neo taking on three upgraded Agents, Neo taking on an increasing number of nearly as strong Smiths, Neo taking on weapons wielders, Trinity and Morpheus taking on ghosts and trucks and Agents – oh my! The fight scene with Smith vs. Neo Burly Brawl with 100 Smiths is shockingly long and detailed. My only quibble is that I never understood whether a Smith could be put down, or only stunned, and why, if Neo could fly, he didn’t just do it sooner. The freeway scene is the ultimate answer to that mock order parents give their kids to, “Go play in traffic!” Seeing how this was made, and hearing the risks that Carrie-Anne Moss took, are another reason to anticipate the DVD.

The Matrix Reloaded is much more than the sum of its scenes, and its reference. Seen in the broadest sense, the film offers its tens of millions (possibly hundreds of millions eventually) of viewers a choice of how they want to manage our civilizations on Earth. Further, the movie summarizes the hardest choices of all time, starting with survival in a hot, hostile environment, creating a community, facing genocide from an overwhelmingly superior opponent. The sentinels (the machines that look like sperm or Rastafarian robot heads with natty metal dreads) can even whip around like a dog chasing its tail and throw bombs, harkening back to when apes started to throw rocks simultaneously, and, according to some, also started civilization at the same time.

A few hours before seeing The Matrix Reloaded I gave the keynote to CENIC, the organization that has linked every university with ten Gigabits per second, and every school with one Gbps, so that ankle biters are now gigabyters. CENIC wants to bring this broadband to every home: “Gigabit or bust!” is their slogan, and they are looking for the killer app. In my talk, I said that immersive, photorealistic simulation was essential. After seeing all the homicidal software attacking the humans, I think looking for the “killer app” is an odd choice of words. Be careful what you ask for. You may get it.

According to evolutionary taxonomy, "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny”, which means that the physical development of an organism unfolds through stages that retrace the evolutionary physical development of the individual’s species. The Matrix Reloaded is a reflection of the vast human historical journey. Future generations will say, “Wachowskis recapitulate humanities.” Take a bow, gentlemen. You did a great job.

After the longest, most heavily populated credit crawl at the end of movie ever the trailer for the final film is shown. The Matrix Revolutions show the exoskeletons and hovercraft in action, and Neo in a chubby rain-drenched showdown with Agent Smith. I’m counting the days until this winter for the conclusion of the Matrix trilogy.

© 2003 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu
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