Very few films have etched a place in cinematic history like The Matrix. The Wachowski’s dystopian flick burst onto the scene in 1999 and had everyone rethinking their existence. What if the world we’re living is just a computer simulation designed to keep us in oblivion? It’s a rather negative and cynical way of looking at life, but The Matrix birthed those questions within us.
Given the massive success the film enjoyed along with its cultural impact, two sequels were greenlit. The Wachowski’s brought back the whole crew — Neo, Trinity and Morpheus — along with a whole new set of characters. But by the time Revolutions’ credits finished rolling, the trilogy was deemed a disappointment. Sure, the sequels have their great moments, but the whole plot and the convoluted expansion of the universe left most fans with more questions than answers. We’re here to look at some of the most glaring mistakes of the sequels that ultimately brought down the once promising trilogy.
This list should be prefaced with a spoiler alert. The opinions of the list aren’t necessarily shared by every fan of the films, but what can’t be ignored is that the trilogy failed to continue its momentum established by the first film. Here's Why The Matrix Sequels Ruined The Franchise.
11 Blinding Neo
One of the main challenges for writers of blockbuster movies is to make their protagonist heroes more human. Sure, a character like Neo can fly, avoid bullets, and has other god-like powers, but there’s no sense of urgency when he fights enemies if he can’t be hurt. That was one of the best aspects of the first film — the danger of the almost invincible Agents. It was a tense moment whenever one of the primary characters ran away from an Agent, much less fight one. The Wachowskis failed to establish that in Reloaded, but gave a half-hearted effort in Revolutions with the decision to blind Neo.
There was a scene in the Reloaded where Neo is hurt by using his powers against Sentinels and he is subsequently tossed into a coma that leads to a run-in with the Trainman. Even with this plot thread, audiences never feel like Neo is in imminent danger, but when he is blinded, his skill set is obviously hindered. But what should have humanized Neo more only served as a reason to idolize him more, by giving him the power to see in Matrix-vision. When he activates this new skill, he sees past Bane’s mortal boy and into his true self, Agent Smith. In the end, it was just a needless deviation of the plot, as hurting Neo didn’t serve as an obstacle in stopping Smith.
10 Wasting Promising Characters
One of the best parts of The Matrix was its introduction of complex and intriguing characters. The mystery of Morpheus and the confusion of Neo added to the impact of the movie. So, giving the Wachowskis two more opportunities to recreate this should have delivered more of the same. It didn’t, and that wasn’t for lack of trying. Many characters that possessed promisingly intriguing traits weren’t quite fleshed out as much as we would have liked, and were thus wasted with weak development. A prime example of this are the Twins.
The deadly two assassins possess powers which should give Neo a run for his money, yet they never once even exchange a punch. Instead, their badass vapor-dispersing skills are relegated to second fiddle being tasked with taking down Trinity and Morpheus, not the Chosen One. We're not saying Morpheus or Trinity aren't skilled, but given the opportunity to present Neo with a new challenge, they instead give that challenge to someone else and force feed his beef with Agent Smith down our throat — something we had already seen before.
9 Trinity Dies
The act of killing off a character has long been a card up the sleeve of directors to create emotion in a film. If done correctly, it can serve as a unifying event in the film’s plot and raising the climax. If done incorrectly, it just brings down the movie altogether. That latter was the case in The Matrix Revolutions, when the Wachowskis decided to kill off Trinity for no apparent reason.
The death just felt as though the Wachowskis were trying to pull at our heartstrings for a few cheap tears. The timing of it also doesn’t help. Neo has already reached the Machine City; why not wait for the death until Neo completes his fight with Smith or something else? It does nothing to move the plot forward or heighten the crescendoing plot threads. It’s just a minor speed bump rather than a real obstacle, thus relegating the death into the realm of meaninglessness.
8 The Burly Brawl Scene
The Matrix sequels cannot be criticized for their action. Given the lofty standards left behind by the innovation of Bullet Time, there was a lot of pressure to top that scene. The Wachowskis came up with the idea for a battle between Neo and hundreds of Smiths that would serve as the proclamation for the movies. How awesome is that idea? On paper, it seems like an epic scene. Unfortunately, the vision proved to be too grand -- at least for the technology available at the time.
Neo and Agent Smith’s hundreds of doubles were all CGI-rendered, but what hurt the scene was their terrible creation, delivering a rubbery and off-colored texture that stood out like a sore thumb. The scenes where the human actors are fighting edited with the CGI figures hurts the momentum of the scene and takes the viewer out of the experience. The whole spectacle is ruined by how awful the visual effects are. As an idea, it could be argued that it actually topped the Bullet Time scenes from the first movie; in implementation, it fell disappointingly, even hilariously, short.
7 Incorporating the City of Zion
Returning to the Matrix with the original characters seemed like a great idea when it was first introduced. Who wouldn't want another adventure with Neo and the crew? The Wachowskis had an amazing opportunity to capitalize on this anticipation, but what they delivered was a lot of backstory with a trip inside Zion. Yeah, that’s exactly what we want out of an action movie: more exposition.
We understand the city of Zion is important to the original idea of the Matrix, but that doesn't mean you need to take us there for two sequels and introduce a whole new cast of characters we know nothing about -- and that the Wachowskis did nothing to make us care about. They’re just there as filler to move along the narrative with one-dimensional characters, greatly hindering the overall plot. Even if they couldn’t avoid returning to Zion, they should have at least still kept the cast of characters down, but they didn’t.
