The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Review

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Directors: The Wachowskis


As a sequel to the brilliant original (The Matrix), The Matrix Reloaded is an entertaining ride if you can simply shut your brain off to the convoluted, jumbled, overblown CGI-infused and mostly confusing, indecipherable plot which relies on the appearance of profundity and depth, but in fact is really just another vapid but occasionally fun action movie. The gratifying moments in the movie include Keanu Reeves as Neo, now essentially an invincible superhero who when wired into the matrix is able to confidently battles his enemies wherever he goes. However, there are also some ridiculously cartoonish CGI fight sequences (notably a scene in which Neo suddenly fights a dog pile of Agent Smiths). Writ large, The Matrix Reloaded was widely regarded as a massive disappointment upon its release, and that reputation has held up to this day. It is a mostly cheap cash grab sequel that clings tightly to the coat tails of its vastly superior original.

The Matrix Reloaded concerns the last remaining humans living in Zion and their war against the machines in the real world (or what is left of it). When inside the Matrix, Neo fights his way out of the clutches of the “agents” in order to discover the architect of the matrix where Neo tragically learns that “the one” is merely another pre-planned, pre-determined aspect of the matrix rather than the fulfillment of the long-foretold liberation prophecy (of course, there are now multiple matrixes that have existed in alternate dimensions). There are also various ghost programs roaming throughout the matrix, now a key-maker, and Agent Smith can merge his program with any other, especially with the oracle of the matrix, allowing himself more or less total control. The film ends with Neo gaining otherworldly powers outside the matrix as well, before promptly collapsing into a coma.

The Matrix Reloaded is weighed down by vague philosophical determinist diatribes though admittedly it contains some interesting ties to post-structuralist theory, and unfortunately the contrived and recycled Christian allegory is preserved in this as well as the third installment of The Matrix in which (you guessed it) Neo embodies the christ figure. Outside a few fun action sequences, The Matrix Reloaded is a terrible movie, it was clearly desperately thrown together to craft a trilogy a la Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series which was also released at the same time, but The Matrix Reloaded appeals to some of the lazier instincts within our broader culture. Outside a few fun action sequences, don’t waste your time with this one.

Thoughts on “On The Quai at Smyrna”

“On The Quai at Smyrna” is an unusual short story by Ernest Hemingway. It is about 1-page in length, but it is hardly a story at all. Instead, it is a stream-of-consciousness collage of images from Smyrna around 1922 in the immediate wake of the Greco-Turkish War. The Greco-Turkish War was a proxy war that followed the break-up of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. It was a savage and bloody war that initially instigated by Greece against Turkey, but the Turkish Nationalists very nearly committed genocide against Anatolian Greek Christians, like the Armenians.

In 1922, Ernest Hemingway was a novice reporter for the Toronto Daily Star. He was sent to Constantinople to report on the tens of thousands of fleeing refugees. His wife, Hadley, strongly opposed Ernest’s trip abroad to report on the war.

The story is narrated by an anonymous soldier who makes note of the fleeing refugees, dying children, their mothers, dying animals, and other general chaos. These scenes are contrasted with a harsh leader only known to us as “The Turk.” All of this destruction is referred to as “pleasant business.” The disorienting content of the text helps to create a confusing atmosphere where character names and the setting of the story are obfuscated.

A quai is a French word for a dock, and the significance of Smyrna cannot be understated as a Greek city in Western Turkey dating back to antiquity.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Short Stories. New York, Scribner, 1955.

The Plantagenets: Edward I “Longshanks” & “Hammer of the Scots” (1272-1307)

In contrast to his father, few English monarchs had such extensive leadership training and military preparation as Edward I. He was thirty-three years old when Henry III died, and by that point he had experienced the bitter sting of defeat as well as the sweet taste of victory over Simon de Montfort during the “Great Rebellion.” During the Battle of Evasham Edward had effectively saved his father from certain death. In addition to his early military prowess, Edward remained steadfast in his commitment to honoring English royal traditions. During his aging father’s elder years young Edward could have easily revolted and taken the Crown, but he remained patient and resolute, waiting for his turn to become king. Edward was, above all, a lover of order.

