Thursday May 15 2003
Yes, it's true, the crew—myself, Emeyesi, The Empress, justice, Masir and his lady Lisa—did in fact wind up going to the 10:30 showing of 'The Matrix: Reloaded' at Showcase Cinemas in West Springfield tonight. Every single one of us had a pretty much identical reaction to the film. And that reaction was? Just hold up a sec...Let me string you along with some exposition here, but trust me, I'll get to the good stuff soon enough.
Let me preface this report by saying that the terrible reviews this flick has been getting over the last week or so started to impact me. I was getting a little antsy thinking that maybe, just maybe, during the interim between making 'The Matrix' and the sequels the brothers Wachowski had gotten hooked on crack, went crazy and just jacked the entire thing up entirely like some of these reviewers were claiming. Harry Knowles' atrocious take on the film, complete with ridiculous spoilers, over at Aint It Cool News a couple days back had hit me particularly hard. The guy seemed to genuinely despise this film with every fiber of his being. Part of me kept saying "no, this dude is just out of his gourd" but a small part of me really began harboring doubts when even a huge geek like Knowles was saying that the movie was terrible.
That being said, I still started to get tingles of anticipation today knowing that I was mere hours away from seeing the sequel to a film that had an incredibly profound impact on me and my circle of friends. 'The Matrix' touched me on every geek level. It brought things like computers, religion, mythology, philosophy, 5%erisms, revolutionary politics, economics, science-fiction and superheroes together and wrapped them in a cloak of kung-fu & bullet-ballet-influenced celluloid. It made me bring everything I believe, everything I've ever studied, everything I've ever read or watched, with me into the theatre to act as a filter for what I was seeing on the screen. It made me think. It made my friends and I talk. It did all that, plus it had kung-fu and hot-lead flying everywhere. It was smart and it was cool. And I loved it. Any less from the sequel would be sacrilege.
Well, after seeing 'Reloaded' I'm now fully prepared to declare that charges of sacrilege—THANK GOD—are something that the Wachowski's sure as hell won't have to worry about any time soon. Apparently I'm a much bigger geek than that red-haired freak at AICN could ever hope to be, because 'The Matrix: Reloaded' rocked my ass in all the same ways that it's predecessor did. Even after a few hours my brain is still reeling from the experience. It's packed...Packed with action...Packed with speeches...Packed with surprises...Packed with references...Packed with a bunch of little tidbits that I'm sure I didn't even notice. I want, no, I NEED to see this film again!
I don't know what movie the majority of these reviewers that have been talking smack for the last week actually saw, but it sure as hell can't be 'The Matrix: Reloaded' because this film delivers on all of the promise of the first, and it does so on every possible level. When producer Joel Silver said that these films didn't just raise the bar, they broke it, he wasn't just engaging in Hollywood hyperbole, he was speaking the pure, unadulterated, God's honest truth! This film is incredible visually. Things happen on the screen that even in the cinematic fairytale land of 'The Matrix' will have you thinking "OH MY HOLY GOD, I can't believe that I'm seeing this!" Yes, there are sequences in this film that are just that breathtaking to watch!
Neo flies. Yeah, we saw that in the last flick, right? No. Not like this. The makers of every superhero movie that features a character who flies or is supposed to fly—from 'Superman' to the 'X-Men' and back again—need to go back to whatever drawing apparatus they have handy because comic-book-style, fist-forward, bad-ass flying has been brought to the screen for the first time ever in 'The Matrix: Reloaded' and it's not only blown every previous attempt at doing so out of the proverbial water, it's set the standard for any future endeavors which may try it again. The only times I've seen flying done this well has been in Asian cinema ('Crouching Tiger' and 'The Storm Riders' especially) but we're talking a whole different animal with this stuff here.
The burly brawl. You don't know what the good god damn I'm talking about, do you? Yes, you do. You know that scene in the trailer we've all seen where Neo is literally surrounded by Agents? That's what I'm talking about. Well, that sequence goes on for what feels like a half hour, and it's unbelievable to watch. They could've ended the movie when this scene came to its conclusion. I mean, thank Fod they didn't, cause there's so much more dopeness...But the brawl will take your breath away like any other action film's climax would be designed to... but it's only the jump-off.
The freeway chase. I...umm...well...it's just...yeah. This is beyond words people. You have never seen anything like this before. It's speed. It's carnage. It's art. It's ballet. It's...to paraphrase our hero..."Whoa."
Of course, the film isn't all action, even though it is action packed, action smacked and so full of action that you'll need an action snack. No, there's also a hell of lot of exposition going on here. This seemed to be a sticking point for a number of reviewers. I didn't find the philosophical meanderings found in some of the movie's calmer moments to be problematic at all though. They fit in to the film perfectly and didn't alter the flow or jack up the pacing in the least. This is the type of stuff that the whole existence of these films hinges on. Without these philosophies there's no reason for a "Matrix," a "One," an Oracle, Neo, Morpheus or all that kung-fu and gun violence. Maybe I'm biased though. As an armchair religious scholar this is the type of stuff that gets me excited. These are the conundrums that keep me awake at night. The beliefs that incite passionate debate. This is God, heaven, earth, angels, devils and humankind. This is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the Torah and Kabbalah. This is YHVH and Shekinah. This is the purpose behind life itself flying across a huge movie theatre screen wearing a cool black Neru jacket, kicking ass and taking names.
The scene where Neo meets with The Oracle was especially touching to me and actually had me pontificating on how utterly beautiful the film was on a very personal spiritual note. When was the last time anyone said that about a major studio's big Summer blockbuster? Never? You're damn right! Because for the most part popular American cinema doesn't deal with these types of themes. Granted, I can see how some people might find the speech delivered by The Architect a little dense linguistically, but is that a failure on the part of the film makers? Or is that just a sorry statement on the American educational system? I'll let you tell it.
Like I said above, rarely has a popular American film every touched on all these ideas, bridging pop culture, religion, science-fiction and non-stop action, in a manner even remotely similar to that with which the Wachowski brothers approached these films. Hell, forget rarely...I've never seen anything like this. Nobody's expected this much of their audience before. And perhaps, if audiences should be warned about anything it is this...You need to bring EVERYTHING with you in to the theatre. Everything you believe. Everything you've learned. Everything you've been taught. Everything you know. Everything you forgot. Bring your Bible or whatever scripture you favor, if any, your dictionary, your thesaurus and your old copies of Orwell, Marx and Ayn Rand. Bring your popcorn & soda too. And don't forget your love of comic books, pulp fiction (no, not the movie...But that too ), sci-fi ('Star Wars' anyone?), mythology, martial arts and fast-paced Asian-influenced action movies. This movie packs it all in. And it does every bit of it—every reference, every nod, every homage, every twist and turn based on the change and exchange of thoughts and ideas—the utmost justice. It does all that, and it still manages to be the fastest two and a half hours you'll ever spend in a darkened theatre.
It's funny really. I've sat here writing this for a while and I've more than filled this little box up with words but there really aren't any words that can describe how unbelievable an experience this movie is.
So, do you think I liked it? Hell yeah.
Didn't I already say I NEED to see this movie again?
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