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Sun June 1, 2003
I am happy the Wachowski brothers think enough of us to challenge our Philosophy 101 memories.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
When the action gets tough, the $400 shades adorn the heroes of "Matrix Reloaded." It may be the Wachowski brothers (directors) telling us that everyone is in the dark about the true meaning of this second installment of the Matrix trilogy. I guess we can all agree that philosophical debates abound about choice and causality, the redemptive power of love, and traditional machines versus computer technology. Not much time is given to any of those topics in order to jam in as many martial arts scenes and wild chases as possible.
I appreciate the care the film takes in entertaining us while stretching our cultural awareness with its many allusions, but I just don't get it all, and it frustrates me because I don't think depth of ideas is strength here. Hero Neo (Keanu Reeves) sometimes is Christ, meant to save the human survivors in the core of the earth; other times he is Superman (Is there something about "Reeve" that inspires actors with the same name to play that part?) saving his own hide from the multiplying Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving). Although the Heidegger, Bible, Buddha, Hesse ideas are annoying when intoned by the likes of pompous Larry Fishburne as Morpheus, I am yet happy the brothers think enough of us to challenge our Philosophy 101 memories.
I can better appreciate the mythological attributions of Morpheus, Persephone, Oracle, Trinity, and Niobe. Yet in the end, I just want a good story to supersede these pretenses, and "Matrix Reloaded" doesn't seem to take me beyond the first story because I still know Neo will have a tough time saving the world.
However, I appreciate the great set pieces, for example when Neo fights the multiplying Smiths with the clear influence of "Crouching Tiger's'" action director Yuen Wo Ping. It looks as if Reeves does some of the stunts--I tip my hat for once to a not particularly gifted actor. His trip to the Engineering Room is a nostalgic trip to the underworld of "Metropolis," as giant pistons show machines' amazing strength and vulnerability. The fourteen-minute car/motorcycle/truck chase may be the most interesting segment of the whole film.
The film ends with the note "To Be Concluded" (in November) and a hint that Matrix's "Architect" (Helmut Bakaltis) will return to face off with Neo, whose thoughts he claims to revise. I look forward to piecing this all together at that time.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.