I went to see Matrix Reloaded last night and thought it was pretty piss-poor stuff. Here is the basic plot structure:
- Overly-long, self-involved, opaque speech from Character X.
- Overly-long action sequence.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
That’s about it.
Car chases, kung-fu and the endless speechifying of Morpheus, the Council Member, the Oracle, Agent Smith, the Merovingian and finally the Architect: it was a bit like channel surfing between a Monster Truck rally, Drunken Master and a C-SPAN Senate Finance Subcommittee hearing. By the time we got to the architect—I’m sorry, the Architect—and his brand of obtuseness, I was reminded of the scene in The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Marvin the Paranoid Android endlessly drags out saying what he sees written in Arthur Dent’s brainwave patterns. “Will you just tell us, you motorized maniac?!” screams Ford Prefect. My sentiments exactly.
The underlying free-will vs determinism idea wasn’t handled terribly well, with gnomic wallpaper covering over holes in the concepts. By the time we confront the Architect and discover that Choice is the problem and Neo is interesting because of his love for Trinity—well, we’ve landed right in Star Trek territory. “We may be only human but at least we have a choice!” “Tell me, Captain Kirk, what is this thing you humans call … love?” Spare us.
The Star Trek warning signals are present early on, with the inevitable Council Meeting. Why are future societies always managed by Grand Councils? As for the annoying Councillor (who is clearly stalking Neo, by the way—how else would he show up outside his door at the moment Neo happens to wake up from his nightmare?), well what can be said except, how did he get elected? He takes Neo down to the engineering level and marvels that he doesn’t understand how the machines work. Welcome to the division of labor, buddy. He sounded like the angst-ridden teenager in White Noise who’s alienated from his own microwave oven.
This post seems to be turning into a rant, so perhaps I should stop here. Matrix Reloaded isn’t truly awful, just poorly plotted and very badly paced. The design is good, I suppose. Carrie Ann Moss is cool, Laurence Fishburne has perfected the art of not laughing at his own dialogue, and Keanu Reeves is his usual non-self. At the very end, Reeves gets knocked unconscious by a couple of Sentinels. “He’s in some kind of coma” says Doctor McCoy. Couldn’t anyone have replied “How can you tell?”