The Matrix Reloaded v 2.
A second revision of my Matrix Reloaded review.
This is Revision 2. For Revision 1 click here.
Live in New York? Wanna see The Matrix Reloaded in IMAX with a bunch of strangers? Click Here.
Added: May 24, 2003 So I read the script for the first Matrix. It's available in a lot of places online. It's not as good as the film version, this must've been an early script. It makes me think that perhaps Reloaded should've gotten some of the refinements the first movie got.
I saw the original Matrix only a year or so ago. It took a few viewings for me to to get the plot. My primitive mind didn't fully understand what was going on, and the more I saw it, the more I appreciated the way things interacted. How one plot point lead to another, why things had to happen the way they did.
But, I enjoyed the story anyway. For me, plot is simple: Caring about the characters and their goals enough to want to see them overcome the obstacles that are put in their paths. If you create characters who are likable, or dislikable, it will carry a weak storyline.
The original Matrix, on the other hand, had a very strong storyline. Friends turned out to be enemies, and these things were revealed at the right moments. One development depended on the previous one and it builds in a very elegant way.
Now, I've only see Reloaded once, and it was only a few days ago, but my initial impression is that the characters and story aren't as strong. It has as much philosphy, though I think it's more heavy handed: instead of "There is no spoon," we get "You come to me without why." There is as much depth to the references, and influences, perhaps more. Interestingly, you could say The Matrix was an influence on Reloaded because they were very aware that they had to make something that live up to the name.
I'm beginning to think that this movie isn't meant to be appreciated alone, it's part of a tapestry of Matrix media - the Animatrix, the video game, I believe a series of comic books, and an online video game (MMORPG) all tie in to this movie. Some of the things in this movie I'm told are references to the other things in universe of The Matrix. And, of course, it's not a single movie, Revolutions ties in heavily with this movie.
Plot Analysis: The Characters
I think the characters aren't as strong in Reloaded. I'm not given as much of a reason to care about them.
In the first movie, I care very much that Neo lives up to his potential, that Morpheus is rescued, that Trinity professes her love to him, and that Cypher & Agent Smith get killed. We're given a reason to care about these characters.
In Reloaded, Neo doesn't struggle as much. He's already The One. So while in the first movie, his doubts and fears are on the surface - we know he believes The Oracle when she tells him he isn't The One, and he risks his life for Morpheus. In this movie, he already is The One, and while he has doubts, they're not really communicated well. He doesn't talk about his dreams, and at the end of the movie, he doesn't talk about his conversation with The Architect.
IMHO it's this kind of emotionally closed off behaviour that prevents us from caring about him.
Also, making Neo a Superman character has it's problems. The house in the mountains is an obvious contrivance to prevent Neo from being on the Freeway, because the minute Neo is on the Freeway, all the other opponents are outmatched.
Morpheus has a very small role in this movie. He convices the other ships' captains to help him fulfill the Prophecy, and has some fight scenes. He does very little else, except give the occasional speach. Other than the fight scene, Morpheus has no conflicts either. The Council is on his side, and silences the other captain's objections. The audience in Zion is very receptive to his message, and he has little to say to Merovingian.
Morpheus believes in Neo and the Prophecy. In this movie he's the only human who does, so he must exist to aid Neo, who doesn't yet believe. So in many ways Morpheus is the driving force, the Gandalf of the Matrix Trilogy to Neo's Frodo. But Gandalf had a Sauromon and a Balrog to contend with. In Reloaded, Morpheus just exists.
I guess that would make Trinity Samwise. Trinity also has a much smaller role than in the first movie. It seems as if she has no other reason to exist in this movie besides being the object of Neo's affections, the reason he makes his choice.
Trinity has a couple of moments - when Neo is asked to kiss Persephone, but she's quickly quieted down by Morpheus ending that conflict, and when she hacks the building's computer to shut off power. Oh, and when Neo brings her back to life at the end.
All of these scenes are momentary conflicts that are resolved very quickly. There is no conflict that starts at the beginning and is resolved at the end. I would say this is the problem for all of the characters.
I think that aboard the Nebuchadnezzer, Link represents us. Whereas in the first movie, Neo was the everyman, and we were supposed to identify with him, now that Neo is Superman and is facing issues we couldn't fathom, we're given Link.
Also, the actor who played Tank was fired from the movie.
Link also is the only character who has a real conflict in Zion - his girlfriend doesn't want him to leave. In fact, when Zion falls, he's the only one with something to leave. I think the filmmakers or editors or Hollywood noticed that Link was missing from a big chunk of the movie and they added in reaction shots of him watching the action just to remind us he existed. From my point of view, it interrupted my own reaction. If I was cheering for Neo when he was... I suddenly felt silly doing it.
