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Spencer | The Matrix Reloaded

Choosing who you are vs who you're supposed to be.


MOVIE REVIEW /// Spencer

Movie summary: During her Christmas holidays with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, England, Diana Spencer, struggling with mental health problems, decides to end her decade-long marriage to Prince Charles. (IMDb)

Spencer is - pardon the language - a fucking bizarre movie. Honestly, it's almost impossible to talk about thanks to just how inconsistent each successive scene is with those either side of it, with Kristen Stewart's performance as Diana being equally inconsistent. Quite how this movie or anything about it has been mooted as awards-worthy is utterly beyond me.

The first place to start is obviously Stewart as Diana, who could only be seen as giving a good performance if you're either not from Britain or too young to remember press coverage of the actual Princess Di. In some scenes, she is genuinely brilliant and her talents as an actress giving a highly-nuanced subtle display of emotions completely appropriate to how you would imagine Diana - or anyone - would've felt.

In others, Stewart feels like she's in a parody, giving such an over-the-top and exaggerated impression of Di that it completely undercuts the more serious moments because of just how silly it is. While Spencer does focus on Diana's mental health, that can't be used as the excuse here either - there's no contrast and compare or in-depth exploration of the topic, just undercutting and ruining.

It's difficult to separate Stewart's performance from Spencer as a whole thanks to the extreme focus on Diana, but that feeling of each scene not really fitting with the one before or the one after continues for practically the entire movie, ultimately saying virtually nothing about Diana other than she couldn't deal with the oddities of the royal family and her mental health suffered as a result. It's not an unimportant subject, but the movie doesn't have anything new or interesting to say about what was patently obvious anyway.

So why did I like Spencer? Firstly, the good moments are really, really good, as is Stewart. Secondly, I think the movie does a good job of highlighting just how bizarre being a member of the royal family must be for anyone coming in from the outside. Lastly, those wild swings from genuinely good drama to borderline parody ultimately fall into the so-bad-it's-good territory and at least make for some amusement and gives you something to talk about afterwards!

Spencer is an odd film that I could never recommend despite my own general liking of it because it's so disjointed in tone and the performance by Kristen Stewart equally so that how anyone else will like it will depend entirely on how much they can tolerate just how wildly back-and-forth each scene can be. It doesn't seem to really say anything new about Diana, it just paints the royal family as oddballs - which we already knew.

[6/10 - Decent]


MOVIE REVIEW /// The Matrix Reloaded

Movie summary: Freedom fighters Neo, Trinity and Morpheus continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army, unleashing their arsenal of extraordinary skills and weaponry against the systematic forces of repression and exploitation. (IMDb)

You have to give credit to the Wachowskis for going where they did with The Matrix Reloaded, completely upending audience expectations of what a sequel should be like in the pursuit of telling the story they wanted to. Whether you want to give them credit for the execution of said story is another matter entirely, and one I don't think the succeeded at all.

Arguably this movie's biggest problem is that it feels unfocused, with half a dozen new subplots introduced and bolted onto the central theme of identity from the first film. This time around, 'purpose' is the key word, but the movie ironically fails at achieving its purpose of telling a clear story - 'cause and effect' is also crammed in there, along with what feels like an entire other movie's worth of world-building.

The script tries to get around this by making almost every line some form of exposition, but I imagine it would be tricky to follow for someone watching The Matrix Reloaded for the first time - it's hard enough to keep everything straight having seen it multiple times. It's as if the movie is a machine with a set purpose of getting across a set number of plot points and details without worrying about making them fit together in an enjoyable fashion.

It also feels like the writers had a thesaurus on hand when going over the dialogue, with some excessively convoluted dialogue making things even harder to follow when it would've been far easier to just have the characters speak plainly. It can sometimes work, but it does fall flat most of the time and it often feels like the actors are trying harder to remember the odd words they have to say than concentrating on their performances.

And make no mistake, the performances in The Matrix Reloaded are weaker across the board in comparison to the first film. Keanu Reeves' limited range still works with Neo still not sure of what his purpose is, but everyone else suffers by being forced to try and make some very unnatural dialogue and behaviour seem natural - unfortunately, none are quite good enough to lift the mess of a script they're working with.

Despite all that criticism, I still have to admit that I enjoyed the movie for the most part, thanks to the good that does carry over from The Matrix being especially good here - meaning the score and the action, both of which are incredibly good. The music is just fantastic and arguably does more than any of the visuals to generate emotion and tension where necessary, or to get the blood pumping when the fists start flying.

As for the action, it has to be said that there is some very poor CGI - most noticeably in the 'burly brawl' between Neo and multiple copies of Smith (Hugo Weaving) - which was considered weak even at the time. The excellent choreography and kinetic camera movements hide it as best they can, but holy shit can you tell when characters change from live-action to CGI models at certain points.

That being said, there's nothing wrong at all about the series' best action sequence in my opinion, starting from Neo fighting the henchmen of the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) in a mountain chateau, leading to one of the best car chase sequences all the way up to Neo saving the lives of his allies at the last moment. It's action excellence from start to finish and better than most movies have managed since.

If you can put up with some dodgy CGI, even dodgier dialogue and muddled themes, The Matrix Reloaded still contains a lot of pleasing moments and scenes that will keep you entertained, albeit not truly satisfied, for its lengthy running time. It's absolutely a couple of steps down from the first movie, but there's a lot to like and even some of the unnecessary details about the world can prove interesting to think about - the movie's not going to give you the answers about them anyway, so enjoy filling in the blanks yourselves.

The Matrix Reloaded is a good movie in it's own right, that really suffers in comparison to it's excellent predecessor. Yes, some of the dialogue is a bit long-winded and the language used is flowery to say the least, which can make the movie come across as highly pretentious at times, but the incredible score and even better action make this movie worth a watch all the same.

[7/10 - Good]


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