I saw the Matrix last night, in a preview showing.. and I think in another thread I hinted what I felt.. "the perk - it isn't Highlander II" I was coaxed tonight to go back, watch again - pay my ticket - and see it with a group of friends.
I think the problem I was having on my initial viewing were expanded upon with the second viewing, and now I can definitively say: this IS the Highlander II of sequels.
I am a huge fan of the first film, and so I went into this more then a little bit "upbeat" about my hopes for the film originally. I figured tonight I would have lowered expectations and maybe would enjoy it more. Instead, I found myself having the same problems I did previously, and coming to realize exactly what went wrong with this film.
In Highlander II, a sequel to Highlander, an interesting, unique film, the filmmakers chose to "justify" most of the happenings of the first film. This set of justification set the mythos of "Highlander" on it's ear and caused a lot of problems for fans, who could not equate "Xiest" with the concept of "it just is". In a sense, "Matrix Reloaded" creates it's own "Xiest" when it transforms pregiven constructs in such a way that it contradicts the mythos of the first film.
This is not to say that you cannot change the concept, or that you cannot expand on the concept. But too much of "Matrix Reloaded" was seemingly spent denying the concept altogether, or in fact, seemingly padding in order to give the impression that "things are different because they just are"
Within the first ten minutes, we see scores of fight scenes and good action. We are then greeted with signs of what really is Zion, which turns into a "Rave" party scene which lasts a mindboggling 8 minutes+ which seems to have as it's sole point "show some women's boobs" and "dance to awkward techno". Dialogue delivered here is so forced that it goes beyond inane, the delivery of the lines themselves comes across as though someone is reading the Ten Commandments to potential converts.
There will be major spoilers ahead, so do not unseal unless you REALLY want to know.
In a rash moment, somewhat understandably,
Neo goes to meet the Oracle; at which he is confronted by another "member" program; this program is able to provide a solid match for Neo's fighting skill which results in a draw.. he then guides Neo to the Oracle.. which left me wondering: why can the matrix not create more of this program?
This scene contradicts all potential mythos. In fact, in light of this scene, you wonder: if Neo is set to be able to undermine the programming, as he does elsewhere.. in fact, in the fight scene with the Agent Smith characters later in this same seen - then how can this scene exist, without showing the Matrix as a flawed concept? this becomes exceptionally puzzling at the end.. so much so that it becomes nonsensical.. I'll address that later...
it is then pointed out that the Oracle is, in fact, a computer program running to hand out information.. this is something I had assumed earlier.. but it becomes something of a sore thumb at the end
We then procede through some laborious dialogue between the senator and Neo, dialogue that would make George Lucas TPM dialogue look sparkling. The dialogue is both tiresome and lacks any real point, it seems to act as another 5-10 minutes of padding for a film that already drags. This is then followed by several strange "Neo Worshipping" scenes, which create a strange assumption of a compressed timeline I'm definitely not aware of..
But the finale is where the wheels really fall off...
In the end, the Oracle sends Neo to find the Keymaker. The Keymaker is a program that is about to be terminated but it holds all of the keys to the Matrix so that it can access the backdoors to all areas.. after a long series of action, we finally get to go through the door to the mainframe, seemingly a floating observation space platform containing "The Architect" this character informs Neo this is not the first time, but the sixth. On the TV screens, we see previous itterations of "Neo" going through the same program. We are then informed the Oracle is in fact, his partner, and she knew of these problems.. thus, every so often, all of Zion is killed off, the "One" or the "One" who sees the problem is then allowed to choose some for breeding stock, and it all starts over; some percentage will escape, etc.. this creates a lot of conundrums which simply cannot be answered.. IF Neo, in this form, and in previous forms, chooses the breeding stock, then he himself cannot be the same logical outcome in every itteration.. and more then that, it contradicts the concepts of the machines breeding humans - something we were shown earlier.. they would have no need for breeding stock - and more then that, it creates another strange paradox: the architect offers two solutions: one the utter death of everyone; the other choose who gets bred.. only one problem with that.. as a computer program bent on perfection, as it pointed out earlier, the determination could not be held to Neo.. or "Choice" and more then that, if it needs Zion for breeding stock, then.. ugh, what's the point.. it was just bad. All around, stink out loud bad. The dialogue was bad, the concept was bad, the acting in this whole labored scene was bad.
The last scene completely sells fans down the river, and seemingly throws up the red flag of "we've lost every good idea, so we'll steal a few" by basically lifting the core concept of "The Thirteenth Floor" and applying it here.. what no one seems to think about, I'm not going to get into a long rant on how this greatly inerts the concept of neo "seeing the source code" (which at this point becomes a fallacy) .. but I will say that everyone I was with immediately said: "Damnit"
From a huge fan of the first, and a science fiction fan, this movie betrayed most of the common concepts of good scifi.. if you have a good mythos, build on it. Don't try to jiggle it or change it, or rework core concepts.. because you'll find making it work with the groundwork you've laid out is more then difficult.. it's basically impossible.
The Matrix Reloaded drags, runs about 20-30 minutes longer then it should have, lacks any through action, has a plot that greatly destroys key concepts of the first film, and manages end in a third movie setup which may be not only a great rip off, but one with absolutely no emotional investment in any character.
I said to someone two weeks ago: Xmen2 will do well, I think better then "The Matrix Reloaded" but "The Matrix Reloaded" will be where the good stuff happens.
Whoa was I wrong. If you have a choice to see X2 or The Matrix Reloaded.. and you have not seen either.. do yourself a favor.. catch "X2" and at least see acting and a plot worth watching.