Finally got around to seeing Matrix II, after many discouraging reviews. The New Yorker article was particularly damning
It would have been nice if some of that complexity, or any complexity, had made its way into the sequel. Butóto get to the bad newsóìMatrix Reloadedî is, unlike the first film, a conventional comic-book movie, in places a campy conventional comic-book movie, and in places a ludicrously campy conventional comic-book movie.
But I have to say I disagree with the reviewer. The great appeal of the first movie was its premise – that human beings are living their lives thinking they are engaged in living in a normal world, while actually their entire experience is an illusion generated by computers run amok. The premise parallels standard Buddhist philosophy which tells that we live in the world of Samsara, an illusion filled with drama and suffering. When our hero Neo takes whatever pill he takes (the red one or the blue one, I don’t remember) he is consciously choosing to break free of his illusions and inhabit the real world behind the scenes. This is pretty straightforward, philosophically speaking. The second movie gets more complex. The overarching theme of Matrix Reloaded is the competing world views of pure Determinism – a mechanistic world of cause and effect – and that of Free Will – where choice is a creative act that breaks through cause and effect and rewrites the script of how life unfolds. We have two gods, the cold and calculating Matrix architect who rebuilds a new matrix everytime the existing one implodes, and the precocious Oracle who nudges Neo to trust his instincts. Neo wants to be told what to do, but must ultimately find his own will and make his own choices. What new twists will be revealed in Matrix III? A hint comes at the end of Reloaded when Neo stops the tentacled killing machines in the unplugged world with his will alone.