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The Matrix: Reloaded ****
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Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie - Anne Moss
Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski


     First, let me get the generic but well-deserved movie critic comments out of the way.  "The Matrix: Reloaded" knocked my socks off.  When I went to go look for them (the socks), I became convinced that they were gone for good.  Simply put, "The Matrix: Reloaded" rocks.  It is, without a doubt in my melon of head, the best action movie I have ever seen, taking the place of its predecessor.  It takes you to another world that exists only in the minds of its creators and on screen.  That is an accomplishment in and of itself.  Few films can create an entire world and sell it to you, make it believable.  The Matrix movies are two such films.
     Secondly, I must honestly say that I cannot recommend the movie to just anybody.  The first film was infinitely accessible to general audiences, but its sequel's audience will shrink once differing word of mouth reaches the ears of the masses. 
     When I was exiting the theater after the showing, I was overwhelmed with the sense that I was in the minority of the people leaving in my high opinion of the movie.  There were grumblings and swearing and raised voices.  It was all too much for me.  The reason for the disatisfied audience: "The Matrix Reloaded" is not a stand alone movie.  It ends abruptly, leaving questions unanswered and open for solutions in the third movie in the trilogy, due in November.  I'm not sure if people missed the idea that the movie would be the "Empire Strikes Back" of the series, the stepping stone to a conclusion.  I don't know how they could have missed it, the media blitz rivaled that of the first Star Wars prequel.  The trailer for The Matrix sequels that first appeared last summer clearly stated in writing that there were going to be two movies.  Common sense lends itself to the idea that the middle film would be like the second chapter of three chapter book.  And, tell me truly, who expects to have all the resolutions to a book's conflicts by the end of the second chapter?  No one, my friends.
     That having been said, the film is not without its flaws.  The first hour or so (of a total 138 minutes) runs a little stifled.  The dialogue often feels forced and contrived.  It's not terribly disconcerting, but it does leave you hungry for the smooth flow of the first film.  After the conflicts and new characters and relationships are fleshed out, the film finds its rhythm. 
     The film opens with a action sequence headlined by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), beckoning back to the first film's opening shots.  Without giving away too much, it's not fully realized, and the audience is thrust instead into the film's major conlicts.
     Sentinels, machines who seek and destroy human operations in the real world, are multiplying and nearing Zion's position.  Neo (Keanu Reeves) is trying to figure out the next step for him to take in the role of "The One."  Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is meeting opposition from his superiors, they having difficulty accepting the prophecy the Oracle (the late Gloria Foster) has predicted.  If that wasn't enough, Mr. Smith (Hugo Weaving) survived his apparent decimation at the hands of Neo, and now he is independent of the matrix, a rogue program trying to make things hard for Neo.  Mr. Smith's motives are unclear at first and probably won't be fully understood until the third movie is released.
     The direction is on par and actually exceeds that of the first film.  Each scene is intrically detailed to the point that I feel that it is my obligation to see it again to catch every nuance.  The action sequences are once again phenomenal, and each outdoes the one before it. 
     There is an 18 minute car chase that blows every car chase that I have ever seen out of the bathtub.  It involves gun fire, multiple vehicles, agents, principle characters, and a fight on top of a moving vehicle.  I have read audience reactions online to the sequence and many feel that it is too drawn out.  I strongly disagree becuase I was absorbed into it.  I was captivated in the most specific sense of the world.  It is, and will probably remain as, the best car chase I have ecer seen on film.  There are many great car chase scenes in many great movies, but this one takes the pastry. 
     Acting wise, the film is not as clean as the first film, to which I cannot help but compare its sequel.  Keanu Reeves is solid again, as solid as Reeves can be.  I am convinced that the only movies where he is truly good will be The Matrix Trilogy.  And he is good, really. 
     Laurence Fishburne was the acting anchor of the first film and he still carries a big load here, but his scenes in the first hour were lackluster.  He goes into his expert technique after that and the movie gets infinitely better at that point.  As in the first film, he delivers well-written speeches, but the speech delivered upon a raised rock above the entire population of Zion seems pretty awful.  He finds his way back to excellency eventually, easing some of the movie's flaw's glare. 
     The other key member of the cast returning from the first film, Carrie-Anne Moss, drops a little in her delivery as well.  She was very subtle and ultra-cool in the first film, but she's never really anything more than Neo's girlfriend in the sequel.  All the pizzazz that she contributed to the first film is dulled for the second film.  She's still a very able actress, but I think she had difficulty adapting to her character's changes.
     The plot of "The Matrix: Reloaded" is wound so tight, so detailed, that you'll never understand it all the first time through.  I believe it to be impossible to grasp the drastic twists in The Matrix master storyline in one viewing, perhaps several viewings.  To tell you the truth, I don't really want to get all plot points before the third movie.  The anticipation the cliffhanger of an ending built will not be torn down until I see the conclusive entry.
     To sum up the movie going experience I had, I will say this, it is the only movie to pump actual adrenaline through my blood since I've been watching movies. 
     If you want an easy to understand blockbuster with quality attached to it, see "X-Men 2: X-Men United."  If you can suspend the dark recesses of your mind that demand to watch only believable movies, if you are prepared for the abrupt ending, open to take it all in, please watch "The Matrix: Reloaded."   

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