The Matrix Reloaded
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     The original installment in The Matrix trilogy was so good that it was almost impossible for the the Wachowski Brothers to top or even match that first film. They have tried very hard with The Matrix Reloaded.  How good it is can't really be fully assessed until the third movie, The Matrix Revolutions comes out in November.  But it isn't as good as the original.  It's pretty good but it could have been better. The Matrix Reloaded picks up the action sometime after the end of the first film.  Like the sequel itself, I'm assuming you saw the first movie. I'm not going to explain how we got here but the machines are attacking Zion by digging down through the Earth.  Our intrepid heroes, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) are back, still rebelling against the matrix.  Also returning, are Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and the Oracle (Gloria Foster).  Neo and his friends must find a way to stop the machines. And since we all now know that Neo is the one, that means that it's really just up to Neo.
     One problem with The Matrix Reloaded is that it tries to be too big.  The original movie was very lean, just following the battle of one small group against the matrix. In the new movie, they are joined by the whole population of Zion plus a large cast of denizens of the matrix.  While some of the new characters are entertaining, the result is fuzzy.  The most telling thing that shows that the Wachowski Brothers lost their nerve is that when they wanted something bigger, they came up with a car chase.  It's a bit different than your average car chase with agents and rebels battling atop cars and trucks but it's really just a car chase. But I can forgive the car chase.  The worst part of the movie is the first half hour where we learn about the life and politics of the city of Zion.  We learn that Neo and Trinity are now sleeping together in a grotto on top of an altar.  We learn that Morpheus is out of favor with his commander who is sleeping with his ex-girlfriend, (Jada Pinkett Smith). We learn that life in Zion is one big party. There's even a young groupie who follows Neo around everywhere a la Jar Jar Binks. It is really boring.
     Once this is over with, The Matrix Reloaded really gets going and becomes an interesting movie.  The matrix is a much more complex place now populated by rogue programs who are not controlled by the machines.  This includes a couple of euro-trash characters, Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) and Persophone (Monica Bellucci) who are holding another program, The Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) prisoner. and the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) of the matrix. Even Agent Smith is now a free agent.  These new characters are all pretty fun, especially when compared to the denizens of Zion.  There's one new member of the crew of the NebuchadnezzarLink (Harold Perrineau).  He replaces Tank as operator. This brings me to a couple of weird continuity problems in this movie.  As we all know Tank and Dozer were brothers and Dozer was killed but Tank survived. But Tank is dead according to The Matrix Reloaded.  Similarly, there is a long scene where Dozer is removing the plugs from Neo's skin in the first movie yet, Neo's plugs are all in place in movie number two.
     I've been a bit negative since I wanted so much for The Matrix Reloaded to be a worthy successor to The Matrix.  And it mostly is.  The second half of the movie is fun and entertaining.  Reeves, Fishburne and Moss are all in good form again as is Weaving as Agent Smith.  There are some nice twists and turns leading to the cliffhanger ending.  There is lots more philosophy and even a cameo appearance by Cornell West. And the humor comes back in the second half of the movie too.  It's fun seeing the actual backdoors into programs.  So all in all, it's quite good. Besides, you gotta see it.