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It’s sequel season once again as we dive headlong into one of the biggest film-franchises in history. If you’re among the three people who haven’t seen the film then you’re probably wondering what all the fuss is about. Some voiced their displeasure at the film as a whole, some hailed it eye-candy of the highest order, while others (and there were many) watched in awe before finally walking out of cinemas, going “huh?”.

Movie
The story aspect of The Matrix and this film, Reloaded, is the hardest thing to understand, which immediately alienates a large chunk of the audience who have been brought up to be able to switch their minds off whenever they watch a flick. But then again your mind could work overtime and still not really grasp what is really going on with this film, which is where a large part of the audience lies. But do they care? Can outstanding special effects sequences make a movie, even if you can’t really understand the plot?

You’re probably all familiar with the whole phenomenon-thingy and how machines are threatening to take over the world unless one man, the chosen one named Neo (Keanu Reeves acting like only Keanu Reeves can) saves the day. There’s a whole bunch of other stuff going as well, such as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, who will only ever be known for this film) and his prophecies, Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) and her deep-seated love for our hero and Agent Smith (Australia’s own Hugo Weaving) with his numerous angry-looking clones. All of this has something to do with a thing they call the Matrix.

Matrix Reloaded, The
My opinion is that the story becomes way too convoluted for its own good, possibly in an attempt to disguise the fact that the writers just wanted to make the dialogue sequences just as elaborate as the real action. It’s all well and good having a very complicated story that doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator, but when you’ve just lost a lot of your highest denominators you know you’re in trouble. It seems every time something slightly ambiguous occurs we delve into one of the showcase special effects sequences so people can be entertained again without having to think. There’s a fine line between getting people to think and creating entertainment. Kudos to the Wachowski brothers for creating one hell of a story, in fact one hell of a world, but you could find yourselves simply beyond caring because everything is so damn hard to figure out.

So let’s do what all good confused movie-goers do. Grab the DVD when it comes out in all its glory, invite a few friends around and play a few Matrix Reloaded drinking games.

First, you must make sure you’ve got enough to drink or you’ll run out pretty darn quickly. Now you’re set, so here are a few to get you started:

- Drink every time slow motion (or bullet time, as they like to call it) is used. You’ll find there are a few patches where things get pretty intense but you should get a long enough break between big sessions

- Every time either Morpheus, Neo or Trinity’s name is mentioned you must drink what’s left in your glass/can/bottle/whatever. Sounds pretty easy but you should be well and truly on your way by the end.

- Assign each person a main character, and you must drink for five seconds the first time your character appears during a scene. Particularly funny for the one who gets Agent Smith, who must drink for every Agent they seen on the screen. And whoever gets those two funny-haired twins obviously drinks double.

- And lastly, the easiest one of all, drink a shot of your liquor of choice for every fight scene. Guaranteed to have you in high spirits at the end.

You can, of course, come up with your own, which will help you to get by all the complicated plot lines and hard-to-understand dialogue. Who knows, you might even makes sense of the whole thing when you’re absolutely smashed. But then again, by that stage you’ll probably think you’re watching Point Break instead.

Matrix Reloaded, The
The fight scenes and special effects are worth the price of admission (or for the DVD) alone. Some of the more mind-boggling CGI scenes ever are present here, so I’d hate to think how the final installment will fare in the visual stakes. Some have been a little harsh on the realism of such effects, but the whole concept is far from “real” so how could you really argue with it?

If you can understand it all then great. If you can’t then you might want to just take in the great effects sequences as they come along and keep hoping something will click for the rest of the time. Or you could use the disc as a fun way to hit the bottle and with these drinking games you’ll be guaranteed an eventful night. Half-tanked it may well be the greatest film ever. Stone-cold sober? I’m not so sure.

Video
A glorious 2.40:1 transfer is to be expected with this kind of release and there’s no disappointment to be had at all. What we get is one of the sharpest and most impressive transfers of recent times. Grain is used intentionally but is really only noticeable in a few scenes. The colour palette of metallic blues and greys comes out brilliantly, contrasting with the skin tones and those rare moments in the “tribal” den with good ol’ Morpheus.

