This is the way The Matrix Reloaded was meant to be seen. The BFI’s IMAX cinema boasts seats stacked high enough to induce vertigo, forcing the viewer to hold onto the rail for dear life as they make their way up the stairs to the thinning air on the back row; a screen the size of four tennis courts; crystal clear image and ear-drum shattering sound.
For the stats geeks among you, the 138 minute film forced the BFI to specially modify their projection rooms (most IMAX films are forty minutes long), arrived on 40 reels of 15/70mm film (three times the size of regular 35mm film), took six hours to assemble and powers out 12,000 watts of digital sound. Quite the stage for the sequel to one of the most exciting and interesting sci-fi films of recent years, it’s just a shame that the film doesn’t live up to expectations.
The Matrix Reloaded suffers from the narrative muddiness that comes from a sequel trying to outdo its already innovative predecessor. By attempting to improve on The Matrix’s successful combination of effects and storyline, Reloaded features elaborately long fight scenes (that actually become boring), slaps a complex plot around a series of action sequences and then piles on its tedious pseudo-philosophy.
Not that Reloaded is lacking in sass, style, new surprises or the all-important leather-clad heroes. It simply cannot equal its illustrious predecessor, nor can it be sufficiently judged until Matrix Revolutions ties up the numerous loose ends it leaves.
Neo (Keanu Reeves) has graduated from trainee messiah to full-on super-hero, using the Matrix as his personal plaything and taking on Agents with one hand behind his back. He’s also plagued by dreams of Trinity’s (Carrie-Anne Moss) death and, when he discovers he has the gift to see into the future, is understandably concerned. Meanwhile, the machines have assembled an army of 250,000 sentinels (seek-and-destroy techno-octopi) to rip apart Zion and its inhabitants. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), following a computer-predicted prophesy, believes Neo (or ‘the One’) can avert the attack via the Matrix, while Zion rests its hopes on a beleaguered defence force.
Agent Smith is back with a vengeance. Supposedly destroyed by Neo in the first film, he was instead set free and has developed an ability to duplicate himself. This leads to one of the unforgivably bad scenes in Reloaded, where a vastly outnumbered Neo has to fight an army of Smiths by pulling off a splendorous display of acrobatic kung-fu tricks. The CGI becomes a bit ropey at this stage and it looks less state of the art and more PS2. The other howler of a scene is the pre-attack ‘rave’ in Zion, which looks like the cast of Stomp performing to an overenthusiastic audience on the set of Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959).
Still, it features one of the best car chases in recent cinema, trouncing the likes of 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003), some witty French smut and a plethora of new baddies. So lower your expectations away from second coming and look more towards intelligent blockbuster and you might just enjoy Matrix Reloaded. Roll on Revolutions.