Looking back at the Matrix sequels

Feature Mark Harrison 30 May 2014 - 06:40

Mark looks back at the much-reviled Matrix sequels and asks: what went wrong?

This article contains spoilers for the Matrix trilogy.

It seem like a long time ago to some of our younger readers, but those who were there will remember that 2003 was branded “the year of the Matrix” by Warner Bros. Four years after the first film knocked everybody's socks off, Andy and Lana Wachowski made two sequels, an animated anthology, a video game and numerous other tie-ins to expand upon a world that was only hinted at in the original.

The Matrix Reloaded became the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time when it was released in May and held that record until the following Easter's The Passion Of The Christ. A vitriolic critical reception and bad word of mouth undercut any chance that the final instalment, The Matrix Revolutions, had in terms of topping its predecessor when it was released in November the same year.

What's really extraordinary about those movies is how completely they seem to have been forgotten. The Star Wars prequels are arguably much more hollow and forgettable than either Reloaded or Revolutions, but we're still talking about George Lucas' films. Saying “the Matrix sequels” has become a punchline, or a by-word for disappointing crap that is sometimes expectorated across the internet like a particular disappointing loogy.

As we see it, the problem is that when all of their spin-off media eventually panned out, Reloaded and Revolutions don’t look like the second and third parts of the trilogy - they look like the final part, split in two. It’s tempting to do more than one article about the Matrix trilogy, but that would almost fall into the same trap.

“No, no, no, it’s better if you’ve watched the spin-off media” isn’t really the best defence of any film, which is why this isn’t the only point we’re making. But most of the problems with the sequels come down to the way that it’s split up and the delivery of a whole chunk of vital information outside the live-action trilogy itself.

End Of Part One - the final scene of The Matrix

“I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin.” - Neo

Bearing in mind that we have a lot to get through, I won’t cover this one in too much detail. It's not totally unbelievable to think that the Wachowskis had this whole trilogy sketched out in their heads when they started on the first film, but we’re not here to quibble about that.

There are all kinds of factors to explain why the sequels aren’t as together as the first, which still stands up as a more or less perfect balance of action, philosophy and science fiction. Joss Whedon once called this one of his favourite films of all time and what he said to Rotten Tomatoes pretty much sums it up:

“It contains every aspect of modern life and religion and philosophy and knows it, and they're doing something that is very deliberately very heady. But at the same time, when asked what is this movie about, their answer was "It's about kung fu versus robots." If it was just that, it would be on this list. But it's that and everything else.”

But if they did have a whole trilogy planned, then they really didn’t make it easy for themselves at the end of part one. Neo doesn’t just get better at kung fu and bullet dodging, and beat the bad guys- he straight-up resurrects himself and then, in one of the biggest “Fuck yeah” endings in cinematic history, actually flies away. It’s an awesome ending to the movie, but it immediately leaves you wondering where else there is to go.

The case for the defence of the sequels would be that at this point, he only understands the world that his enemies have created and can throw his enlightened weight around within that world. From here, everything that follows is actually about understanding the machines.

“Part 2”: The Animatrix

“May there be mercy on man and machine for their sins.” - B1-66ER

So, if Reloaded and Revolutions is one climactic story, then the only thing that really fits in the middle to make it a trilogy would be The Animatrix. The animated anthology was released straight to video and DVD a few weeks after Reloaded was released in theatres, and consists of nine short films which takes place before The Matrix and in the six months between the first film and the sequels.

For the most part, the films explore the world and characters of the Matrix, outside of the ground covered in the live-action trilogy, by asking questions about consciousness within the Matrix from various different perspectives.

World Record explores how extraordinary people, in this case an athlete, could see through the Matrix without, say, having online hacker buddies or otherwise getting head-hunted by the Resistance, and Matriculated is about the machines’ perception of reality, given their lack of consciousness. Another highlight, Program, involves a training program in which two unplugged crew-members duke it out over quality of life in the real world.

A couple of other shorts link directly to the trilogy. Kid’s Story is a really interesting film that is briefly referenced in Reloaded, wherein the titular teenager manages to believe so strongly that his world is an illusion, he frees his own mind from the Matrix without help from the resistance. The character is here is more promising than Clayton Watson’s live-action performance as Kid turned out, as one of the most notoriously irritating things about the sequels - he’s the trilogy’s Jar Jar.

Final Flight Of The Osiris, which played in cinemas before Warner Bros’ Dreamcatcher in the months before Reloaded was released, also leads directly into the events of the second movie, with a crew making a last ditch effort to deliver intelligence about the Sentinel attack to Zion.

But it’s The Second Renaissance which really contextualises the whole trilogy, because it elaborates upon the history of the war, and of the Matrix, from the otherwise unexplored perspective of the machines.

Writer and director Mahiro Maeda adapted the two-part film from the Wachowskis’ notes about the mythology, to present a history file from Zion’s archives. It details the period from the invention of machines as servile humanoid drones, to the blackening of the sky as described by Morpheus in The Matrix.

It all kicks off when a robot called B1-66ER is put on trial for killing its human master, who planned to deactivate and replace it with a newer model. Anti-robot prejudice is stirred up by the trial, which takes place in the context of self-defence and even alludes to real-life civil rights debates. Nevertheless B1-66ER loses the trial and is destroyed. But robots, having been designed by humans, have just the same desire to live, which soon scares the crap out of their creators.

These films are quite shockingly violent and gory throughout, but the most disturbing scene involves a bunch of men setting upon a female robot and assaulting her as she screams and panics, shot for all intents and purposes like a rape scene. Her haunting last words before she’s incapacitated with a shotgun blast? “I’m real!”

The compromise that saves some robots from the mass destruction which follows is that they establish to their own machine nation, called 01. When 01’s economy and industry begin to outpace the nations of humanity, war is declared.

The machines quickly gain the upper hand by using the kind of biological and chemical warfare that humans have long since forbidden, and to which the machines are obviously immune. In the course of their experimentation, they determine that the energy produced by humans might be a useful power supply and begin putting humans into pods, their minds plugged into a big old computer simulation to keep their collective consciousness going.

Shortly after, the desperate survivors attempt to call a truce with the machines. The machines accept, but immediately detonate a nuclear bomb in New York afterwards, in an attempt to conclusively end the war. The fact that machines can survive in worse conditions than humans becomes a key factor in the ongoing conflict in Reloaded and Revolutions.

The Second Renaissance makes The Animatrix worth watching all by themselves- an essential visual representation of the backstory that might have felt laboured or ancillary if delivered as exposition in one of the live-action films, but which also lends context to the events of Reloaded and Revolutions.

Part 3A: Reloaded

“It was a triumph equalled only by its monumental failure.” - The Architect

What actually happens to move the plot forward in The Matrix Reloaded? Six months on from Neo’s self-substantiation, the machines are sending a quarter of a million Sentinels to destroy Zion within 72 hours, hastening the One’s mission to return to the machine Source.

This mission eventually leads Neo to the Architect, who gives him a choice between reloading the Matrix and starting the cycle over again, or save Trinity from certain death before going back to Zion to die. Neo chooses the latter and manifests One-like powers in the real world.

That’s not a full-on plot, that’s a first act. Granted, not the first act of a film that you would immediately embark upon after The Matrix, but then that just adds to the case that they skipped over part two and went straight to the endgame with this movie.

In hindsight, it’s shocking how little of Reloaded actually matters in the grand scheme of things. While there’s no fat on the first film whatsoever, the action sequences and setpieces in Reloaded all serve to wake the casual audience up in between conversations about choice and destiny.

We’ll get to the skirmishes with Agent Smith, but compare any other given action scene in the movie to a single fight from the first film, which constantly used action to develop Neo’s character and understanding of his abilities after his mind was freed from machine control.

There are vast passages of the film which do absolutely nothing to move things forward, the most egregious of which is the early visit to Zion, including the much-maligned rave scene, intercut with Neo and Trinity’s awkward sex scene. Sure, we see how the humans live, but did any of us feel more sympathetic with them after those scenes?

There is also a glut of new characters. Some of which were spun off into the companion game Enter The Matrix, which contained live-action scenes featuring Niobe and her crew which weren’t in the films and directly set up their characters for Revolutions. Other than that, who really remembers what Commander Lock, Councillor Hamann and Zee had to do with anything?

By contrast, certain revelations in the middle of the film feel somewhat tossed out, especially with the realisation that the Oracle is a program just like the Agents- that should be huge on a personal level, but it’s casually dispensed in the middle of a conversation and then immediately followed by a big CGI skirmish with Smith(s).

With the Oracle and the en-masse reintroduction of Agent Smith, we’re told that certain programs can go rogue instead of returning to the Source and that this is the canon explanation for supernatural phenomena within the Matrix. The next character we meet, the Merovingian, employs a whole bunch of these programs as thugs.

