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The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

It is hard to overstate how influential The Matrix was upon its release in 1999. It rewrote the science fiction and action genres for Hollywood and introduced American audiences to many of the filmmaking techniques of Eastern cinema. It was exciting, philosophical, challenging, and made an instant brand out of the Wachowskis, the writing/directing siblings who had previously only directed one indie movie. The 2003 sequels were filmed back-to-back and released to great anticipatory fanfare and then, later, derision. The Matrix sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, became a shorthand joke for bloated artistic miscalculation. They were talky, draggy, and just not what fans were hoping for jacking back into this strange world, and years later I think they’re worth a critical re-evaluation. Flash forward to 2021, and Lana Wachowski has resurrected The Matrix, and with the original actors for Neo and Trinity, both of whom died in Revolutions. Why go back? I think part of this was the declining career of the Wachowskis as directors. I personally loved 2012’s Cloud Atlas but it was an expensive and messy money-loser, the same as 2008’s Speed Racer and 2015’s Jupiter Ascending, a cosmically bad movie. So now it’s back to The Matrix with an older Neo, and older Trinity, and more of the same by design. The Matrix Resurrections just made me sad. It’s a movie that feels resentful for its own inception.

Thomas Anderson/Neo (Reeves) is living out his life as an award-winning game designer. His company and business partner, Smith (Jonathan Groff), are looking for their next big hit, and they’re looking backwards at Anderson’s biggest success… the “Matrix trilogy.” It was a virtual reality program that skewered the difference between reality and fiction. Mr. Anderson might have even based the role of Trinity on Tiffany (Carrie Anne-Moss), a woman he has grown infatuated with over time at a coffee shop. Except Mr. Anderson is having trouble determining what is real and what is only in his head. That’s because a new, younger Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is telling him that he’s Neo, that he’s destined for greater things, and that he’s been kept in an unorthodox prison to keep him out of the action. Everyone seems interested in reactivating Neo, but for what purpose, and what has happened in the ensuing decades since the end of the war with the machines?

Part of my struggle with Resurrections is that it too is struggling with its own existence, and not in a meta-textual sort of identity crisis, more like a reason to carry on 18 years later. Fair warning, this movie is far, far more meta than you are anticipating. The entire first hour of the movie features characters justifying rebooting “The Matrix,” the game. It’s a movie where characters glibly talk about parent companies going forward with the IP with or without the involvement of the original creators, so better to be the one trying to staunch the bleeding I suppose. A character literally says Warner Brothers wants a new Matrix and they will not stop until they get one. There are characters that sit around a table and try and break down what made the original Matrix (the game) so cutting-edge, and every person has a different brand slogan. “It was edgy.” “It blew your mind.” “It was a thinking man’s action story.” This prolonged section of Resurrections feels entirely like Wachowski speaking directly to her audience and saying, “Look, I had no reason to be back here. They forced my hand, and I want you to know that I’m not happy about it.” There are literal moments from the 1999 film that are presented as if the characters in the matrix are watching The Matrix to recreate scenes like avid cosplayers. There is one part where a character just starts screaming the word “reboot” with profane intention, promising to get their own spinoff as a threat. The entertainment industry satire about reboots and cash-grab sequels is funny but misplaced and coming from a perspective of defiance. If this was all the movie was then it would have been a fascinating example of an artist burning the bridge to their most successful franchise out of willful spite. However, if we had our own little focus group and asked what made the original Matrix so enjoyable, I doubt anyone would list, “entertainment industry satire and meta humor.”

The Matrix movies are well known for being a smarter, more ambitious viewing experience (“A thinking man’s action story”), blending philosophy and mysticism into anime-style action and kung-fu fights. There’s an intentional repetition here, built upon delivering something familiar and safe to audiences but with a “next gen” feel. We have a new Morpheus and a new Mr. Smith here, but did we require either? When they go through the motions of patterning themselves on characters of old, it feels strained, it feels gassed, and it’s another instance where Wachowski telegraphing to her audience, “Look, the studio demanded I bring back these characters, but I’ll be damned if I know what to do with them.” Morpheus has a little more story leverage as a catalyst for bringing Neo back to his path of enlightenment. Truth be told, I don’t really know half of what was happening in this movie, which lacked the elegant connectivity of the best action movies, linking cause and effect (the Merovingian would be proud of me) and pushing the movie forward to its inevitable conclusion. Even the prior movies felt more like the creators knew what was going on, even if the audience was lagging behind. With Resurrections, it feels like Wachowski and her screenwriters, novelist Dave Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and Aleksandar Hermon (Sense 8 finale), have just given up trying to make sense of it all.

Another disappointment is the lack of any signature or memorable action sequences or, in the words of the Matrix round table, moments that “blew your mind.” The use of phones as transport in and out of the matrix has been replaced with mirror portals and doorways, which initially got my hopes up. There are such playful visual possibilities incorporating portals into action (see: Doctor Strange, even Matrix Reloaded), and I felt that Wachowski was up to the imaginative challenge. It too feels like another element that barely registers. The movie takes the anyone-can-become-an-Agent threat of the original trilogy and says, “What if instead of facing deadly Agents, it was just dumb zombies?” The new machines decide to rely upon a hive-mind system of grabbing whatever humans are in the vicinity and taking control of them into mindless foot soldiers. Let’s explore what a downgrade this is. The Agents were dangerous because they had powers that ordinary humans could not hope for, like the bullet dodging. In this movie, ordinary people are easily foiled and often a pathetic excuse for super-powered adversaries. The final act involves an escalation in numbers of the hive mind, but we’ve already been here with the multiple Agents Smiths of the sequels. There is one disturbing change-up where the machines realize how humans can just serve as canon fodder that is dark but a more effective attack. Even the requisite martial arts battles and gravity-defying wire work are humdrum this round.

If there is one thing that Resurrections does well it’s staking its identity out as a romance. Much of the second half prioritizes the relationship between Neo and Trinity, which was always taken for granted in the sequels. It was a romance of more utilitarian purpose, providing Neo with a love interest to motivate him to be saved in times of great peril. With Resurrections, the movie actually takes time to devote to Neo and Trinity as people with desires and what they would find appealing about the other. He’s not the savior of mankind, and she’s not his gateway to knowledge and empowerment. They’re portrayed as people, somewhat unhappy in their lives, and just hoping they might have another chance meeting at their shared coffee shop for one more electrifying conversation. The evolution of the movie places even more importance on this human connection, so I’m glad time has finally been given to exploring what it is that connects Trinity and Neo, especially if their love story is going to play as prominent a resolution to Resurrections. If you have never cared about Trinity and Neo as a couple, then you’ll likely be in for a disappointing second half.

