I'm not exactly sure what went wrong. I didn't expect much of anything out of the first movie, I bought the DVD purely on a whim. Upon viewing, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that: 1) The fight scenes weren't just cool, they were really cool; 2) There was a genuine plot; and 3) Keanu Reeves didn't manage to soil the film simply by his presence. Regardless, I don't think that I went into Reloaded with my expectations set too high. I watched and enjoyed the first movie, but my Matrix experience pretty much ended there. Save preparing to see the sequel, I hadn't had much to do with the first movie since my initial viewing, and certainly hadn't given much though to the story as a whole. So I don't think that I can explain away my disappointment by saying I expected too much.
Which leads me to think that, when all is said and done, this is just an average movie. Or perhaps more accurate, this is a sub-average movie with above-average financial backing and super-human cult following. The following may actually have a bigger part to play in this than you might initially think. I believe that Reloaded suffers from having far too great an opinion of itself.
I shall attempt to explain further. The Matrix revolutionized action sequences. They created that frozen rotating camera thingie (technical term), and are proud of themselves for it. And rightfully so, that was pretty ingenious. But it reminds me of the guy who figured out how to get our chroma key to work back in my high school TV & Film Production class. Because he was the one who figured it out, he felt that he somehow had exclusive rights to its use. Bollocks to that, of course. So since he couldn't be the only one to use it, he figured that he'd use it more than the rest of us. The end result was that his productions came out looking like exactly what they were: an excuse to use a nifty technology.
That's how Reloaded felt to me. Lots of excuses to use nifty technology. But unfortunately it's the same old technology we saw a few years ago, and it doesn't become new and exciting again simply because I'm seeing more of it. Even Chili's uses your film techniques guys, I'm just not impressed anymore.
If it were just the, essentially, same old fight scenes, then I wouldn't have minded so much. They were fun to watch before, and while the awe has definitely faded, they're still fun. Okay, one was fun, but I'll get to that in a bit. But now we come back to my previous point about The Matrix having too great an opinion of itself. Reloaded certainly had more to offer in regards to the storyline surrounding the franchise, but it couldn't just tell us about it. Oh no, it had to remain cryptic throughout the first two hours or so, until finally vomiting information on us in a well-nigh incomprehensible 10 minute scene that left me saying "Wug?" I don't consider myself to be a stupid person. If anything, I tend to be too analytical. I forget that sometimes a fish is just a fish. Reloaded would have us believe that not only is it not a fish, it's really symbolic of man's inherent desire to crochet sweaters. What's that? It makes no sense? It must just be you, you're simply too dumb to "get it".
See, movies have a duty to their audience, and that duty is not to get a superiority complex on them. I couldn't help but feel that was exactly what was going on, though. Sort of like it was all becoming complicated just for the sake of giving its most fanatical fanbase something to discuss loudly in public places. Like it was a clique that wanted to show the rest of the world just how cool it was for the delight of excluding them later. I don't like being snubbed by my movie.
Oh, and for the record, it is nothing short of bad writing to leave the movie off where it did. Movies should have a definitive beginning and a definitive end. They're too damned long for anything else. I'm all for a teaser of what's to come, a hint that the story isn't done yet. Hell, most movies actually leave off with that hint, what with the glut of sequels and all. But each individual film is, and should be, an entity unto itself. I actually felt insulted when the movie told me that it was "To Be Concluded". What the hell, is it an NBC drama all of a sudden? The movie could have very easily ended, and should have in my opinion, with Neo saving Trinity. Look, the movie is perfectly bookended. The scene from the beginning appears at the end, and we have a resolution to that scene. The grave threats have already been established, so we know what's coming next. Close the movie now, neatly and logically, and let's go get some dinner. Instead, we have a choppy interruption to a scene that is supposed to elicit some tension and create an "I can't wait to see what happens next!" feeling. My personal attitude on that one aside, I don't see how anybody but the most die-hard fan (who would've had that feeling regardless) felt anything but cheated. It's like buying a book and finding that the last half has been ripped out. Knowing that parts two and three were filmed at the same time makes me think that they had a stop watch in hand when watching the final print let time dictate where Reloaded ended. There's no sense of closure, and as a result, no sense of accomplishment. All this has left me with is a sour taste in my mouth for part three.
But all is not completely lost. There were a few bright points in the movie. To start, I liked the Key guy. He was just a cute little guy. I loved it when he handed Trinity the bike key. I also enjoyed the Oracle's scene quite a bit. Hm, think it says something when the scenes with the most warmth and likeability come from characters that aren't even human? Other throw-away but enjoyable moments include when Neo broke through the cloud cover and hovered by the moon for a second before flying back into the city. I typically think it's laughable when he flies, but this worked for some reason. I also chuckled when one of the TV Neos responded to the Architect with nothing more than his defiant middle finger.
The highlight of the movie was, for me, and I'm sure many people, the Neo vs. 100 Smiths scene. That was just cool. But you know, even as I was watching it, I couldn't help but think to myself that what I was really doing was watching a live-action stage from the Dynasty Warriors video game series. Any of you who've played it, reflect on the two for a moment and then tell me that you disagree. Regardless of the parallels, the scene kicked ass. Unfortunately, that was pretty much it for me. The rest of the movie felt needlessly long, needlessly fought, and needlessly pompous. The Matrix most definitely does not have me.