So, when I say that there’s a five minute scene of Neo fighting vampires, werewolves and ghosts in this one, I mean that it’s Neo fighting other people in cyber goth gear and sunglasses. Where’s the imagination in that? The Twins, who have ghostly abilities, may look nifty from a visual point of view, but they’re such B-level adversaries in the overall mix that they never really register.

Even the film’s standout setpiece, the stunning freeway chase is an excuse for the film to jog in place for 20 minutes. That whole sequence still stands up, and we haven’t seen a better combined car/motorbike/lorry chase since, but it’s pure, meaningless eye candy, moving the walking McGuffin Keymaker from one side of the plot to the other.

As a result, the most maligned scene in the film, where Neo confronts the Colonel Sanders-esque Architect, is probably the most interesting from a story point of view. To put it as simply as possible, the critical flaw with this scene on its surface is that it uses too many big words.

Screenwriter John August has diagnosed that the problem with the Matrix sequels was that they were “playing obscurity for depth”, i.e. obfuscating the internal logic of the characters' choices in order to make the audience fearful of dismissing it, just in case they were missing something that they just didn't get. The Architect scene is the perfect example of this.

Everything the Architect tells Neo makes perfect sense if you’re up on convoluted conversational bits like “vis a vis”, “concordantly” and “systemic anomaly”. Look at this scene and then think of how much shit the first film gets for Morpheus just saying simply that we are to the machines as an AA battery is to us - an easy analogy that serves as a perfect working understanding for a concept that’s explored in more depth later on, and yet has been retrospectively nit-picked to death because Reloaded won’t show us when telling us for ten minutes will do.

It’s kind of infuriating because the scene is a game-changer (no matter how badly it’s written) and it serves to set up the endgame of the series- the idea that there have been six versions of the Matrix to date, cycling through the same motions of destiny and the One over and over again, comes back around to that notion of the futility of war that was better expressed in The Animatrix.

It certainly shows up how silly it was to have been following a prophecy about the messiah when you’re otherwise so concerned with free will and self-control. Even within the film itself, it retroactively makes that long, pointless scene of Neo fighting a ton of Agent Smiths look better- it doesn’t achieve anything or move the plot forward because there’s no point in them fighting. Both fights between them in this one have Neo and Smith each gaining the upper hand repeatedly, before Neo flees rather than continuing to fight endlessly.

On the other hand, a thread that doesn’t really get picked up in Revolutions is the inference that the first version of the Matrix was a perfect world that humans utterly rejected, because it was too good to be true. Coupled with the final revelation of Neo having power in “the real world” and Smith’s ability to possess humans when they’re not jacked in to the Matrix, could all of this mean that Zion is just another computer simulation for the “freed” humans?

The Architect turns the whole story on its head, because all of Neo’s power is simply the result of a system glitch, upon which the human resistance has consistently bestowed meaning. They’re on their sixth go around now, and it’s the first time the One has tried a different tack.

The Matrix Reloaded is sloppy and unquestionably the weakest of the trilogy, but it’s far from a Star Wars prequel disaster. It has all of the snazzy visuals and complex fight choreography that so impressed audiences the first time around, but for a long stretch in the middle, nothing really carries any weight in terms of story, and there’s no thematic pay-off at the end.

Speaking of which, given what happens in Revolutions, Trinity’s death at the end of this one is the trilogy’s equivalent of destroying the Death Star in both A New Hope and Return Of The Jedi, except this beat feels like a plateau in Reloaded and an anti-climax in Revolutions. As the Architect implies, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

But even the more relevant story beats are only part of the larger purpose of moving the pieces around in time for the third film. Right before the credits roll, it goes for an Empire Strikes Back-style cliffhanger ending, but then there’s nowhere else for it to go, except the teaser trailer for the finale in the end credits sting.

Part 3B: Revolutions

“Everything that has a beginning has an end.” - The Oracle

The Matrix Revolutions is long overdue for a re-assessment. There, I said it.

I saw the sequels when I was a tiny bit too young to be seeing 15-certificate films in the cinema and a lot of the stuff I’m talking about now went straight over my head. In that six months between films, it would be a massive understatement to say that expectations were diminished from the pre-Reloaded hype.

With some distance and hindsight, Revolutions is a far better film because if the Wachowskis really did make up these sequels after the first one became so popular, then the endgame was probably the first thing they came up with. In so many areas where Reloaded failed to expand upon the central themes of the series or move the plot forward, Revolutions succeeds with bells on.

That’s not to say it’s a great movie. In the same vein as Reloaded, it comes across as a little flabby in the beginning. The cliffhanger of the previous film is partially resolved via Neo’s spell in the limbo-like underground station, which seems more like a half-baked attempt to keep the Merovingian and the other rogue programs in play, than a situation with any dramatic stakes.

But once that’s out of the way, it’s all go - as the newly Mary Alice-d Oracle (original actress Gloria Foster died during production) tells Neo, Smith is aggressively expanding throughout the Matrix with the aim of bringing the whole damn thing down. Meanwhile, his treachery in the real world has left Zion missing a number of ships ahead of the massive Sentinel assault headed their way.

With the Architect having taken off the blinkers about how Neo’s meant to be using his powers, he and Trinity take off in a ship by themselves to head for the Machine City. If you’ve seen The Second Renaissance, you might recognise that as 01, but it’s understandable that it seems to come out of nowhere in the film if you haven’t.

On the way, they’re beset by Bane, Smith’s avatar in the real world, as he and Neo have a punch-up which is more brutal and less elegant than any other fight in the trilogy. Consistent with their showdowns in Reloaded, neither of them outright wins or loses - Smith blinds his enemy in the scrap, but gets his human head taken off by Neo for his trouble.

Meanwhile, Zion is taking a battering from the initial onslaught of Sentinels, as the military takes on the squiddies with mech suits and infantry soldiers. This is another sequence which still stands up over a decade later. Commander Mifune might have the best death in all of the films, going down swinging, shooting, screaming and swearing at the Sentinels as they swarm all over him and lacerate him to death.

By the time it’s over, both sides have made huge losses, thanks to an EMP blast from the incoming surviving captains and their crews. But with every defence wiped out, the machines decide to send out every remaining Sentinel they have left- in winning the battle, Zion may have lost the war.

And so the other major theme here, if you’ve seen The Second Renaissance, is how pointless the war between humans and machines really is. The cycle endlessly repeats because machines are now superior to humans in every single way, except that humans are more resourceful when it comes to war.

If it needs saying any more baldly, then the Oracle actually does - Agent Smith has become the equal and opposite to Neo by being a creation of the machine that has the same thirst for conquest and war as humans, just as the loathed Mr. Anderson is a human who can do what programs can do.

It’s hard to think of anything more machine-like than the binary choices that Neo and the other humans have had to make throughout the trilogy. Red pill or blue pill? Save Trinity or save Zion? Win or lose? By the time Neo reaches 01 and calls a truce with a character who is literally called “Deus Ex Machina”, (yeah, really) he’s well on his way to understanding that the choice between two absolutes will only lead to history repeating itself.

If humans keep fighting then they can never win, because the Architect has already told us that there are levels of survival that the machines are prepared to accept without humanity around. Smith is no longer prepared to take his place in the rank and file of programs within the Matrix, just as Neo finally realises that there is no role for the One, a glitch in the system, other than what he chooses to do.

This isn’t to say that the final fight between Neo and Smith is anticlimactic on purpose, if you found it that way - the Wachowskis mischievously addressed that thought in the game adaptation of the trilogy, Path Of Neo, with a fourth-wall-breaking final boss level that had the super brawl end with Smith manifesting as a giant made from rubble and metal, followed by a corny, recut version of the film’s ending set to Queen’s “We Are The Champions”, as if to say “Oh, sorry, is this what you wanted?”

Of course audiences expected Neo to rise up and defeat the machines and lead the humans to freedom- had the story ended with Neo threatening the machines over the phone and then flying away, that might have been the version in our heads.

He promises a world without boundaries, but in the course of building the mythology in Reloaded and Revolutions, a lot of time is given over to building walls and subsequently over-explaining those boundaries. With the expansion of the sequels, there is no victory to be found through making war, only through making peace.

Perhaps the Wachowskis really didn’t know they were doing a trilogy when they started, but they knew what they were doing with this expansion and conclusion of the story, once the back-to-back production of these two films began. The un-self-conscious tone of the original would attest to that, but the sequels weigh the trilogy more towards the spiritual than the philosophical.


In February, it was speculated that the Wachowskis could be working on a second Matrix trilogy. Frankly, if they feel they have something else to say, then I’m all for it.