From a technical standpoint, Resurrections is still a feast for the senses. The photography is moody and atmospheric. The musical score is pumping. The special effects are state-of-the-art. There are a lot of talented people working on this sequel. So why then does the movie feel so perfunctory? In some regard each Matrix sequel has felt this way, adding extraneous pieces onto an already perfect standalone film. Having re-watched both Reloaded and Revolutions again, I can affirmatively declare Resurrections to be the weakest Matrix entry yet. We were all a bit too harsh on the prior two Matrix movies, which fall short of capturing the original’s magic alchemy but bring the goods when it comes to memorable set pieces, eye-popping visuals, and narrative zigs instead of zags (It was undercutting audience expectations before it was cool). They are still a bit too stuffy and talk in circles, but there are definite Major Ideas percolating underneath. In contrast, Resurrections feels more powered by resentment, by Wachowski coming back to this world against her better wishes and judgements. Maybe we should have left things alone.

Nate’s Grade: C

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

jupiter_ascending_movie_poster_2Few would dispute the imaginative powers of Andy and Lana Wachowski. They probably got a free pass from Warner Brothers after creating The Matrix, one of those culture-changing movies that come along so rarely. I was leery of Jupiter Ascending, their newest original science-fiction opus, when Warner Brothers delayed its summer release by nine months. The trailers and commercials were also doing a dandy job of hiding what exactly the movie was about besides cool visuals. I was holding out hope, thinking that maybe Jupiter would be silly but fun in a Fifth Element way, but instead ladies and gentlemen, we have an heir to 1980’s campy Flash Gordon.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an unhappy maid who cleans toilets for a living. Then one day she becomes the most important person in the universe. She discovers she is the reincarnation of the matriarch of House Abrasax, whose three children, Titus (Douglas Booth), Kalique (Tuppance Middleto), and Balem (Eddie Redmayne), are fighting over their inheritance. The biggest prize of them all is Earth, and now the appearance of Jupiter complicates ownership. Various alien species are sent to kill her, but Jupiter has a savior in disgraced galactic solider Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). He’s a “splice,” a result of gene splicing people with animals. He rescues Jupiter and they head off world to explore the much larger, much stranger universe.

Oh look, she's falling again.

Oh look, she’s falling again.

Right away, mere moments after leaving the theater, I knew the first step to make Jupiter Ascending a significantly better movie: completely remove the title character. First off, her name is awful and makes me think she’d be a character in the Jetsons universe. Mostly, she’s a terrible protagonist because she is merely a fairy tale wish fulfillment masquerading as a person. Her normal life is miserable but secretly she’s a space princess who is the reincarnation of a space queen. Allow me to momentarily pause and question this line of monarchy and inheritance law. Apparently Jupiter shares some genes with the deceased Lady Abrasax, but she has no direct bloodline. Does that automatically thrust her into another family’s inheritance squabbles? Why should they even consider her claim valid? Why does that place her at the top of the pecking order? When did we start recognizing reincarnation with inheritance law?

Back to the matter at hand, Jupiter is an annoyingly weak character that’s supposed to follow the arc of weak to strong, inactive to active. Except she doesn’t. Beyond accepting her incredible new position, there’s really not much that changes for her. She remains, from start to finish, weak-willed, gullible, always in need of saving, and so wretchedly annoying and without merit. Her cousin arranges her with a doctor for Jupiter to donate her eggs, but he expects a majority of the money. Why does she need this middleman in this arrangement? It’s another reminder how dim the character is and devoid of agency. And then all of a sudden a romance materializes between her and Caine because of course it does. I use “materializes” because there is no actual setup of any kind beyond the fact that Kunis and Tatum are attractive specimens. Their romantic dialogue will produce dangerously violent eye rolls.

The Wachoswkis are certainly imaginative filmmakers but their ambitious world-building impulses get the better of them and their story. The imagination is on full display when it comes to the visuals, the production design, costumes, and alien designs. There’s a grand mixture of creatures big and small, and even an elephant pilot because why not? However, the storytelling meant to house these cool things is notably deficient. Jupiter Ascending feels less like a story that naturally develops and whose complications arise in a semi-logistical fashion. It feels like somebody guiding you on a tour of Weird Stuff. It’s not so much a story as a collection of Weird Stuff, Weird Incidents, Weird Places, and Weird Creatures. You feel like you’re being skipped off from one exhibit to another, especially when Jupiter is kidnapped and threatened by each of the three Abrasax children in a row. Seriously, the entire scenario is on repeat, so when Jupiter continues making naïve choices, you can slap yourself extra hard having been through this purgatory just moments before. It’s only a matter of time before she gives in to whatever Abrasax demands again. There’s a general sense of repetition to the plot compounded by Jupiter’s incessant need to be saved (she seems to be falling a lot, out of spaceships, buildings, vehicles, etc., which also gets tiresome). The scheming Abrasax children seem to just slide in and out as the plot requires, with little in the way of resolution.

jupiterkunisheadpiece-jupiter-ascending-mila-kunis-is-the-one-for-the-wachowskisIt’s impossible to discuss the film without acknowledging how damn goofy the whole enterprise comes across. Caine is part wolf, part albino, part human, and apparently part angel since he got his wings removed as a punishment. Does that seem like a good combination of elements or like the aftermath of a drunken writing session? Let’s just run down some of these names: Jupiter Jones, Balem, Kalique, Stinger, Gemma Chatterjee, Phylo Percadium, Chicanery Night (!). To be fair, it’s not like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader are less preposterous names. Caine has a pair of anti-gravity boots but they’re really just hovering rollerblades. There’s just something silly about watching a guy rollerblade, even if you attach a futuristic spin to it. There’s a hidden factory beneath the stormy Eye of Jupiter, and yet this same important factory seems ready made to fall apart if the slightest projectile pierces its exterior (it’s the Death Star all over again). There are weird small aliens, weird alien bounty hunters who can turn invisible but don’t, weird space police that are really bad at their jobs, weird robots with human faces, and there’s also weird stereotypical Russian immigrants for Jupiter’s obnoxious family. Perhaps all the goofy camp will enchant you but I never got onboard mostly because the story and central characters left me so thoroughly unengaged.

