THE FIRST voice I heard as I left the cinema was saying, 'Well I thought that was total bollocks, I really did.' No one seemed to disagree, certainly not me. The original Matrix was a successful film because it was clever, because it used its effects budget well, and because it had what Hollywood calls 'crossover appeal'.
The core audience was the usual sci-fi slackers described by Kevin Smith as '16 to 24 year old males with hygiene issues who have difficulty getting girlfriends'. The Matrix offered this fanbase their own special pleasures - a storyline where a lonely hacker turns out to be 'The One' (wish fulfilment or what?) and a dominamatrix in a PVC jumpsuit who kicks ass and falls for Neo the Nerd. And cool sunglasses.
But The Matrix also had a subtler appeal. The narrative was taut and logical. There was the tender love story that held it all together. Finally, the movie played out some serious philosophical issues. The Wachowski brothers were college philosophy jocks and they marinated their movie with the kind of Eric Cantona-esque philosophy that gives the arthouse crowd hours of supercilious fun.
So why has The Matrix Reloaded turned into The Bollox Over-Bloated? After all, making sci-fi sequels is not exactly rocket science, is it? I think the answer is that the producers have got seriously greedy. First they decided to save money by making not one but two sequels simultaneously, with The Matrix Revolution released in November.
The result of this is that Reloaded feels like a middle section rather than a film in itself. After 134 boring minutes the film doesn't actually end, it just stops.
The producers have also decided that the serious money is not really in movies but in the computer games market. So Reloaded has been simultaneously launched as an interactive game, with the unique selling point that it fits with key points in the movie. A neat idea for the moneymen, but for cinema punters it has catastrophic results.
It means the fights and car crashes become the money shots around which the narrative (such as it is) is built. So the fights and crashes happen for no reason at boringly regular intervals, and they just go on and on forever - like in a computer game.
Moreover, given that the games market is dominated by the hygienically - challenged male crowd, the sensibility of the movie has been shifted. The Matrix Reloaded is a strictly Gameboy thing.
So the rebel city of Zion is seemingly populated only by people who are young and fit. When they hold a 'council' in a groovy cave it soon morphs into an Ibiza Reloaded rave, as everyone gets jiggly to the drum & bass (without the bass).
The Neo-Trinity love story even turns on their problems in finding somewhere to have sex. It all becomes far too close to Kevin and Perry in Space for comfort. There is still plenty of the Poundland philosophising, but this time it isn't thrown up by the conundrums of plot (what is real and what is the desert of the real?). Instead, the philosophical bits are tacked on in set speeches - much like in student essays, really.
Spot the irony here? A lust for money has crazed the men in suits and they have let the demands of computers take control. The rule of the machines has extirpated the very human qualities that make it all worthwhile - wit, imagination, warmth and intelligence. Now, where have I seen that story before?
Me, I'm with Morpheus - I say choose the red pill and resist. Protect your humanity and keep away from this silly film. Anyway, anyone who has half a mind to see this film is already way too intelligent to enjoy it. The sunglasses are still great, though.