Thursday, May 22, 2003
RELOADED AND REVEALED
By Reymundo Salao
The Guardian, May 22, 2003
MATRIX RELOADED is the second installment in the trilogy of THE MATRIX, which was indeed originally intended to be a three-part saga, much like the Star Wars trilogy. Quite incidentally, The Matrix has been branded by many critics as "the new Star Wars", for it is a film that has become an icon not only in the science-fiction genre but of motion picture history. The first Matrix movie tells of how Neo discovers the truth that the world he lives around him is merely a simulation designed to deceive human beings, turning them into power sources for the ruling A.I.s (Artificial Intelligence) that have, in fact, taken over the world as we know it. And on this sequel, the struggle of the surviving human race continues as Neo unlocks the doors that reveal the answer, the doors that will guide the chosen one to save the human race.
The story begins with the revelation that the Sentinels, the cybernetic A.I.s programmed to hunt the human rebels, are drilling a tunnel that will lead them to Zion, the remaining human city that exists underground. Desperate to find a means to end the war before the Sentinels could even reach Zion, Morpheus, Trinity and Neo, who is now the chosen one destined to be mankind's savior, seeks out the Keymaker. They are all brought to a building where there is a room that leads to the source of the Matrix's system. Once Neo is inside, he discovers the secrets of the Matrix, unraveling the many truths about the past and the future. Ultimately, he has to make a bitter choice, and when he does, the war would only be drawn close. So then, shall we await the Matrix Revolutions.
I am reminded of one catchy line from the first film, when Morpheus says "Nobody can be told what the Matrix is, you'd have to see it for yourself". The point of this line holds true for the second film, for there are many secrets revealed and events that get to be understood first-hand as told by the film's storytelling. To put details on this review would only give out spoilers on the story. The thing about this sequel, though, is its philosophical point of view. The concept of the Matrix carries with it a subliminal message of man's freewill and the forces that surround this freewill. Matrix Reloaded elaborates upon this concept of man's freewill with many levels of thought. The concept of choices, which was discussed by Neo and the Oracle, and the other incident that gave drama to the climax. The concept of love and what one risks in the name of it. And the concept that mankind has lived and survived in a society that has to have its freewill, to the point that there must be an inevitable presence of disobedience and hostility. There were even little poetic discourses, when Agent Smith talks about the sense of purpose that Neo took away from him, and the principles of cause and effect as lectured by a new villain. Matrix Reloaded is very thought provoking that paying attention to the storyline was far more interesting than the fight scenes.
Just because this film has a smart storyline, doesn't mean that it is dull and lacked action. On the contrary, the fight scenes were numerous and spectacular. To martial arts fans, this film is a delight to watch, more kung-fu and rebel-versus-agent action. Like a double-bladed knife, if Matrix Reloaded doesn't impress you with its impressive storyline, the action will indeed satisfy. The only problem with Matrix Reloaded is that it has become a victim its own style of filmmaking. Ever since the first Matrix film came out, many, if not almost all, of the action movies tried to copy the unique style, specifically, the ground-breaking "Bullet-time" style of motion picture photography. From "Charlie's Angels" to "The Transporter", to "The One", and even "Shrek", movies tried so hard to capture the feel of The Matrix. So much so that many of the action scenes seem to be spoofing itself. Spoofing the very style it revolutionized. The use of slow motion and bullet-time didn't look as impressive anymore. Why? Other films have been using it all too often that seeing the scenes offers nothing new to excite the mind. In addition, the trailers have spoiled the supposedly-exhilarating scene where Agents Smith is able to copy himself, creating instant clones that serve as armies fighting Neo. Surely, the steamy ,sexy scenes will entice viewers, ensuring no moment of boredom.
The character of Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith has become a favorite that whenever he goes after Neo, he manages to deliver witty lines that make audiences cheer. Laurence Fishburne was able to have a more elegant fight scene and gets to deliver an inspiring scene that moves the people of Zion. An addition to the Matrix cast, Jada Pinkett-Smith who plays Niobe, a former love interest of Morpheus, doesn't play a very major role, but keeps us interested perhaps until the third film where we assume that she will have a more prominent role. Keanu Reeves who plays Neo, and Carrie-Anne Moss who play Trinity, as before, did a fine job portraying a more colorful role as their characters have been given more depth and perspective, especially as Neo is torn between the pressure of his duties as "The One" and her love for Trinity.
Although some opinions may bend to the thought of this film not getting up to the degree and the impact of the first Matrix movie, it still doesn't lag behind to become disappointing. In fact, Matrix Reloaded fit the satisfaction of the fans. It delivers, like any trilogy, and it is there to await and to pave the way for the movie in its trilogy entirety. So until the next sequel, let us keep ourselves plugged-in. And while we eagerly await for the conclusion to the saga, we're pretty sure that…
The Matrix has you…
Friday, May 02, 2003
Never underestimate the X-Men
Posted: 11:17 AM (Manila Time) | May 02, 2003
By Reymundo Salao, Contributor
Inquirer News Service
link to the article on inq7.net
(also published in The Guardian, May, 2003)
CRITICS often misjudge films adapted from comic books.