The Animatrix demonstrated that there are more stories to tell in this world, outside of the journey of the One as seen in the original trilogy, but moreover, it’s interesting that they’re actually returning to direct.

The ever-accelerating reboot cycle probably isn’t far off a reboot or remake of The Matrix, especially given how much money the first three made for Warner Bros. It surely wouldn’t have been beyond them to attach a new screenwriter and director to airing out the property, but you can bet that they wouldn’t have the insight and thoughtful approach of its creators.

Whatever flaws may have naturally occurred from splitting the story of Reloaded and Revolutions into two uneven sequels, this is absolutely the Wachowskis’ vision and just about the only extension of Neo’s story that could have logically followed. Neither of the sequels can hold a candle to the superb 1999 movie, but they form an interesting and personal perspective on the futility of war that isn’t nearly as anticlimactic as the consensus would suggest.

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How exactly did Agent Smith even exist in the sequels, did Neo not jump into the Smith program and delete him at the code level at the end of the first film? I thought that was the whole point of that climactic scene; you can't kill what is a piece of sentient software... but The One can delete said software programs by (as Morpheus stated) "remaking the Matrix as he (the One) saw fit"... he deleted Smith, doing what no-one ese could and thereby proving he was the aforementioned One (*cue swelling music!*), it kinda undermines that big moment if Smith just pops up next film and says "howdy do, guess I'm not dead after all", does it not? And don't give me any convoluted nonsense about how Smith's resurrection from the dead parallels Neo's resurrection in the first film, Neo wasn't deleted out of existence, Smith was... at least we all thought so anyway.

Someone was watching '... Revolutions' on television once upon a time, someone else entered the room and enquired "is that the last Matrix film?" The person watching it replied "God, I hope so"... 'nuff said.

I think, and I am not defending this, but the ghosts, vampires etc are meant to explain this. The line goes that once a program is no longer required it is supposed to return to the source to be deleted. Some programs choose not to, and hide in The Matrix (hence ghosts, gouls, vampires etc). Smith said to Neo that he knew what he should do, that he should return to the source, but he decided not to. So Neo didn't delete Smith, he did something which caused Smith to no longer have purpose/maybe marked him for deletion. Smith chose not to go back to the source (even though his monologue to Morpheus was that he wanted to leave The Matrix because of the stink. Maybe he realised he liked the stink.) I like this idea that Neo somehow corrupted Smiths program (meaning smith should return to the source) but the corruption was actually Neo's propensity for rule bending and fighting/resisting.

I totally get where you're coming from, but Neo deleted Smith, he didn't take away Smith's purpose for existence (only the Machines could do that), he eradicated Smith's very existence... that was the whole point of that scene as I understood it back in 1999, and after countless viewings since, is still my interpretation of it... maybe I'm missing something and it's just me!

And in the first film, Morpheus explained to Neo that they only know bits and pieces of what started the war betwixt man and machine, so how is there a detailed history in the Zion archives?

And just where exactly did Trinity get the two machine pistols before jumping out the window?

Hmm, I think I'll stop right here, sorry 'bout that.

The explanation (I believe) was that when Neo "entered" Smith just before deleting him, he inadvertently altered Smith's code. Hence Smith's greater abilities upon his return. He couldn't actually be deleted by Neo because I think they stated that that could only take place at "the core". Hence the choice for redundant programs of "exile or deletion" being referenced. Smith refused either option as a result of his interaction with Neo, and became the mirror of him.

tl;dr Neo only sent Smith to the recycle bin but the corrupt file could not be deleted. Fist fights ensued.

A new Matrix trilogy is inherent to the franchise-relishing nature of Hollywood. Vis-a-vis, while we are skeptical of such a proposal the producers remain irrevocably optimistic. Concordantly...

My first taste of cinematic disappointment.
The first Matrix -much as I still love it- was very much the grand cinematic distillation of everything that was cool in the '90s (trenchcoats, hacking, gun glamour, pre-millenial angst, techno music, etc.) but 'cool' is a very fickle mistress and in the few short years in between the original film and Reloaded, the zeitgeist which the original had reflected so brilliantly had already changed and accelerated so much that the brief window in which people found these things novel had closed, relegating these characters who wore sunglasses and raincoats inside from 'awesome' to ... Er, well... Twats really.
None of which would have even really been THAT much of a problem -or at least easy enough to overlook- if the sequels had still been enjoyable films... But they weren't. All critiques aside: They really, REALLY weren't.

What this guy said. What Neo should have done when he entered smith is held down Shift so he'd bypass the recycle bin.

I was massively disappointed by the sequels, and I don't really believe anyone had planned anything beyond the (brilliant) first film at the time.
I was at uni when The Matrix came out, and it floored practically everybody I knew. A couple of years later, a drunk guy in the student union told me he'd read about the planned Matrix sequels, and needless to say I was all ears. According to him, the first sequel would be almost exactly the same as the original film, but subtly different, right up to the point where Neo takes the pill, except this time he'd take the Blue pill instead of the Red pill, and his journey towards becoming The One would follow a different path. Then, the second sequel would reveal that mankind had in fact constructed The Matrix themselves, and had chosen to surrender themselves to it. Following this revelation, Neo would lead the remaining human resistance on a final battle to destroy the Matrix and free humankind once and for all, to re-built what was left of the Earth, and Neo would split himself into two entities, sacrificing one to ensure that the Matrix was completely destroyed, and costing him an unknown amount of his remaining real-world life-years with Trinity. There was apparently a rumor that Morpheus would have a re-match with agent Smith, and that both of them would die. The cool thing would be, each time you watched them, you'd choose whether you were following the Red pill or the Blue pill by picking which film to watch, before watching the last part.
But he was just some drunk dude who got banned from the student's union for urinating in the middle of the dance floor, and goodness knows where he came up with that nonsense.
...If a drunken nutter can come up with something far, far better than the films and extended universe we actually got (oh man, the game was abysmal...), then you're in trouble, and you KNOW that nobody had anything planned, and that they were just making it up as they went along. To be honest, I've got nothing against the Wachowski's, but everything past the first film has always felt like a cynical cash grab to me.


It's not like the first film didn't have flaws too. But it still made for a pleasing mixture that got in, did its stuff in considerable style and got out again. Plus the hero discovering his destiny and powers is often more fun than when he has them.

When it came to the follow-ups, though, it felt like the Highlander sequels. Connor wins the Prize, then they have to pretend he hasn't so we get aliens and then a guy who was stuck in a cave and then Bruce Payne and so on. At the end of the first film Neo had achieved a totally enlightened sense of the very fabric of the Matrix and was a literal God of that world. No need for all that kicking and chopping, with a single thought he can create and destroy at will. He is beyond the limitations of the program.

And then they have to ignore that in the sequels, because they never counted on doing any sequels and people want their wire fu. Add to that the double-whammy of them having to build on a setting that perhaps couldn't handle that (or maybe the brothers couldn't) and them taking the wrong conclusions from the success of the first and ramping up the philosophy to cover the cracks...well, it was always going to be a tough ask.

I really have never understood the backlash towards Reloaded and Revolutions. Yes, they are not up to The Matrix standard (most movies aren't), but they're both cracking films, full of superb action sequences and more depth than most of the movies you see today. I love the whole trilogy, and I'd certainly welcome another 3 movies.

saturation I guess, like too much chocolate in one go.

I always preferred Revolutions to Reloaded. I think the weakest parts in both movies were the scenes inside the Matrix. The battle for Zion was an awesome spectacle along with Niobe trying to fly the Hammer back while the crew holds off the sentinels. Smith attacking Neo & Trinity on the ship (Plus a great performance from Ian Bliss as Smith in the real world) It's a far better movie than Reloaded.

I always remember an interview with Will & Jada Smith about who had the better freeway chase scene, Matrix Reloaded or Bad Boys 2... Will wins hands down

Possibly. But I watched the Animatrix and played the whole Enter the Matrix game - the tie ins were brilliant. But then I can also eat chocolate all day :-)

stupid ass orgy scene with Keanu ass interstitials was unnecessary. lots of throwaway characters like Persephone and Trainman werent developed any further.

I think the Wachowski siblings got a bit of George Lucas Syndrome.

I to played Enter the Matrix, added a lot of depth to Niobe and Ghost. (edit* maybe not so much depth but made me like them more in the movies)

"...we haven’t seen a better combined car/motorbike/lorry chase since."

The Raid 2 car chase scene surely comes close, although I am not sure if there is a lorry in it? But the fighting is definitely better than that in Matrix Reloaded.

What I didnt like about the sequels, is that they seemed to be making it up as they went a long. Nothing felt definite enough for me.

I bought the trilogy on Blu Ray a few months back. Watched the 1st and can't bring myself to watch the other 2 and probably never will.