Another ongoing problem is that the Wachowskis are constantly telling you things rather than showing you and allowing the story to organically develop. There are no less than three times when Character A looks at Character B and literally verbalizes what they are thinking or feeling in this moment. It’s lazy screenwriting, beholden to constantly having to explain everything to an audience because either you think they are dumb or your plot is far too convoluted; either way, a problem. Such sample pieces of dialogue include these informational asides: “Bees are genetically programmed to recognize royalty,” and, mere seconds later, “Bees don’t lie.” There you have it; bees don’t lie. Now you know.

The most frustrating part of Jupiter Ascending is that there is a genuinely interesting movie buried under so much of this silly nonsense and ear-clanging noise. The starting premise that Earth is nothing more than a stock portfolio for an alien species, that’s good. The idea that a trio of siblings is squabbling over who gets their galactic inheritance, which includes the deed to Earth, that’s good. The idea that human life is seeded on planets merely to be harvested into an eternal youth elixir for the rich and powerful, that’s even better. It’s not exactly a nuanced critique of capitalism but it’ll do. I’m disappointed that we don’t find out more about a larger market for this rejuvenation technique. There has to be more customers for such a miracle product than one rich family. If this were an intergalactic King Lear or even a space version of Margin Call, it would be far more exciting and creative. Instead, the bigger ideas are grounded into pulp so that we can have more CGI-drenched action sequences. There’s one segment that tonally breaks away from the film, diving headlong into Douglas Adams-style satire on bureaucracy. Like most of the film, it has its moments of entertainment, but it comes from nowhere and has trouble fitting with everything else. I’ll give credit where it’s due and praise the special effects, as well as the overall production design. It’s too bad that the action too often feels like a bunch of pixels exploding, failing to provide a sense of immersion. It’s hard to get a feel for most of the action and its use of space, save for portions of the finale. There is one very fun and well-choreographed fight between Caine and a… dragon… sentry guy (I don’t really know what to call these winged henchmen). That fight is exciting. It’s a shame there aren’t more of them. Bring on more dragon sentry guys.

Kunis is certainly miscast on the part, though I doubt any actress could pull off such a lackluster heroine who is always needing to be rescued. Kunis is more adept in the realm of comedy (Ted) or seduction (Black Swan), neither of which is featured with Jupiter. Let me say one more reason this Jupiter Jones character is awful; part of her struggle concerns whether or not to marry a playboy space prince. I don’t know if the Wachowskis believed that Jupiter was supposed to be a “strong” figure, but reducing feminine value to her being married feels rather reductive for sci-fi (not that there isn’t a storied history of women being treated as objects of fantasy in the genre). Tatum’s (22 Jump Street) remarkable charms are dulled by his silly albino beard and general guard dog characterization. He’s less a character than a protector who inexplicably instantly falls in love with his charge. Both actors will no doubt rebound in short order.

maxresdefaultReserve some pity for poor Eddie Redmayne, a man who will be experiencing the highs and lows of acting this month. He’s the frontrunner to win Best Actor for his stirring work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which is what makes his performance here even more astonishingly awful. He speaks in this effete whisper for the entire movie, one that is hardly audible at all, except for the occasional line where he screams and spasms, making the contrast all the more funny. He constantly holds his head back like he’s in danger of nosebleeds. This is a performance of such startling misdirection that I physically felt bad for Redmayne. He seemed to be reaching out to me, pleading through his glassy eyes, communicating, “Help me, help me.” Even if his character’s vocal range wasn’t so nonthreatening, Balem makes for a terrible main villain. As a rich lord with power at his disposal, he works, but late in the movie all of that is removed, and he has to be a physical threat. After 90 minutes of watching him on screen, you will never be able to see him as a credible physical threat, and even the movie doesn’t fully treat him this way, and yet the plot still places him in this role. He’s not a heavy. Balem is laughable but he’s another component of a generally laughable movie.

Jupiter Ascending is a rarity in Hollywood, a big-budget epic that overpowers you with a singular sense of style and imagination; it just so happens that so much of the creative fireworks are laughably terrible. The Wachowskis don’t do anything in half-measure, and the film is put in overdrive. There’s a mess of characters and peculiar details to make this world feel larger than life and tethered to the idea of fun. Then why oh why did we have to be saddled with such boring, one-dimensional characters and a secret princess storyline lifted from countless sources? In the past, the Wachoswkis have found ways to turn pop philosophy and pop-culture into an entertaining alchemy that separated them from the sci-fi pack of imitators, which were legion. I still have great fondness for the original Matrix (you can keep the sequels), V for Vendetta, and especially Cloud Atlas of late. The Wachowskis are ambitious filmmakers and they have the imagination and narrative sensibilities to achieve great things. It’s just that with Jupiter Ascending it feels like their real passion was in all the background artifacts, the minutia of the worlds, the alien costumes and makeup, the histories of worlds. It certainly wasn’t on a story or characters or a credible romance. And yet even after all of these words, I have to admit that Jupiter Ascending is entertaining, just not in the way its creators may have intended. It reminds me of 2014’s disastrous Winter’s Tale, a passion project that was so baffling and bafflingly terrible. If you’re curious and willing to part with some money, gather some friends and check out Jupiter Ascending. Just make sure you’ll have suitable time planned afterwards to discuss its particular brand of big screen lunacy.

Nate’s Grade: C

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Most people regarded David Mitchell’s 2004 sprawling novel Cloud Atlas was unfilmable. It has six different stories each set in a different time period, slotted into a different genre, and each a variation on storytelling. Mitchell’s tome was structured like a series of nesting dolls, each narrative pulling back to reveal a character reading the previous manuscript, and eventually the direction was reversed. We go from the mid-nineteenth century to post-apocalyptic and back again. I read the book over the summer and found it to be enthralling, especially because each storyline was written so distinctively in a different writing style. The post-apocalyptic linguistics definitely took some getting used to. How could you turn this unwieldy book into a workable movie?

The Wachowski siblings, Andy and Lana, teamed up with German director Tom Tyker (Run Lola Run) to try and find a way. They decided to split up the stories into a musical syncopation, with stories blending into one another. As a result, Cloud Atlas is six different movies for the price of one but it’s far more than the sum of its parts. Cloud Atlas coalesces, bleeds, and bends, becoming a Mobius strip of causality and courage and love. The trio of directors, who shot simultaneously with two separate film crews, has done the impossible and translated Mitchell’s brilliant novel into a soaring, compelling, and multifaceted epic on hope and humanism.

