May 15, 2003 -- When I reviewed the first Matrix, I said if I were 14, I would see this movies a million times — and I think every 14-year-old kid did see it a million times.
Can the sequel be as good as the original? No way. The surprise is gone. The real question: Is the sequel worthy of the original? And the answer is yes, and with breathtaking speed.
In 1999, the original exploded from sleeper to instant cultural icon and multibillion-dollar franchise. The Matrix was the first DVD to sell 1 million copies (it's since sold more than 15 million) and it inspired more than 1,000 fan Web sites.
You can see The Matrix' influence on fashion runways, and in a new DVD out next week you can see brilliantly animated backstories — not in either movie — that detail how machines surpassed humans in the evolutionary war, thus making man the architect of his own demise.
The idea central to The Matrix saga: What if what we think is reality is actually part of a giant computer program? Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) believes that Neo (Keanu Reeves) is the one who can free humanity, and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) helps him realize his destiny.
One more reminder how The Matrix invaded pop culture: Last year, Trinity was the 74th most popular girl's name in America.
Bigger, Not Better … But Still Thrilling
Find yourself a theater with a big screen, surround sound and seat belts. The Matrix Reloaded is a hell of a ride, built as a bullet-speed ballet, with Neo again battling his computer-generated nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who can now replicate into 100 deadly clones.
The sequel is not better, it's just more. Neo is faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall building in a single bound.
But Neo's enhanced powers left me with questions that I don't think I was supposed to ask. Why should he fight 100 Agent Smiths in battle when he can just fly away?
There's a car chase billed as the car chase to end car chases. But the two albino twins who do the chasing have the power to transport themselves wherever they want, so why do they need a car?
The film suffers trying to outdo the original — a my-special-effects-are-bigger-than-your-special-effects syndrome.
Still, there's great storytelling — some of Hollywood's best ever. The story takes jaw-dropping turns. Who is real? Who isn't? What's real? What isn't? And, no, I won't reveal the story turns, not under the threat of torture.
The threat I can deal with. Under real torture, I'll tell anything.
Beware: The film doesn't really end, it just stops. I felt like President Bush when he landed on the aircraft carrier, going from 140 mph to zero in 1.1 seconds.
Part three, The Matrix Revolutions, opens in early November and instead of looking at Reloaded as part two of a trilogy, try to think of it as a four-hour film with a five-month intermission. Grade: B