Running Time: 139 mins
On the 15th and 16th May The Matrix Reloaded opened in 14 countries. Within three days it had paid for its $192m budget, taking $254m worldwide. If ever we needed reminding why the USA dominants the film world, it's good to know that of the total box office takings $206m was made in the USA alone. In Australia Reloaded broke box-office records and made $11m in one weekend.
Morpheus (Fisburne) and his crew discover that a quarter of a million probes are burying their way through the earth and will soon destroy the human community living in subterranean Zion. He, Neo (Reeves) and Trinity (Moss) lead the charge against the invaders, especially the much-cloned mastermind of the invasion, Agent Smith (Weaving). To counter the attack Neo must discover more of the prophecy which anointed him as the one to save Zion. In the meantime he has save his love interest Trinity from the clutches of the humanoids that inhabit earth's surface.
The original Matrix was an engaging and fresh approach to the sci-fi thriller genre. Andy and Larry Wachowski have added to what was best about that film: stunning special effects, outstanding stunts, superb editing and very stylish art direction. Unfortunately in Reloaded they play too many of these cards for far too long. One of the car chases goes for nearly 15 minutes. The first fight between Neo and Agent Smith's many clones is magnificently choreographed, but it goes on and on. More is almost always not better.
The other essential ingredient missing in Reloaded is an interesting development in the story. All the theological and mythological gestures are back. Neo is an anagram of the anointed "one'. He parades around in a priest's soutane for most of the film, which might start a fashion trend where the soutane becomes a must-have in every trendy man's wardrobe!
Zion, Seraph, Trinity and The Architect are less obscure allusions to religious traditions. Given their function in the narrative Morpheus, Niobe and Persephone are well named from Greek mythology. But all these allegories go nowhere except to add to a faux sense of seriousness with long and boring homilies about destiny, cause and effect, the pergoatives of choice, meaning and purpose.
I have a colleague who invented the word "iconakleptic' and The Matrix films are the best examples of the reality he is trying to name. For their scripts the Wachowski brothers went shopping in the spirituality supermarket for names and gravitas but only bought imitations of both.
If anything Reloaded is best read as a Jungian film. The archetypal Neo journeys to self-actualisation and integration by plummeting the depths of his own mind through dreams and visions. Therein he has to interpret the symbolic language of mythology and spirituality. Jung's main motifs of the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, Syzygy (the divine couple), the Child and the Self are all on display in Neo and in the hidden depths of Zion.
The most important thing to know about The Matrix Reloaded is that is about to be released as a video game. And that's what it looks and feels like, a long-play, high-energy video game. Even the hopelessly clumsy ending feels like the viewer has run out of spare change to get keep the show going until its resolution. And we will not be able to feed the slot until the final episode comes out in November.
Fr Richard Leonard SJ is the Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office.