12/1/07

R053 The Matrix Reloaded

(2003, SciFi/Action, color)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

Never bring a gun to a “whoa” fight.

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:

Fetish models talk incessantly, pausing for the occasional kung fu battle.

Summary:

Welcome to my green-filtered nightmare.Kung fu super-hacker Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) attacks a power plant with a motorcycle helmet, is overcome by villainous agents, and falls off a tall building to her death. Her lover Neo (Keanu Reeves) wakes up aboard the postapocalyptic grunge ship Nebuchadnezzar. It was just a scary dream.

He and his fellow freedom fighters enter the Matrix—the computer-generated world designed by our future machine overlords to enslave the minds of all mankind, for those of you who came in late—to attend a meeting of grunge-ship revolutionaries. In what might be the shortest speech of the film, Neo’s captain Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) asks that one of his fellow ship captains stay behind in the Matrix to wait for contact from the Oracle while he and the other captains return to Zion—the last free refuge of humankind, in case you were wondering—to help prepare for the impending machine invasion of that city. A captain volunteers. Agents arrive—sentient programs who...

Aw, hell. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, what are you even doing here?

The super-powered Neo defeats the agents in what might be the shortest kung fu sequence of the film, and then exits the Matrix to return to the Nebuchadnezzar. They arrive in Zion, where they come into conflict with that city’s non-believing defense commander. What does he not believe in? The prophecy about Neo’s fate to save Zion in particular and the world in general. Be grateful that I haven’t summarized this in anywhere near as much detail as the film, which goes on and on about it in hallways, offices, balconies, loud and overlong sex parties...

Actually, I would be remiss if I did not mention the rave/orgy in particular, as it is such a prominent, inexplicable, and cringe-worthy feature of the early film. Ostensibly, it’s a city-wide meeting to announce the encroachment of the machine army and Zion’s impending doom, but somehow Morpheus’ nonsensical speech on the subject twists this into a reason for celebration. He finishes, the music begins, and everyone starts to grind on everyone else while Neo and Trinity slip away to make the sweaty, machine-plug-covered beast with two backs to the rhythm of an ear-shattering drum band. The nausea-inducing horror was such that I had to stop the movie for the day and hold my wife until some semblance of hope and joy returned to warm my inner being.

Enjoy my shiny butt-cheeks.Next evening, I resumed viewing to see the volunteer ship captain return and deliver instructions on where and when Neo can meet the Oracle. Morpheus and his crew abandon the soon-to-be besieged Zion to keep this appointment. Neo fights off her personal secretary to prove his identity, and then meets the matronly Oracle on a park bench. They discuss her nature as a sentient program, his trust issues, his bad dreams about Trinity’s impending death, and the nature of free will, going on and on about it like this...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

The Oracle instructs him to seek someone called the Keymaker, currently in the protective custody of a rogue program called the Merovingian. She departs, and Neo meets Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who has also gone rogue, gaining the ability to copy himself into other people. Neo then fights off an army of Smiths in an intricately choreographed fight scene that goes on and on like this...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Neo eventually retreats, joining Morpheus and Trinity to meet the overwhelmingly French Merovingian, who goes on and on about causality like this....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...during which he feeds cake to a female patron of his restaurant, digitally enhanced to make her vagina explode (I swear I did not make that up). He leaves to “attend to other business” while his henchmen escort our heroes to the elevator. The Merovingian’s wife intercepts them before they’ve left the building. Her husband no longer loves her; in exchange for a sample of Neo’s love for Trinity, she’ll lead them to the Keymaker. Neo grants her a pair of kisses, the second of which she deems satisfactory, and she takes them where they need to go.

Her husband wrests himself away from his tryst with the amorous cake-eater (you know, the one with the exploded vagina) to barge in and demand just what the hell is going on. Morpheus and Trinity flee with the Keymaker while Neo takes on the Merovingian’s henchmen in an unending battle sequence that goes on and on like this...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

...while Trinity, Morpheus, and the Keymaker battle a pair of ghostly albinos and, eventually, Agent Johnson (Daniel Bernhardt, whom you may remember as the shirtless Runaway from Future War) in an unending freeway road battle that goes on and on like this...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Meanwhile, the council of Zion overrides the defense commander’s objections to send two grunge ships into the Matrix to help Morpheus. One of the ship captains, named Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), comes to Morpheus’ rescue. She helps him hold off Agent Johnson long enough for Neo to swoop in and save the day at the last possible moment.

Aboard the S.S. Filthball.I’m a little unclear about how one event leads to another here, but as far as I can tell, the three ship captains conspire to follow the Keymaker’s instructions to shut down the power grid to a certain building, allowing Neo to bypass security and ascend to CGI machine heaven, thus stopping the invasion of Zion. Niobe fulfills her responsibility, blowing up the power plant in question, but her fellow captain’s ship is destroyed by marauding machines, killing him and his crew before he can take the backup power system offline. Trinity remained behind in an effort to circumvent Neo’s prophetic visions of her death, but she enters the Matrix anyway when she sees the other ship’s failure, taking the backup system offline herself. Meanwhile, Morpheus, Neo, and the Keymaker creep through back doors to the building in question, fighting their way past an army of Smiths to reach the celestial door. The Keymaker sacrifices himself to lock Smith out while Neo enters...