A portrait in Westminster Abbey believed to be Edward I

According to the Dominican chronicler, Nicholas Trivlet (a friend of the king), Edward was a tall man, standing head and shoulders above others. He had the long arms of a swordsman coupled with thin legs, giving him the moniker “longshanks.” He also had a droopy eyelid like his father. Edward was a fierce hunter -a lover of the chase, competition, and tournaments. As Winston Churchill notes: “He [Edward] presents us with qualities which are a mixture of the administrative capacity of Henry II and the personal prowess and magnanimity of Couer de Lion. He sought a national kingship, an extension of his mastery throughout the British Isles, and a preponderant influence in the councils of Europe” (120-121). Edward swore to uphold Magna Carta and, privately, he vowed to bring all the British Isles under one banner, hence his other nickname: “Hammer of the Scots.” Winston Churchill calls Edward I “the last great figure in the formative period of English law” (131).

At the time of Henry III’s death, Edward was in Sicily recovering from an assassination attempt. He had been fighting in the Holy Land but had achieved very little when suddenly a man bearing a poison-tipped dagger nearly stabbed him to death. The wound required a lengthy and painful surgery, Edward’s blackened flesh needed to be sliced off. He escaped to Sicily for recovery where he learned of his father’s death. Edward slowly made his way across Europe headed for England, stopping for a lengthy period in France to set his affairs in order, particularly in Gascony.

In 1254, Edward married Queen Eleanor of Castile. It was a long and happy marriage that yielded no less than fourteen children. Edward was the founder of a dynasty of English Kings, including his son and grandson who were also named Edward in homage to their Anglo-Saxon forebears. Following his father’s death, Edward was crowned King on August 19, 1274 at Westminster Abbey.

During Edward I’s reign, we bear witness to a burgeoning unity of the English feudal institutions, a unity which formed a lasting knightly and bourgeois society (one that would survive the Black Death, the Hundred Years War, and the Wars of the Roses). Edward’s early years brought a flurry of new legislation, some dealing with administrative abuses and land reform, while others addressed widespread conspiracies about the English Jewry. Jews were maltreated, attacked, and finally expelled from the realm. European Jews had initially emigrated to England as merchants and money-lenders (Christians were not allowed to lend money at interest). They lent money to some of the most prominent noblemen, yet anti-semitic conspiracies proliferated until they were bankrupted and banished during the reign of Edward I. English Jews fled to Spain and North Africa while the bankers of Florence and Siena became the new lenders of choice among the English. Jews would not again be open to England until the rule of Oliver Cromwell centuries later. In other words, a Calvinist Dictator (Cromwell) would break down the Jewish blockade that was once constructed by a Catholic king (Edward I).

Edward, ever the lover of order, formalized three main administrative departments in his government: the Exchequer in Westminster, which handled all revenue and accounts; the Chancery, which was a general secretariat for drafting royal writs and letters and so on; and the Wardrobe which financed domestic priorities. Through all of his administrative reforms, Edward relied heavily upon his able Chancellor, Robert Burnell, a seasoned government official and former bishop.

One undercurrent pervaded throughout Edward’s reign: hostility toward France. When the two countries squabbled over lands in the South of France (Gascony) which were now claimed by Phillip the Fair (Philip IV) King of France, Edward decided to regain his lost territory. By now, Edward was aging and he had lived with loss. His beloved wife Eleanor of Castile was dead in 1290 and buried at Westminster. His mother and three infant sons had also died. In addition, Burnell had also died in 1292. These losses left Edward with few trusted advisers. On top of a confrontation with France, turmoil was bubbling up in Wales and Scotland, as well.

Rebellion in Wales
In June 1294 Edward approached the new “Parlement” to request approval for war with France. The body approved the war and levied heavy taxes on the English subjects, and as tax collection proceeded, a bitterness spread through the people. In the winter of 1294, the Welsh revolted. Up until now, Wales had been ruled by a variety of tribal chieftains and its border with England was defended by a series of lords who more or less acted independently of England. Occasionally England would raid Wales but would inevitably fail to unite the guerrilla forces who held the advantage of terrain: forests, mountain, and misty bogs. In 1258 Llywelyn ap Gruffudd declared himself Prince of Wales and he was recognized as such by most of the chieftains along with Henry III. When Edward took the Crown, the new Prince of Wales refused to acknowledge his overlordship. As the years went by, King Edward I blockaded Wales and forced Llywelyn northward while putting down Welsh rebellions. Llywelyn was killed in 1282 and Edward quickly took control of large parts of Wales. He built large castles and instituted English cultural reforms while banning the Welsh language from any official government proceedings. Thus began some 700 years of Welsh subjugation.