6 The Exclusion of Agents
In the first Matrix, the overarching antagonists are the Agents. They’re menacing programs whose sole purpose is to keep other programs in the Matrix in line. They lend menacing backdrop and create a striking dichotomy between the good guys and the bad guys. It would seem obvious that these characters should be an integral aspect of the sequels. They were not. For some reason, the Wachowskis took one of the best aspects of the first movie and sidelined it almost entirely.
The Agents do show up the movies, but they end up being forgotten imbeciles. It makes you wonder how they were ever deemed dangerous to begin with; they pose absolutely no threat. Promoting Smith to full-time antagonist was a smart move, as someone needs to be Neo’s equal, but don’t bypass a great aspect of the series for one single rogue agent. Instead, other useless antagonists are introduced that don’t create the same level of tension as the Agents.
5 Neo's Ability to Use Powers in Outside of Matrix
Probably the defining moment in The Matrix Reloaded was the revelation that Neo could somehow use his powers in the real world. The discovery takes place at the end of the movie, when Neo and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar are escaping Sentinels. Neo raises his hand and stops one right in its tracks. Unfortunately, doing so sends him into a coma. Quite awesome right — he’s the One in the real world and in the Matrix.
This seems like a gold mine for the Wachowskis to dive into, but they only return to it as a sidenote. What’s the point of revealing the fact that Neo can disable machines -- which by any standard assumption means he can actually stop machines themselves -- why then do the Wachowskis throw the full antagonist duties to Smith in the Matrix and make the machines allies to the humans? It just ends up being unimportant exposition that doesn’t really enhance the plot, but it feels like it should be much more important.
4 Too Many Characters
The expansion and lamented return to Zion created the avenue to introduce a lot of new characters. The expected troupe of characters returned: Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, Agent Smith and the Oracle, but then the cast got out of control. The exposition of Zion and introduction of ships other than the Nebuchadnezzar was always going to expand the cast, but it went overboard quickly. Some of the new faces include Link, Commander Lock, Niobe, Seraph, The Merovingian, Persephone, The Keymaker, the Twins, Bane and The Architect. Is your head spinning yet?
Introducing a large cast isn’t unheard of or pointless — films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy did it masterfully — but The Matrix sequels didn’t. The previous point of wasting characters comes into play here as well, as the Wachowskis inserted characters that we are meant to care for, but in the end, their characters are so underdeveloped, we don’t even remember who they are. Instead of just having one set of bad guys (the Agents) you get Smith, Bane, The Merovingian, the Twins, the Trainman, the Machines and the Agents. It becomes so convoluted that you quickly lose the sense of intimate danger present in the first film when it was just one ship and one crew against the Sentinels and deranged Agents.
3 Agent Smith Becomes the Primary Antagonist
Admittedly, the Matrix sequels are filled with a wide arrange of baddies that stand in the way of Neo’s ultimate quest. Some are more worthy than others, but they all are unique in their own way. But a familiar foe ends up being the primary antagonist that drives the conflict throughout the movies: Agent Smith. The rogue program returns with the ability to duplicate himself and a new resolve to destroy Neo and the Matrix.
Expanding a character like Agent Smith into full-time antagonist duties seems like a great idea, but the implementation wasn’t done correctly. This has nothing to do with Hugo Weaving’s performance, whose delivery of the line “Mr. Anderson” is pure awesomeness every single time, but his character was undercut by the sheer number of replicants. We're not ever entirely sure which of these baddies we should be focused on (we're not really expected to focus on all of them, are we?).
All along we’re led to believe that it’s the Machines that are the source of all the conflict in the real world, and the idea is expanded upon in the movies, but by the climax of Revolutions, the Machines make nice with the humans to stop Agent Smith and his army of twins. Undercutting a worthy villain with ten minor ones isn’t the best way to build up the conflict in the plot.
2 The Ending
Neo’s journey finally concluded when he went head to head with Agent Smith in a rain-stricken, apocalyptic Matrix. Smith has overtaken every other person inside and he’s set his sight on Neo. To make things short: they fight, Smith kills Neo, but he doesn’t really, Neo destroys Smith, Machines follow up on promise to spare Zion, the end. It all just left audiences unsatisfied. Up until that point, Trinity has already died, but then to makes matters worse, Neo teams up to the Machines for a battle with Smith in which he ultimately dies. What is that all about?
Some movies can get away with killing the protagonists and still properly complete the story (i.e. The Departed), but the Wachowskis didn’t in Revolutions. The main antagonist (the machines) established in the first movie doesn’t die, but the hero we’ve been rooting for all along does. Of the three main characters, two die and one is left in city nobody really cares about. The Matrix movies were about Neo, not Zion; so why spare Zion but kill off Neo? We're not saying to destroy Zion, but don’t leave audiences with nothing to grasp onto other than that at least Morpheus didn’t suffer as pathetic a death death as his other two Nebuchadnezzar mates. The Departed brought closure with Mark Wahlberg's character killing of Matt Damon. The Wachowskis could've done the same but didn't, leaving fans with a frustrating ending.
The hatred with which the Matrix sequels are looked upon now may be a bit much, but it's not entirely without merit. The storyline in the first movie was so nimble and well developed, building upon that was only going to add weight. In fact, it could be argued that because the first film was damn good, following it up with a worthy sequel was an entirely impossible task, one that should have never been attempted in the first place.
What do you think, did we miss any ideas you thought brought the trilogy down? Did the sequels ever stand a chance? Let us know in the comments down below.