Anyone who's played a D&D style video game knows that there's someone who gives you a question. Well, meet the Oracle. "Find the Keymaster to open the Door to the Source Code." It almost sounds like a joke.
Despite the momentary conflict of "should we trust the Oracle?" Neo follows her instructions to the letter.
In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron is an eye, so he needs someone in a little closer, so we get Sauromon. But Sauromon is holed up, so we get the the big Uru Kai leader guy. Forgive me for mangling these spellings. Well, in the first movie, Agent Smith is the physical manifestation of the idea of The Matrix.
In this movie, however, he is a rogue agent, but I expect that his role is largely unchanged. In this movie, we're introduced to programs who think and act in unique and interesting ways, who fight for their own survival. Well, this is what Agent Smith is doing.
In the first movie, once Zion was destroyed, he would be freed. Free to do what, I don't know. Now, he's on the run, and he must prevent Neo from destroying his way of life. This sounds very much like what The Matrix would want.
Merovingian & Persephone
See the links section / Corporate Mofo Guide for an interesting discussion on the origin of the character Merovingian.
Persephone is a famous Greek goddess who was forced to marry Hades against her will. For 6 months of the year she lives with him, and that's when Winter comes. The she returns in the spring.
These characters are interesting, and I'll have to re-watch the movie again to listen more closely to what Merovingian says now that I've seen the movie through. He survived several of Neo's predecessors, and is intent on keeping his way of life intact, which is why he guards the Keymaker. Though for someone with so much intelligence and wit, when it comes time to fight to prevent them escaping with the Keymaker, he simply sends his goons after them.
Persephone has a brief conflict that involves kissing Neo. Interestingly, she summons Merovingian back so he can fight to regain the Keymaker rather than just letting them escape.
The obvious MacGuffin (q.v.). The object around which the plot revolves. He's pretty much named for what he is - the guy that will unlock the door to the next part of the movie. That's his role in the movie, and that's his role in The Matrix. He says as much when he's about to die.
The whole door on a floor you cannot get to except under these specific circumstances seemed overly contrived to me. It was also solved in the time it took the Keymaker to explain the problem. Lastly, I believe those scenes tied in with the video game. I think a director's cut may elaborate them a bit more.
"I am your father, Luke." I'm also going to talk very quickly and seriously brainfuck the audience for a few minutes. Anyone who doesn't understand will be bored out of their minds. Anyone who does understand will want to watch the movie again to catch everything I said.
Forgive any errors here, I did only see the movie once.
Seriously though, he elaborates on what Agent Smith tells Morpheus in the first Matrix. That the original Matrix was perfect, but humans rejected it. He goes on to explain that they introduced a flaw (he and the Oracle), allowing humans to escape, but the inevitable result was a rebellion. The ultimate expression of that rebellion being the creation of a One.
But they designed it so that The One would love humanity so much that he would always choose to allow Zion to be destroyed in favor of allowing The Matrix to survive. The interesting twist this time is that Neo's love for the world was expressed in the form of a love for a single woman - Trinity.
Plot Analysis: The Goals and Obstacles
The main goal seems to be to allow Neo to fulfil the prophecy. Beyond that, the other goals are quickly resolved - see plot synposis below. The longest plot point is getting the Keymaker. My problem with this is that, as Merovingian says, they come to him without a "why."
They are simply doing what they're told, so why should we, the audience, care about whether or not they get it? In fact, they walk out of the restaurant without it. There isn't a strong tension here. Let's face it, now that Neo is all powerful, what problems can they not solve?
There seem to be two kinds of problems in this movie:
They do not know something.
With Neo's power, any brute force problem can be solved. Also, with their confidence and bravado (as seen in the first movie), they have no self esteem issues they have to face.
Zion will be destroyed.
In the real world, Neo is an ordinary person. Also, this gives a time limit beyond which they need to solve all of their knowledge issues.
So while in the first Matrix, you're introduced to the Agents in the very first scene, and you have a satisfying moment when Agent Smith is killed, in Reloaded it's Trinity's death that is the first scene, and I guess they expected us to have a satisfying moment when she's brought back to life, but it just didn't work for me. I suspect the film makers realized this, and that's why they added that scene at the beginning as a dream sequence... Without it Trinity's death holds no meaning for us beyond the moment that it happens in.
From what I'm told, the Wachowsky brothers devour information. They read philosophy from Cornell West to Herman Hesse and absorb cultural influences from classic movies to comic books and Anime.
