The most influential action movie since Star Wars, The Matrix is a highly problematic film that has attracted attention as much for its spiritual resonances as its ground-breaking special effects and disturbing violence. It's been called a Gnostic allegory and a Christian parable, a world-denying fantasy and a tale of redemption from slavery and bondage.

Critics looking for reinforcement of either theory will be disappointed by the bloated, shallow spectacle of The Matrix Reloaded. Writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski elaborate and complicate their imaginary worlds both within and without the Matrix, but they fail to make either world interesting or thought-provoking.

Inside the prison-world of the Matrix, we meet an esoteric inner circle of figures with names like “the Merovingian” and “Perse-phone” and “the Keymaker,” none of whom has any clear rationale for being in the story.

In the real world outside the Matrix, we find a dull sci-fi civilization in which our own culture, not to say religion, is apparently dead. Christianity survives inside the Matrix, it seems, but it's hard to imagine Christians (or Jews, or Muslims) being an integral part of the cultural mix in the “real-world” city of Zion. In one scene, thousands of Zionites engage in a quasi-cultic, orgiastic, rave-like carousal. As one Christian critic put it, “Please, I'd rather live in the Matrix than with these folks!”

The movie tries to philosophize about free will and causality, yet undermines its own clumsy attempts to suggest that “everything starts with choice.” In the first film, we learned that a character called “the Oracle” had prophesied that two other characters would fall in love. Based on what this film reveals about the Oracle, their “love” must be as causality-bound as the weather. A world in which even love isn't free has no room for human freedom.

— Steven D. Greydanus