It’s blockbuster season here on Entertainment.ie and we’ve marked it thus far by looking at the best blockbusters of the 1970s and 80s (look out for our top ten 90s and 00s blockbusters in the coming weeks).
We’ve also made a countdown for all the biggest blockbusters hitting the cinema this summer and have a Blockbuster special on our The Filum Show Podcast.
Over the coming months, in correspondence with the anniversaries of some game-changing movies, we’re looking back to see why they’re so significant and how they’ve stood the test of time. First up is The Matrix Reloaded, which was released exactly fifteen years ago today.
In 1999, the Wachowskis unleashed The Matrix on the world to huge acclaim and box office success. It remains one of the most beloved sci fi action movies of all time and while its sequels were criticised for being less philosophically ambitious than its predecessor, as well as having pacing issues and lacking the fine balance between exposition and action that the first movie had, I would argue that a case can at least be made for The Matrix Reloaded being a great film.
Released four years after The Matrix, but set six months after it, The Matrix Reloaded does a good job of developing the characters we loved from the first film, namely Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). While Neo embraces being a figure of hope for Zion’s people after being named ‘The One’, Trinity shows a sensitivity we haven’t seen in her before, now that she is in a relationship with Neo. Reeves and Moss give excellent performances and share dynamite chemistry as two people in love while Fishburne also excels as Morpheus. In The Matrix, he was the unquestionable figure of authority. In Reloaded, we see him come up against his own authority figures and have to fight for his standing.
We see more of ‘the real world’ in Reloaded than we were exposed to in its prequel, and while the design is impressive, it is once the characters return to the Matrix that the pacing kicks up a notch and the action takes flight. One of the first action scenes sees Neo combat the Oracle’s bodyguard (Collin Chou), but it pales in comparison to Neo's fight with Morpheus in The Matrix. After meeting the Oracle, Neo is confronted by multiple Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) – a consistently compelling and menacing villain throughout the series – in a sequence that, in spite of a few moments of dodgy CGI, still really holds up thanks to Yuen Woo-ping’s stunning fight choreography. It is an exceptional scene and one of the most iconic of the trilogy.
There’s quite a bit of talk and exposition and philosophical ramblings in Reloaded but when everyone shushes and has it out, goddamn do they kick ass. There’s so much action, of such an epic scale, and when coupled with high stakes and emotional density, it makes for a thrilling movie experience. The highway-set sequence is adrenaline-pumping stuff, and those revelations dropped by the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) in act 3, are still hard-hitting and relevant today.
The Matrix Revolutions, sadly, went off the deep end. Released six months after Reloaded, it would make the least of the trilogy in the box office (Reloaded made the most). Fans were disappointed by the anti-climax and way too much screen time was detracted from the characters we know and love (Neo, Trinity and Morpheus) to supporting characters nobody really cared about.
We’re not denying that The Matrix isn’t the best of all three. It stands alone as a pretty perfect film. However, The Matrix Reloaded deserves praise too. The action is phenomenal, it has three exquisite leads in Reeves, Moss and Fishburne, and provides food for thought as well as fantastic entertainment.