matrix: reloaded follows neo and trinity and morpheus (the gang's all back!) as neo tries to find his purpose in life, kind of like the messiah looking for his mission. trinity is worried because neo won't tell her about the recurring nightmares he's been having where she apparently dies in the matrix, dreams that he fears are prophetic. morpheus is busy dealing with zionist bureaucracy back home, against people in the government who don't believe in this messiah and would rather have morpheus and his crew stay put and defend zion from an imminent mechanized invasion.
the thing i noticed right away is how the film takes itself so seriously. the dialogue is heavy in matrix speak, this blend of digital mysticism created by the filmmakers for this universe. there's a tendency for the story to crawl to a halt as characters expound further about neo being "the one" or realizing the "prophecy." that's pretty much the first half of the movie, and some may say perhaps the entire movie. i was pretty bored as my eyes glazed over from the dialogue. the one good thing is because the dialogue is so confusing, it gives the viewer a lot of time to try to figure out what they're saying. this matrix sequel is almost like an art film, very pretty to look at, with just a small amount of story that you kind of have to figure out for yourself, as nothing is really explained to you. perhaps this is a clever studio trick to get repeat customers.
it's definitely a kinder and gentler matrix, if that's even possible. besides the predominance of the love story between neo and trinity (which seems kind of forced by the way, what do they see in each other, except they're both pretty to look at? is it because each has saved the other person's life? i mean, do they have any other common interests? this is not going to be a lasting relationship, i sense trouble up ahead), the violence is also different. the original matrix for me will be forever tainted by the blood of columbine, as apparently it seems the movie was one of the inspirations for the trenchcoat mafias. that whole scene where neo and trinity enter the office building to rescue morpheus and ends up killing all the security guards (who are just innocent bystanders, doing their jobs, who are all going to die because of trinity and neo), in this post-columbine and especially in this post-911 world, that stuff doesn't fly. so watch carefully: the good guys (neo, trinity, morpheus, etc.) never really kill anyone when they fight. also, those that they do fight, they're all well established "bad guys," not just innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire.
matrix: reloaded also reminds me a lot of that classic 80's science fiction movie tron, in that they operate from a virtual world that exists only inside of a machine, and throughout the movie, we meet characters who aren't humans nor agents but specialized programs, existing the matrix to serve a specific function. this sounds a lot like tron, except packaged in glossy 21st century coolness. in the original this wasn't as apparent, but in the sequel it's hard not to see the similarities between the two movies.
about the action, it goes without saying that nobody does the matrix effect better than the matrix people themselves. neo fighting a hundred agent smiths, or the highway chase scene, all very dazzling action sequences, but they didn't blow me away as the first time i saw the matrix. the last movie to truly make me awestrucked with its action sequences was equilibrium, and before that it was probably crouching tiger, hidden dragon. matrix: reloaded didn't hit me in the same way.
major spoiler: the ending was complicated and i'm not sure how many theatre patrons will actually get it without an explanation from someone better versed in understanding the matrix. from what i understand, the messiah is created by the machines, who periodically generate an anomaly to purge the last remaining free humans. the anomaly, this messiah, then picks an equal number of men and women to seed the future generation of humanity, and the cycle starts again. that to me was the cool part of the movie once i started to understand what they were saying amidst the confusing dialogue. that little surprise, how neo is just a tool of the machines, completely made it for the rather lackluster story up to that point. when the movie finally ended on a cliffhanger, it made me want to come back for the third installment.
should you see it? those who are going to see have already decided. people on the fence who haven't seen the original should see the original first before seeing this one, and if you have no interests in science fiction, you could probably skip it and live a happy life not knowing what the matrix was all about.