It is in this sad manner of criticism that we see that there is bias, among the so-called "film critics". Truth is, though, that film adaptation of comic book stories has the same footing as with films adapted from good science fiction books like "Dune" or "Minority Report".
After all, what differs between the comic book and the novels was too little to make a hasty comparison. If the story in a novel is good, why not a story in a comic book? And at this point, no other comic book-film-adaptation can compare to the sequel of the "X-Men" movie, "X-2: X-Men United".
The story continues the saga of the X-Men, a team of mutants, banded together by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), training and educating them to hone their gifts for a noble purpose: to use it for the goodwill of mankind and mutant-kind alike.
The world is faced with great awareness with the existence of mutant-kind. Such existence has brought about hatred and discrimination among the society, fearing and loathing them for their unusual nature. As such, the government likewise was growing cautious of mutant threats, as many mutants have the capability to violate the law with the crudest of means (some mutants can go through walls, some can read minds, etc…).
In the light of recent events, a twisted military chief, William Stryker, has been authorized to set its sights upon the activities of Professor Charles Xavier and his school for gifted youngsters, which was the institution where mutants were trained, educated, and likewise, housed the X-Men. With events complicating one after the other, remaining survivors of the X-Men find themselves allying with their former nemesis Magneto (Sir Ian Mckellen) to stop Stryker and saving mutant-kind.
You may be familiar with the comic books, or the two animated series (which pretty much sucked). X-Men have become quite popular, with its appealing characters like Wolverine and Storm. And although this film was more than enough, a high-impact action movie, it has the depth and the makings of a true science fiction classic. Because X-Men was popularized here in the Philippines via the animated series, many were a bit frustrated with the first movie, complaining that it lacked the action they expected. What they may have failed to comprehend was that X-Men had many messages to tell. The one about mutant discrimination, for instance, may be a metaphor for racism and discrimination.
The first X-Men movie was too wordy. But it actually laid the groundwork for this sequel "X-2", so this film did not require much explanation and did not elaborate upon many issues. That doesn't mean though that in order to appreciate this movie, it is a requirement to watch the first film.
This film can indeed stand alone by itself, for the explosions and special effects did not hinder the actors and actresses to shine with their human touch of drama. It succeeds in delivering the sentimental aspect of the film, giving it a more human touch. It also had the best punch lines that made the audiences chuckle now and then, never failing to make the audience entertained visually, emotionally, and even intellectually as well.
Unlike many other films like "Batman Forever" and that "Spawn" movie, producers have learned their lesson in choosing the director and the concept for adapting a comic book. In the past, many comic book films were created with great insistence that it be a family-oriented movie, understandably that it would be more profitable.
But in the long run, it just deteriorated the concepts, Warner Bros. tried to remake the Batman concept, turning him into a goody-two shoes, commercially-friendly figure, giving the directorial helm to Joel Schumacher, and transformed the dark avenger into this boyband-generation version of him, with matching shimmering nipples on his body armor.
It failed miserably making "Batman and Robin" one of the worst movies in history, and Arnold Schwarzenegger into a doofus with a silly Mr. Freeze costume. The entire movie reminded me of the Power Rangers. Warner Brothers had to remake the Batman concept, planning to make him yet again the dead serious dark knight that he really is.
This is where X2 succeeded perfectly. Brian Singer, one of the youngest and finest directors (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) did take the concept seriously. And made it even better. While being truly faithful to the original was good enough. It really doesn't work literally.
For, indeed, if we have had the film version of the X-Men wear the brightly-colored X-Men costumes, it would look like a costume party-fashion party mix-up. The same goes with the many concepts that needed to be altered to fit a good movie version (In the comicbooks, Rouge acquired the cosmic powers of Ms. Marvel, another superhero. This could only make the movie look ridiculous).
As expected, the actors and actresses here shined with effective brilliance. Hugh Jackman is as menacing and as savage as what Wolverine ought to be, especially in situations that confronted him in this movie. The fatherly Patrick Stewart as Professor X is as strong as Sir Ian McKellen, as Magneto, Famke Jansen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Cyclops), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), and Aaron Stanford (Pyro) fit their roles like a comfy jacket.
But it was the introduction of Nightcrawler, played by Alan Cumming, which with his humor and appeal, portrayed a character that can match Wolverine's "cool-action-hero" factor. Rebecca Romjin Stamos (Mystique) had more acting to her role this time, proving there was more to her acting career than a fine body figure. Kelly Hu (Yuriko/Deathstrike) may look like a cool villainess, but she's actually playing a mere bodyguard of Brian Cox (William Stryker), who makes for an impressive villain. Although the former Hannibal Lecter may have been deprived of the fame that he might have gotten from Anthony Hopkin's place, his role here certainly gives him something that X-Men fans will surely remember.
A good sci-fi is as fantastic as it is realistic. This is what X2 did. It crosses the line between what may be far-out to what is acceptable and plausible. The ending promises a sequel, and it seems we cannot wait for that to happen.