Where to begin with this one? Well, in 1849, Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is traveling across the Pacific back to his home in San Francisco. He’s fallen ill on the ship and keeping the secret of a stowaway in his chamber, a Moriori slave named Autua (David Gyasi). In 1931, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) is a penniless gay musician looking for refuge. He offers his services to the aged but still famed composer, Vyvian Ayers (Jim Broadbent). Ayers will dictate and Frobisher will assist in writing. In 1971, Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) is a reporter investigating a series of murders tied to a nuclear facility and a report the head honcho (Hugh Grant) doesn’t want exposed. In 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) is a small-time publisher who mistakenly checks himself into a nursing home that won’t allow him to leave. In 2140, a new working class is grown from the lab. Somni 451 (Doona Bae) is one of these fabricants. With the help of a revolutionary (Sturgess), she escapes her confines and learns the horrors of the totalitarian world and becomes part of the rebellion. And 100 winters after “The Fall,” mankind has descended into agrarian tribes. Zachry (Hanks) is a goat herder who reluctantly agrees to take Meronym (Berry) to a hallowed mountain. Meronym belongs to the last group of technology-abled civilization, the Prescients, and Zachry mistrusts her and is tempted to kill her to protect his people. Just describing this stuff is tiring and could take up two reviews.

This is going to be a very divisive movie, this much I can tell. It’s so powerfully earnest that you either embrace its mushiness and ambitions or you smirk and mock its New Age philosophy and optimism. There will be no middle ground with this film. We’re talking about transmigrating souls over the course of 500 years, Tom Hanks as a post-apocalyptic goat herder, and an evil presence known as Old Georgie, who looks like the forgotten cousin to the Wicked Witch of the West. There is some stuff in this movie that is plenty goofy, especially when seen on the surface. It takes a while to ease into the film, adjust to its tempo and accept the context of those goofy elements. But once that’s established then it feels like you can handle anything. There’s such an overflowing of feeling in this movie that it’s easy to make fun of it, to dismiss it under the safety of ironic detachment. It would be easy to decry the Cloud Atlas team for being self-indulgent or pretentious. What they are doing is far from normal, but the achievement of Cloud Atlas is the graceful way it finds to connect the rhythms of a deeply felt humanity. It has its stirring moments and memorable scenes, but when compacted and collected into a beautiful whole, that’s where the movie transcends. When an authoritative character barks, “You are but a drop in an ocean,” and our hero responds, “What is an ocean but a series of drops?” you either roll your eyes or you cheer. This is an earnest movie that wears its humanism on its sleeve. You either roll with that or you don’t, and I decided to embrace the big, messy, mushiness of the whole project and was swept away.

For a three-hour movie, the time flew by, and by the end I knew I had to see Cloud Atlas again. The first viewing requires much in the way of processing. You’re stringing together the disparate strands of the narrative, you’re listening hard to decipher the post-apocalyptic tongue of Zachry and company, and then you’re also keeping track of what actors are playing what characters, crossing lines of race and gender. The disguised actor factor is something of a fun ”who’s who” party game throughout the movie; initially distracting and somewhat questionable (especially the cross-racial makeup). I think seeing Cloud Atlas a second time will allow me to immerse myself further, finding new depths and connections. The pacing is surprisingly swift for a three-hour movie. You barely notice the time is gone, and honestly I could have done with even more movie, especially during the Neo Seoul segment. Given the six segments, some stories are going to be more compelling than others. I don’t think too many people are going to be as compelled with Frobisher’s creative sessions as they are Somni’s escape from enslavement. Initially, you’ll be scratching your head what they all have in common, and the lighthearted segments seem to clash with the more severe segments of systemic abuses. But then the big picture starts to eventually emerge and you see the parallel themes of oppression, bondage, rebellion, sacrifice, abolition and the yearning for freedom at all costs. The filmmakers find clever ways to thematically link their different tales. The movie starts to become a musical experience, much like Frobisher’s central melody, the overlapping notes of repetition and the swelling movements of human life in minor and major.

As anyone who endured the Matrix sequels will attest, the Wachoswkis are film theologians and Cloud Atlas is unabashedly spiritual. The filmmakers openly favor examining the spiritual side of Mitchell’s novel rather than the political. I found the results to be intriguing but short of profound. From a philosophical/theological standpoint, Cloud Atlas is not breaking new ground or even going into great depth. We’ve got some basic Eastern notions like reincarnation and trying to improve upon one’s soul through various lifetimes. There’s also the notion that death is just a transitional phase and not the end. The film is also very interested in the transcendentalist interconnections of human history. “With each crime and each act of kindness, we give way to our future,” says Somni at one point. I like this; it’s essentially karma in its purest form but it also denotes that every choice gives ways to multitudes of possible futures (perhaps pedestrian but I still like it). I feel that human kindness is long-reaching and casts out many ripples, and Cloud Atlas is a film all about the ripples, seeing the long-reaching effects to causes, and discovering that individuals can become movements and movements can become inspiration. I also like the relatable debate over religious belief in the far-flung future; the Valley people worship Somni as their gracious Goddess, but the more advanced Prescients view her as a person, noble and with strong and important ideas but flesh and blood. And yet the film doesn’t look down on Zachry and his people for their beliefs; Somni inspires them to do good. Do the details matter when the results are positive? Cloud Atlas has plenty of intriguing questions roiling around, moments of pause worthy of post-screening debate. It’s not too deep but it’s far from shallow (the Wachoswkis love their Christ-like imagery, don’t they?).

From a filmmaking craft standpoint, Cloud Atlas is often breathtaking. In some respects it feels like something radically new, a $100 million dollar art film. The visuals are wonderful and the different time periods all come across handsomely mounted, perfectly realized, the details vivid and period appropriate. The future worlds are easily the most engrossing just because of how different they are. You’re never spoon-fed the answers in this movie, so we’re left to put together what lead to each future. I would have loved to have gotten even more details about Somni’s world, a time where democracy has been replaced by “corpocracy,” a world run by corporations. The ambitious story structure of Cloud Atlas could have easily become confusing, but the filmmakers smartly give each segment its own little undivided period to set up that world and its unique tone. They even provide date stamps. Then things get more spliced together, the different storylines cascading and braided together. Some of the storylines have to wrap up early and others are saved for heartbreaking finales of tragic resonance. The elliptical romances spanning centuries provide nice counterpoints and satisfying out-of-time conclusions for storylines that don’t always end cheerful.  The movie is often thrilling, intellectually stimulating, disturbing, and poignant, though to be fair it comes up short when it comes to emotional involvement. Like the stunted depth of its philosophy, the movie has a way of drawing you in but never fully; it’s all about a wealth of human feelings and the nature of humanity yet it quixotically comes up short emotionally.

