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May 16th 2003
The Matrix Reloaded - Dystopian Vision Our Only Choice?

The Matrix finally opened and judging by the crowds outside on Granville Street last night, there were more than just a few as keen to be part of the experience as I.
Cast: Keanu Reeves (Neo), Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus), Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith), Jada Pinkett-Smith (Niobi), Adrian Rayment and Neil Rayment (The Twins), Christine Anu, Steve Bastoni (Captain Sorren), Monica Bellucci (Persephone), Daniel Bernhardt (Agent Johnson), Collin Chou, Randall Duk Kim (The Keymaker), Nona Gaye (Zee), Lachy Hulme (Sparks), Roy Jones, Jr. (Captain Ballard), Harry Lennix (Lock), Matt McColm (Agent Thompson), Monique Montez, Harold Perrineau, Jr., Rupert Reid, Che Timmins (Radio Man), Gina Torres (Cass, Dozer's widow), Clayton Watson (The Kid), Lambert Wilson (Merovingian)

Curiously, although it was an event and the film at least half-way lived up to the hype, there were some odd moments before the film opened. Seeing the trailer for Terminator 3 was quite sobering. First of all it was received in silence. A big cinema crowd is usually quite vocal in its likes and dislikes and I remember being in the audience when T2 was trailered a number of years ago and the atmosphere was electric. Everyone wanted to see it. T3 – well maybe it’s just too late, too much post-apocalypse for these times. Nice to see Claire Danes in something big and for Arnie’s sake, at least no one laughed. Which I am afraid happened when Tom Cruise’s latest ‘The Last Samurai’ trailer appeared. OK it won’t be here until December, but I don’t know if we are ready for Tom in a Samurai outfit.

So onto the Matrix Reloaded.
Here at last then Larry and Andy Wachowski have brought us the second part of the trilogy and the final instalment will be shown in November. You’ll know it stars most of the same people as in the first, unless they died, or even if the did, like Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, he reappears in multiple roles. (I do mean multiple). Keanu, Carrie-Ann Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Zerbe all return and yes it is true, if you haven’t seen the first one you won’t know what is happening at all when you see this. The dystopian message is as strong as ever and the special effects are spectacular, the pace extraordinary, especially the fighting sequences on the freeway. The beat, the pace and relentlessness of the sequence is amazing. When Keanu flies, it outdoes Superman big-time with the sheer force of it pulling up cars and debris in his tracks. It’s always nice to see Monica Belluci with her clothes on and the look, feel and musical underpinning of the whole film is sharp and seamless.
But what does it all mean? What about plot?

We do get some exposition at the end of the third act from the ‘architect’ of the whole thing and lots of information that states that this isn’t the first Matrix, but the sixth, but then again I am not sure that actually helps. People have written books about the Matrix – likening Keanu’s Neo character to Jesus and the plot similar to his last days. There is always a Judas out there to do someone like Neo in, an Oracle to take enigmatic advice from and a plethora of villains out to string him up. But they wrote the same about ‘Dune’ and hey, does anyone remember Philip K Dick in all of this, who seems to written all of this stuff many times over in the ‘50’s .

To tell the truth I enjoyed the film and probably need to see it again to remember it all there is so much going on. Harold Perrineau puts life into his character as Link, the man who can interpret code and do incredible things with computers and gets to go home to the lovely Nona Gaye. The opening sequences of a mass ‘rave’ in Zion with everyone getting it on is a turn on and of course quite opposite to the sterile machinations of life in the Matrix. It defines what to be a human is right from the word go; but is it better?

There are many anomalies.
In the Matrix you can have any kind of life you like, any kind of sex, of course you have to live permanently in the 1990’s and the freeways are jammed solid, but wouldn’t that be better than life in an underground cave and no sunlight. Indeed can a human live without sunlight? I don’t think so? So I’m wondering if those who leave the Matrix are getting a better life just because they can choose? And is life in a cave better?
Whenever we film the future, it is always dystopian. I guess we can’t help it. We imagine every generation is living in the best times and everyone else is going to have to worse.

But life now is better than 1860? 1920? 1950? Pick any year. It might be that the future might be fun, crowded but fun, and SARS, AIDS, West Nile Virus aside, cures for cancer and the common cold might actually happen and machines and computers may not take over. We have been imagining that robots will take over our world for more than a hundred years (ever since Nikolai Tesla demonstrated a ‘robot’ at the World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York around 1890 something). We live in fear of being controlled by machines apparently. That fear may indeed come true if they are designed by Microsoft of course.
Keanu Reeves is stoic throughout this film, when he jacks into the Matrix he is wearing a wonderful Italianate priests/monks robe that adds to his ‘saintly’ posture. Carrie Ann Moss is all tricked out in black plastic and there is this full-on video game thing going on here. Back in reality, everyone is in leather or rags, again emphasising that life in the Matrix is richer in texture and colour and with better wine and food. The rich have discrete erotic lives and their security is scarily wraith like, but, of course, no match for Neo who is becoming more superhuman as the film goes along.

Is there any meaning to the Matrix? Or is it just entertainment? Certainly it is a mile better than ‘X2’ and any of the more recent ‘Star Wars’ or indeed any sci-fi movies since the seminal ‘Blade Runner’ but it is simplistic, the dialogue pretty unmemorable and there’s the pity. Political messages don’t need to be delivered by speeches and this is the cardinal error of this current film, too many speeches.
Yes I’ll be in line for Matrix Redux in November. I guess you will be too.

© Sam North

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