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July 17, 2003

The Matrix Reloaded

Glossy effects, but sequel is too confusing, and lacks the wow factor.

All the main cast return for this first sequel to the massive hit The Matrix. Keanu Reeves as Neo has lost none of his woodenness, and goes around with a permanent confused frown on his face. Trinity, played by Carrie Ann Moss, is little better, though she still looks good in that black one-piece suit. Laurence Fishbourne as Morpheus has almost lost the plot completely in his fanaticism that Neo is "The One" who will save Zion, the underground city which is the last refuge of the human race.

As we open, Trinity is in action, much like in the original film. As she is chased, she jumps from a skyscraper, and is still firing bullets at the agents diving after her, when she hits the ground; and Neo wakes up! It's just the classic nightmare scene much loved of horror films, or is it a premonition? It is a strong opening, full of tension and showcasing the trademarked special effects. These effects really are excellent, especially later when Neo has to fight dozens of copies of Agent Smith all at the same time, and in the spectacular motorway chase, but somehow the awe we felt at seeing them in the first movie is a bit less now. Cinema audiences expect excellent quality in their special effects, it's innovation in their use that has to differentiate films. The original Matrix managed to innovate, and though Reloaded does push the boundaries, it doesn't make that same quantum shift.

So, the story so far. Machines have enslaved the human race, and keep them as power generators in pods. To keep them from going mad their minds are plugged into the matrix, an artificial world, where they live their whole lives without realising it isn't real. Some humans have escaped, and live in a city called Zion, underground. Morpheus pilots a ship, Trinity is part of the crew, and they are looking for a saviour, someone with the power to destroy the matrix. They seem to have found him in Neo, who manages to kill the agent programs which police the matrix.

As we open, the machines have found Zion, and are drilling through the earth to reach it. In a matter of days they will reach the city. Somehow they must be stopped, and the city council have two plans. The first plan is just to fight, as they have always done. The second plan is to allow Morpheus and Neo to infiltrate the matrix, but this plan relies on prophesy and faith, and has very little backing. It isn't really made clear how destroying the matrix will actually help, presumably it will free the millions of enslaved humans, but they will be unable to look after themselves as their muscles have never been used, will have no food, and will all quickly die. But this plan is put into action, and several teams plug into the matrix, trying to destroy the heavily protected core program. There is another meeting with the enigmatic Oracle, fights with rogue Agent Smith, and an odd meeting with characters in the matrix called Merovingian and Persephone, who have special powers, and have very powerful twin body guards, but in a shock ending, it looks like they have failed, and that Trinity has died. But Neo displays unknown powers, when outside the matrix, he manages to resurrect Trinity, this is definitely odd, and will have to be explained in the third film.

This is a very confusing film, which has withheld information from the audience, presumably so that it can be revealed in the final instalment. Because of this many things make very little sense, such as the Keymaker and the multiple Agent Smiths, and so you'll leave feeling unsatisfied, having consumed the starter, but been denied a main course. Perhaps once everything has been revealed in Revolutions, the third instalment, it will be possible to return to Reloaded and enjoy it much more.

AE 2

Posted by se71 at 12:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2003

Highlander 3 - The Sorcerer

Disappointing Sequel, but better than Highlander 2

Highlander was a tremendous film, and at the end Conor McLeod was the final immortal on the planet. "There can be only One" was his catchphrase. But then a sequel was made, and it was terrible. It paid no attention to the story in Highlander, it was brash and over-the-top, and substituted intelligence and pathos with loud music and extreme violence. Fans around the world screamed "No!"

It looks as if someone listened to the fans, and deciding the franchise could be resurrected, decided to make a real sequel that didn't ride roughshod over the original's story, but actually followed through. It's actually quite a poor story unfortunately, as it really doesn't add anything new to the idea of being immortal, and is just an excuse to show some swordfighting.

400 years ago, in ancient Japan, an immortal with sorcery skills is killed by another immortal called Kane. So Kane acquires the ability to create illusions, to trick his enemies into seeing things that aren't there. Before he can use his new skills however, McLeod manages to entomb him in an underground chamber, where he will remain forever, still alive, but trapped.

Back to the current day, and an archaeological dig frees Kane, and he wants revenge. Kane is a one dimensional character, with a simple bloodlust to destroy everything in sight. Throughout the rest of the film he gets to use his illusionist skills to confuse his enemies, but this is really only an excuse to include some fancy special effects. The archaeologist is an attractive woman called Alex, and from an old piece of tartan she finds in Japan, she manages to track McLeod down. He still has his New York apartment, and is still managing to confuse the doctors by being shot and not dying, and the police by leaving headless corpses lying around. Kane kidnaps McLeod's adopted son, to lure him to a swordfight, which McLeod wins. He drives off into the sunset with Alex and his son, presumably to live happily ever after.

Highlander 2 was an abomination, Highlander 3 is simply unnecessary.

AE 1

Posted by se71 at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Caught In The Light - Robert Goddard

Convoluted and unconvincing mystery, but a real page-turner

Ian Jarrett is a photographer. He had an affair five years before the story starts that nearly wrecked his marriage. He got found out by his wife when he knocked down and killed a young woman as he was driving back from a liaison with his mistress. Somehow he managed to patch his marriage together. On assignment in Vienna, he meets and has a passionate affair with a woman calling herself Marian Esguard. Foolishly, and unbelievably, he leaves his wife and daughter upon returning to England, and heads off to meet the new woman. Marian doesn't show up, and sends a message for Jarrett not to try to contact him, ever.

So far, the story seems fairly straightforward, but the author has already started to deceive us. It's all really about the car accident. The woman who was killed had a brother called Conrad Nyman, and a female lover called Daphne, who are both devastated by her death and want revenge. So they plot, and they decide that they want to ruin Jarrett's life. Marian is hired to seduce Jarrett, and make him leave his wife. She then disappears, but leaves clues for him to follow, and he is so desperate to find her, thinking that she is in danger, that he gives up work and all contact with his family to search. Daphne is a psychotherapist, and she helps Jarrett by pretending Marian was a patient called Eris Moberley. Jarrett searches for months, traversing Bath, Chichester, Somerset, Norfolk and Guernsey, and even gets caught up in a murder. The final part of the plan is when Nyman seduces Jarrett's estranged wife, and convinces her and her daughter that Jarrett is insane. It's all very bizarre, and at the climax, when Nyman is found out and kidnaps Jarrett's daughter, another desperate chase across England is started. But Nyman's business, and life, is ruined, and he kills the girl, and then himself, and Jarrett never finds Marian. This is a very unsatisfying downbeat conclusion

The subplot to all this is a very complex story about Eris having flashbacks to a previous life. In these flashbacks she is a 19th century woman called Marian Esguard who was a pioneer in the science of photography. She took photos before anyone else, and some of these still exist and are worth a fortune. Jarretts search for Eris/Marian is also a search for these photos. Once again however, the photos don't ever materialise, giving more disappointments for the reader.

If someone wanted to ruin another persons life, this plan has so many holes in it that it is incredulous, and something simpler would be much more likely to succeed. Nyman is supposed to be pathologically insane, but even that doesn't excuse this plot. Robert Goddard has gone too far this time and has tricked his readers into following a story which appears all along to be real, but turns into complete fantasy.

The writing drags you on relentlessly, but once you finish this book you'll ask yourself "Well, What on earth was the point of that?"

AE 1

Posted by se71 at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)