With up to six roles to play, the actors are given plenty to work with. It would be redundant to say you’ve never seen many of these actors like they are in Cloud Atlas (has anyone ever seen Berry in whiteface?). Every actor gets to play heroes and villains, saints and sinners. Only Weaving (The Matrix) and Grant (The Pirates! Band of Misfits) play antagonists in just about every story, and when you have Weaving at your disposal you have to give the man a role with menace. Grant gets to play a post-apocalyptic marauding cannibal. You won’t see him eat anybody’s face in one of those Bridget Jones movies. Like the filmmakers, the actors display full commitment to their varied roles no matter how silly some of the future diction may sound (“for true-true”). Hanks instantly anchors your empathy as Zachry and grounds a storyline that has the biggest danger of slipping into silliness. Readers will know I’m not the biggest Berry fan, and that is probably being charitable. However, I was truly impressed with her work in Cloud Atlas and would easily classify this as her best work since her Oscar-winning turn in Monster’s Ball. Her portrayal of Luisa Rey has such fire and her Meronym has such melancholy. Broadbent (The Iron Lady) is still highly enjoyable as a pompous sort, I’m always happy to see Keith David, and Weaving is delightful in his venomous villains, as a devil, a hit man, and most vividly as the Nurse Ratchet-style sadistic head nurse antagonizing Cavendish. The real breakaway star is Bae (The Host), who also benefits by having the most involving storyline. Her gradual awakening is just about note-perfect, alternating between curiosity, horror, amazement, and finally anger. All of those emotions need to be free of histrionics but if too underplayed then Somni seems like a walking zombie. Bae finds the right somber middle ground and her journey is the most emotionally rewarding.

In the end, there’s so much to unpack, dissect, discuss, debate, and contemplate with this movie, and every hour I think of some new connection that dovetails the plots. Cloud Atlas is a thrillingly artistic mosaic, a giant puzzle that begs for closer examination. Unlike the films of Terrence Malick, this is a dense, challenging work that is also accessible and, here’s the heretical part film snobs, entertaining. We get a kaleidoscope of the human experience told in beautiful flourishes. There are a lot of demands with Cloud Atlas, and ultimately it may demand multiple viewings to completely sort out one’s opinion on this gigantic picture of gigantic feeling. I’m still uncertain whether I really enjoyed it or loved it, nagging doubts concerning the limited emotional attachment to consider. I’m curious what a second viewing, stripped of analyzing which actor is in what body, will allow me to further appreciate the scale and scope of the film’s achievement.

The individual stories of Cloud Atlas may not be terribly profound but collectively this movie is something special. I anticipate it will be trendy to mock its sincerity and ambition and New Agey spirituality (not that a negative opinion is automatically invalid). We live in a cynical world. It’s rare to find a movie that has so many things to say with such intense earnestness. It’s even more rare for that movie to be good. Due to the sci-fi elements and time hopping, The Fountain and 2001 will be natural film comparisons, but In some ways Cloud Atlas reminds me more of another divisive film, 2001’s Moulin Rouge!. Both were sincere movies about the genuine power of love and human connection, told with such artistic flair, drive, and ambition, and both attempt to transform the traditional tropes of storytelling and drama into a brave new 21st century collage of sight and sound and sprawling spirits. Simply put, you’ll never see a movie like Cloud Atlas again. So do yourself a favor and see it already, then find someone to talk about it and compare how fast the time goes. Then, if you’re like me, see it again.

Nate’s Grade: A

Ninja Assassin (2009)

I never would have fathomed that a movie with both “ninja” and “assassin” in its title would barely hold my interest. This is a movie I got up and did the dishes through. Over-the-top never felt so boring, and perhaps it comes down to the flimsiest of stories strung together to connect the various ninja fights. It really does the bare minimum narrative-wise to get to the next opportunity for bloodletting, and oh what bloodletting! This is an extremely bloody movie but its power is undone because the violence is too stylized. Blood sprays like geysers and every slash of the flesh unleashes a balletic dance of painterly, soupy blood. The movie might work as disposable trash if only the action sequences were exciting. This isn’t a ninja movie but some half-assed video game. These aren’t Bruce Lee Ninjas, these ninjas can literally vanish into thin air before your eyes and they blend into the shadows. They are supernatural creatures that defy our traditional notions of what defines a ninja. This ain’t it. The characters all take such brutal beatings, and they spill tanker truckloads of blood, that it’s a wonder they can even stand let alone fight. There are a fee snazzy fight sequences but only thanks to choice in geography. The choppy editing only makes matters worse. I expected much more from the director of V for Vendetta. Ninja Assassin is just an un-engaging, hyper violent cartoon with a dimwitted story and little reason to care. The action isn’t even that good because the editing and lighting conspire to make sure you won’t be able to comprehend what’s going on. The best part of this entire damn stupid movie is the animated segment at the start of the closing credits. So have fun washing dishes until then, folks.

Nate’s Grade: C-

Speed Racer (2008)

I was wary of this film from the first frame. I think the original Speed Racer cartoon is dopey and insipid. I didn’t really want to pay to have my retinas destroyed by the candy-coated color scheme of the big-budget movie. But I must say, I didn’t hate this movie and that’s a major accomplishment. That’s not to say Speed Racer is a good movie; its script is cheesy, the dialogue is silly, the comedy is dead on arrival, and many of the races end up becoming incoherent flashes of color and noise. But God help me, the Wachowskis have produced a unique movie experience that will likely induce epileptic seizures. Speed Racer has way too much plot going on for a cartoon about a kid who races a fast car. The movie reminds me in a lot of ways of the Wacky Races cartoon where the various teams have theme-driven cars. This provides for plenty of outlandish action sequences that manage to tickle the senses, that is, when the images are somewhat stable. The movie aspires to be a “family film” and with that comes the half-hearted moral message (corporations are evil) and a reminder that family is important. Did I mention there’s also a monkey that gets treated like a member of the family? The movie sometimes feels like the cinematic equivalent of an ice cream headache, but you’re unlikely to see anything like it again in the near future. That may be both a good and a bad thing.

