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The Matrix Reloaded - the poetry of violence

Saw a midnight screening of The Matrix Reloaded the other night.

Bought the ticket in the morning. When I got to the cinema at a few minutes past eleven the queue was already out to the carpark. Luckily the screen I'd pre-purchased the ticket for got to jump the queue. Still, with 45 minutes to wait and no one to talk to (friend wimped out - no stamina) there was nothing to do but to pull out the notebook - came straight from work - and keep working.

An usher wanted me to turn off the computer because "it was a world premiere" (uh huh... along with 8000 other screens maybe). What, I was going to rip off the movie on a two year old subnotebook without a video camera? And draw attention to myself by conspicuously switching on the computer almost an hour before the movie starts? Yeah. Okay. Whatever. Still, he generously allowed me to continue to be productive for the glory of the corporate dollar. Must have been the tie I was wearing.

TMR is basically a bigger and arguably better retread of the first movie. At the time TM came out I described it as "Star Wars for the 90s", and the sequel - what with all the goings on at the Rebel Alliance - pretty much affirmed that. Hopefully the Wachowski brothers will have the sense to stop after three.

Except for the Alliance melodrama (and gratuitously extended rave/sex scene) TMR pretty much follows the structure of the first movie: we start with Trinity in action, we've got sophomoric philosophical ramblings spiked by very cool action sequences, we've got revelations of the nature of the ostensible world's reality, we've got death and resurrection by the power of True Love, and we end with a moment of apotheosis. Well, this sequel being a guaranteed money spinner, we end with a not-so-exciting cliffhanger and a big, green "To Be Continued" (or was it "Concluded"?) I mean, heck, people coming back from the dead in SF movies is no big deal. Less so when it's pretty much made clear by word (the Architect) and deed (Neo's newfound RL powers) that the "real" world in The Matrix universe is actually another artificial, recursive construct.

Still, what makes this movie are the aforementioned very cool action sequences. Not quite as innovative as the first one perhaps (although I'd seen TV commercials use "bullet time" well before the first movie came out), but well conceived and gloriously executed. (We can forgive the slightly fake quality to a lot of the FX because, heck, it's supposed to look computer generated, right? That's the whole point!)

Two shots in particular stand out

  • the first battle with the 100 Smiths (the conceptual action highlight of the film) where one of the bullet time POVs moves not just around, but weaves its way through the action freeze frame, and
  • the battle with the bladed weapons where one of the compositions of Neo diving/jumping backwards from screen-right to screen-left with his antagonists following him across the floor, through the air and across the walls was just breathtakingly beautiful.

The Matrix Reloaded takes the Woo/Besson (and probably other directors who did it first) tradition of poetry of violence and, at key scenes such as the ones above, elevates it to the near-sublime.

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