Trilogy Thursday: The Matrix
Today being Thursday, Max over at Impassioned Cinema hosts another edition of his awesome segment entitled “Trilogy Thursday” in which, along with someone else, he takes a look at a movie trilogy. This week, he once again asked me to contribute as we take a look at one of the trilogies that spawned from one of the greatest sci-fi flicks of all time: The Matrix.
Max: A small action film was release in March 1999, called The Matrix. The Wachowski siblings decided to create a future that had humans living in a simulated reality because of their robotics overlords. The franchise would go on to spawn video games, comic books, anime adaptations, and two sequels.
No Lieutenant your men are already dead. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is trying to make contact with someone, but a quasi-antivirus program known as Agents has traced her. They want to delete her presence from the Matrix. A stylish action sequence featuring jumps off the wall and between buildings, the leather clad Trinity sets the pace from the rest of this stunning Science-Fiction classic.
The last surviving humans in the war against the machines are trying to find ‘The One’ that will secure their existence. Computer Programmer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is the answer to their prayers. Initially rejecting the help of the human’s leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), three Agents appear and try to stop Anderson from collaborating. Eventually Anderson is convinced to join these forces in the war against the machines.
What Anderson never imagined was that he would have to be reborn in the real world. Machines are harvesting humans for energy and using the Matrix to stimulate their minds. Anderson, now known as Neo, must work with his new teammates to win the war against the machines for their freedom.
To say I was blown away the first time I saw The Matrix would be a vast understatement. I was only fourteen years old the first time I saw the movie and it was on a VHS tape (one of the last). Since my first time watching the movie I can recite countless passages of dialog and massive amounts of acute details from the movie. One of my favorites is reciting the entire crew of the levitating ship called the Nebuchadnezzar.
With it’s incredible soundtrack and highly detailed world, The Matrix captivated audiences and has become one of the most revered Science-Fiction movies ever created. The lobby-shooting scene would become iconic being used for countless sound demos in home theaters everywhere. The end of The Matrix leaves the picture wide open of a sequel and at the time I couldn’t wait.
T: Wow! Remember the first time you ever saw that opening sequence with Trinity up in the air all Karate Kid style? Neo’s “Whoa” was the expression on everyone’s face seeing that scene…including mine! As that scene played out it became very evident that The Matrix was a film unlike any other. The Wachowski brothers (brothers at-the-time, now siblings), presented one of the greatest sci-fi films ever.
Running around in tight leather that most rockstars of the 80′s would envy, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss star in this groundbreaking film that would spark a new love for leather, sunglasses, sound systems, slow motion, and college classes (as some were created that revolved completely around the movie’s religious and philosophical implications/allegories). While this film reminded us just how good of an actor Laurence Fishburne could be, it really helped expand the talented Hugo Weaving’s career.
With iconic action sequences, sci-fi innovations, and a unique spin on the question of reality, The Matrix delivered with a serious and darker tone that truly added to this fantastic film of the late 90′s. I was late to so many classes in high school due to watching this on my “extended” lunch break! Talk about re-watch value!
What worked? Its highly original take on a not so original idea in movies! The character and plot development along with the style of fighting and filming used combined to make it a super awesome film deserving of better sequels than it got. When The Matrix ended, I remember sitting there wondering? “What’s Next?! I bet it will be EPIC!”
Well…”epic” is not quite the word I would use in describing the following addition and conclusion to the story.
The Matrix Reloaded
Max: The widely anticipated sequel to The Matrix, entitled Matrix Reloaded, released on May 15th 2003. It was part of two sequels to The Matrix that were shot back-to-back. I was invited to a screening of the film a few days earlier and I was beyond excited. I was about to see the sequel to my favorite film of all-time.
I’ll try my best to summarize the events of Matrix Reloaded without sounding like a mad man. The last human city, Zion, has announced that they are under attack from the machines. With the humans finding Neo, perhaps they were intimidated and felt that the time was right to strike.
Neo is told to meet the Oracle. The Oracle is part of the Matrix, but she is an exiled program. She instructs Neo on how to find the Keymaker. By achieving this, Neo is supposed to reboot the Matrix. Apparently there were previous versions of the Matrix and The One. Unless Neo returns to the Source to reboot theMatrix, the resulting crash will kill everyone meaning mankind’s extinction.
