Hollywood always had its share of solid action movies, but The Matrix made all of them look like children playing cops and robbers at a playground. Never had such incredible set pieces looked so convincingly real, nor had it been put into such a cerebral story that gave audiences food for though after the credits rolled. The Wachowskis truly pulled off something special with the science-fiction action flick. With success of this magnitude, one could bet their bottom dollar that sequels were coming.
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions came out in May and November of 2003, respectively. The last two thirds of the trilogy garnered a more mixed reception than the debut. Some appreciated the attempts at diving further into the concept of living inside a simulation, but many were put off by the whole thing, dismissing it as pretentious garbage. As time went on, people's memory of them got worse. These days, they are derided as two of the most disappointing blockbusters, squandering the promise and potential from the first movie.
Sure, they aren't perfect, but they are far from the pieces of trash they are made out to be. To prove this point, the following list will point out five great things about the sequels, and five things that are indeed rubbish. Ultimately, it is advised to take a second look at them yourself and make up your own mind.
10 Worst: Pacing
All three films are approximately the same length, but the latter two feel significantly longer than The Matrix. Why is that? The first movie has the advantage of using its run time to introduce the audience to a different world.
The sequels spin their wheels in place a little longer than they should. With the right editing and shifting around, the two stories could fit into one film.
9 Best: The Action
Movies aren't all about the action, but it is a big draw. The sequels did everything in their power to up the ante, giving audiences thrilling sequences like a more than ten-minute long car chase.
One can argue that a couple of them go too over the top, but it was unlike anything anyone had seen at the time.
8 Worst: New Characters
Morpheus, Neo, Trinity, and Agent Smith are just some of the characters The Matrix introduced to viewers. How many can remember the names of new characters in Reloaded and Revolutions?
While most of the familiar faces returned for the whole trilogy, the new ones failed to live up to the standard. With the exception of Link, most of them were forgettable.
7 Best: Exploring More Of The Real World
In The Matrix, audiences mostly saw Zion. The little bit they did see of the outside world was from when Neo left captivity. The second and third films had the characters adventuring outside of their city and into the wastelands of civilization.
A particularly striking moment comes when Neo drives a ship above the dark clouds to reveal the sun, reminding audiences that the dark and gloomy landscape was once our world.
6 Worst: Special Effects
The 1999 film is an impressive visual effects display. From the bullet time effect to the miraculous stunts, everything looks astounding. The next two films used a lot more CGI in an age where the technology hadn't quite worked out all the kinks.
The fight with the numerous Agent Smiths in the park looks like a bad cartoon, but saying it hasn't aged well would imply that it looked good when it first came out.
5 Best: Expanding The Lore
The debut feature does an incredible job of creating a fairly complex world and scenario. With all of that out of the way for the sequels, the proceeding entries got the chance to expand upon the ideas presented in the first one.
Not everyone is in love with the loads of exposition present throughout both films, but just as many ate it up and dissected every line of dialogue.
4 Worst: It's Pretentious
The Matrix presents a conflict more complex than most other action movies. It took inspiration not from Hollywood popcorn flicks, but from more cerebral Japanese anime like Ghost in the Shell and Akira. Despite its complexity, it manages to break everything down into digestible parts, making the audience feel like they've engaged with something rather than feeling like a moron.
The sequels failed at this. Characters explain concepts using a needlessly advanced vocabulary, and visuals aren't as often used to tell the story. Morpheus explaining to Neo what the Matrix is trumps the Architect's speech in every way.
3 The Best: The Animatrix
This isn't a part of the films, but it was only produced because of the franchise's expansion. The Animatrix is a series of short animated films elaborating on the world.
The Wachowski's penned a few of the stories, and they were directed by famous animators like Shinichiro Watanabe, known for Cowboy Bebop. Numerous franchises go the route of novelizations for diving into the lore, but The Animatrix was a more creative alternative.
2 Worst: Enter The Matrix
Enter The Matrix was the tie-in video game released alongside The Matrix Reloaded. It is better than a lot of licensed games, but that's not saying a lot.
By 2003, third-person shooters were shying away from lock-on based mechanics and going the dual analog route. Enter The Matrix still has players pressing a button to lock on to enemies before shooting. No one would have been mad if they just copied Max Payne.
1 Best: Ambiguous Ending
People still talk about the trilogy's conclusion, with numerous theories swirl around the internet as to what really happened. Some of them were debunked, but what transpires onscreen gives closure while also leaving something open for the future. It may not be entirely positive either.