Slight waste of money, but I just like boxsets...!

Oh what could have been. I remember when rumours of a sequel to The Matrix came up, there were SOOOO MANY great ideas for it, but what we got was preposterous. Wasted opportunity which hopefully will be put right in another trilogy (please, not a reboot but a follow on). Throw the keys to Nolan and let him loose with it, bring back Reeves, pure win!.

I quite liked Reloaded as it had many memorable scenes and was very enjoyable to watch. It was only Revolutions that disappointed me, it wasn't very memorable and the ending fell flat. That's pretty much all I have to say, I would definitely be open to a new trilogy.

I went through this exact process of almost mentioning The Raid 2, but I genuinely can't remember if there was a lorry in it.

Totally disappointed in the sequels, The Matrix should've been a stand alone film and never needed the sequels. Well, not those sequels at any rate. They feel forced. Just made up as they go along. Good article but I still think you've given them more credit than these awful films deserve... The Animatrix however was wonderful, I may have to dig that one up and re-watch.

I own the The Matrix on DVD and pretend the other two don't exist.

The sequels fail in every possibly way. Utter tripe.

I remember my sheer disappointment in the cinema for Reloaded during that terrible multiple-Smiths fight. CGI catastrophe.

For the 20th anniversary edition they'll go back and give Morpheus a South African accent.

Neo may have 'deleted' Smith but the actual Smith program itself still existed in the Machine mainframe, Smith was irrevocably altered by Neo entering his program code and consequently he chose not to return to the Source for deletion, feeling a new compulsion to do what he wanted and to disobey the strict Machine rules. Upon realizing his newfound powers, Smith decided to do what any megalomaniacal villain wants to do; take over the world, and in Smith's case, his method of doing that was to infect other programs in the Matrix, rewriting their code to become his, in other words, a computer virus.

Being unplugged from Machine control, he became a threat to not only the human race, but also to the Machines vis-a-vis his corruption of the Matrix and it's inhabitants. The difference between Smith's first 'deletion' in the original film and his final deletion in 'Revolutions' was he wasn't a threat to the Machines in the first film, but after his exile he increasingly became a threat, he was unplugged from the Machine mainframe and thus beyond it's control until he overtook Neo in the rain-soaked crater, and because Neo was plugged in by the Machines themselves, he was connected to them in a very direct way, and thus so was Smith unwittingly after he took over Neo's code... the Machines could then reboot the corrupted Matrix and delete the Smith program completely this time.

What happened to the Matrix inhabitants after the reboot isn't made clear but I'm presuming they were all killed in the process, but the Machines know it will be repopulated again over time, and thus the Matrix 7.0 begins from scratch all over again, with the anomaly certain to reappear again in future and the cycle continues indefinitely.

It isn't the Wachowski's ideas that were the problem in the sequels, it was the overall execution; they should have concentrated on just the two movies and the really rather impressive 'Final Flight of the Osiris' animated prologue instead of faffing around on all the other crap that added nothing to the story quite frankly!

you forgot, Ergo :P

Basically, the ends makes no sense. I could have come up with it, Zion is free and those still plugged into the Matrix? "Those who want to be freed, will be". So the Matrix still exists for some and the machines still exist? Surely the machines aren't just going to let Zion exist, after being so good at destroying it. If Neo had powers in the real world, it would have been amazing to see him destroy the machine world because surely only then would the war really be over. I was genuinely expecting Zion to be another Matrix - which would have been a great ending!

Great article by the way. And where did you find that the massive head thing in Revolutions is called Deus Ex Machina?

I like this, and I like you.

I worked in catering/craft services on the 2 sequels (they were shot back to back at Fox Studios Sydney) I have nothing to add to this discussion other than Lawrence Fishburn hurled a tuna sandwich at me in a fit of anger whilst screaming loudly "this is f**cking tuna!"

>Reloaded and Revolutions don’t look like the second and third parts of the trilogy - they look like the final part, split in two

I beg to differ. They look like they're from a different trilogy entirely.

The sinking feeling I felt when I saw Reloaded in the cinema is stayed with me. But, bizarrely, it's still far better than Revolutions.

For a film series that claims intelligence, it's the remarkably stupid failures that hole it for me. The backstory of "scorching the sky" to deprive robots of their power source is maybe the dumbest thing in film history. We need the sun to grow food. Robots can switch to high carbon energy sources and other means that turn the atmosphere toxic. That's a pre-GCSE (or post-Daily Mail) science failure in a sci-fi film.

The next problem is a basic failure in screenwriting in Regurgitated - Since Neo is so hugely powerful by the end of the first film, all sense of threat and peril is lost (the same issue that Superman writers keep trying to counter with different shades of Kryptonite). At no point does anything seem dangerous for anyone involved.

Logic is also overlooked in place of cool visuals - the fight against the endless agent smiths ends with Neo flying away... like he could have chosen to do at the start! So many things were drawn out for the sake of visual effects instead of story.

As for the architect scene, it's less problematic on the page, but not only kills the pacing of the film at that point, it lacks tension due to the delivery. It might have worked better with condescending explanations, though that would have made the pacing even worse.

I didn't mind the third one so much - the greater emphasis on the real world brought back some of the sense of danger and threat that number 2 lacked, but by that point I was thoroughly bored of the cod-philosophy and the characters were dull through all of the films, never really going beyond the level of archetypes.

What went wrong? Short answer - nearly everything.
There are one or two nice scenes in the sequels. I remember thinking the final battle in the rain was beautiful. But the first film was something new and used visuals never seen before to tell a great story. There was not a great story in the 2nd and 3rd films. The visuals in the 2nd film try to do too much and looked dodgy even at the time.
Like Episodes I-III the Matrix sequels only tarnish the great films that came before. It is much better to pretend they never happened.

"Jogging in place." Great term for all the unnecessary fight scenes.
Not mentioned in Reloaded: the unneeded fight between Neo and the Oracle's bodyguard/gatekeeper/whatever before he could meet up with her. An equally-matched, 5-minute kung fu choreographed "battle" that ended with a "okay, you can see her now".

I think now would be a good time to offer home editors a chance to merge both sequels into one cohesive movie -- an experiment to trim the fat, fights, and who-gives-a-crap-secondary-characters and make a true Matirx sequel.

Thinking about it, my issue with the Matrix sequels actually reflects the issues I often have with Doctor Who; you need to really *know* the rules of the universe a film is showing you to to believe that things are at stake. Whereas the first Matrix film was a rollicking action film with a lot of interesting, philosophical, yet still tangible concepts, the sequels simply became too abstract to really be able to sink your teeth into. Solid ideas became replaced by plot devices the "The Core" and "The Source", which were thrown around without any form, but still in a way which expected the viewer to really internalise what they meant in a truly plot-relevant way. They were unfocused, and simply became films of abstract, wishy-washy nonsense cut with some action sequences which were usually sub-par when compared with the first film.

The worst part of it, as this article touched on, was that it was still dressed up as clever. As a 14 year old watching them, I assumed it was just going over my head. Revisiting them more recently I still don't truly get what they were all about. I don't think The Wachowskis ever did either.

I think I love you for sharing that.

Thanks for your comment. Check out the credits/IMDB for Deus Ex Machina.

I'm puzzled by this review and many of the comments. The Matrix trilogy is about the futility of mankind, our self destructive nature. And the uncomfortable relationship mankind has with technology. The two will always be competing, especially if you take artificial intelligence to its logical conclusion - it will ask itself of its purpose.

The Matrix films are interesting science fiction based on this premise and people got too emotionally attached to the first Matrix film because it wasn't initially a huge hit. The self titled 'cool people' bored their friends about it and when it was a bigger hit due to their self righteous declarations (like those people who saw that band pre-mainstream global success) the sequels were easy to pour scolding scorn upon.

Admittedly it's not a great set of films, the first film is largely posturing nonsense with some new technical effects but the story is predictable. The second film builds up the silliness and the third rounds it all off nicely. I think theres a 3 hour film in there somewhere worth making.

I admire any film makers who get on with it and make their film without too much interference. The reason the films aren't liked by many is because the directors made the films they wanted and thats good. I don't want Hollywood to vanilla-ise everything to reach the wider audience. If the matrix is a bit crappy, it should be celebrated. A bit like the Star Wars Prequels. George Lucas made two terrible films in the style he wanted (the third prequel was splendid). But stand back and admire a film maker who made the films he wanted to. Enjoy their bad moments.

I'm the opposite I hated the battle for Zion, I found it incredibly boring but then again so was the rest of both films. I definitely agree with you Bad Boys 2 car chase was way better

I think more likely that both sequels were crap

I think we can expect news of a second trilogy (filmed back-to-back of course!) about 1 hour after the horrible opening box office numbers for Jupiter Ascending comes in.