Nate’s Grade: C+

V for Vendetta (2006)

Legendary comics author Alan Moore has a particular disdain for Hollywood adaptations. They just haven’t gone so well for this scribble scribe. There was 2001’s From Hell (I may be the only one in the world that actually likes it, Heather Graham’s atrocious cockney accent aside) and 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Moore is even responsible for the creation of the John Constantine character, who had his own 2005 big screen venture. I suppose you could see why he has certain contempt for the movie versions of his much-heralded stories. Now comes V for Vendetta, based on Moore’s 1988 comic and adapted into a screenplay by the Wachoswki brothers. While I may have no idea how close V for Vendetta is to Moore’s graphic novel, I can say that the movie is a smart, superb thriller that dares you to think while you?re stuffing popcorn into your mouth.

“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, gunpowder treason and plot. I see no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot”

In the future, America has lost its super power status after overextending itself in war. Britain has turned into a hostile totalitarian government, led by chancellor Sutler (John Hurt). Evey (Natalie Portman) works for the state-controlled TV station. One night, while walking out past curfew, Evey is attacked by some undercover cops looking for a good time. A mysterious masked man named V (Hugo Weaving) comes to her rescue. His grinning, bearded mask resembles Guy Fawkes, a revolutionary that tried to blow up the British Parliament 400 years ago on November 5th. V starts taking out high profile government figures and then infiltrates the government airwaves, asking others to rise up against the corruption they see around them. He promises to blow up parliament one year to the day of this message. Finch (Stephen Rea, so expressive with his hangdog demeanor) is assigned to find out who this V is and how to deal with him. In reality, Finch discovers a lot more troubling information about his own government. Evey is linked with V and tracked down for interrogation and potential execution. As the date approaches, Evey must battle her own loyalties and strike out against what she feels is right and just.

What makes V for Vendetta so exciting is its playground of ideas. This is a dynamically intelligent, complex movie but it never lets the smarts get in the way of a rousing good time. This is a very political movie that’s very relevant today, like the exchange of freedom for security and the use of fear mongering to serve an agenda. I love that the government’s leaders were a rogue?s gallery of corruptible figures; the Bill O’Riley-like TV pundit blowhard, the church leader who just happens to be a pedophile, the scientist whose good intentions justify the worst in human experimentation. V for Vendetta is a thinking man?s comic book movie, one that actually has actual respect for its audience and refuses to dumb down its message. The movie starts at a gallop and never lets up intellectually, and that’s so wonderfully refreshing from a film of any stripes. While I would not classify myself in the camp that views V for Vendetta as an anti-Bush administration screed, I’d have to say the movie does stir people out of a sense of apathy. I was even moved by the film’s hopeful conclusion, which is more than I can say about any other comic book movie (yes, even Elektra).

Director James McTeigue has previously served as the Wachoswki brothers’ assistant director. V for Vendetta is his debut as a director and what an auspicious debut it is. The movie is visually lush thanks to Aliens cinematographer Adrian Biddle (sadly, he died December 2005), but the smartest notion McTeigue accomplishes is putting story above special effects (ahem, George Lucas?). The command McTeigue has as a first-time director is impressive; how many people would be this restrained with all the fancy tools Hollywood has to offer? It’s his restraint and priorities that allow V for Vendetta to excel. And when the film does call for action, McTeigue judiciously uses visual trickery to enhance the scene. A late scene involving slow-mo V taking out a cadre of soldiers while they reload is amazing both in its “hey, look at this!” visual acuity and that it fits perfectly within the narrative. Nothing is self-consciously showy for the sake of wowing an audience, and every beat of action feels organic to the storyline. V for Vendetta is a terrific debut with some great set pieces.

Weaving is awesome as our hero. Since at no point does V ever take off his mask, it wouldn’t have been unheard of to simply hire a stunt guy to play the part and dub Weaving’s voice in later. But no, Weaving decided to be the part and adds so much to the character. He knows when to turn his head, nod, lean to a side, just like a silent film star interpreting the moment through action; it sounds ridiculous but it definitely helps paint a clearer picture of V. Then there’s Weaving’s incredible voice, making V sound like the world’s craziest, coolest Shakespearean lit professor.

Portman has finally made me appreciate her as an actress. She had a long winter between 1994’s The Professional and her 2004 one-two punch of Garden State and Closer, but I now finally see that Portman is a fine actress and not just a promising talent. She’s the heart of the film, the focal point for the audience to journey along, and she’s excellent at every point. I also give her props for having her head shaved on camera (I can only imagine what the eventual porn version will do with this scene).

I’m left in the cold by this over inflated discussion on how “daring” V for Vendetta is by having the hero of a major Hollywood movie be a terrorist, one that says things like, “Violence can be used for good,” and, “Sometimes blowing up buildings can change the world.” Yeah, sure, but it’s a well-mannered, well-read, cultured terrorist versus a giant evil totalitarian government that kidnaps people, strips them of their rights, and enforces cruelty and prejudice. So exactly how daring is that? Of course audience sympathy is going to fall to the little guy, in this case a terrorist, which is the only hope of shaking things up and righting wrongs in the system. That doesn’t exactly strike me as subversive. This movie isn’t promoting terrorism any more than Munich was when Spielberg allowed the Palestinians to have a voice. The movie is anti-oppression if anything.

My only complaints are minor. The movie gets a bit repetitious in its windup to the climax (oh look, we’ve cut again to the Big Brother round table), and that somewhere along the middle V for Vendetta gets log-jammed with subplots. Everyone has a story to tell in V for Vendetta and we see every personal tale, and after a while it kind of grinds the flow of the story down. However, this problem is sidestepped after awhile and V for Vendetta gets back on track, driving full-force toward its conclusion like a runaway train.

