Shiny Shelf

The Matrix Reloaded

By Mark Clapham on 11 November 2003

‘The Matrix Reloaded’ arrives on DVD so soon after its cinematic outing that there’s little I can add to my original review of the film. This is still the same bewildering combination of blistering action and endless philosophising. If anything, the short gap since May has brought out the contradiction, but in a good way – after the meandering pondering of ‘Hulk’ and the cartoon excess of ‘Charlie’s Angels 2′, ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ seems positively measured by having both a serious and frivolous side.

The picture and sound quality of the DVD are superb, and the film remains just as impressive on the small screen (admittedly, I was watching it on a fairly big small screen). The second disc has quite a few extras, certainly enough to justify a two-disc set. All of these are well put together, but unfortunately there’s a trilogy of problems with these features:

Problem One

A lot of DVD features are extended adverts, and it’s always good to have all the trailers, promos and making-of glorified infomercials stuffed on to the second disc of a set like this. However, ‘Reloaded’ takes this to a new, somewhat unwelcome level of cynicism. There’s a six minute short about how the ‘Matrix’ phenomenon has expanded into… a whole load of products. There’s a making-of doc for the ‘Enter the Matrix’ computer game. There’s a trailer for the ‘Animatrix’ DVD. There’s even a featurette about the making of the adverts for the products that were product placed in the film! OK, completists are going to want that Powerade ad for their collection, but this is the stuff of easter eggs, not ‘featurettes’.

Problem Two

As with ‘Lord of the Rings’, the long production period for the ‘Matrix’ sequels (including the eight months of pre-production training) has been a life-changing experience for the cast and crew. Unfortunately, that means they all end up talking like blank-eyed cult members. What is, for us, a few hours of screen time is, for the production team, a major phase in their lives. The disparity between the audience’s opinion and the team’s glowing eulogies means that the featurettes are dripping with syrupy praise and hyperbole. That King Wibbler Keanu seems the most down to Earth of the lot (he seems to have enjoyed the fighting more than the philosophising) says a lot.

Of course, this the constant harping about what geniuses the Wachowski Brothers are would have been neatly counterbalanced by -

To Be Continued…

Problem Three

- some involvement from the Brothers themselves. Unfortunately, the third and final problem with the DVD is the absence of any contribution from the two-headed creative engine of the whole project. The Wachowskis are notoriously shy, so there’s no commentary track, no interviews, no insight into their minds other than the film. Which leaves the production documentaries slightly hollow, and the hype unbalanced by any insight into the creative decision making. We’re told how clever and creative Larry and Andy are, but we never get to see this for ourselves. That authoritative and authorial presence is sadly missed from the discs.

Which is not to say that the disc is a bad buy, not at all. The fine transfer justifies the price buy itself, and there’s one extra that breaks away from the reverent tone of the featurettes. Yep, that ‘MTV Movie Awards’ skit is here in full, with Justin Timberlake and Sean William Scott walking through the film, gleefully mocking its philosophical ramblings. While all the other features take ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ far too seriously, this sketch remembers one important detail missing from so many commentaries on the Wachowskis’ epic – that it’s a lot of fun.

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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