I first heard about the Matrix from a mate who'd seen it on a trip to New York (this was back in the day when we got films a good bit after the US) and myself and my friends went and saw it at the old ABC on Tottenham Ct Rd. We were all blown away by it. The story was interesting, there was an element of Cronenberg body horror, the effects were incredible (leaving aside bullet time, how about the liquid warping of the building as the helicopter slams into it?), the action scenes were amazing and the whole thing was just so damned cool. We were all so charged by it that my housemate and I spent months afterwards having kung foo fights at any excuse on any big night out (always prefaced by the "come here" hand gesture, naturally). She once managed to kick me in the head in spite of being almost a foot shorter than I and having zero martial arts training, so dedicated were we to messing about a la Matrix that Summer. In fact, The Matrix was one of the first two films I bought on DVD (the other was Blade) and was one of the reasons I bought a DVD player. Suffice to say, I loved that film.
And then came the sequels. Reloaded had some cool moments (alluded to in the article) but was largely empty. Revolutions was utterly empty. Both turned the pseudo philisophy up at the expense of everything that was enjoyable about the first film. But there was worse to come. About a year or so after I saw Revolutions I decided to rewatch The Matrix. I lasted half an hour. All of a sudden, I couldn't bear to listen to one more word from Morpheus' mouth. I found the whole thing pretentious and dull. Keanu and Carrie Anne Moss were just shop model dummies. Everything was wrong. I have never watched it since. And that is why I truly hate the sequels. Not only were they apalling on their own merits, but they managed to ruin a film that I loved, or at least ruin my love for it. Say what you like about George Lucas and the prequels (which I think are terrible), but at least (thanks to the DVD versions of the original films) I can still enjoy the films I fell in love with all those years ago.

John Spartan, you are fined five credits for repeated violations of the verbal morality statute

I've not seen it myself, but a quick look at some of the youtube clips for the Raid 2 car chase, does show there was indeed a lorry involved followed by the splat of someones skull.

And now I really need to go see both Raid films :)

Like ^^

The bad CGI... I explain it to myself by thinking that the matrix's graphics card wasn't up to dealing with all the bonkers stuff that Neo and Smith could do that it wasn't really designed to show humans doing... so the matrix automatically scales back the frame rate / some other fancy computer term.... maybe I've thought about this too much...

... it's called like that in the Blu-ray menu and the soundtrack too

The quality of the CGI in that scene is down there with the Rock's Scorpion King at the end of the Mummy Returns.

I always remember thinking after the first film that Morpheous was going to be revealed as THE ONE and how ironic it would be as he has spent his life searching for THE ONE...Neo was just going to be a programme that didn't want the Matrix to exist! Thats how it played out in my head anyway...

... Best. Comment. Ever.

Reloaded is bloated with so much "Look what we can do with computers!" effects B.S. that I can't watch it now without laughing. Especially during the fight with the Smiths in the courtyard when you hear the bowling pin sound effect. That's the point where, on my initial watching of the film, I realized the plane had flown into the goddamn mountain. They had made a movie for 13 year-olds, story be damned.

The other thing that always bugged me about the sequels (and another parallel to the Star Wars prequels) was the terrible dialog. No one just delivered a line, everything was some profound statement about the Matrix that just bored the hell out of me. The Merovingian in particular sounded like Tarantino's attempt to script a sci-fi film.

Hahahaha..and you forgot to say that because it was Tuna, he piled on 3 stone between movie 1 and 3 !! haha

So, you admit it was tuna! You rebel scum.

The first Matrix film blew our minds. The following two sequels numbed them to sleep. Nuff said.

Everybody knows the best car chase is in Deathproof with Zoe Bell, if you haven't hanged yourself by that point. And we're paperless now, so either learn to use the seashells or swipe your card. Repeatedly.

Forget the sequels, the tie-ins, and the thankfully up to now unmentioned parodies (you're welcome), the best thing about the Matrix that was not in the Matrix is the Matrix level in Conker's Bad Fur Day. END OF DISCUSSION.

I love Reloaded. I think it’s the best sequel that I’ve ever seen: it
radically changes the meaning of the first film in a way that makes sense, and
makes it way richer than it would be without the sequels. It’s bloated, that’s
true, because the Wachowskis took the ‘world-building’ a bit too far, but the
story it tells is absolutely fantastic.

We leave the first film thinking it’s all good and over. It’s a perfect
story. But the events, as they are presented to us (and the humans within the
story) don’t really make sense. A prophecy? That’s a bit... supernatural. And
Neo resurrecting? Because of a kiss? Nonsense! But it’s a great story...

Of course, these problems are only evident after you’ve seen the second
film and understood what the Architect was talking about (by the way, I love
that character and the way he talks: he is a machine, cold and logical; it
wouldn’t make any sense for him to speak like a human). Neo is a puppet needed
by the machines to keep things in order. He cannot die until he has been given
the choice to return to the source or not. He has to be kept alive at all
costs: the Matrix itself resurrects him at the end of the first film, and
that is also why he is given, you know, some ‘wifi’ powers, just in case something
goes really wrong in the real world.

He must be given a choice to return or not, because choice is what the
Matrix is built on. The Neos are manipulated to choose the reboot; the
manipulation is, we are given to understand, in part genetic, but they are also
manipulated by the Oracle. This time, however, the Oracle wants to change the
result of the game. It is revealed that she is responsible for this dangerous
pantomime: she was the program the Architect went for help to solve the
‘humans waking up’ problem; she, an ‘intuitive program’, was ideally suited for
the task; she studied humans, came to understand their psyche and that they
want to exist under the illusion of freedom (which for them means ‘choice’) and
used this knowledge to the machines’ advantage. But now, after five iterations
of the Matrix and much dealing with humans, she has begun to empathise with
them, and wants to help them. Everything that happens between Neo and Trinity
in the first film is a clever tactic used by the Oracle to make Neo ditch the
Architect’s plan to ‘save the humans’ at the end of Reloaded. The first Matrix,
as we see it, is the story she has always told humans, in fact a MYTH with
prophecies, oracles, heroes and grand finales: the illusions they need to go on.
And though it was always a misdirection for the humans, this time she has
turned it around, against her own lot, to help them. By making those two fall
in love.

It has been her game all along, from the very beginning of the first
film, which is not what we, the audience, first thought it was, but something
entirely different. And that is why, in my humble opinion, it is the best of
the trilogy. It changes everything.

In the first film, we get a very short glimpse of the Architect’s room,
just after Neo is arrested by Smith. The shot lasts a few seconds and nothing
is explained, but it is there. Smith shows, when talking to Morpheus at the
end, the first symptoms of what by the second film has become a maddening
obsession. And there is, if I remember correctly, a mention about Neo being the
sixth or fifth ‘One’ in one of the early drafts of the first film’s script.
These are things, I think, that point to the trilogy as being something
entirely planned from the very beginning.

This was too long. Sorry.

For me the bit when he flies at the end of the first one is where it all starts to go wrong. All the parts with him flying in the other movies. Fighting while flying just doesn't look cool. And the the stunning slo mo moves of the first which can be savoured are replaced with an overload as they try to go better with just sheer numbers of everything and it does work. By the time we are at Zion that has flying ships and robot armour but the ammo is delivered by shopping trolley I starting to think Chipher had the right idea and let the machines win in exchange for hanging out in the matrix being cool.

Hahaha!! Brilliant :)

The Now Playing Podcast gang recently did a retrospective on The Matrix movies. Its a top podcast well worth listening to.

Not too long; a good read. Good job.

Sorry, your memory of 1999 is not the same as mine. In the 1999 I lived in, the film was huge from day one.

Zion was another layer of Matrix. We never saw the real human world in any of the three films. It's the only explanation for Neo's powers outside of The Matrix and for Agent Smith's ability to leave it.

Still makes it a crap ending in my book.

Great article but did I read that your interpretation is that Zion was real and that it wasn't just a 2nd level of Matrix?

The sequels' biggest crimes are not featuring more of Monica Bellucci.

Brilliant article Mark. I loved 1, fell asleep during 2, and have only seen bits of 3 on telly, but that's enough for me really. So having it all laid out like that was fascinating. I may even go and look at the animated jobbies now!

You're right to a point - I haven't watched the first one all the way through for a long time (and I won't watch the other two). But for the first one - I jump through the movie now periodically "I know Kung Fu. Show Me". "Now do you believe?" "Guns - we need lots of guns" "Dodge this.". I go for the moments and enjoy them a LOT.

