The Matrix Reloaded is a sequel , and as dazzling as the action sequences are, as fantastic as the look of the film is and as large the scope and quantity of the effects are, there's simply no getting over the fact that we've seen many of them before. The Wachowski Brothers have always maintained that they conceived the Matrix as a trilogy, but their second installment suffers from many of the same problems of other 'great' film sequels and it struggles to meet the extremely high expectations created by the first installment of the trilogy.
The Matrix Reloaded is effectively a comic book superhero movie, right down to the guy flying through the air with a 'cape'. It opens soon after the close of the first Matrix film with Neo now aware of who he is and what he can do. While I enjoy a good superhero movie, I've always found the first chapters of them to be the most intriguing. I enjoy watching a character as they go down the path of discovery, learning who they are and what they can do.
With most of the heavy lifting of discovery done by the First Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded spends a lot more of it's time trying to discuss the issues of The Matrix universe and very little actually exploring or discovering it. The tag line for the first Matrix was - "What is The Matrix?", for Reloaded it is more appropriately 'OK, We Know What The Matrix is, Now What?'
One of the things which surprised me about The Matrix Reloaded is the tremendous amount of screen time devoted to people standing around talking about choice v. destiny. The Matrix Reloaded seems to be obsessed with this issue and at almost every turn we're faced with scenes with people talking about it! This same theme was quite prevalent in The Matrix, but here it's brought so much to the forefront that it eclipses almost everything else. A lot of this discourse comes at the expense of character. Rather than learning more about the people in and around the universe of the Matrix we are constantly hearing elements of the choice v. destiny debate, and as a result it is a lot harder to connect or identify with the characters in the film. This is also reflected in the very small number of new 'key' characters in The Matrix Reloaded (most notably Jada Pinket, Harold Perrineau Jr and Monica Bellucci) and the relatively small amount of screen time any of them really get.
Also severely missing from The Matrix Reloaded is a good antagonist. In the first Matrix there was a much clearer and direct relationship between Neo and Agent Smith and a good deal of the film focused on their struggle. With Matrix Reloaded, The Agent Smith character while still at the forefront of the Machines vs. Men struggle, just doesn't pack the same punch as he did the first time around. This antagonist void really dulls the conflict of the film and lets the air out of the intensity of most of the fight and confrontation scenes. In an attempt to meet the expectations of film goers the Wachowski Brothers have tried to turn up the intensity of the action by increasing the volume and complexity of the opponents. The result is a movie which feels a lot more like a video game than the first one; the increase of 'opponents' actually serves to lessen the actual drama of the film.
The Matrix Reloaded may have it's problems, but it certainly isn't a bad film. As with The Matrix, The Wachowski Brothers have done an amazing job creating the world of The Matrix, a highly stylized, slick look at the future. You could pull any single frame from The Matrix Reloaded and know that it came from the film - the look is that distinct. As effect-driven as The Matrix Reloaded is, the production team has done such a fantastic job of making the effect inversive that it's easy to forget that 95% of what you're seeing on screen at any given time is an effect. And as talky as the first act feels there is a tremendous amount of action including the mother of all chase scenes which plays as an 'everything you've always wanted in a chase scene'.
In the end I did enjoy The Matrix Reloaded. It's not a perfect film by any means, but as the 'middle' film in a trilogy it does its job fine: it moves the story along with enough action and adventure to make the journey worthwhile. But what The Matrix Reloaded isn't is revolutionary. I remember walking out of The Matrix blown away; it was a combination of film styles I had never seen and a movie so innovative it took your breath away. The Matrix Reloaded while a very good film is not a great film. This time around I left the theater feeling a little disappointed - The Matrix Reloaded wasn't the film I thought it could have been.
If you're interested in getting a sneak peek at the final Matrix chapter, Matrix Revolutions, be sure to wait till the end of the credits at Matrix Reloaded as there's a trailer for Matrix Revolutions at the end of them.