The Matrix Reboots

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Deponent herewith stipulates that he will not challenge the Wachowski brothers' claim to have read Hesse, Homer, the Gnostic Bible and the comic books of Geof Darrow. Philosophes as diverse as Cornel West and Keanu Reeves have testified to the range of the Wachowskis' erudition and their devotion to high-minded subtextual references in their action movies. Witness is also prepared to admit that Neo, the character Reeves plays in The Matrix Reloaded, may very well be a Christ figure, devoting himself to the redemption of a humanity so far fallen that what remains of it lives scuzzily in caves near the center of the earth (the air-conditioning bill must be horrendous).

That said, the witness admits that he occasionally looks up from his lifelong study of Schopenhauer's works and heads out for the movies, looking for a good time. This he did not have at The Matrix Reloaded.

He is mindful, of course, that he is not the ideal audience for this movie, being middle-aged and splenetic in nature. It is really meant for much younger guys, equally drawn to kung fu combat and nerdy intellectual musings on the nature of good and evil. On the other hand, he rather liked the first movie in what will soon be The Matrix trilogy. There was something light and dancing about it — especially in the chop-socky fights dizzily enhanced by wire work. Witness chugged off to the new screening with a high and hopeful heart.

Which soon began to sink. Reeves and friends still fly through the air with the greatest of mayhemic ease. Yet especially after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (whose fight choreographer, Yuen Wo-ping, performs the same function here), a certain been-there, done-that feeling steals over one. And around the third time Neo confronts his endlessly replicating nemesis, Agent Smith, you begin to wonder if someone could have thought of something else for them to do. We're in sequel land here — bigger bangs for bigger bucks, but without the freshness, the boyish joy in their own inventiveness with which the Wachowskis infused the original.

And that says nothing about the way the movie from time to time slams to a halt so that gnomic thoughts on what it may mean can be exchanged. In the end, beneath the philosophical tosh and the high-blown action, this movie is just good guys (and gals)--basically, terrifically buff liberal humanists — vs. bad guys, who are, yes, soulless machines, though very nicely dressed.

You are never exactly bored by The Matrix Reloaded. But there is something alienating about it, maybe because it fails to fulfill its possibly loony intellectual aspirations. "All this for... what?" you find yourself asking. To which the answer comes back, as quick as a karate kick, "To gross at least $100 million on its first weekend, stupid!" As ambitions go, that one, at least, is a slam dunk.