Neo vs. Seraph was, in my opinion the best fight of the movie, mostly because it was a straightforward 1-on-1 fight rather than Neo vs endless CGI Smith clones made of rubber.
I think my main beef of the sequels is how badly they lost focus as they tried to make the films too big and grandiose. The Matrix is easily the 'tightest' of the three, and all the better for it. I would also love to see an edited, stripped-down version of both films - all of the elements that made the Matrix awesome were there, but there was just far too much bullcrap piled on top :P

Not sure I buy the premise of this article. The thrill of The Matrix was in its set pieces, not its story or its cod-philosophy. Bar one or two sequences, the sequels forgot that.

In between meals, I drove a golf buggy around the sets with 4 huge baskets of sandwiches on the back, each one hand a sign stuck on, Veg, Chicken, Ham & Tuna. He was barking at his PA outside of makeup for some reason or another as I drove past and the PA gestured me to stop. He went straight for the basket of tuna and pulled one out, not my fault he couldnt read.
He was an arse, never mingled with the rest of the crew, Carrie Ann Moss used to eat with the rest of the troops, Keanu not so much but he had a special diet for the whole shoot to stick to, he literally ate nothing but egg white omelettes the whole production so I think he stayed away a lot because the food was pretty awesome and would have been to much temptation for him
It was a good experience overall, getting to see behind the scenes of how a big movie was made but a lot of people took themselves far too seriously on it, like they were curing cancer or something

"... but a lot of people took themselves far too seriously on it, like they were curing cancer or something."

And right there is the whole problem of the sequels in a nutshell...

Hmm. The Star Wars prequels fail in all sorts of spectacular ways but I would still say that thematically and - at least in terms of ambition - narratively they hold vastly more worth than the Matrix sequels. I remember seeing Reloaded on opening night at the the Odeon marble arch. The incredulous howls of derision were quite something.

This. Although I don't think it's entirely the fault of the sequels. The Matrix was very new and exciting at the time but has dated horribly. Beyond its technical innovations it's quite a poor and derivative film (and Fishburne is awful). I'll always remember the rush if the first viewing though.

Absolutely love the Animatrix, particularly the one were the lady is searching for her cat. Watched the whole thing, many many times.

All you really need to know about the Matrix is that everything is the Matrix. Just different layers of consciousness of it. This is why Neo is able to use his powers outside of the the first layer of the Matrix and he's the sixth version of the "One".

The reason the Architect speaks in that style is because he's a program. He's meant to sound like a flowchart.

Not sure I agree with that. When I first watched The Matrix, I found the story to be gripping - I couldn't turn away. Yes, the set-pieces were jaw-dropping and ground-breaking but without a good story, who cares? I think the sequels gave the answer: not many people.

I prefer Reloaded as well.

Different stokes and all that, but I watched the original a load of times during my student days, and would always fast-forward past the talky bits. I find (and found) the film's dabbling with Alice and Baudrillard a bit embarrassing. The foyer gunfight, not so much. :)

The first Matrix movie blew me way more than any other film before or since when I first watched it. The sequels are second only to episodes I-III as my biggest disappointments in cinema.

From the first film, a scene I remember loving when I first watched was the bit where Morpheus is on the phone to Neo and is guiding him through the office cubicles.

The philosophy I agree with. I was a student when it came out too and to watch now, that stuff is way too pretentious.

The part of the story that gripped me was the good old fashioned journey of Neo from loser to superhero. We've seen it thousands of times before but, when they're told in an original way, I still think the classic stories are the best.

But yep, fantastic set pieces. Best action opening to a movie ever? Very possibly.

Finally a
smart person!
The oracle has allowed Neo to choose, trusting her intuition and "hoping" or believing in 'inner
goodness of the human
being.Unfortunately be put in front of choices and independence do not like many humans .... it is hard and hurts ...
.. the first movie was so reassuring ...

I like your thinking here. But why MUST he be given a choice to return or not? Why do the machines keep wanting a reboot?

Smith mentions this in the first film and the Architect elaborates on the second: the machines built perfect worlds for the humans, but for some reason they kept waking up from them, and the systems crashed. The machines didn't understand why humans wouldn't want to be happy (and this is, also, why the Architect is so condescending to Neo: damn illogical humans!) The answer, found by the Oracle, was this: humans are able to detect, on a subconscious level, that they are being told to be happy. They will only feel comfortable in a simulation if they are able to make their own choices. The Architect learned the lesson and built the system entirely on choice. And the word 'entirely' is important. Since nothing else works, choice must be at the centre of everything regarding humans connected to the Matrix. Including the fail-safe device, which is the One. Inside the Matrix, every human makes their own decisions (unless overriden by an agent).

Despite the redesign, there remained a small group of people (believers, dreamers, idealists, non-conformers, the likes of Morpheus and his entire crew) who kept waking up. On the outside world, they built Zion and armed themselves. This was a problem for the machines, 'if left unchecked'.

The One, as a 'fail-safe', is then essential to the working of the Matrix. The machines cannot tell humans to remain within the system, but they can let them go away and then, when their number is about to become problematic in the real world, they can destroy Zion and make the One, by putting him in an impossible situation, choose what the machines want: to reboot the Matrix to start anew. This is, in essence, what should have happened in Reloaded.

So, when the number of humans in Zion reaches a certain number, the Oracle puts on a show: the prophecy, which is nothing but a control mechanism, a perfect myth that will give these dreamers and idealists (others are not important because the machines are not really worried about Zion) something to look for, a story in which she can directly participate, manipulating everyone as she sees fit (she is very good at that). She befriends her enemies and gives them what they were always hoping to find, a savior.

After the One is revealed and his true role revealed to him, Zion is destroyed. The One is given a choice (which the machines believe is not really a choice): you either give us the code you are carrying with you, or we kill your species. It's not even a choice: the humans in Zion don't stand a chance. The machines have made the One sensitive to the humans plight (I don't remember the exact quote but I remember it sounding as if it was something genetic) so that the idea of not choosing that never crosses their minds. But this time, it's different: the Oracle made Neo and Trinity fall in love. That makes Neo want to risk choosing the other option. In this way, the machines find themselves in a situation they had never planned for, and with the Smith situation going on, this lets Neo bargain for a truce and save Zion.

Really, there is A LOT going on in this film if you can get past the admittedly not-stellar dialogue and weird pacing. The first film, if you think about it, is a bit nonsensical by itself: how can a prophecy of this sort occur inside a computer program? How can Neo gain those powers within the Matrix if not allowed by the machines, who in effect are his gods as long as he is connected? The kiss at the end, again, is a case in point: his heart stops and then, with a kiss, he wakes up. Bit weird. We find it hard to accept that what we saw in the first film is not what we thought because it is such a perfect story... but that was the point! That's the Oracle's genius. She crafted a myth so good we, like Morpheus, are unwilling to look past its flaws and accept reality!

I guess if the Wachowskis chose to end the first film like that was because if the sequels didn't go ahead, nobody would have questioned anything (after all, it's a great story). But it is not perfectly coherent.

I'm going to stop now. Someday I'll have to write a book.

Exactly. In a movie magazine at the time there was an what if scenario with Smith as the real The One, awakened by Neo. It was an awesome idea, too, because it changed the good/bad balance. Still better with what they came up with in the end. A shame. And I really wouldn't mind a reboot, because they can do literally anything within the Matrix. So go on, Warner. Just don't let the Wachowskis do it. They blew their chance...

I don't think that the producers or the studio expected The Matrix to be the hit that is was. I don't really think they thought about the film in terms of sequels, or franchise terms. They had to come up with something so they did. I could be wrong because I don't really know, but it just seemed to me that The Matrix was supposed to be a stand alone film.

Maybe the drunk guy should be contracted to write a reboot? That's a story I would want to see. They could always employ a bucket handler so he can relieve himself at will? Let's face it I'm sure some writers/directors have done worse?

The part at the end of the first when he flies was awesome first time around. Unfortunately, the sequels do pretty much nothing with it that we haven't seen in countless superhero films.

Yep, my memory is the same as LeeJS. It was a massive hit immediately. It was a must-see movie.

I haven't seen it for a while. When did Agent Smith leave the Matrix?

Oh yeah!

Like a few others here I saw the original while I was under the recommended age and it blew me away, so naturally as an excitable teen I couldn't wait until the sequels. I remember seeing Reloaded and wondering what the Hell was going on with "that Colonel Sanders guy." Even watching it back now I can't wrap my head around that particular scene. And the less said about Enter the Matrix the better.

But while Reloaded is a bit of a mess, I agree that Revolutions isn't actually as bad as most people make out. It was a big, silly end to a big, silly set of sequels and the final battle with Smith reminded me of a live action (well, CGI) version of Dragonball Z.

The Animatrix was fantastic though. I'm a big fan of great animation though so it was right up my street. I loved Detective Story which featured a cameo from Trinity - it looked stunning and the story was pretty good too as a standalone short.