As with any big-budget effects film with a good transfer, you’ll often find you can spot the seams in the CGI from a mile away. The visual quality is so good that this becomes apparent during some scenes, though I’d defy anyone to really care at all about all this. But perhaps this is one area of CGI that hasn’t quite hit the heights just yet. I was also surprised that there were no instances of aliasing to be seen at all, considering some of the intricacies of the aircraft and sets. Top notch. One to really test out your home theatre equipment.

Matrix Reloaded, The
Audio
The lack of a DTS track is astounding, especially considering DVD had well and truly taken off before the audio was mixed for this film. If there was ever a flick begging for a full-blooded, full bitrate DTS track it was this one. Sadly, Warner doesn’t like producing DTS mixes for many of its films and Roadshow have presumably taken what they’ve been given for the Region 4 release.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 track, however, really does pick up the slack to give us an earth-shaking soundtrack to the film. The dialogue sequences might not give you much but head straight for the action if you’re after some ear-candy. My cat immediately perched on top of the rumbling sub-woofer and didn’t get up until the end, such was the constant rumbling coming out of the box. Rears were used not surprisingly for just about everything, from ambient sounds to flying Agent Smiths.

The musical score has become somewhat of a favourite among fans of the film. I must admit I don’t think it’s quite up there with the best of them but when it’s pumping out of all your speakers it certainly sounds of the highest order. Clarity is incredible, as it is with all aspects of the soundtrack.

The great thing about this mix is that you won’t need your hand on your remote to keep changing the levels. Dialogue and action are perfectly balanced, meaning your hands are free to twist the tops off your beer bottles and drink a little more. Great stuff.

Extras
The idea of a commentary track was quickly squashed when those in charge remembered how disastrous the track was on the first film, what with all the back-slapping and congratulating leaving no room for actual commentary on the film. To balance the ledger, though, included on disc two (where all the extras lie) is the Preload featurette, sort of an overview of everything surrounding the production. The behind the scenes footage is actually well put together, though there’s just not enough detail in this 22-minute piece to really be all that interesting. It’s funny to hear Keanu laconically call the Wachowski brothers “crazy cats”, though.

Another featurette, entitled The Matrix Unfolds, uses probably the rest of the footage that didn’t make it into the first piece. Running at around five minutes, this small set of clips tells of the link between the video game, the Animatrix (also on DVD) and the films. Sound like one big ad? It is.

Matrix Reloaded, The
The Freeway Chase piece gives us some real value, an insight into the elaborate sequence used in the film. The behind the scenes footage is great to look at, interspersed with relevant interviews and clips from the film. Running at over thirty minutes you’ll find all you need to know about this sequence right here and it’s well worth a look.

Get Me An Exit is an interesting piece that reveals the motivations behind all the Matrix-inspired commercials and how the makers of the film really wanted to keep the themes and visuals for the ads well and truly in check. Some of these ads are included, many of which I’d never seen before. The Samsung phone is particularly cool. Worth a look.

Next up is a piece about Enter The Matrix: The Game. The game itself is actually pretty poor but the concept behind it is very, very cool. It flows on from an animation in the Animatrix and includes “live” action footage with the actors not seen during the actual films Running at over 25 minutes this is more than just a promo as it highlights how much planning went into the whole phenomenon, with the video game a by-product of all of it.

The disc wouldn’t be complete without a trailer for The Animatrix, and it is here in all its glory. Be careful, it may well suck you in. So it should, I suppose, because the disc is quite impressive. Read our review for more details.

The final major piece is the MTV Movie Awards parody with Justin Timberlake and Sean William Scott. It’s a great little skit using footage from the film cut together with mock footage to create some really funny moments. Look out for the big “orgy” scene and Will Ferrell as the hilarious architect.

That rounds out the extras section save for some DVD-ROM weblinks included for your perusal. One would suggest there will be a fully-loaded deluxe collector’s limited anniversary gold edition coming out once all three films have been released, but for the meantime these extras should suffice.

Matrix Reloaded, The
Overall
A large number of you will buy this disc regardless. Others will fork out the cash knowing the video and audio is top notch, which others may baulk at some pretty stock-standard extras and the possibility of a “bigger” release in the future. But for now this is still a high-quality release despite the supplements lacking a little in quality. The film itself may be an effects movie with a dodgy plot but there’s no denying it is out-and-out entertainment. Follow the drinking games from this review and you’ll think it’s the best thing since, well, The Matrix. Enjoy.


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