In his dreams, Neo can see Trinity’s eventual death. Instead of rebooting the Matrix he decides to save her instead. When she still dies, Neo uses his powers to remove the bullet that killed her and restart her heart. In the real world, Neo now has powers he can use to disable the machines, showing his powers as a true god.
That’s the gist of the important material in Matrix Reloaded. Obviously that’s the biggest problem in this movie and in Science-Fiction sequels in general. The sequels always feel like they have to get bigger. Adding more characters and venues really hurt Matrix Reloaded. The fact that most of these new additions weren’t compelling was the icing on the cake.
In order to really understand a lot of the events in Matrix Reloaded, a viewing of the anime, The Animatrix, was really necessary. It fleshes out a lot of the backstory of the world and some of the characters that have roles in Matrix Reloaded were actually introduced in The Animatrix. It’s a shame that the Wachowski’s thought it was vital to watch a series of anime related shorts to be up-to-date with their Science-Fiction world.
Matrix Reloaded left me very deflated. I really wanted to love the film as much as the first. If I had to pick out the worst scene in the movie it would have to be the sex/rave sequence. While the intention to show the collaboration of the surviving humans against the possible future of an offspring between Neo and Trinity, it didn’t work very well. What the Matrix Reloaded still excelled in was fantastic fight sequences. Many of which still hold-up today. The fight sequence on the highway is probably the bright spot of the film and perhaps the entire franchise (yes it surpasses the fights in The Matrix). Nevertheless, I was disappointed by the film and held out hope that the finale would make up for it.
T: Four years later, the sequel to everyone’s favorite slo-mo Sci-Fi flick released in theaters. I remember standing in the line that wrapped all the way around the movie theater for a couple of hours just to buy a ticket to the first showing! Tons of us stood there getting to know one another and debate who was hotter in the first film: Trinity? or the Woman in the Red Dress! (If memory serves, Trinity won). With ticket finally purchased, we sat down to enjoy the continuation of the movie that defined so much of our movie taste during the last year of high school.
Sparking even more unanswered questions, The Matrix Reloaded is more of a parenthetical insert that bores more than thrills as a mainly useless stepping stone to the finale that occurs in the third installment of the series. Opening much like the first with a slo-mo sequence featuring Trinity, it looked to be almost as great as The Matrix. WRONG! With a great amount of promotion for the Cadillac CTS, The Matrix Reloadedis nothing but a busy and mainly forgetful messy attempt at keeping the hype and hope alive.
Much of it is unnecessary and full of philosophic reasoning and debate. While pretending that certain new characters are important, the most important parts of the film are in the first and last 20-30 minutes. We care very less when characters die in the sequel than we did in the first! Did anybody shed a tear when the guy with all the keys got lit up? But you almost did when Switch, Apoc, and Dozer were murdered. See? I rest my case! I mean, look at what this sequel offered by way of extra characters: a pair of creepy albino dreadlock wearing twins, a French power-hungry megalomaniac, a Jet-Li lookalike, etc. Yeeeaahh…pass.
So much could have been left out and replaced by much more pertinent sequences, or character development. I was disappointed to say the least. All The Matrix Reloaded did was introduce characters and drama, and induce further confusion. If I had to wait another four years to see the end, I for sure would be trading in my Zion Citizenship card for a Hogwarth’s Hall pass.
Fortunately, I only had to wait a few months for the conclusion to come to theaters (Whew, didn’t have to leave Zion)! One thing I can say good for Reloaded: it brought in some more great women to debate about while in line for tickets for The Matrix Revolutions!
The Matrix Revolutions
Max: Every beginning has an end. After the disappointment of Matrix Reloaded, I hoped the conclusion would makeup for it. Oh, how wrong I was. To this day, I don’t believe I’ve watched Matrix Revolutions more than twice. Whether because it solidified my disappointment or because it was just plain bad, Matrix Revolutions failed.
Sure the fight would reach its epic conclusion. Would the humans on Zion survive? Would Neo and Trinity make it to the core of the computers in the real world to solve the crisis? Would I learn to care about all these secondary characters?
No, no I wouldn’t. That’s the biggest problem with the sequels for me. I don’t care about the twins or the architect; all I want to do is follow Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus towards the epic fight against the machines. Don’t give me all these backup characters.