What sounds on paper as something incredibly silly, including a kissing scene involving a motionless clay mask, V for Vendetta plays out with such excitement, visual prowess, and vibrant intelligence; this is a very political movie that?s very relevant today and I loved it all the more for it, but V never forgets to be entertaining at the same time. McTeigue has fashioned together a stirring and fascinating directorial debut, and even though the Wachowski brothers have their fingerprints all over this film, the pretension is kept to a minimum. V for Vendetta is exactly what the Matrix sequels should have been: a pulpy mix of brains and action, not a snore-fest that beats you down before putting on a show. It’s a shame Moore didn’t want his name attached to the finished product, because V for Vendetta is 2006’s first great movie of the year.

Nate’s Grade: A-

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

Four years ago the Wachowskis revolutionized the world of cinema, with their surprise sci-fi opus, The Matrix. Their mixture of philosophy, kinetic visuals, and inventive action with style to spare laid waste to all inferior action movies and gave birth to a cult of fan boys. Now six months after the second installment, The Matrix: Reloaded, we’re left to supposedly close the chapter on Matrix land.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) is caught in a strange limbo between the machine world and the real world. The only passage back to either is through the Merovingian’s chief hobo, the Trainman (seriously, he’s a hobo with teeth like a jack-o-lantern). Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) travel to the most spastic fetish club imaginable for negotiations with the Merovingian. He agrees to give them back Neo if they will bring him the eyes of the Oracle, the prophet of the Matrix.

The rest of Revolutions takes place within two storylines. The first involves Morpheus and his former flame Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith, finally getting a sizeable role she deserves) flying the last remaining ship of the human fleet back to Zion, the last remaining free human city, before the tunneling army of the machines breach the city walls. The other storyline involves Neo and Trinity flying a ship to the heart of Machine Town to have a face-to-face with The Wizard. They want to negotiate a peace between the two factions and put a stop to the increasingly uncontrollable rogue program, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who, left unchecked, could destroy both the human and machine world.

Reeves has never been confused with a serious actor, or even much of an actor for that matter. And sure, he has a penchant for being out-acted by inanimate objects, but his stint in Revolutions is stiff and wooden, like he’’s just punching the clock to get through another day. It doesn’’t help his case that half of his scenes involve the woefully inept romance between him and Moss.

The only person that seems to be having any fun in this overly serious melodrama with guns is Weaving. His Agent Smith character has morphed into the true star of the Matrix trilogy. He’s charming and even more likable than the dull-witted Neo. Weaving seems to love the drawn out line delivery, so much so he might be accused of abusing anti-depressants. His insidious cackles are a delight.

The plot of The Matrix: Revolutions has several head-scratching moments. Like the kid who yearns to be in the fight but is too young and clumsy. Anyone who’’s ever seen any movie ever will know how that plot point turns out. Then there are questions like, why do people far in the future still use wheelbarrows to lug ammo around? Why, during a shoot-out at the fetish club’s gun check room, do people jump on the ceiling? Why would being on the ceiling make you any more difficult to shoot? The whole sequence comes off like a poorly done rip-off of the Wachowski’s’ own bank lobby shoot-out from the original Matrix.

Revolutions is the least densely plotted of the three films. Now, one would think this would be a godsend, especially after the pretensions and bloated mess that was The Matrix: Reloaded. But there’s nothing at all memorable in this third installment, and perhaps this is because everything but ten minutes of it takes place in the dingy “real world.” Who cares about a post-apocalyptic universe where the surviving subterranean humans wear rags and pull all-night raves? I’’ve seen that stuff in a thousand other movies (maybe not the raves part, though). Everything is better within the virtual reality Matrix world; from the clothes to the gravity-defying cool acrobatics to the cinematography to, God help me for saying it, the acting and dialogue. At least Reloaded gave us the stylish goods when it came to that heart-thumping freeway chase.

Although Revolutions is a slight improvement over the tedious Reloaded, this is only because after seeing the third and final leg of this trilogy, it makes the second film look worse. The intriguing new elements of Reloaded, like the French Merovingian and his wife (the lovely Monica Bellucci), are now seen to be nothing more than dropped subplots. Even the coolest additions to the Matrix universe –the ghostly twins- don’’t even show up. Sigh. Now that I know where the story ends, the loose ends of Reloaded don’’t justify themselves nearly as much as I would have liked.

The showpieces of Revolutions are two long battles in its final act. The first is a near-20 minute assault by the Sentinels, resembling flying mechanical octopi, against the defenses of Zion. It’’s exciting for a while but battle fatigue settles in quickly. You can only watch so many CGI robo-exoskeletons shooting CGI machine guns at CGI flying machines as they explode in CGI explosions and CGI shrapnel. The effects are nice, and seem more polished than Reloaded, but the sense of imagination seems to be entirely absent. The second battle is the final fist-fight between Neo and Agent Smith in the pouring rain. Smith has duplicated himself enough to cover miles upon miles of high rises. The fight sequence is impressive and beautifully filmed, but it amounts to a big shoulder shrug after watching Neo battle 100 Smiths in Reloaded. The final confrontation in Revolutions is adequately satisfying if a bit under whelming and unmemorable.

The need for corporate coffers to ring has turned what was a great stand alone film into a mediocre franchise, one whose diminished hopes and lowered expectations can only be judged on par with the Star Wars prequels. My friend Colin equated watching The Matrix: Revolutions to a wet dream: momentarily satisfying but leaving one with nothing but pangs of emptiness. The Matrix trilogy doesn’’t end with any sense of urgency; instead it draws to a close with a half-baked artificial fulfillment. The journey of Neo and Trinity and all the rest has come to a whimpering end.

Nate’s Grade: C

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Imagine my disappointment as I viewed the highly anticipated sequel to 1999’s sci-fi smash The Matrix and learned that the writing and directing team of the Wachowski brothers had taken a page from good ole’ George Lucas on how to make sequels: the “bigger is better and more is more” approach. Like the first two Star Wars prequels, the second Matrix movie is overstuffed and unfocused. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, it’’s also extremely talky when it comes to psycho-babble that would only impress the bong-carrying peanut gallery.

Reloaded picks up sometime after the first. Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), Neo (Keanu Reeves), and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are late for a pow-wow with other leaders including Morpheus’ former flame, Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith). In this meeting, which is within the Matrix, we learn that the humans have discovered that the machines are drilling at an incredible speed and will reach Zion, the last human city far beneath the Earth, in a matter of days. Add this to the bad dreams Neo keeps having where Trinity falls out of a building and gets shot by an Agent, and things are not looking good for our heroes from the first film.