//"...but it immediately leaves you wondering where else there is to go."//

Which was satisfying and should have been left alone.

the cyber-crusty rave scene.... :-(

It's a good point but if we aren't making it up as we go along what are we doing? In Sci Fi I mean. Just curious as to your opinion.

I like this post thanks.

No, only that the series raises that question in the second film with Neo's powers in the real world and the notion that minds rejected simulations that were too good to be true, and just leaves it dangling in disinterest.

Some enterprising youngster on the internets made a fan edit where he stripped out all of the Zion scenes and kept only the sequel scenes that took place inside the Matrix. It's called The Matrix: De-Zioned, appropriately enough, and you might be able to find a torrent. This was a few years ago, and I never watched it, but I might have to dig it up and give it a go. In Reloaded we waste a good hour amongst the cave monkeys before we get back into the simulation... that hour of needless exposition is certainly one place to cut the fat!

Excellent interpretation of the Oracle's role! I was not really fond of that character initially, believing her to be a new-agey expositionary foil to Neo as he figured out what he can do and what he needed to do. But this is great, sheds light on some aspects I've overlooked. Thanks!

You know over time that short "Beyond" has become my favorite. It's simple yet has a lot of subtle grace to it. Watching the bonus features on Animatrix, if I remember correctly, surprisingly enough that one took the longest to make...the director is a bit of a perfectionist. Bit it was worth it IMHO.

It was a huge risk because prior to the Matrix the Wachowskis had only made one indie film prior to that, "Bound." What was cool about the late 90's though was that some really brilliant movies got greenlighted that would never be made today, rejected out of hand as not a box office sure thing (1999 also saw Fight Club and Being John Malcovich). So yeah it was a big risk but it payed off.

This is a very insightful and thoughtful article, thank you for it. The main problem I have with viewing The Matrix as the be all and end all, the movie that many hold as exclusively canon while rejecting the sequels and everything else in the franchise; is that it is a very Manichean, binary, simplistic black & white film. Humans = Good, Machines = Evil; end of discussion.

What I admire about the sequels, the Animatrix, the comics, and even the games to a lesser extent (The Matrix Online especially); is that they all attempt (to varying degrees of success) to say, hey. wait a minute, maybe there's something going on beyond that simple good vs evil duality. Second Renaissance articulates this really well, as does Matriculated.

The best part of Reloaded IMHO is the shattering of this simple duality. We see that there are independent sentient beings that are neither human, nor machine, only existing within the Matrix. Where would they fit in the Humans=Good, Machines=Evil spectrum? Seraph, the Merovingian, Persephone, the Keymaker, Sati...all don't neatly fit into simple categorization like the Agents of the first Matrix do.

We all know that the sequels could have used some seriously improved editing but I'm glad the author has taken this topic on and given it another look, ten years after Reloaded & Revs.

When asking the question as to how the Wachowski's got it so right in the original film and arguably got it so wrong on many levels in the sequels, one has to understand the context of the two differing development periods of the 1999 film and the sequels.

The original film is such a near-perfect film that is remarkably tight and concise with not a shot, line, or scene wasted because the Wachowski's had time to fully develop and flesh out their ideas for it, they went through a full seventeen drafts of the script to get the eventual draft used during production, plus they had the entire film storyboarded out in advance down to the last shot. It's also worth mentioning that the Wachowski's original intent was to make the film more open-ended to essentially lead into the sequels they hoped to make, and also to make the film much more ambiguous as to why the Machines keep humans in the Matrix, but Warner Bros nixed both notions, insisting on both the film being more conclusive in it's ending as well as insisting that the film spell out the reason for Machines keeping humans in the artificial simulation that is the Matrix.

By contrast, the sequels' development period was considerably shorter, with only two years between the release of the first film and cameras rolling on the sequels; that's two years to not only write and prep two movies, but also to develop (and in some instances, actually write) the Animatrix shorts, the video game, and the comic books. In addition to the time factor, the Wachowski's were given complete creative control over every aspect of the whole sequels enterprise with a culture of total deference aiding and abetting their every whim, no matter how misguided (hello Zion rave!), to put it in a simple soundbite, the problem with the sequels was too much money, too much power, too much of everything, except of course too little restraint... and the results spoke for themselves.

The sequels have some genuine artistic merit, do we just summarily dismiss them because they fail to match the original film (and that's putting it politely)? 'Reloaded' is the more troublesome of the two films, it clearly needs some major tightening up in the editing (the aforementioned Zion rave, the orgasmo-cake, and the bathroom kiss scenes should all been cut wholesale from the film), and the story should not have been diffused across spin-off mediums like the video game (although the Final Flight of the Osiris short is a legitimate prologue), whilst editor Zach Staenberg has admitted that whole shots had to be summarily dropped from 'Revolutions' because they weren't able to finish them on time prior to the release date, although why they didn't finish them and add them for the subsequent DVD release is anyone's guess.

In closing, the first film is nigh-on flawless whilst the sequels are very, very flawed indeed, it's up to the audience to choose whether to watch them as a collective whole or just stick with the original film, in the final analysis, it all comes down to choice... essentially mirroring the over-arching theme of the entire trilogy, how ironic!

I was always partial to the carchase in that clint eastwood movie where the toy car with the bomb chases them all over the hills of san Francisco.

I think the film metaphor they were going for was diplomacy not utter destruction

Audience problem too...taking it way too seriously

To be fair, it was the audience claiming intelligence. I remember three blockbuster popcorn movies with some evocative moments, lots of action and visual splendour and the stoners equivalent to neat ideas to drift through without taxing the brain

Which is admirable but doesn't end the franchise in any way! They're machines! They detonated a nuclear bomb in New York - why would they suddenly develop of conscience and let those people who wanted to leave the Matrix, leave?

I should have clarified, because that and blues brothers and other old movies were awesome... I meant in more modern cinema. It's like 2 different categories, and today's movies with all their CGI can't hold a candle to the oldies but goodies. BUT, Tarantino, being the uber movie buff that he is, was paying direct homage to em with the "ship's mast" chase, to amazing effect.

i really liked the ridiculousness of the sequels - right up to the ironic scene of a blind neo not being able to see the sun and then dying a messiah's death. but i also thought of the first matrix (though a great film) of having a run-of-the-mill scifi stoy and being ham-fisted when it came to philosophy.

Yeah I think this article sums it up - the first film is as tightly constructed as a swiss watch. It has the perfect balance of high-concept, if derivative, sci-fi themes, visual wonder, style and brainless, bonkers action.

The sequels just feel like a mess in a way I can't quite articulate, and ultimately I think I just have to put it down to them being too complicated and too convoluted to digest.

It doesn't help that there are so many new characters introduced, none of whom are particularly interesting, and all of whom talk in such a needlessly verbose way that borders on self-parody and makes it hard to care about anything they are doing or saying.

There are some really quite neat ideas in there that expand the scope of the previous film and add some interesting developments, like the concept of a subculture of rogue sentient programs that exist within the Matrix, all with their own agendas, but the way the story expands in other ways (the notion of different versions of the Matrix with the whole game being rigged and Neo getting powers in the real world) for me just stretches things too far and gets too far away from the simplicity of the original film. Another, admittedly subjective, thing was the portrayal of Zion, the last human city. It wasn't what I imagined when I saw the original film, and I just didn't like it. A perfect example of the problem with sequels/prequels in general - some things are just best left to the imagination.

The story just feels really convoluted and the way both films are set during such a short time period (48hrs?) makes them feel really constrained a small-scale when I had expected something epic. Also, less said about the cringeworthy rave/sex scenes the better, and the much-hyped 'Burly Brawl' (Neo vs 100 Smiths) scene was awful cgi excess that looked far worse than anything in the original, and I can distinctly remember remarking on how awful it looked even at the time.

I adored the first film when it was released, and I remember the wait for the sequels (4 years) seemed to drag on for an eternity. It says a lot that after all that buildup and expectation, I actually FELL ASLEEP during Reloaded in the cinema!

The filmmakers were quite keen to name-drop Beaudrillard so it wasn't just the audience. I guess that is why it shouldn't have been a surprise when the 2nd and 3rd films became such a bloated mess

IGreat points. However, why does he need to go back to the source? That's what I never understood. And I mean that as a choice. If that's where he had to go why not say, the path of the one is to go to the source? Rather than make it seem like a choice.

i found revolutions epic, drugs were better those days. I even went to a juno reactor concert.

I think the sequels and consequently the whole trilogy is really underrated.

The best thing about the Matrix sequels is the MTV awards spoof with Sean William Scott, and Will Ferrell playing the architect.

