The Matrix: Reloaded is widely regarded as a massive disappointment, a digression from the kind of storytelling that made the original Matrix film a key piece of modern film mythology. That’s a reputation that I’d argue is massively unfair, and the release of the film on Blu-ray is a great opportunity to reevaluate it as a bold and challenging film that distills its predecessor’s virtues to their essence in service of ideas rather than narrative.
The original Matrix film is a great distillation of the hero’s journey, turning an everyday man into the savior of the universe, but where do you go from there? Reloaded is designed to break down and interrogate the very nature of the chosen one, putting Neo through a series of existential trials that test his belief in himself rather than pose physical challenges to him. The film is very much centered around ideas, and if you accept that, the concepts explored by characters like The Architect or The Merovingian are quite fascinating. The ending in particular calls into question the entire mythos of the series, and the nature of heroism itself.
The film also serves up a series of gorgeous action sequences. While less iconic than the original, they’re stylish and wonderfully executed. Some of the CGI in the film hasn’t aged well, but there’s enough good scenes to make up for it.
The Blu-ray release is exemplary. The transfer is 2.40:1 1080p and really shines. I own the film on DVD as well, and jumping between copies shows just how good the transfer is. Audio is a 5.1 mix that sounds fairly impressive. The extras are a bit disappointing, since the Matrix film creators (the brothers Wachowski) sit them out.
Two commentary tracks, one with a set of critics and one with two philosophers, are a slog to listen to. The In-Movie-Experience feature spotlights relevant behind the scenes video at key points during the film, but ultimately I like to keep the extras and the film separate. Other ancillary material includes excerpts from the Enter the Matrix videogame that function pretty much as deleted scenes.
Ultimately, I can see why so many viewers had trouble with the film. It downplays the narrative so far that the film becomes about the in the moment experience of various scenes. But, enough of those scenes are dazzling that the film as a whole is a great success. And this blu-ray is a great treatment for an under-appreciated film.