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wachowski brothers

With the history surrounding Speed Racer, and the craftsmanship employed by the Wachowski Brother’s one would expect the final product of a feature film version of the classic anime series to completely blow the audience away. However, at the end of the two-plus-hour-film all you are likely to remember is the remarkable race scenes and how you’re likely to skip over just about everything else when the film hits DVD later this summer.


Speed Racer is a kid’s film at its core with bright colors, ADD inspired action, a rather dull and mundane story to follow and enough sugary sweet fluff to over-bloat the film by 45 minutes. At a long in the tooth two hours and fifteen minutes most kids will find themselves bored in the second act just before the amazing racing scenes at the end of the film. There’s enough here to drag your interest along for the full runtime, but newcomers to the series might find themselves checking their watch every few minutes.

As stated before, the writing is sub par at best, catering to the children mentality the film is designed for, but whereas other “children’s” films like Pixar’s stable state and a majority of Dreamworks’ work have subtleties that only adults can pick up on, Racer is a straight shooter, never giving the older demographic anything to decode.


The casting is probably the strongest aspect of the film with the highlight being John Goodman as Pops Racer. Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer does an admirable job in the roll after his breakthrough in The Girl Next Door and dramatic turn in Alpha Dog. Matthew Fox (Racer X) also provides an admirable performance although he isn’t in the film for a good amount of time and fans of the series may be troubled as to the modifications to his origin from the original series, although the Wachowski’s wisely correct any creative freedoms they may have attempted before the film is over.


Overall there’s just too much going against the film for it to really breakout into a hit. Its story is too simplified for such a long running time, the seizure inducing visuals are pure eye candy, but lend no substance to the film, and aside from the races, there isn’t a whole lot to come back and see again, even packed with special features on the upcoming home release. Speed Racer is crafted for the fanboy and the newcomer, yet seems to disappoint both groups equally. While a sequel is not very likely, one can only hope a little more time and money is spent to keep the film interesting between the fabulous races.

If I had a time machine and I could go back to 1999, after the release of the original Matrix, and convince the Wachowski Brothers not to make another film as long as they both lived, I would do it. The Matrix Reloaded suffered from an all flash, no substance existence when it was released back in May of this year. Critics, much like myself, saw past all the glitz and glamour of the film’s awesome special effects and found that the story became so convoluted and uninvolved that we simply were paying for a really expensive music video, or so it seemed.

The Matrix Revolutions continues on the downward trend of the series and thoroughly thrashes on the good name of the groundbreaking, original film. Revolutions is more to the point than Reloaded without such filler material as the infamously lame “Rave” scene, and inexplicably complicated vocabulary of The Architect, but in the end we get force fed so many answers the bring up twice as many questions, why even bother watching it in the first place?

Revolutions picks up directly after the events of Reloaded with Neo (Keanu Reeves) in a coma and displaced from his physical body in the real world, and the matrix. Locke (Harry Lennix) prepares for the impending battle with the machines as they breach the walls into Zion, Niobe (Jada Pickett-Smith) and Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) think of a way to get back to Zion and aid in the struggle for freedom. Once Neo awakens, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and he set out for the machine city where he makes a proposal to the Deus Ex Machina about a certain rogue program, Agent Smith (the awesome Hugo Weaving), detailing what will happen to both of their worlds if Smith is left unchecked.

Everything in the film sets up the final battle between Smith and Neo in a rain-drenched action sequence that rivals anything seen in the last two films, although will never compare to the amazingly intense “Lobby Scene.” For the most part Revolutions strays away from the needless battles experienced in Reloaded (the scene with 100 Agent Smiths comes to mind), but in their place the Wachowski’s finally try to bring some meaning to everything and create nothing more than a cliché, albeit mildly entertaining, storyline. The highlight of the entire film is the 20+ minute Battle for Zion with Exo-Squad inspired mechs and sentinels battling it out all while the drillers attempt to break through into the heart of the city. At least the special effects look good.

I think Warner Bros. themselves caused the damnation of the franchise by building it up so much. The original Matrix only lit up the box office with $171 million dollars domestically, a pale number when compared to Spider-Man‘s huge bow in the summer of 2002 and other films superior numbers displayed this year, namely Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. Sure, everyone who enjoyed the first film wanted a second, but where other series set out to better themselves and create an experience that rivals that of the original (think Aliens) The Matrix resorted to the least common denominator in delivering more and more of what the people wanted, amazing special effects. The problem with this is a lot has changed in the four years since the original Matrix was released, and any number of films have either spoofed or ripped off the patented slow-motion gunplay of the Wachowski’s opening opus. Now The Matrix looks and feels tired, as though there was only enough story to fill one, maybe two, films, and they are really starting to stretch out what they are capable of doing. George Lucas has done this with Star Wars and created millions of disenchanted fans, The Matrix is no different.

