By popular demand (yes, really), I have decided to share some of my thoughts regarding Matrix: Reloaded. I had not intended to do so, because there are thousands of others out there who have written commentary and criticism already, many of which are more articulate than I.
First, let's get my opinion out of the way. The movie has been subject to mixed reviews. Overall, they have been positive, but there's enough ne'er-do-well jackanapes out there who seemed to have one issue or another with the film. I myself thought it was absolutely fantastic and I enjoyed it immensely.
To begin with it helps to have a cursory background of Gnosticism and early Christianity, in order to understand some of the nuances of the movie. It could safely be said that the entire trilogy is a modern-day Gnostic tale.
I am not particularly well-versed in Gnosticism, but it's the fundamental of the view that's important here. In Judeo-Christianity-Islamic religions, the world was created a perfect place, and ruined by imperfect humans. (One wonders why humans were created imperfect if the rest of the universe was not, but I digress.) Gnosticism holds that the world is imperfect not because it was fouled by bumbling humans, but because it was created imperfect, using imperfect means, perhaps by an imperfect God.
In the first movie Agent Smith hints at this, when he discusses with Morpheus (lectures Morpheus, actually) on why humanity failed and continues to fail - and why the Matrix itself is flawed.
In Reloaded, Neo meets the Architect - the designer of the Matrix, who carries this forward a bit, explaining that there are root and fundamental issues with the way the Matrix was designed, issues that cannot be escaped.
As the Architect explains it, humans will only accept the reality presented to them in the Matrix if they are given a choice, even if they are not aware of that choice at a concious level.
While this answer functioned, it was obviously fundamentally flawed, thus creating the otherwise contradictory systemic anomaly that if left unchecked might threaten the system itself. Ergo those that refused the program, while a minority, if unchecked would constitute an escalating probability of disaster.
In order to work around this problem, the small percentage of people who refuse the Matrix are permitted to "escape" to Zion, which is of course exactly what the machines want; Neo is the sixth "One" to meet the Architect, and by doing so, is in the process of ending this sixth iteration and beginning the seventh.
The Matrix is inherently flawed because it was created to be imperfect.
The movie touches on other theological aspects, such as determinism (also related to choice). During a discussion with the Oracle, Neo is offered a piece of candy. Neo asks if the Oracle already knows whether he'll take the candy or not, and she replies that yes, she does know. "Then how can it be a choice?" Neo replies.
It's an ages-old dilemma: Humans are supposed to be endowed with free will, according to Christian theology, yet God is also supposed to know everything. If our every action and thought is known to a third party in advance of our doing it, then how can such actions or thoughts be "free" or considered to be a choice?
Smith has choices to make as well. Neo didn't destroy him at the end of the first movie - simply removed him from the area temporarily. Whatever Neo did, it altered Smith in such a way that he is no longer an Agent as such - he is now a rogue program, a virus of sorts, that answers to no one. His worldview as an Agent was based on order and purpose, and Neo took that away from him. Smith reveals to Neo, before their fight scene, that his quest is now to regain a sense of purpose.
Smith, as well as the Oracle's discussion, help to reveal more about the AI's - what their lifecycle is like, and that they are "born" and can indeed die. The AI's within the Matrix are subject to evolutionary pressures in a sense - when a better program comes along that can do the same job, the old program is removed, deleted, or shifted away. The Merovingian's henchmen, I believe, are what previous iterations of the Matrix used as agents. When the modern Agents came along, the previous ones were no longer needed, so Merovingian uses their programs for his own personal benefit.
These sorts of things allow us to learn more about the humans, the AI's, and the general universe of the Matrix.
Now on to the criticisms.
First, there's the people who bitch that the Smith/Neo fight looked "fake". I honestly didn't notice the CG work, and it is my opinion that by "fake", they mean "unrealistic" - which is, of course, the whole point. It's supposed to be unrealistic because it isn't real. If you had two martial-arts experts who could bend or break the laws of physics, the fight that would occur would look unrealistic, with all the exaggerated movements and so forth. Guess what: In real life, you also couldn't stick your hand into someone and turn them into copies of yourself!
Then there's people who whine that there was "too much philosophy" or "too much talking, especially from Morpheus". This is inane. You don't have to look at the philosophy in order to appreciate the movie, but it helps. If anything, the first movie had much more philosphy than this one, which is part of what made it so wildly popular - it was exposing a viewpoint that most people don't bother thinking about unless they've read up on their Descartes and Socrates.
Morpheus only makes one big speech in this movie, and it didn't last long. Get over it, people. In the first movie, he was making a speech every couple minutes, in order to lecture Neo about the new reality.
There's also the people that whinge about the "rave scene". Ladies and gentlemen, if you just found out that the first twenty or thirty years of your life were complete fabrications, you'd probably be acting that way too. The scene served to underscore the differences between man and machine - the humans were wild, reckless, lustful, savage, and the machines are smooth, cold, and precise. Yes, the rave scene was centered around sex, but this also has a point - the primary goal of the humans is to rebuild their population. And here's a news flash - most of our recreation is centered around sex as well. Bars and clubs exist for a reason.
Besides that, the scene lasted for, what, two minutes? Three? If it bothered you that much, deal with it. Sheesh.
It's also important to realize that this movie was far more interstitial than the first one. It has a definite beginning and end, but it's not quite as self-contained as the first - we'll need to wait for the third to understand exactly where Reloaded is going. To those that whine that Reloaded wasn't like the first movie: Hey, if you wanted to see the first movie, you could have thrown the DVD in and watched it. This isn't the first movie, so stfu.
All in all I thought Reloaded was tremendous. The plot was just as convoluted and thought-provoking as the first, the fight sequences were spectacular, the special effects were amazing, and I for one was not disappointed in the slightest.
kitten has spoken.
-- Update, 6.4.03, 0432 --
Last night I went to see it again, and this time I made sure to pay extra attention to the Smith/Neo fight scene, trying to suss out exactly what people were complaining about. And ladies and gentlemen, I still don't see it. It looked flawless; not at all like a computer-generated image. Even my father didn't see any problem with it and he's prone to griping about the overuse and flaws of CG animation. Honestly, I don't understand what everyone's problem is.