Mon. Jan 17th, 2022


Let me preface this article by saying I like The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but I don’t love them. This isn’t an article designed to convince you of their greatness or slap you in the face for “not getting them” as a lot of online fodder will suggest. Rather, I think the much-maligned sequels to 1999’s The Matrix are enjoyable blockbusters that, perhaps, get too much-undeserved hate tossed their way.

Understandable.

The Matrix, directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, took the world by storm with its wondrous visuals, kick-ass action, and mind-bending philosophy. The duo literally changed cinema overnight, reignited the action blockbuster, and turned Keanu Reeves into the modern-day, computerized equivalent of Jesus Christ. The Matrix went on to earn $463.5M at the worldwide box office — a huge chunk of change at the time for an R-rated film — on the back of stellar reviews (88% on RottenTomatoes) and ground-breaking, Academy Award-winning special effects.

In other words, this modestly priced action extravaganza had unwittingly spawned a franchise, which meant sequels and video game tie-ins were quickly put in motion.

Except, The Matrix didn’t really call for a sequel. By the film’s end, Neo’s journey has more or less concluded. He’s the prophesied One destined to usurp the machines and free humanity from bondage. He destroys Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and seemingly has full control of the titular Matrix, and even has the ability to fly.

As such, the Wachowski’s faced a herculean task: where do you take a story that, fundamentally, features a Christ-like figure who has already come into his own, and make it exciting for the general public and cultish followers of The Matrix? Their answer was to explore the very notion of the prophecy at the film’s core and evaluate the very notion of choice and free will. As we see in Reloaded, Neo chooses love over duty by rescuing Trinity, thus negating the system and setting in motion events that were not foretold.

Revolutions follows through with this by having Neo ultimately make the choice to sacrifice himself for the good of mankind and, consequently, the machines.

The end.

On paper, this probably sounded like a slam dunk. Rather than deliver what audiences expect — Neo kicking ass en route to saving the world — the Wachowski’s opted for something deeper, darker, and more perplexing. Neo does indeed go on a journey to save mankind, but his journey is wrought with pain, anguish, doubt, and, ultimately, death. And while the execution of these ideas leaves a lot to be desired, you can’t fault Lana and Lilly for trying something different.

The Zion Problem

Earlier this week I wrote a piece about why Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring remains the perfect introduction to Peter Jackson’s trilogy. A good chunk of the film’s first act is spent showing us why we should care about the upcoming battles and showdowns. In short, if the bad guys win, the beautiful green world of the Shire will give way to darkness, and all of those happy little Hobbits will end up suffering in bondage.

Simple.

Reloaded tries to do something similar by introducing audiences to the fabled Zion in its early moments … and the results are rather dull. Populated by flat, uninteresting characters who speak in riddles and wear the same matching sweaters, Zion, with its twisted metal jagged edges, looks like something out of a bad Star Trek episode.

Worse, no one really looks that miserable. In fact, take away the robot threat and everyone inside the city looks like healthy, happy individuals. They seem to eat well, have regular sex, adhere to a carefully formed government, practice religion, and, when they’re not enduring one of Morpheus’ silly monologues, they’re twerking like a pack of wild teenagers.

In short, these guys don’t look like they need to be saved. They’re having the time of their lives.

By contrast, look at this future scene in James Cameron’s The Terminator, which shows kids eating rats, hallways lined with corpses, and a genuinely terrifying situation for all involved.

In those brief moments with Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese, you fully understand why humanity must prevail. In Reloaded, we’re told humanity is on its last legs, but we don’t ever see it.

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When Zion was first mentioned in The Matrix, I imagined it would look similar to Cameron’s future, or, at the very least, look a little more famished. Hell, make it a military command center where survivors regroup to plan their next attack on the machines, rather than a haven for people to wait out some silly prophecy.

Show us the struggle!

Personally, I thought the ultimate battle should have been over control of the Matrix. Like, the real world is destroyed beyond repair and the only way humans can continue to exist is through machines. As such, Neo fights for the right to essentially serve as our god and protector; a messiah who will show us how to successfully function inside the constructs of a computer simulation – you know, as he promised at the end of the first movie?