Revolutions‘ biggest problem is this is suppose to be the big movie to end all movies as it wraps up one of the pinnacle trilogies ever filmed, yet when all is said and done you feel as though you have been cheated into waiting for a film you already paid for in May, and you still have nothing to show for it. Leaving The Matrix franchise to the imagination after the original film would have been much better than the images I have in my head after sitting through both Reloaded and Revolutions.

To add insult to injury everything wraps up in a neat-little-rainbow-packed package. If there ever was a Hollywood ending this is it and something that I didn’t expect. I was looking to be wowed, or at least thrown off guard with something that I didn’t expect, but instead we get a sunrise and the feeling as though two needless hours were stolen from us and one of the most prolific sci-fi franchises has been reduced to standard movie-fare with no real sense of ever needing to exist.

If there is anything to say, I am grateful that the trilogy is finally done with, and I don’t have to live with my grandiose expectations of what these films should have been. Hopefully if anyone decided to revisit the series in the future they let the appeal of these films gestate for a while before jumping back in, and if they do, be sure to bring a script rather than a whole bunch of CGI.

Legions of fans have been salivating for The Matrix Reloaded for four years since its 1999 debut in movie theaters and now in 2003 we will be given not one, not two, not three, but four new entries into the series in the forms of video games, movies, and animated shorts. Unfortunately those looking to recapture the amazement and magic of the first film won’t find it in this second installment of the series, but we can still hold out hope for the third.

The Matrix Reloaded is not a bad film, far from it in fact, but it certainly isn’t the best film it could have been with the imagination of it’s directors, Andy and Larry Wachowski. The whole movie comes off as a full notch below the original Matrix with amazing fight sequences interspersed between excruciatingly slow story progression and a total disregard for some of the events in the first movie. The MTV Spring Break Rave held in Zion and the “love triangle” only slow down the movie further. In fact the entire first half of the movie doesn’t even need to exist aside from the computer assisted fight sequences and appearance of the uber-cool Agent Smith.

With the addition of new characters and a convoluted storyline, which has more “Huh?” moments than an episode of Star Trek on a techno-babble high, the movie just never catches on with the audience and, instead, throws enough eye candy on the screen to make even the most jaded critic or patron drool on themselves in sheer awe at the physics of these sequences. But it still doesn’t make up for the fact that if you remove the fight and chase sequences from the movie you are left with a mediocre sci-fi film that could pass off as a straight to video release.

Reloaded picks up at an undetermined amount of time after the first movie. After Neo (Keanu Reeves) begins to have disturbing dreams about Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) he awaits word from the Oracle on his next step to save humanity. Just before this, as seen in Final Flight of the Osiris, the machines are drilling from the surface straight down to Zion in order to destroy the last human city. Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and the gang are employed with the task of finding the “Keymaker” in order to gain access to the matrix’s mainframe and learn the truth about the program once and for all. Without giving too much away, that is basically how the plot breaks down. Sure there are a few twists here and there, but nothing unexpected, and surely nothing overly dramatic that strays from the tried and true methods of sci-fi fare.

As stated the movie isn’t bad at all, and the aforementioned fight sequences are nothing short of spectacular in technical know-how and visuals. Neo’s fight with over 100 replicas of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) is nothing short of awesome but after the battle is over it feels like it never needed to occur, as with all of the battles in the movie. At the end of The Matrix Neo tears Smith apart, literally shattering his “code,” but through Reloaded his plods in battle after battle as though he is just very good at Kung Fu. Except for his tendency to fly around Neo hasn’t changed very much even though he is “the one.”

The car chase scene, obviously sponsored by GM, is the highlight of the movie as Trinity, Morpheus, and the “Keymaker” escape in a Cadillac CTS on a busy freeway all while being shot and chased by Agents and The Twins who were so hyped and so underutilized you wonder why the parts were even written. As with everything else in the movie these new characters, including the lovely Persephone, bring the film to the least common multiple rather than raising it up to the intellectual superiority of the first film.

Reloaded never really comes into its own for the entire length of the movie. You feel as though you are being stringed along with more and more eye candy to a climatic ending but it never happens because that “climax” will supposedly happen in the third film, thereby taking even more money from the public who went into the movie with such high expectations.

Without the drool-drenched special effects the film stumbles on it’s own two feet as the story becomes so clouded from that of the first film. Maybe a desire to cater to a new audience, or a new found sense of freedom after the success of the first film caused the Wachowski brothers to craft this entry in a different light. Maybe Reloaded is simply a bridge to a much bigger, and better, story that we will see see in Revolutions this fall. Let’s just hope the last chapter in the series is able to rekindle the fire of the first.