Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA/Australia, 2003. Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Silver Pictures, NPV Entertainment, Heineken Branded Entertainment. Screenplay by Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, based on their characters. Cinematography by Bill Pope. Produced by Joel Silver. Music by Don Davis. Production Design by Owen Paterson. Costume Design by Kym Barrett. Film Editing by Zach Staenberg. Cannes Film Festival 2003.
At long last, the inevitable sequel to the best science-fiction film of the last five years has finally arrived, and surprisingly enough the Wachowski boys have bitten off less than they can chew. Following the events that concluded the first Matrix, this one follows the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar as they prepare for an all-out war between humans and machines that threatens the safety of the city of Zion. Located near the core of the earth, Zion is the only place where humans are free to live outside the computer-controlled world of the Matrix, though instead of living normal lives they just wear slutty clothes and attend raves in hollowed-out caves every night. Neo (Keanu Reeves in all his stoney-faced glory) is informed by the Oracle (Gloria Foster, who sadly died shortly after filming was completed) that he must prepare for the clash with his mighty enemies by finding a keymaster who can take him to the source of the matrix. The film is packed with action scenes, all of them featuring visual effects that will knock your socks off with their authenticity and effectiveness. The editing isn’t as graceful as it was the first time around, and the character-free action leaves you breathlessly admiring the technical side of the film without ever getting emotionally involved. The joy to the original film was a true feeling of wonder at having actually fallen down a rabbit hole, something movies rarely manage to do these days, but that feeling has not survived long enough to make it to the second installment. Neo’s abilities are foolproof to the point of making all his fight scenes boring (if we know he’s not even going to get scratched, why are we watching?) and the story is so slim that the action scenes feel more like filler to excuse the movie’s feature length. It also doesn’t help that the series’ popularity has pushed the brothers Wachowski to take their little universe a bit too seriously, sapping the experience of any fun and replacing enjoyment with talky technobabble and pretentious character conflicts. The actors are all sturdy and able in their roles, particularly a gorgeous Monica Bellucci who seems to be the only person having a good time being in a big Hollywood action movie.