My response to Joker's "Reloaded" take
See Joker's review of "The Matrix Reloaded" below.
The film opens with a fantastic action piece that is obviously a hint of things to come in the end. How this first act is a train wreck is beyond me. The rebels of the first film don't magically transform into a city. It is well established that there is a growing city of rebellion brewing deep in the heart of the earth in the first film. We are finally shown the primal distinctly human future/past that the film's Scooby gang is fighting for. The opening speech reminded me of Walter Hill's "The Warriors", gathering the gangs together, whipping them into an erotic frenzy. The ethnic makeup of the crowd suggesting the songs of rebel slaves.
I won't try to defend the film's dialogue. It's silly and awkward most of the time. It looks even worse on paper than it does coming out of characters' mouths. Yet I prefer to look at it from a different point of view. The philosophizing and questions of choice are there to lend a tone, an enigmatic air of mystery to the true nature of the Matrix, rather than be serious questions about what free will really means in a deterministic system or things even more complex. I think the "philosophy 101" is there for mood more than anything else. Compare it to the equally idiotic philosophy of "Waking Life", where the bong hit professors were all the film had to offer. Here, that tripe is merely costume for the dance.
And what a dance it is. I don't see how anyone could call the martial arts action low grade. If you're already pissed off about the rest of the movie you might as well pile on the action because it's all going to be a matter of taste. They got some of the most respected choreographers in the world to do the wire stunts, but hey what am I going to tell you here? "No really, that punching and blocking got a bad rep" isn't very effective in words. You really have to judge for yourself. I thought it was fantastic from beginning to end. If you are sour on everything else, than you'll just be frustrated with the fighting. If you don't care about the characters as much as I did, you'll think their struggle is pointless. It's not the type of movie to ask, "Why doesn't Neo just fly away?" Well why didn't Superman just fly away? What kind of super hero does that? Even in the face of an invincible foe? (One he'd defeated before and one who had acquired new powers of which he was unaware of the extent.)
There is a lot of action in this middle part of the film and it really starts up when Neo meets the Merovingian and his wife Persephone. Here the Wachowski's have a little fun in the same style as "Unbreakable" employing a more understated creation of common mythology. The Merovingian and Persephone are metaphorical vampires of sorts, feeding off the lusts and pleasures of others, they are "supernatural" in the sense that they understand more about the nature of the Matrix than most mere mortals. They have werewolf body guards who aren't so much wolves as weasily looking nearly invincible programs from an earlier version of the Matrix (guess how they're killed). Then there are the twins, banshees with impeccable style and powers that lead to the most amazing sequence of the film. They are guarding the Keymaker, a character employing the tried and true "banality of the all powerful shtick", a program with incredible powers dressed up as a little elderly man huddled away in a cave somewhere.
This leads to the chase, that great showpiece that I'm sure you've heard plenty about. It is worth the price of admission alone. A mordant chuckle escapes me at the idea that "Charlie's Angels" is more appealing for not even attempting to be serious. "The Matrix" can't be dark and brooding if it isn't at least putting on that hat.
The ending is quite satisfying, in that a "meeting the maker" scene leads to more questions than answers, exactly the kind of climax you need from a middle chapter. The "choice" to be made isn't original, but it wasn't exactly invented by "Spider-Man" either (just in this comic pulp context, Schumacher did it in "Batman Forever"), and the stakes that Neo faces are much, much higher. But just say, "I wasn't interested in the characters" and it's you license to trash every action that takes place in the film. Yeah, the dialogue is silly, but in the end, I liked the "Matrix" film better than the first as this is the showdown the original film set up.