Over a decade later, The Matrix continues to hold up as a sensational and remarkable quality film. But The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are commonly known as the two widely derided sequels to that 1999 science fiction classic.
The Matrix was an immediate and immense pop-culture phenomenon for many reasons. To say that it had the potential to rival Star Trek and Star Wars and Batman as a narrative media platform AND a significant cultural artifact would not be exaggeration.
And then the sequels came.
Reloaded and Revolutions ruined everything, virtually undermining and tempting us to forget all the first movie accomplished-- and could have yet accomplished.
Not because they were bad movies. As movies, they are fantastic. But as sequels to The Matrix, they were lacking.
Revolutions only compounded and exacerbated the folly began in Reloaded. While The Matrix was instantly adored and celebrated, its siblings were instantly reviled and ridiculed.
The problem, essentially, is that Reloaded and Revolutions are a poor follow up or follow through of The Matrix— resulting in a convoluted and disjointed medley.
Whereas The Matrix was cinematically revolutionary and narratively innovative, the sequels descended into the mundane and muddled.
Reloaded and Revolutions amounted to feeble caricature and cliché of its progenitor, a mere shadow of its predecessor. The Matrix ushered us out of Plato’s cave and into the sun; the sequels, sent us back into the Cave to grasp at shadows on the wall.
Part one boldly pushed the boundaries—sublimely and marvelously elevating the story. Parts two and three, however, meagerly danced and stumbled like a drunken monkey around those boundaries.
But more than that, even WORSE than that, Reloaded and Revolutions did not seem to function as logical extensions or continuations of the narrative established in The Matrix. The sequels defied (and defiled?) our expectations—and not in the good way.
Rather than augment and clarify the confabulation of ideas and elements presented in The Matrix, Reloaded and Revolutions instead distorted and bungled. The Original movie rewarded and acknowledged audience intelligence, but the two sequels seemed to insult and mock that intelligence. Diminishing, by association, the profundity and magnificence of the first film in the series.
Ultimately, in hind sight, given the cheesy & hokey disaster the sequels turned out to be, The Matrix would have been better off— and better served—without sequels.
Certainly, without the contrived and inconsistent sequels we were given.
Granted, Reloaded and Revolutions are not quite as bad as their reputation implies, but they are bad relative to The Matrix.
The authenticity permeating The Matrix is lost in the artificial razzle-dazzle of the sequels. The proliferation of special effects extravaganzas are meant to dazzle and disorient us to a point where we overlook the plot holes and superficiality.
In the attempt to top what they did in The Matrix, the Wachowskis went extremely way over the top-- whether it actually made sense or not.
Perhaps part of the problem, perversely, is that the producers tried to transform The Matrix from a sublime narrative into a multi-media marketing platform.
This world building exercise was not thought through well enough to sustain itself. Maybe the Wachowskis even suffered from George Lucas syndrome—they had gotten so big after the success of The Matrix that no one dared to tell them NO about anything, letting them do whatever they wanted regardless of if it was a good idea.
The producers were clearly more concerned about looking and sounding cool than with telling an interesting or credible story. Essentially, one gigantic missed opportunity as a socially relevant media and culture commentary.
A foundation that began strong and solid in The Matrix increasingly became flimsy and dysfunctional throughout the sequels.
But we should not let all that nonsense ruin our appreciation of the first film—which is still awesome independent of and despite the second and third films.