In this scenario, machines and humans must coexist in order to survive. At the end of Revolutions, once Neo has given his life to the cause; we’re told that those who want to be freed will be allowed to do so. To what end? Imagine unplugging from the Matrix and seeing a world devoid of life, light, and hope. I’m betting most would make like Cypher and beg to go back into their computerized dreamworld.

The Matrix Rocks

So, what makes these movies watchable? Well, to put it mildly, the Matrix. Every scene inside of the Matrix is pretty awesome, at least from a visual level. The opening sequence of Reloaded kicks things off on a high note by having Trinity blow up some s—:

Then, moments later, we’re treated to everything we want out of these films: Neo, techno music, and kung-fu.



After all the Zion BS, Neo jumps back into the Matrix to visit the Oracle and ends up face-to-face with Agent Smith, leading to the fame Burly Brawl.

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A few thoughts about this sequence: First, it’s too long and rather pointless. Second, it’s still pretty cool to watch, wonky FX and all. The issue, like most of the action bits in Reloaded and Revolutions, is that this sequence adds nothing to the narrative, but mostly serves to jolt the audience awake after the sluggish first act.

Neo eventually does what any rational guy would do and pulls out, and our trio heads to a rendezvous with the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson). I actually like this scene and the way it demonstrates how certain human instincts (such as love and desire) are beyond our control. A woman eats a piece of cake and becomes aroused, the Merovingian cheats on his wife Persephone (Monica Bellucci) and causes her to become angry. Good stuff.

Of course, the film then proceeds to unleash its two big set pieces: the chateau fight and the legendary freeway chase, both of which look amazing even by today’s standards.

I’ve always loved the bit where Morpheus takes on the Twins. Everything from the music to the choreography, to the camera work, just does it for me.

But, again, the crown jewel to The Matrix Reloaded is the freeway chase. Sure, it goes on far too long and ends with that silly Morpheus fight atop a semi, but there’s so much to admire here on a visceral level. Really, the scene is more than worth the price of admission, and really one of the only reasons I’ve watched Reloaded as many times as I have:

Of course, after the action dies down, we’re thrust back into Wachowski philosophy. Neo learns that the One is nothing but another program designed to keep humans in check and chooses to go against the system to rescue Trinity.

Do we care? Not really.

In fact, I wager most people fully tapped out of Reloaded (and, consequently, The Matrix series altogether) about midway through the Architect’s wordy monologue and following Neo’s declaration that he loves Trinity so damned much.

After all the long-winded speeches, ambitious action sequences, and philosophical mumbo jumbo, the big revelation learned at the end of Reloaded is, wait for it, love conquers all. But we already knew that because that’s how the original Matrix ended … further demonstrating just how unnecessary these sequels really are.

Empty Revolutions

I won’t go too deep into the final chapter in The Matrix saga, suffice to say you could skip about 80-percent of it and end up with a much better film. Actually, I’ve seen fan edits that successfully combine both Reloaded and Revolutions into one 120-minute film. In nearly every case, the Battle for Zion bites the dust because it’s not essential to the plot. At all.

Yes, the battle itself looks amazing, aside from some wonky composition, but the battle for humanity has nothing to do with whether or not Zion can destroy the billions of robots pouring through its walls, or whether Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) can successfully navigate the intricate sewer systems and arrive quickly enough to use her EMP.

The only thing that matters in Revolutions is whether or not Neo beats Agent Smith. To that end, the final, rain-soaked bout between the two foes is awesome and appropriately spectacular; even if it is a little silly to see the battle for humanity hinge on a kung-fu fight.



The final bout serves as the one and only reason to watch Revolutions. You can skip the pointless Train Man bit, leap past all the silly Smith-as-Bane nonsense, and jump right over that beautifully rendered middle action sequence; or you can choose to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

As they say, the choice is up to you.

Are The Matrix sequels disappointing? Absolutely. Are they mostly hollow remakes of the original? Yup. Is anything novel revealed in their bloated runtimes? Not really. Are they needlessly long-winded like this article? Yes. Are they still fun to watch? Yes! Will I rush out to see the new film, The Matrix Resurrections? Without a doubt.

Why?

Because, after all the letdown, I still believe in Neo.

By admin