The Matrix is a hard act to follow. My first exposure was through the Web site that was set up that posed the question “What is the Matrix?” It was a brilliant piece of marketing — you had to give your email address and then received a password that gave you access to the site. The other brilliant bit of marketing was that they commissioned comic artists to create stories set in the world of the Matrix and available online. They established the world and didn’t take away from the film. The first film itself is a unique combination of kung fu, sci-fi, philosophy and melodrama… it’s fun and makes you think a bit too… not as deeply as the volume of discussion would have you believe, but more than the usual film filled with shooting.
The marketing for Reloaded has been pretty much unavoidable. There is a DVD of Anime related to the film coming out next month but it started on the Web leading up to the release of this film. The DVD of Reloaded apparently comes out in October to build up for the final chapter Revolutions in November. The theatre had lots of people in leather jackets and sunglasses and the distinctive Matrix letter cascade was all over the windows with green streamers all around as well. I don’t think that the other summer films will be able to challenge the film, despite the marketing efforts.
I really liked Reloaded, but it took me a little while to get into it, but then it had me and overall it’s a different film (but not as different as a sequel as X2 was). One early theory that I have is that the film will probably split audiences down the middle, based on what they enjoyed in the first film. If they loved it mainly for the action, they’ll probably not like the sequel as much, if they liked the philosophical elements they’ll probably like the sequel. Just so you get the philosophical aspect there is a camero by American philosopher Cornell West and a philosophy section on the Web site!
The structure of the film is fascinating, but I’m not going to recount the plot (don’t you hate reviews that do that)…and I’m not going to spoil it either. Part of the enjoyment of the first film was having a world revealed to you and that’s part of the pleasure in the second film as well. One very cool thing that I noticed as an editor is a very neat pattern of cross-cutting that condensed and combined things across time and space in a way that I was in awe of. So much information so efficiently.
The film overall has great action sequences and it makes you realize that a good action sequence is a combination of writing, shooting, editing and acting. What’s important is that you understand what is going on and that it sucks you into the world. If you don’t buy the conceit or the melodrama, it can be tough (like a John Woo film). While it took me a little while to get into the film (I was thinking, “OK, I’ve seen this before.”), the new stuff (with an exception that was a very 15-year-old geek fantasy-like thing) was better than I expected. The world and the story expanded a bit and it did manage to make me think some more. I guess I’m a sucker for an action film filled with love, honor and sacrifice.