By Smilin’ Jack Ruby

The first time I saw The Matrix Reloaded, I walked out of the screening like, “Huh?” and called it the “weirdest Battlestar Galactica episode ever.” I thought there were long sequences of philosophizing, bits of pacing that sucked ass, and then stuff that didn’t work at all – though the visuals were astounding, the fights were pretty bad-ass, and I loved where the movie ended up going by the end. The next day, I chatted with a number of press folks who had similar feelings. A lot of folks just flat out hated the movie and didn’t get into it at all. The junket was an odd thing and though I knew the movie was certainly a pretty damn great pic, I wasn’t totally on board and absolutely loving the thing the way I did the first movie. If I had reviewed it the next day, rationally thinking, the most I would’ve given it was a 7.75.

But then I saw it again and all of that left. Shockingly, I had zero problems with the movie the second time, was really into it, and loved the thing. It was the exact same movie, naturally, but with different expectations, I suddenly didn’t hate the thing. Bizarre, eh?

Anyway, everyone is now online trashing the movie with the kind of spite usually reserved for a Star Wars movie – as if it’s the “in” thing to do to dump on this movie because expectations couldn’t have been higher and the movie was nothing what people expected it to be. I think it’s sad (like the other day when somebody told me that Hulk was long, boring and didn’t go anywhere because it focused on the drama – something I keep hearing – and wasn’t the X2 or Spider-Man that Universal wanted and the execs there are freakin’), but oh, well. I have a movie now that I loved on a second viewing and, frankly, I don’t care if everyone else in the fucking world hated it, I enjoyed it and that’s why I go to the movies. I’m a fan of Death to Smoochy (which the world hates) and Down With Love (which even my girlfriend hates) and just got to weather people walking up to me saying that Identity sucked and that people boo-ed in the screening they saw. Oh, well – fuck it. The Matrix Reloaded fucking rocks the casbah, it’s an amazing bit of filmmaking and, like The Prisoner, is a mindfuck that has you talking about the movie (and thinking about it) for weeks. I’ll be seeing the movie again in the theater and can’t wait for Revolutions.

When we last saw Neo (Keanu Reeves), he had fully realized just the extent of his powers within the matrix and was setting about to go into the real world to free a bunch more minds. Cut to six months later. Neo is having trouble sleeping – having dreams of his girlfriend Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) being killed by villainous agents – and something troubling is afoot. Turns out, in fact (if you’ve seen Final Flight of the Osiris, you’re a few steps ahead), that the machines are drilling towards Zion with 250,000 sentinels in tow to completely wipe out the remaining human beings. There are two minds of what to do about the machines – the Zion military leader Commander Lock (Harry J. Lennix) who believes the humans must unite their hoverships and fight the machines and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who believes that everything will be fine as all the prophecies revolving around Neo as “the One” have thus been proved true. He tells the people of Zion that there’s nothing to worry about and they tend to believe him.

But not all is well in the Matrix. The Oracle (Gloria Foster) hasn’t been heard from in awhile and Neo is beginning to worry. And then there’s the pesky Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) who is acting all bat-shit. He’s no longer an agent and has a number of new and unusual powers that include massive replication (as well as a few other tricks). For some reason, Smith is no longer an Agent, but has more or less gone rogue and decided to just fuck shit up (which includes Neo). In the biggest fight of the movie (which intercuts real stuntmen with CG stuntmen – and it shows, one of the only bad things about the film), Neo has to fight multiple Agent Smith’s in what could only be considered a relentless, no hold’s barred bit of martial arts. It’s quite something and Neo’s “solution” is something that would’ve made Spock proud (whereas X2 has a spiritual cousin in Star Trek II [with everything from the score to the bookending with a book], Reloaded is Evil Dead II to The Matrix’s Evil Dead).

When Neo finally does find the Oracle, she sends him on a quest through the matrix after the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim – who is great here) in order to get Neo close to whatever The Source is, the thing Neo, Morpheus and the others believe will allow the humans to conquer the machines once and for all.

To really say anything more would be criminal.

There are fantastic technical sequences in this movie like we haven’t seen since Star Wars. This movie is a major leap forward in effects and it’s pretty damn beautiful at times, particularly with the blend of miniatures and special effects that make up Zion. My jaw was on the floor in the docking sequence when the Nebuchadnezzer came home for the first time in the film. To me, it was like the great undocking and docking bits from the Star Trek films – particularly the amazing “getting under way” sequence in Wrath of Khan (blended with the perfect score) and then the solemn, returning-to-dock sequence in Search for Spock. I just was really into it and thought it looked beautiful.

On top of that, the production design and costumes are fantastic (Monica Bellucci looks just absolutely stunning). There’s such attention to detail in this movie that’s it’s insane. The “twins” (Adrian and Neil Rayment) are pretty amazing, too, not only in their look, but also in conception. I thought they were so much fun and great to see.

But all that says nothing of the plot. The final ten minutes of the film – the bit with the Architect in particular – are unbelievable (though the actual cliffhanger is kind of “TV”) in what they assert about the Matrix and what it’s all about. As a HUGE fan of The Prisoner, I don’t want to say much more than, yes, it’s an amazing pay-off and changes every single thing you think you know about the movies. It’s a bitch to get your head around (well, sort of) and even if you think you watched the movie through the first time and see where everything fits together, well…when I saw it a second time, I noticed many, many subtle bits – particularly spoken by the Merovingian – that made sense the first time, but had a double meaning the second time around.

At the end of the day, you’re either on board with this film or not after you catch it a couple of times. It looks like The Matrix backlash is in full swing and as much as you don’t want such a thing to happen, OF COURSE it was going to. Oh, well.

Still, I loved it, had a great experience with it and can’t wait to see it again (and see Matrix Revolutions).