The Matrix has me.
I love my job. Last December, I attended a free preview screening of Star Trek: Nemesis, courtesy of Network Associates. This morning, courtesy of the good people of EMC, I got to see The Matrix Reloaded before anyone else. Once again, the screening was at the Loews 34th Street, apparently the place to be for events of this nature. There was a continental breakfast at 7:30 AM, and the program started at 8. An EMC rep introduced an eight-minute promotional video for EMC products. It started out with a few seconds of Powerpoint slides with quotes from happy customers. Then the video itself started, with a woman sitting at a computer terminal, receiving messages like "The Matrix has you." Then she's wearing a tight black halter top, leather pants and boots, and she's executing kung fu moves while the narrator talks about EMC products and other video clips play picture-in-picture style. To me, it said "EMC is sexy!" but it didn't make me want to buy a new SAN. It was as if the video were produced by four or five people who worked independently, assembled their work in a few hours, and an executive said "I guess that will work." After the video came the trivia portion of the event. I correctly answered the question "when Tank asks Neo what he needs to rescue Morpheus, what is Neo's response?" ("Guns. Lots of guns." I watched the Matrix again last night.) I won a doll of Neo in his martial arts outfit, with the helpful comment on the box "recommended for adult collectors". At least the toy companies have realized who's buying their products. After the trivia, it was time for the movie.
I don't want to give too much away before anyone who actually reads this blog has seen it. So I'll try to keep this review spoiler-free. Reloaded reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back. The Matrix was a seminal movie, like Star Wars before it, so seeing a sequel to it was like seeing TESB for the first time: more of the same characters, new stories, better action sequences, and a cliffhanger ending (OK, that's a spoiler, but we all know there's one more sequel in November). The action sequences and special effects are no less mindblowing than the effects in the first one, and won't be duplicated for a long time. The story is excellent, but there are a few scenes that are just talking, explaining things to the characters, and by extension, the audience. It reminded me of my friend James' comment about Commander Riker's purpose in Star Trek: TNG: to explain everything to the audience. It's a long movie (2 hours 15 minutes), so when they get to talking, and no action, it feels like it's dragging. I almost took a bathroom break, but I couldn't be sure when they'd start the kung fu or blowing things up again, so I stayed put. After the first viewing, I'd say it's at least as good as the original. I'll tell you what it's not: it's not The Phantom Menace, or even Attack of the Clones. I don't think Reloaded will disappoint anyone, even casual fans of the original Matrix. I can't wait to see it again, and I'm really curious how the story will wrap up in Matrix Revolutions this fall.