The first movie can be summed up with the phrase "Know Thyself" that the Oracle has on her kitchen wall. Throughout the movie, Neo doubts himself, but once, as the Oracle predicted, he dies and comes back to life, he knows himself. Once Trinity admits her love for him, he believes in himself as The One. It's Neo's journey from Mr. Anderson to Neo - from a self-doubting employee who's afraid of heights and rebels against authority to The One, who can fly and has no fear of the Agents - that the movie is about.
This movie introduces the phrase, "You come to me without why," at about the same point, and with the same emphasis as "know thyself." Do they know why they are doing what they are doing? I've already complained that they just seem to be doing what they are told. Morpheus, while a good leader and a strong personality, is simply following the Oracle and her prophecies. Neo, as usual, is completely confused all of the time.
The first movie had some good ole Eastern Philosphy - once you know yourself, you will see the world for the illusion that is, mixed in with some good ole Messianic philsophy - Neo was reborn, maybe not on the third day, but in room 303.
This movie seems to have moven foward in time. I'm unfamiliar with the philsophers names, but it seems to very post Rene "I think therefore I am" Descartes. Largely it centers around the nature of choice. Are your choices just a predictable reaction to the world around you, or are they unpredictable?
My own conjecture is that computer programs are always created for a reason. Human beings are not. Computer programs exist to solve a problem, or perform a certain tasks. Human beings do not know why they exist, or if they have a purpose. In fact, Human beings wonder whether or not they do exist.
So it is natural for computer programs to think in terms of cause and effect, and predictability. However, they had to introduce an element of unpredictability into their programs in order for the highly unpredictable humans to accept them. Yet, being the programs they are, they tried to influence the human's decisions by the circumstances they existed in.
In a very Michael Moorcock-esque way, Machines represent absolute order, and humans chaos. Neither can exist without the other.
The Plot - Synopsis
Even the most elaborate works of art can be broken down into simple themes, a simple architecture that has been elaborated on. Here's a quick overview of the plot.
- The movie starts with Morpheus in The Matrix talking to the other ship captains. He tells them that despite the ruling of the Council, one ship should stay behind to await word from The Oracle. Agent Smith sends a message to Neo, and Neo fights some Agents with "upgrades."
- The Oracle sends word, and at the same time, Agent Smith hacks someone's mind and enters the Real World.
- Neo fights the Agent Smiths and learns that they have something in Common. Just as Agent Smith liberated Neo when he killed him, Neo liberated Agent Smith when he killed him.
- There are several Zion subplots
- The people giving Neo gifts and asking him for miracles.
- Neo and Trinity trying to find alone time.
- The captain of security opposing Morpheus' decision to follow the prophecy rather than protect the city.
- Morpheus' and the other Captain's relationship to Niobe.
- Neo talking to the council member.
- Link and his girlfriend struggling over his decision to join the Nebuchadnezzer.
- A kid that Neo liberated from The Matrix follows him around and wants to join the crew.
- Neo gets the gift of a spoon.
- Morpheus, Neo and Trinity return to see the Oracle. Neo fights Seraph, and the Oracle tells Neo to go get the Keymaker.
- When they go to get the Keymaker they meet Merovingian, who doesn't want to give the Keymaker up. Merovingian gives us some interesting philsophy to ponder, and most importantly drives home that without a "why," or a reason, they are powerless, just doing what they are told, just reacting. The one universal constant is cause & effect.
- Merovingian's wife Persephone takes them to the Keymaker, but only if Neo kisses her, which causes some tension with Trinity.
- When Merovingian finds out what Persephone did, he sends his goons to get the Keymaker back. Interestingly, it was Persephone who sent the message (by killing one of the gaurds) that brought Merovingian back.
- Highway chase scene. This scene stems from Merovingian not wanting to give up the Keymaker. Neo is several hundred miles away and rescues Morpheus and the Keymaker at the last minute. Niobe also rescues Morpheus.
- Morpheus gives a speech on what he believes, and the Keymaker tells them what they need to do - take out the powerplant, find the door, etc.
- Neo tells Trinity to stay out of The Matrix.
- Neo encounters The Architect and is given a choice. Either a) Destroy the Matrix and everyone in it, including Trinity - who entered The Matrix against Neo's wishes in order to help him, and by doing so rescue Zion, or b) re-enter The Matrix, allow Zion to be destroyed and rescue Trinity and everyone else in The Matrix.
- Neo chooses the latter and saves Trinity. He tells Morpheus that the Prophecy is false, and then Sentinals attack. There's no choice but to abandon the ship. While wandering the sewers, Neo sense the Sentinals and stops them, but gets put into a Coma.
- They're picked up by a ship and the captain explains how Zion fell, almost as if the Machines knew what to expect. He says that someone hit the EMP before he should've disabling several ships, and then we're shown the guy Agent Smith inhabited.