Great assessment for a frustrating triology. The original Matrix stands up as one of the best movies ever made, and not just sci-fi, but as mind-blowingly fantastic as that movie was, the uninspired and bloated sequels were the opposite. The only other franchise I can aptly compare it too are the first three Pirates of the Carribean movies, wherew the first was an instantly classic and the second merely a plot device to set up the third movie, though in this case, I thought Pirates 3 was pretty great compared to the awful and boring Pirates, with the third Matrix sequel being similiarly superior to the second (Pirates 4 meanwhile was just atrocious and the worst of the bunch).

I especially agree with this articles assessment of the wholly pointless and pathetic fight scenes in Reloaded, which were presented without purpose or flair. I'll never forget the worst offender when Neo and the gang are trying to rescue the Keymaster guy and Neo has to fight "vampires" and such who look like stock bad guys from a C-list 80's movie. The only memorable thing about that long, drawn out fight was how instantly forgettable it was (while I remember most of the fights in the original, including the Morphues training montage), and though I remember a handful of other fights in that movie, I cannot for the life of me remember a single thing about any of them.

The worst thing you can say about the Matrix prequels is both how quickly the public forgot about them, and how we've never asked to revisit this world despite the myriad of questions that still could and should be answered. Despite my feelings towards the sequels, I would relish the chance to watch another Matrix movie, and only hope that it returns to the feel of the stellar original.

I 100% agree with pretty much everything you said, especially the part about Zion. For some reason, when I first heard about the sequels and how Zion would be a major location, I was more excited about this aspect than anything else. It was extrememly soul-crushing to see the end result, and to not only NOT care about the free humans and their city, but not care if they succeed or fail. I found the "renegade" programs to be expontentially more interesting than any of the humans, and those that I did care about from the first film seemed to be one-note in the sequels. Add to that the shoe-horning of Agent Smith into the movies while taking away EVERYTHING that made him such a cool and compelling villain, and add the horrendous 100 Smith fight scene where Neo is up and down so much that when he "finally gets the REAL upper hand", it falls flat (I stilll can't remember what it was that let him win out, it was so convoluted).

Also, I can't be sure, but I think Revolutions kicked of the eternally annoying trend of putting ALL climatic CGI battle scenes for action/sci-fi/comic book movies at night and in the rain. While the one shot of Neo punching Smith in the air so hard that the rain cretes a temporary bubble was cool once, it has spawned a million copycats that don't always realize filming scenes like this in the light of day is more rewarding (ie, The Avengers epic NY battle).

The problem with the sequels is NOT the ambigous nature of the programs/machines and how some of them are "good"; it's how all of those ideas were more or less an afterthought in favor of superfluous five to twenty minute fight scenes that weren't that spectacular and added nothing to the plot. I would have loved to have spent more than a few minutes with the Indian girl program and her family that Neo meets at the waystation, and it would have been awesome to see a program like Seraph actually fight alongside Neo and hte humans instead of fighting "around" them.

Doesn't he basically just run away? Hardly a thrilling conclusion to an epic set piece.

Agree about Smith - can understand why they did it (the narrative needed a credible threat now that Neo was basically Superman) but must admit I was a little disappointed to see him back, great as he was in film 1.

I'll never understand why someone decided it would be a good idea to dub over the sound of bowling pins when Neo knocks a load of Agent Smiths over - which to me is as incongruous and suspense-killing as Chewie's Tarzan cry in Return of the Jedi!

Sometimes when I watch a movie or TV show I will wish I was the editor and that 1 thing could be changed to give a much bigger impact to a moment in the story. In Matrix Reloaded this happened when Neo flew from the balcony of the monastery in Tibet or wherever it was and then we cut to Morpheus having that kick ass fight on the freeway. In the released version, we cut away from him a couple of times to see Neo getting closer and closer. In my version, there would be no cutting away, in the 15-20 minutes that the freeway fight covers the viewer would be allowed to forget about Neo so that the moment when Morpheus jumps off the truck in desperation and Neo swoops down and catches him in literally the nick of time would have a much bigger impact.

Also regarding 2nd Renaissance, while the "rape" scene of the female robot is definitely disturbing, the scene that always sticks in my mind is the one of the human prisoners being connected to an early power generation system, stacked up in booths several levels high and a dozen or so across. This is clearly before any kind of Matrix too, because they are aware of where they are and are screaming in pain and despair.

The Matrix 2 and 3 were the films that I wanted to see. The first film for me was the simple old introducing the characters and setting the scene sort of thing. The actual story for me was everything else that followed and Reloaded and Revolutions were great, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the Animatrix but just in the same way as Halo: Legends. The Matrix 2 and 3 was like wiping my arse with silk, I love it.

I was almost disappointed when I saw this article on the DoG homepage, even though it's on a subject that was once very close to my heart, because I knew it would mean that I'd have to go back and feel that disappointment again, and then have to write a ludicrously over-long comment about it.

This article is really good. But for me, the problem with the sequels was that the Wachowski brothers had so many ideas, many of them not very good, and tried to cram every single one of them into the movies. They just felt like a collection of cool (and not-so-cool) ideas thrown together. A mysterious underground railway station? Cool! The point? Um... The Merovingian - what a cool name, thanks History! Now, what can he do..?

I'd never really considered the fact that the ending to the first movie (which was as perfect as you described) set them up for trouble when making sequels. But surely they could still have done better. Maybe Warner Bros. should have insisted they add a top-notch screenwriter to their roster to help tighten things up, but I guess after the success of the first movie they could do whatever they wanted.

The fact is, the sequels go on and on and on, lurching from impressive-but-pointless set pieces (e.g. highway chase) to cringingly un-cool moments (Zion rave), with no clear direction. As your article states, vitally important pieces of exposition, like the fact that the Oracle is a program, or that this is the sixth iteration of the Matrix, are delivered like throw-away lines, leaving you sitting there thinking "Wait... what?!" and not having time to process them. And ultimately, when the final scene of The Matrix Revolutions ended, with that little girl and the Oracle on the bench, I was just so baffled and confused that I couldn't even feel disappointed. I was just... bemused. I remember going home right afterwards and typing up on some Internet forum (the Internet was much younger then) my interpretation of what it all meant, along with the innumerable questions still outstanding in my head. That post garnered a lot of very long, thoughtful replies from people as frustrated and confused as myself trying to work it all out, as if there was an explanation if we just thought about it hard enough.

It was a feeling very similar to the one I felt years later after watching the show finale of Lost. Except, with The Matrix Trilogy, it was worse.

You've blown my mind man. And you should write a book. And sorry for the further stupid questions, but what code is he carrying and why is he given it by the machines. Why not the machines initiate the reboot themselves?

There are no stupid questions! The Architect says that Neo carries a code that has to be inserted into the Matrix to prevent it from crashing and killing everyone connected to it (and probably also to allow the creation of the next Neo). We are given to understand then that once the One leaves the Matrix, a process of self-destruction begins that will only stop with his return. Risky, but again, this is a way of making sure that he acts as the machines want. Once the decision to destroy Zion is made and the One is no longer needed, he has to disappear. This is imperative. Remember that he has been given powers in the real world: we don't know the extent of these abilities, but we see in Revolutions that they are quite powerful. Clearly he cannot be left to his own devices, and that is why he is guided to the Architect and allowed to choose between returning to (and disappearing into) the Matrix or seeing the entire human race die. The machines never suspected that circumstances could ever arise that would make Neo choose not to return... but the Oracle, she is a tricky lady. I mean, program.

But, and not to be negative, wasn't it all for nothing. He still ended up going back. Even with her tricks. Is it the only main difference that this time he saved Zion? He and Trinity both ended up dying anyway.

Quite frankly, these sequels are the only place The Matrix could go. It's a metaphor for today's world - you can't hope to smash the system, you can only reform it by sacrifice. All the points you raised against the Architect scene, are the defining moments of the whole trilogy for me. The Architect reveals Neo was being manipulated all along - of course he was! Of course we all are. The Oracle was a program of the machine world - of course she was! Who did you think she would be? She was certainly not human. And yet she WAS fighting for a better world for both machines and humans, because as she rightly says, the only way we can get there is together. And that's EXACTLY what certain powers-that-be forget, in their rush to depopulate, to control and to gain hegemony over us all. We are all in this together - there is no binary us and them, no matter how much some would like to think so. The system is ONE - we are all in symbiosis with each other. One love, one life.

But it wasn't for nothing: yes, Neo and Trinity died, but at least they were able (with the Oracle's help) to force the machines into a truce that effectively stops the war and lets those who wake up inside the Matrix get out without being hunted. It's not a perfect ending nor a grand finale, but a compromise that makes total sense in the context of the trilogy (which, especially in the second and third movies, does a lot to present this as something entirely different from the humans-are-good-machines-are-bad situation that one would expect to find in a big & loud Hollywood blockbuster).

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