At Zion, Morpheus stokes up the crowd who already believe that Neo is The One in the prophecy of the Oracle (Gloria Foster). They believe he is the one who will lead them to topple the machines. Morpheus informs the many citizens of Zion (okay, the last battalion of the human race lives in caves under the surface and people are STILL wearing sunglasses all the time? Watch your heads.) that the machines are digging to a town near you, and they have 250,000 Sentinels to wipe out what remains of humanity.

So what do people do next; what would your standard response be? Apparently, in Zion, it involves a massive spontaneous, sex-charged rave. The multitudes of Zion start grinding and sweatily dancing to electronic beats. And curiously, as you’ll notice with the slow camera movement in the scene, NO ONE in the future wears a bra. Perhaps the machines got those too. So after a tremendously long span of raving with nipples, intercut with Neo and Trinity knockin’ boots (though could you imagine zero-gravity sex in the Matrix?), the heroes set off to find the Oracle once more. Zion is preparing to mount a counterstrike against the burrowing machines and is hopeful that it will buy them some time. They plan on sending the entire fleet out, save Morpheus’ ship and one or two to aid him in his quest.

Neo finally regroups with the Oracle along a park bench inside the Matrix. She puts forth more psychological babble about choice and how choices are already made before you make them. You may start zoning out and wondering when people are gonna’ start punching people again, because it takes a good 45-50 minutes to get into this movie. The Oracle does have an interesting tidbit of information however. She reveals that the Matrix if just chock full of rogue programs living out their days in the confines of this virtual reality. Included in this group are werewolves, vampires, ghosts, angels which are all programming errors that walk among the Matrix. So, wouldn’’t it be kind of neat to see Neo fight the monsters from Universal Studios (“Hey Frankenstein monster … I know kung-fu” “Fire baaaaaaaaaad!”)?

The supreme drawback of Reloaded is that it introduces us to a plethora of new characters, all with minimal screen time and even more minimal plot impact, and then fails to advance the story. Niobe is pointless except for the old action picture adage of being at the right place at the right time to rescue our seemingly doomed heroes. A rogue program that calls himself The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), who decides on being a European playboy with an accent that renders all speech useless, snoots and huffs his way around. Monica Bellucci plays his wife. This Italian actress can be enthralling, and not just on the eyes, but she also serves minimal purpose other than some heaving chest shots. Then there’s the Keymaker, who will somehow lead Neo to his destiny or whatever. There’s about fifteen or so new characters and hardly any of them matter. The coolest additions are the twins, a pair of pasty dreadlocked fighters who can go through walls and parry any enemy assault. More time is needed for these two before they turn into another wasted villain, like Star Wars‘ Darth Maul.

All of this criticism is moot, of course, because the center of The Matrix is on inventive and pulse-pounding action, right? Well I’’d say that is so with the 1999 film but its sequel suffers when its action sequences drone on and become repetitious and dull. Neo fighting twenty or so replicates of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is interesting and fun, but when ninety more show up and it’s painfully and slightly embarrassing when the people fighting are CGI, then the fun level drops with the film. Neo ends the big brawl by flying away. My friend next to me whispered in my ear once this scene concluded, “If he could fly, why didn’’t he fly away at the beginning?” My response: “That would be using your brain.” Seriously, this action sequence is nifty and all but it serves no purpose, just like much of the first half of the film.

The freeway chase scene seems to already be famous and with due cause. Trinity and Morpheus zooming through traffic, fighting Agents and the twins, is a fantastic set piece that is reminiscent of the inventive action the first Matrix gave us. When Trinity zooms through oncoming traffic on her motorcycle the film comes alive and my attention was certainly front and center. The scene does fizzle a bit as it segues into Morpheus fighting an Agent atop a speeding semi. Again, the CGI rotoscoping of the landscape and the people is painfully obvious and detracts from the enjoyment.

What ultimately kills The Matrix sequel is that no one had the heart to question if maybe more wasn’’t better. Sure the Wachowski brothers had all the riches unto Caesar to make this movie, but what perplexes me is that once we do get much more it only feels like more of the same, and disappointment sets in. Agent Smith is shoved to the side of the film and pops up here and there to glare. He’s more or less just repackaged with nothing new and no personality, like much of the film. The purposely perplexing psycho-babble does not help. I’m sure hundreds of websites will dissect the exact philosophical links the movie presents, but man, all this talking about stuff that’s shutting down my brain is getting in the way of ass-kicking. I felt bloodlust the more I heard people, usually some old fruitcake, endlessly blab about causality and choice. When it comes to action-packed sequels from 2003, I’ll take X2 any day over Reloaded.

This is not to say that Reloaded is a bad film because it does have some nice special effects, cinematography, and some cool action sequences. These points of interest do not, however, justify its bloated running time. Some things were better left to the imagination, like the city of Zion, which looks about as dreary and dull as you might expect the last bastion of human civilization to look like in a ruined world, but this is science-fiction. Where’s the fun in dreary and dull? Again, whereas the first Matrix took place mainly in the false virtual reality where we could watch fantastic feats defying the laws of physics, Reloaded spends half its time running around the dank real world.

Some moments did have me giggling, like the Merovingian’’s joyous creation — an orgasm cake. A woman has a piece of cake and her temperature rises. Finally the camera zooms into her vagina (it’s in computer-code so it’s all columns of sexy green numbers) and we see an explosion of light. Very interesting indeed. Essentially, this is a key metaphor for the film itself: an attempt to have its cake and eat it too.

The Matrix: Reloaded is an occasionally entertaining and often mind-numbingly talky summer entry. You’ll get some thrills, maybe the philosophy will connect more for some (even though to me, at the heart, they say very little very eloquently), but because The Matrix is a colossal franchise that will make a gazillion dollars and then some, the power of editing has been kicked to the curb. If that power had been present perhaps someone could have trimmed a few of the many peripheral characters, kicked the pace up a few notches, reworked the fight scenes to advance the plot and stopped events from being so repetitive, and while they were at it maybe they could have done away with all the philosophy and stilted love dialogue. As it stands, The Matrix sequel has lost a lot of edge and this is because of the initial success of the first film. Sure, you might have an intermittently good time, but you should have had a great time. The Wachowski brothers had every tool at their fingertips but they became so enamored with fame and fortune that their work of creativity and genius has morphed into a self-indulgent, adolescent (with its hormone driven sexual events and its stoner philosophy), cash cow.

Nate’s Grade: C+

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