Rebellion in Scotland
The rebellion in Wales was followed by a brewing conflict in France which remained from 1296 onward until Edward remarried in 1299, this time to King Philip IV of France’s sister, Marguerite. The conflict finally ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1303. However, it also forced Edward to confront his nobles and raise funds, including from the Scottish nobles in the north.

Edward saw an opportunity in 1286 when Alexander III, King of the Scots, died leaving his infant heir, Margaret “The Maid of Norway” to one day claim the crown. Edward I arranged a marriage between the infant Margaret and his five year old son, Edward, with the hopes of uniting the realms. Tragically, Margaret died the following year at sea while en route from Norway, unfortunately dashing hopes of a political unity between England and Scotland.

Realizing their predicament, the Scottish lords all submitted to King Edward I in 1291. In turn and in order to appear as a moderator, Edward selected John Balliol to become the new leader of the Scots. He believed Balliol would be a docile puppet who could perform the bidding of England, especially considering he had founded a college at Oxford and owned lands in England, but Edward could not have been more wrong. Instead of supporting Edward with his war in France, Scotland made an alliance with France. In a rage, Edward I stormed northward to Scotland massacring everyone along the border in the town of Berwick. Edward’s forces, led by the Earl of Surrey, defeated the Scottish army at Dunbar in 1296 and Balliol was locked away in the Tower of London. Edward dethroned Balliol and he removed the ancient ‘Stone of Scone’ also called the ‘Stone of Destiny’ which all Scottish Kings had been crowned upon for centuries. He brought it to Westminster where it sat beneath the English coronation chair for hundreds of years. Scotland was now directly occupied by England. Popular discontent was aroused among the people, particularly under the modest but fierce warrior named William Wallace. He led Scottish forces to victory against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, but the following year he was sorely beaten at Falkirk. Wallace continued to fight but now most of the Scottish nobles had given up and submitted to Edward. In 1298, Wallace was captured and taken to London where he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. Wallace’s limbs were displayed as a warning at four different locations in northern England and Scotland: Newcastle, Berwick, Stirling, and Aberdeen. His life was famously put to film in the not-so-historically accurate movie Braveheart with Mel Gibson.

William Wallace statue at Aberdeen

Of William Wallace, Winston Churchill writes, “It has often been said that Joan of Arc first raised the standard of nationalism in the Western world. But over a century before she appeared an outlaw knight, William Wallace, arising from the recesses of South-West Scotland which had been his refuge, embodied, commanded, and led to victory the Scottish nation” (129).

The whispers of revolution continued in Scotland under the leadership of Robert Bruce, the chief rival of Balliol for the rule of Scotland. In 1306, Robert Bruce had himself crowned king of Scotland. He lost a battle at Methven and was then forced into hiding but shortly thereafter he re-emerged to spawn another revolt. Once again, Edward marched his troops northward but he never made it to Scotland. He died at Burgh-by-Sands near Carlisle just south of the border with Scotland in 1307. The fight against the Scots would be left to his son, Edward II, who would suffer a crushing loss at Bannockburn.

Edward I was buried at Westminster Abbey. His tomb engraving reads:

Hic est Edwadus Primus Scottorum Malleus
“Here is Edward I, Hammer of the Scots”

For this reading I used Winston Churchill’s essential History of English Speaking Peoples, David Starkey’s Crown and Country, Peter Ackroyd’s FoundationThe History of England From Its Earliest Beginnings To The Tudors, and the chronicles of Nicholas Trivlet.

What is the Book of Documents?

The “Shu-Jing,” or the book sometimes translated as “The Book of Documents,” is an obscure compilation of speeches and records of major political conversations dating back to Confucian China. The speeches typically take place between a king/emperor and his ministers.

Tradition holds that Confucius, himself, compiled the text. It was revised and re-worked over time leading to discrepancies between the “old text” and a “new text.” Even prominent writers like Mencius did not accept the authority of the text, after previous Han, Zhou, and Song dynasty revisions of the book.

It is a cryptic book that yields very little save for a glimpse into the aristocratic dogma of ancient China.

For this brief reading I used the James Legge translation.