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He's Having Second Thoughts About Bike to Work Day: Carrie-Anne Moss drives recklessly into one of the long chase scenes in 'The Matrix Reloaded.'

A Load of Bollocks

'The Matrix Reloaded' is cheeky, silly and actually kind of fun

By Steve Palopoli

With all of the promotional hype, fan expectation, long lines and critical backlash around this sequel, the Matrix franchise seems to be not so much reloaded as overloaded. But hey, so is the actual movie that came out of all this hoo-hah, so I guess that's fair enough.

Still, I think it's way too easy to write off The Matrix Reloaded. After all, the first movie was revolutionary in terms of its effects, and had been imitated to death before it was even out on video. When it did go to video, it single-handedly established the DVD format, making it that rare blockbuster that actually seemed interesting and cool even the second time around.

And then ... a three-year wait for a sequel. So it's no wonder people who care have a bit invested in this, and why some have even put all their hopes for this summer's movies onto it. But before we get too carried away, let's just take a moment to remember Keanu Reeves struggling to display any human emotion beyond utter Bill-and-Ted-type confusion in the first film. (This was only of course because he can't act, but if you ask me, director-writers the Wachowski brothers were secretly and gleefully using this as a sly comment on the nature of humanity, in that Harrison-Ford-in-Blade-Runner-is-really-an-android-himself kind of way.) Now ask yourself: Should we really take a sequel to The Matrix all that seriously?

No, and we can't take it seriously as a techie wet dream in the same way as the first film, either, since it represents absolutely no leap forward in anything, beyond the fact that CGI gets oh-so-slightly better ever year. The action scenes are, in fact, the most boring parts of the whole thing.

Oh, and it's really way, way too long. Wait, a second, did I say I liked this movie? What was I thinking?

Oh yeah, I remember. What I liked about The Matrix Reloaded is that underneath all the event-movie crap, the Wachowskis have made a goofy, quirky movie that's more in the vein of their excellent first film, Bound. As that movie was a cheeky take on film noir, so is The Matrix Reloaded, I think, their cheeky take on the sci-fi summer blockbuster.

This is a movie where people and machines do things for reasons that are simply bizarre--they speak with outrageous French ac-cents, they betray other characters for the price of a kiss, they seek to do "good" or "evil" despite the fact that they are really just strings of binary code. I particularly like the way the "programs" in the film seek to act on levels of consciousness beyond that of machine code, since the zeros and ones of that closed binary system are a clever symbol of the duality that the film is always questioning. Is the nature of the universe free will or predestination? Spirituality or secularism? Reality or illusion? (And most importantly, is there a reason they made Keanu and Carrie-Anne Moss look nearly identical? Let's hope so, 'cause it's not all that pleasant to look at.)

There's far more thematic meat here than in the first film, which is of course the way any trilogy should go. But at the same time, the Wachowskis have a lot of fun with it, rattling off a long list of things that might or might not make you go "hmm," and eventually turning the movie into a two-hour pop-culture version of a philosophy course.

Admittedly, for the first 20 minutes or so, there's no sign of this, and in fact the dreadful slow-motion scenes near the beginning make it look as though the Wachowskis have begun taking themselves too seriously. However, a couple of things quickly tipped me off to the contrary:

1. Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus is this close to sounding like Adam West as Batman: Take a listen! It's true! I kept expecting him to say, "Naturally, you didn't know I was wearing my special Super B long thermal underwear."

2. The human stronghold of Zion is basically the Burning Man Festival in a cave: Looks pretty fun to be one of the last remnants of humanity if all you gotta do is look tribal and get funky!

C'mon, you know that stuff is just meant to be weird for weirdness' sake, and I like how tongue-in-cheek much of the movie appears to be, with references to Adam-12, old art-trash horror movies and Jet-Li films. The extended freeway scene also sort of reminded me of CHiPs, but I think that one wasn't intentional. With the Wachowski brothers, though, you never know.

The Matrix Reloaded (R; 138 min.), directed and written by the Wachowski brothers, photographed by Bill Pope and starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss, plays countywide.

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From the May 21-28, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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