...and meets a sentient program called the Engineer, who tells Neo that the prophecy they’ve been following all this time is a lie. Its true purpose is to deal with the malcontents that Free Will inevitably allows to crop up in every version of the Matrix he’s created, gathering them all in one place (i.e. Zion) for occasional extermination. The current Zion will be destroyed as scheduled, leaving Neo as the sole survivor. His task will then be to liberate other malcontents from the Matrix and create a new Zion, which, in turn, will be destroyed a few generations from now, and so on in an unending cycle. If Neo refuses, the Matrix will crash, killing billions and dooming mankind to total extinction. Their discussion goes on and on in this vein like this...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

During all the metaphysical speech-making, Neo becomes aware that Trinity has entered the Matrix despite his warnings, and even now his dreams of her demise are coming true. He rejects the Engineer’s proposal and returns to the Matrix, managing to catch the now-wounded Trinity before she can finish her fall from the building top. She dies in Neo’s arms, but he uses his super Matrix powers to remove the fatal bullet, revive, and heal her.

Back in the real world, Neo explains the prophecy’s falsehood to Morpheus in something that looks like it will turn into another lengthy metaphysical speech, but, fortunately, the machines attack before this can come about. They flee the Morpheus’ doomed ship, scrambling for cover while the machines close in for the kill. Neo discovers that he now has the power to affect machines in the real world as well as the Matrix. He destroys their attackers and faints. Niobe’s ship picks up the survivors.

To be continued...

Thoughts:

Double your pleasure.  And your death.The plot of The Matrix Reloaded contains wheels within wheels—delicate, intricate, and interlocking, like the cogs and springs of a watch. Granted, some of those wheels are rusty and don’t turn very well, while others aren’t connected to anything, spinning freely by themselves off in their own little corners. Still others seem to be square, or triangular, regularly interrupting off the rhythm of the mechanism, preventing it from functioning as it should. I guess what I’m trying to say is that The Matrix Reloaded would like to contain wheels within wheels, but actually contains a mass of randomly shaped parts, thrown together in a shuddering pile.

Remember what I said last time, about how the first Matrix film works because it focuses on its strengths and tiptoes around the metaphysical silliness? This one does the exact opposite, droning our ears off with irrelevant stupidity so that we’re already impatient and stupefied by the time our rubber protagonists go at it in a series of increasingly lengthy and unfocused duels. Why? How could a franchise that did so much right the first time get so much wrong in the very next installment? An interesting article recently added to the archives of Roger Ebert’s site gave me a clue:

The studio head is 52 years old, with the perfectly groomed Ivy League look of a Harvard MBA graduate. He is the only man in the restaurant on Melrose Avenue who is wearing a tie. He is talking about another studio’s recent major box-office bomb.

“I wouldn’t have touched that project with a 10-foot pole,” he says. “That was a cocaine movie and everybody knew it.”

“It wasn’t about cocaine,” protests a luncheon companion.

“Not about cocaine,” he says. “Made on cocaine. They always have the same problem. They have a lot of energy, but no organizing ability. So they sit there day after day, filming the same scenes over and over again.” (Emphasis added.)


And later, this quote describing how to tell if a movie has been made on cocaine:

...if enough coke was around, the movie probably isn’t very good. It will have vast grandiose movements leading to nothing.


I acknowledge that these comments were made many years before The Matrix Reloaded was even a twinkle in the Wachowski brothers' collective eye. Neither am I implying certain knowledge that the Brothers W and their adjunct filmmakers are crackheads. I’m just observing that, if this turned out to be the case, I would not be at all surprised.

Mike invites Bill and Kevin to join him for this commentary track but, knowing full well the horrors to which they are about to be subjected, it takes fifty-three pounds of crisp, delicious bacon to lure them into the recording booth. As we start off, Mike calls accurately calls the film “the Star Wars prequel of sequels.” When the inhabitants of Zion decide that their impending genocide is as good a reason as any to party, Bill calls their band, “Sir Bangs-A-Lot and his Migraine Orchestra.” As our heroes enter the Merovingian’s oily nightclub, Kevin notes, “There are Tex Avery cartoons more subtle than this.” Near the end, when Neo holds up his hand to fend off the attacking machines, Bill says, “You shall, like, not pass, okay?” Here’s a film so smothered under the weight of its own nonsensical conceits that it shouldn’t have been watchable at all. The Rifftrax crew steps up with a hilarious and truly heroic commentary; however, the film’s inherent pain still oozes through in many places, so approach with caution.