In 1999, the Wachowskis released a game-changer of a science fiction movie called The Matrix. The film was ahead of its time, with amazing visual effects, story design, and action sequences. It brought the Wachowskis into the mainstream, and spawned countless copycats in the years that followed. Four years later, the Wachowskis would release two sequel films, The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions, which built upon the mythology of the original. Sadly, the sequel films were just shells of their predecessor’s greatness.
The good people at ScreenJunkies.com recently added The Matrix film franchise to their “Honest Trailers” Internet video series. While The Matrix was ahead of its time in 1999, the sci-fi action film is still incredibly ’90s with its flip phones, use of the Internet, and style. It’s very funny to point all that out, but it’s somewhat of a cheap shot considering it was made in the late ’90s. The original Matrix is a near-perfect film, a few minor plot holes and character moments aside. Now the sequels, that’s a different story.
During the summer of 2003, The Matrix: Reloaded was unleashed to much anticipation from fans. When the original Matrix was released, it was an unexpected pop culture phenomenon, but by the time Reloaded arrived, audiences were hoping for a film that would top the original. Boy, were we disappointed! Reloaded is an okay movie, but it completely missed the mark as a sequel to The Matrix. It’s too philosophical, overly complicated, and visually dull. If the original was a state-of-the-art masterpiece, Reloaded was a dated patchwork of bad CGI and video game mechanics. In other words, the sequel was dated even as you were watching it. But when compared to what was to follow, The Matrix: Reloaded was a magnum opus.
Later in 2003, during the fall movie-going season, the Wachowskis gave us the trilogy’s finale, The Matrix: Revolutions. In some ways, it was good that Warner Bros. released the third film six months after the release of Reloaded. The studio could have easily held the film back for the following summer to make more money, but it seemed like the Wachowskis knew to release the film as soon as possible to temper expectations.
Revolutions is not a good movie. It suffers from the same problems as Reloaded, but with no personality or memorable action sequences. For many people, they were completely lost by the time Reloaded ended, so when Revolutions began, it was really hard to find your way into the film. By the time you reached the film’s climax, there were multiple storylines going on that seem not to reconcile themselves. It’s still unclear what the Wachowskis were trying to accomplish with The Matrix sequels.
While doing press for Cloud Atlas last year, the Wachowskis talked about the disappointment of the last two films in The Matrix film trilogy. They wanted to reflect Neo’s journey through the films’ structure, while at the same time delivering two heart-stopping action films. Reloaded was trying to breakdown and deconstruct the genre, while Revolutions tried to rebuild it into something new. In the end, their approach to the sequels didn’t work. Lana Wachowski explained:
What we were trying to achieve with the story overall was a shift, the same kind of shift that happens for Neo, that Neo goes from being in this sort of cocooned and programmed world, to having to participate in the construction of meaning to his life. And we were like, ‘Well, can the audience go through the three movies and experience something similar to what the main character experiences?’
So the first movie is sort of classical in its approach, the second movie is deconstructionist and an assault on all the things you thought to be true in the first movie … and the third movie is the most ambiguous, because it asks you to actually participate in the construction of meaning.
Even 10 years after their release, it’s hard to find anyone who likes the Matrix sequels enough to justify their existence.