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The Matrix Reloaded
Ah, now then, the sequels issue raises its head once again. Meanwhile, here's a film which has the feel of a second of three, with slightly overlong bits and a few minor plot developments in readiness for a big finish.
Trouble is, the start was so impressive (effects, script, provocation, characters, completedness) that it's hard to see where the Yoghurtski Twins could have gone except into a feast with more of the same only better, especially the effects, and less of the rest, especially script and characterisation.
KeaNeo has become stronger, more confident except when faced with complex characters and has developed his Superman skills, even though he only remembers to use them after an extended bout with many bad guys.
The darkly mysterious Morpheus has become our buddy, and lost most of his menace. His troop-rallying speech lacked certain elements: it wasn't much of a speech and it rallyed troops who were pretty much up for it already, No Henry V here, then. Fishbourne is a capable actor, but here he is hidden behind clip-on shades and given little to do.
Trinity was amazing last time out - Diana Riggalike and all that - but now she's become Lois Lane, getting into little scrapes and needing to be rescued. Good old Neo knows how to do this most of the time, and we get another glimpse into resurrection as - oh, but I mustn't give away what might be called the ending - but more of this later. And she causes the Messianic image of Neo to slip badly as they engage in some tonsil hockey and soft-focus grappling in one of the slower, cheaper, tackier moments of the movie.
The humour is there again, but sadly the script is quite lacking. One of the silliest 'meaningful' phrases is delivered by the new Mrs Peel, played by Mrs Smith: She looks at her new squeeze, one of the stroppy Councellors, and says 'Some things change, but some things don't change.' What?
The mission to discover what Neo must do to fulfil his destiny as 'The One' (there can be only one, but that's another film) leads our heroes to a corridor of wierdness, through a schoolyard of crows with the flawed oracle (is she being deliberately misleading or is she just another part of the programme?) and into a fabulous scene with Ididn'tcatchhisname and his beautiful but cornicly frustrated wife Persephone. His speech is wonderful, and her betrayal predictable, but this opens up the rest of the movie to the protection of another minor character, the keymaker. (Remember that brilliant scene from one of those Police Squad shows? - 'Who are you and how did you get in here?' 'I'm the locksmith, and I'm a locksmith.')
Anyway, the main talking points of the movie are the special effects, so let's turn our attention to these, shall we? The first comment must be to praise extensively the excellence and number of the effects. The fight scenes are long (some might say overlong) and extremely complex - gone are the thrust and parry antics of Neo vs Morpheus in the bamboo room from the first movie, replaced with multi-effects kick-ups which are spectacular in the extreme. Now, I love fisticuffs along wth the rest, but to my eye, the scene in the schoolyard, where Neo takes on dozens of Smiths, has a cartoon-quality, since no-one gets hurt and the Smiths are clearly an effect. My suspension of disbelief factor dipped a little. Neo tears a pole out of the tarmac, complete with a huge lump of concrete on the end, and swings it wildly, connecting with one Smith who is blasted into the middle of next week. Except he isn't - he's just sent to the back of the queue of Smiths waiting to smack our hero. I'm not saying it would be better if he had been eliminated or wounded - just that when we know he won't be, why does Neo carry on trying? How do you think he gets out of this trap? Yes, that's right, he suddenly remembers he can leap tall buildings with a single bound.
And the end wasn't really an end. No problem, since we all know the third part is out at Christmas. But I thought we could have left Neo (or Trinity/Lois) in some personal jeopardy, like the old Batman shows...
But enough carping; let's get on to the highway sequence. This is huge, magnificent, utterly believable in places and probably one of the few things left in this world that can truly qualify for the word 'thrilling'. The fight on the top of the truck was a bit Mission Impossible without the helicopter, but the motorbike chase left me breathless. Exciting camerawork and what seemed to be real traffic added enormously to the spectacle. Hats off. The new Mrs Peel (Mrs Smith) helps defeat the Smiths (hope you're keeping up with this) and once again, no-one gets hurt, despite the multi-vehicle collisions. And knowing it was made with some real vehicles and some CGI'd ones, it had an authenticity which made te pulse quicken. Neo swoops and glides and swoops again, perhaps in time.
One of the experiences of seeing this film at the preview was the size and attitude of the audience, which packed out the cinema, and buzzed with excitement. And the fact that everywhere I looked, there were church members out to check to see if the sequel was as exploitable for evangelism as the first one. Perhaps they will be saddened; I hope they will, since the depth of this film is considerably less.
So, on the whole, this was a class night out, with fun and adventure and really wild things. But ultimately unsatisfying eye-candy.