Peeling Back The Onion - Symbolism, Influences, and Random Notes
The Spoon. Kyle West on the Alternate Reality Mailing List said his significant other pointed this out to him. Why did Neo get a spoon while he was in Zion? Was it just to tell Neo that he was liberated, or was it to send a message - there still is no spoon?
The Red Pill. My girlfriend pointed this out. The Oracle gives Neo a piece of candy. Now, the first Red Pill that was given to Neo was "a trace program designed to disrupt his input/output carrier signal." Could this piece of candy also be some sort of program?
Room 101 is re-used over and over in this movie. In the first movie Room 303 is the room Trinity is in, and Neo is in room 101 - Neo = One, Trinity = 3. Well, Room 101 is back in this movie, and nearly any room with a number is room 101. From George Orwell's 1984, Room 101 is your own personal hell.
In the original Matrix, once Neo accepts that he is the one, he runs through all the previous scenes in the movie (an oracle type apartment, etc.) to return to the beginning - Room 303 where Trinity was in the very first scene. Agent Smith knows that Neo is headed to this hotel room. It is in this first room that Trinity brings him back to life, now a resurrected Messiah. Jesus rose from the dead in 3 days.
While we're on the subject of The Bible, Morpheus is a John the Baptist character, telling everyone about the coming of the Messiah. Cipher is a Judas character, betraying him and leading to his ultimate death, though in the movie Cipher betrays Morpheus not Neo.
The Matrix fits squarely in the Cyberpunk genre, which is why telephones figure so prominently, it's a convention of the Genre... The telephone is how you connect to the internet and cyberspace.
What is the society of the machines who created The Matrix like? What do they do with all this energy they collect from the Humans? Where would Agent Smith have gone once he had obtained the codes from Zion? He hates The Matrix, but what exists outside The Matrix?
Each of the main characters has a signature move. Agent Smith is very aggressive, so his move is punching. Morpheus has the eagle where he jumps up in the air and comes down with his knee. Trinity has the scropion kick where she kicks you from behind her head. Neo has a triple kick.
Technology in The Matrix is similar to technology outside The Matrix - the Bug that was planted into Neo is very similar to the Sentinals that hunt the hovercraft. The same musical motif is used for both in the first movie.
Watch the credits for Reloaded to the end, you get a preview of Revolutions.
During interview, Keanu keeps referring to The One as being the birth of compassion. They also refer to Zion as the bottom of the Rabbit hole, and consistently as "The Real World."
Added Tuesday May 20: Ph0rk on Kuro5hin.org pointed out that "Didn't you notice that everyone spouting the deterministic propaganda was a program? Isn't obvious that programs would think that way? (Including the bit about causality, if you believe in only causality, thats not too far from determinism.) Just because the oracle and everyone else says it is one way, doesn't make it so." It makes sense to me that a program would believe things to be that way. Inside a computer every program exists for a reason, unlike humans who are brought into the world without being given a reason for being. Someone else pointed out that Morpheus similarly spouted "fulfill the prophecy" propoganda, but it may be that he simply swallowed what the Oracle told him. This is definately a possibility, and I think the play between fate and choice is fun, though heavy-handed in this movie.
I always thought that the rooftop scenes in the beginning of the first Matrix were very reminiscent of the rooftop scenes in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligiri, an old silent German Noir movie.
Men have become the tools of their tools. - Henry David Thoreau
The company Neo worked for - MetaCortex (literally "beyond the brain") - threatened to fire him because they didn't like his behaviour. "You can either choose to get up in the morning and get to work on time, or you can choose to find another job." This is a great metaphor for The Matrix. In The Matrix you can be unplugged for any reason they choose.
Why wasn't Neo recycled? He was flushed into the sewers, one would expect the most efficient thing to do with him would be to grind him up to feed to the living.
Added May 24 : What is your residual self image? If you lived your entire life in a vat without a mirror, how would you know what you looked like?
Links from Wikipedia
- Merovingian , Merovech
- Persephone , Proserpina
- Room 101
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Rene Descartes
A more thorough look at the philosophy behind The Matrix than I can give:
- The Matrix Reloaded: The Corporate Mofo Guide
- Philsophers Draw on The Martrix (NY Times)
- Slashdot | Philsophy, Reality and The Matrix
- A French Philosopher Talks Back to Hollywood and 'The Matrix' (originally from the NY Times)
Where am I discussing The Matrix?
- The Alternate Reality Mailing List
- The Joel on Software Forum
- The Joel on Software Forum (2)
page first created on Wednesday, May 21, 2003
© Mark Wieczorek