Some random thoughts on the Matrix: Reloaded I've been wanting to post. Contains spoilers.

1. Apparently, every actor they sent out on the publicity circuit was instructed to refer to the Wachowski brothers as "genuises." Before I saw this movie, I might have believed it, but my gosh--you haven't subjected to this much ponderous freshman-dorm pseudo-intellectual bullshit since somebody gave George Lucas the Cliff's Notes to Hero With a Thousand Faces. If thisis what passes for deep thought in the filmmaking industry, spare me. (I threw the magazine out, and can't find it online, but Keanu Reeves' summarizes the hero's quest something like this: "The first movie is about the hero awakening. The second two are about him living his life." Thanks, Keanu!)

2. It's simply a badly made movie in many places. There are two plot points that I thought were utterly unclear (afterthought: your mileage, as they say, may vary), one minor, one kind of key. First, the minor one: the business where the Merovingian gives that hacked piece of digital cake to the woman who is then affected in some unclear way and gets up and walks out of the room. She wasn't, as a lot of people seem to believe, getting up to use the bathroom--bwah ha ha, I shall write a program which causes her to urinate!--she was headed to the bathroom, yes, but for an illicit rendevous with the Merovingian. Thereby inspiring the M's wife to betray him to Neo, et al. Wouldn't have been hard to make this clear. Quick shot of the M doing the nasty in some well-appointed loo is all it would have taken.

(Addendum to point two: many of you have written to say this one was obvious. Well, I got it, but others apparently didn't--for instance, here's what Lileks wrote about the scene: By way of demonstrating what an evil SOB the Marovingian is, we see him make a woman eat a slice of cake that makes her . . . do what? Explode? Speak in tongues? Fly out the window? No: it makes her get up from her table and go to the bathroom. Hešs invented cybernetic laxative! But do we really choose to run to the bathroom with the cake suddenly causes our bowels to flutter, or ... Emphasis added. Admittedly the swooping matrix graphix the camera follows into her crotch should have clued most reasonably alert viewers into the fact that something sexual was going on, but I stand by my initial point--it wasn't clear to many perfectly bright people of my acquaintance that she then has sex with the Merovingian, leading his wife to betray him. )

3. Second plot point, utterly vital to understanding the significance of the cliffhanger ending, and maybe I'm wrong, but I'll bet no more than a handful of you reading this caught it: that strange fellow in Zion who cut his own hand and would have killed Neo if the Enthusiastic Kid hadn't come running up? The one we see at the end lying head-to-head with Neo in sickbay, or wherever they are at the end of the movie, da-dum? Well, how many of you realize that he's Agent Smith in human form?

Yes. You may remember, there's a brief scene in which a couple of the good guys are running away from an agent, trying to get out of the Matrix. One of them picks up the landline and is translated out, but just as the second one is about to follow suit, Agent Smith sticks his hand in and does the morphing trick. The implication being that Smith took over the Zion guy just as he was uploading out of the Matrix. (I have to admit, I didn't even catch this one myself--Time magazine 'splained it to me in their conviently synergistic tie-in). The thing is, the movie then cuts to Neo waking up suddenly, misleading the viewer into believing that what they have just seen was only a nightmare or a vision--not something that was supposed to have actually happened, loosing Smith upon the "real" world. All of which robs the ending of what little impact it might have had.

(Addendum peripherally related to point three: a number of people have brought up the meme that's floating around concerning the ending--specifically that Neo's ability to control those monster squiddie things signifies, in, again, a subtle way, that Zion is just a meta-Matrix, one level higher, but still a computer simulation. This was the ultimate revelation in The Thirteenth Floor, which was based on a classic science fiction novel to which The Matrix also owes more than I've ever seen acknowledged, Simulacron 3, by Daniel F. Galouye. Maybe that's the direction they're headed, but if it is, I still have a problem with it: from a simple storytelling perspective, that's the cliffhanger for the second part of your trilogy. For Part Two to end with Neo's revelation that they are still in a Matrix--now that would have been a cliffhanger ending worthy of the name. And then the third movie is about the humans' struggle to escape into the "real" real world, whatever that turns out to be.)

4. All those security guards Neo and the gang blow away. Always bugged me. Think about it. Everyone in the Matrix (with the exception of the Agents and other various programs) represents an actual human being somewhere, whose mind is filled with the false reality of the Matrix while his body is used as a giant Duracell battery for the benefit of the Evil Machines. And as we've been told repeatedly throughout both of these movies, if you die in the Matrix, your physical body dies in reality. So presumably this holds true for all those security guards as well, not to mention all the innocent bystanders in the buildings that are blown up and the cars that crash in the freeway mayhem and so on--they've presumably got real bodies somewhere, and when they got shot or blown up in the Matrix, they die in reality.

In short, Neo and the gang don't seem to have much regard for the lives of those they are ostensibly attempting to liberate. Sound familiar?