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Good film, when message doesn't get in the way

A former cross-country teammate of mine once said, "There are two types of people in this world -- those who like 'The Matrix‚'; and those who don't." I would have to say that I fall into the former category, but that only raised my expectations for "The Matrix Reloaded" because I remembered that Keanu Reeves was the star and, well, I'll get to that later.

At the conclusion of the first installment, we have learned that Neo (Reeves) is The One meant to end the struggle between the humans and the Matrix controllers, the machines. Now, we can see that his abilities have grown to basically encompass your typical superhero superpowers.

But Zion, the last refuge of humanity, is in peril, as a quarter million machines are digging to eradicate it. It is now up to Neo, his lover Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and his friend Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) to find an end to the war and save Zion. Along the Kung-fu, explosion-laden way, they employ the talents of many allies -- Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith), the Keymaker (Russell Duk Kim) and the Oracle (Gloria Foster) -- to overcome the obstacles thrown in their paths by such villains as the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), The Twins (Adrian and Neil Raymont), and the multiple Agent Smiths (Hugo Weaving) in their search for the final victory.

After the first "Matrix" debuted, the entire world of Hollywood Special Effects was thrown asunder as what was shown was ground-breaking and jaw-dropping. The bar has been raised again. Without delving into too many details, I can safely tell you that fight scenes like this have never been seen before and had me saying to myself "Did I just see that?"

That said, the philosophical and theological leanings of the film had me a bit flummoxed. I get the whole philosophy/theology thing and I can understand the importance and significance that it carries. But why must certain points be expounded upon over and over? It would seem that the Wachowski brothers who wrote it have not been acquainted with Dire Straits, who succinctly summed up my point in "Industrial Disease" -- "Philosophy is useless, Theology is worse." Amen to that.

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I alluded to my distaste for Reeves earlier in this piece, and I would like to think that it was somewhat correct. In some ways in "The Matrix: Reloaded" he is the perfect character for his role, but then he takes to speaking for more than a line or two and things go downhill. The same goes for Fishburne, who becomes tedious during his speech-making. It might be a shock coming from me, but concision is important. On the other hand, I was nothing if not delighted with the performances given by Wilson and Weaving as a pair of characters maybe not intrinsically evil, but close enough.

When "The Matrix Reloaded" is pared down to its essentials, it works extremely efficiently as an action vehicle, but at times, the dogmatization within wears thin and becomes more of a burden and a far-too-often repeated point. So on the whole, Matrix v. 2.0 gets a 7.5 out of 10.

Andrew Howard is a senior at Rochester Lourdes High School. To respond to reviews in Sound &; Vision, call 252-1111, category TEEN (8336); write Teen Beat, Post-Bulletin, P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903-6118 or send e-mail to teenbeat@postbulletin.com.

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