Saturday my wife and I went to see Matrix Reloaded. For her, this fell squarely in the category of “cultural event you go to because you’re married to this person.” (But I don’t think it was too painful to her: when some misguided couple came into the theatre with a toddler, she said, “Bringing a child into this movie verges on child abuse.” No mention of spouse abuse, fortunately. And whoever thought to bring a kid into the movie was out of their minds.)
So what’s it like the second time around? The bad bits don’t get better. The rave-turn-orgy is just as absurd, and perhaps even more cloyingly self-consciously “earthy”: Look at all those barefoot sensual colored people dancing! Wow! It’s like, an overturned cultural stereotype that’s managed to flip itself over onto its right side again, and goes from being subversive back to offensive! The first time, I was just so shocked at the incomprehensibility of the scene I couldn’t focus on its weird racial coding. And as my wife pointed out, Zion is a bit like a British colony: it’s a multitude of races, but a couple white people are still in charge. Finally, the “acting” is, well let’s say this: you really can’t tell a difference between when you’re looking at a live actor and a computer simulation, and just leave it at that. (Note to FX crew: could the computer that’s simulating Laurence Fishburne get some overclocking, or a new video card? If he slows his delivery down any more, Morpheus is going to make Orson Welles sound like the Chipmunks.)
But the movie does make more sense the second time around (it would be a really bad thing if it made less sense!), and the good parts– namely, the fighting and special effects– are even more impressive. The first time, I sat in the front row and was totally overwhelmed. This time, I could see more, and appreciate how well-crafted the effects are. The Big Brawl in particular went from being cool yet incomprehensible to really outstanding.
It’s definitely a movie that will stand up well on DVD– in part because if you get it on DVD you can skip all the stupid stuff.