I know one of the problems was the untimely death of Aaliyah. After appearing in Romeo Must Die, she was starting to make a film career for herself. Unfortunately, her death led to a horrible miscasting of a crucial role in the sequels. What could’ve been someone to relate to during the massacre on Zion, was lost.
The other big WTF moment was when Spoilers* Trinity dies. She was the biggest plot point of the previous film and now they have to just unceremoniously kill her off. I understand why the plot needed that push, but couldn’t they have thought of something else.
The finale of the film lives up to the promise of a fight to end all fights. Agent Smith has taken over all the inhabitants in the Matrix and now Neo has to reboot the system from within. While religion always played a part in the Matrix trilogy of films, its presence in Matrix Revolutions cannot be ignored. Neo did become a god like figure and made the ultimate sacrifice for his people.
Matrix Revolutions failed to live up-to the lofty expectations. It never even came close to reaching them.
T: A little disgruntled at The Matrix Reloaded, I sat waiting for Revolutions to begin. The supposed epic conclusion finally here that picked up where the twisted 2nd installment ended. Knowing what to expect (a fight for Zion, a fight between Neo and Agent Smith) I waited to see just how Revolutions would get me there.
Fortunately, it did so pretty decently. Giving more of what the second was missing, there is more fighting, more slow-mo, a little bit better exposition on what was sloppily presented in Reloaded, and more of Trinity in leather!
Tying up several loose ends, The Matrix Revolutions is still not devoid of issues. All of the Architect/Oracle/Who is the Real Villain nonsense got a little too convoluted, and, though the action sequences were better, the acting was not. Most of the scenes in Zion did nothing except remind me that that wasn’t the story that mattered as much as Neo’s. From a pretty weaksauce pre-war pep talk, to Commander Lock’s tiresome feud with Morpheus and the council…there’s not much to enjoy in Zion at all except for when bullets are flying.
Probably the most philosophically debated installment of the three, I was surprised at all of the religious, social, political, and philosophical undertones permeated this action packed finale. But amid all of that, I find that I barely lost interest as the calm before the storm (Reloaded) prepared me for the mayhem and intrigue of the ensuing battles. The series ends with what we’ve been wanting to see since the end of the first film…an epic battle between the polar opposite opposing sides Neo and Agent Smith (played brilliantly by Hugo Weaving). Satisfaction…to a degree.
Max: The Matrix is one of my favorite films of all-time. While my film tastes have changed over the years I will always come back and fully enjoy the first movie in the franchise. It’s amazing how much chemistry Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie Anne-Moss, and Hugo Weaving all have together. Although I highly anticipated the sequels, I can say now that they diminished the quality of the first film and I wish they didn’t exist. I don’t believe the Wachowski siblings ever imagined the success of their first film. It’s almost as if they had no direction where to go expect the most obvious. I hope that they can make another Sci-Fi masterpiece, but maybe they only have one up their sleeves.
The Matrix would go on to influence countless films and remains a fantastic film. The sequels not so much.
T: No matter how you choose to see the series: a story of love, of good vs evil, of humanity, of redemption -The Matrix started out as a good idea, faltered in the middle, but remembered where it came from to finish with a bang of a finale. The first is still the best. What the sequels lacked were epic original signature scenes like what the first one had. Being too busy trying to top what the first one did, there are no “I know kung fu” moments, or Neo-bending bullet dodging, or lobby shootout scenes, or disappearing mouth scenes, or red pill/blue pill moments, or “first time moments of awesome slow fighting scenes” that really made it uniquely awesome.
I do enjoy the series, but almost think it would have been better for it to remain a single film. No one remembers much at all from the sequels.
However, I still feel that The Matrix series would have been best served if, at the very end of it all, and I mean the VERY end, Neo wakes up out of the pink battery pod realizing that everything he just went through hadn’t happened yet. Looking at the screen he says “Whoa!” with that blank expression, fade to black, cue the music and the credits! Epic!
My take on the series: #1- The Matrix, #3- The Matrix Revolutions, and #4- The Matrix Reloaded (No #2, none of them are close enough on the “cool” scale to be #2).
Other Films in the Trilogy Thursday Series:
[Note from T: Thanks again to Max of Impassioned Cinema for inviting me to help out with Trilogy Thursday!]
Thanks for reading! Happy Watching!
-T, The Focused Filmographer