In The Matrix we begin to see the code, what would be pages of code are revealed in the opening credits. For The Matrix Reloaded we see the code in everything, unlike the slow digital rain from the first film we are now exposed to the vast intricacies of the illusion of reality. The code is everywhere and is everything. The code itself is portrayed as brighter, faster and deeper than the 1999 original, and this is reflected in the music score. Background themes that were slow and progressive are now faster and more elaborate while still conveying the dark artificial reality that is the Matrix.
Visually the film is noise free, shot using new cameras the picture quality is pin sharp. The world of the Matrix is further explored with scenes showing the wider CITY. Colour tones remain faithful (for the most part) to the original film but are projected more sharply and with greater colour dynamics.
Neo has embraced his powers over the Matrix, the Machines continue to prevent humans escaping the program, and a new anomaly surfaces from the events of the original film. Human resistance is growing as more minds are set free.
We are introduced in the second film to that desperate race of men either born outside the matrix or set free by it. We see Zion, the last free city of the human race.
Agent Smith returns from a backup inadvertently made by Neo himself. However the new Agent Smith is no longer bound to the syntax of the Matrix. The very act of destroying Agent Smith triggered an anomaly the Matrix was not designed for. Agent Smith now has the uninhibited ability to copy himself to a human plugged into the matrix, including the human resistance willingly jacked in. This provides the very paradox Agent Smith needs to escape the Matrix. He succeeds through Bane.
We are also introduced to other varieties of sentient program based around similar programming to the Agents of the Matrix, these are in the form of Serif, the Merovingian and the Keymaker.
I think I understand why followers of the original may not be pleased with Reloaded. Here we are exposed to new features of the Matrix, we see more of the CITY, its people and places, and during the film we become too complacent, too familiar with this virtual world. In the original film we get fleeting glimpses inside the Matrix, mostly of night scenes and rain veiled streets, but in Reloaded we are presented with daytime shots and busy outdoor fight scenes. That minor aspect, in my opinion, produces insufficient potency to degrade the film.
The boundaries between simulation and reality become blurred when Neo begins to feel the machines in his world. Neo’s path leads him to the Machine Mainframe – The Source but one compiled by the Matrix; however the power of the one extends beyond The Matrix, Neo begins to understand his connection with the machine world, and his inevitable journey to the real world machine mainframe.
The film concludes by Neo establishing his connection with the machines, he realises now he can manipulate the machines as he can their simulated reality – the Matrix. However, like Agent Smith, this creates another anomaly. See The Matrix Revolutions review for a continuation.