Author Topic: The Matrix films (or how/why did the Wachowskis muck up the sequels so badly?)  (Read 14453 times)

Blinder Data

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Watched The Matrix the other week (one of the best action/1990s films ever btw) and had never followed it up with the sequels, so I thought I'd give them a go for the sake of completeness.

What an astonishing decline in quality. Wikipedia must be lying because it suggests the critical consensus for both was broadly positive, when I remember pretty much everyone I know who saw them saying they were baffling shite (and they were right).

Did the Wachowskis just forget how to tell a story? In the first you are with Neo every step of the way, learning about the Matrix piece by piece until it all makes sense. The second opens with a bunch of people you don't know or care about talking about a bunch of stuff you don't know or care about, and that sets the tone for the rest of the film. In the first, every action sequence is perfectly choregraphed, paced and justified. In the second, the attitude is "more is more" and it quickly becomes dull.

The Matrix Reloaded suffers greatly from what appears to be zero use of location filming - everything feels so small and fake because it's filmed in some tiny studio lot with poor CGI to fill in the blanks. The script gives hard as nails Trinity nothing to do except die and she becomes just another girl who can't stomach her boy kissing someone else. The orgasm pudding sequence is supremely embarrassing. They introduced way too many interesting concepts (multiple Agent Smiths, Neo/the One as a repeatable programmed event, Zion itself) when one would have sufficed.

I'm presuming the studio just let the Wachowskis get on with it, which was a mistake. They should've sent the fanfictionesque script back to the drawing board and sketched out a simple story with some badass action sequences.

The Matrix Revolutions is better because, while it's pretty dumb, at least you understand the characters' motivations: the humans want to defend Zion and Neo wants to defeat Smith. It's basically the Return of the King, but it works. (The CGI is actually well used in this film imo).

The sequels feel like the comic book tie-ins of famous franchises. They should've stayed that way. It is baffling that the same creative team would get it so wrong.

Sorry if that was a rant, but I remember some people defending them on here. I'm ready to fight you and your wrong opinions 👊

The first film is pretty much your identikit heroes journey isnt it? the uniqueness came almost entirely from the setting and most of that was really style rather than having an specialty fleshed out world.

Of the two sequels I felt Reloaded was much the better personally, the opening in Zion was incredibly dull but back in the Matrix was at least fun with Lambert Wilson camping it up and a lot of interesting action were as Revolutions basically became a dumb Emmerich film with its generic battle against robo/alien baddies losing any sense of cool the franchise previously had.


The Matrix sequels are a bit like Oasis’ Be Here Now. Two brothers whose recipe had worked so they’ll chuck more guitars on more tracks (more coke) and turn it all up to eleven. The Matrix was such a huge commercial and critical hit that it couldn’t go wrong, right? If they loved Bullet Time THEY’LL LOVE THIS!  It’s also important to remember - as I think I do - that first film despite its ultimate success kind of came from nowhere. There was no great lead in publicity, the first reviews weren’t cheerleading and it went viral by word of mouth and passed into the culture almost immediately. So the sequels were never really going to top that, especially when the plot and story didn’t even seem to make sense to itself.

And you’re right about the CGI, it occurred to me recently that in much the same way that the Nostromo in Alien is like a character, the city setting (which was Sydney I think) was too. It perfectly captured a modern, oppressive and faceless sprawl. That was lost with the CGI.  There’s a good making of documentary on line somewhere.

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Re-watching Blade and Dark City after watching The Matrix also highlights how many things occur in all those movies, Blade especially is similar in many ways.  Not saying rip-off as it's all Sci-Fi but it does make for interesting viewing in hindsight

EDIT: oh, and The Thirteenth Floor also

Loved Reloaded, only slightly less than the original. Revolutions suffers immensely from primarily taking place in Zion. Speed Racer is better than them both though.

Johnny Textface

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The flying gag at the end of the first one really fucked things up.

Blinder Data

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Loved Reloaded, only slightly less than the original.

This opinion is madness to me, really. When was the last time you watched it? The Matrix Reloaded is 6/10 at best.

The flying gag at the end of the first one really fucked things up.

Yep, I can see that. As a one-off, Neo flying right at the end with Rage Against the Machine playing was literally the coolest thing I had ever seen. But then they had to actually follow it up with more films and incorporate it. Neo flying in to save Morpheus from the car crash just looks shit by comparison.

The first one's the story of a hero coming into his powers, which gives it a natural momentum, coupled with revealing how everything works. But the scenario doesn't make enough sense for more than one film. But it's very hard to extend a great film like that: imagine if Brazil or Dark City or Terminator were extended into trilogies - it's downhill all the way.

The second film in particular had almost omnipotent heroes and villains being forced to be vulnerable so there was a plot. At least when it goes to Zion there are real stakes.

Having said that, there's a lot to enjoy in both the sequels - nowhere near the first, but cool characters, great design, some good action. Just not the pleasure of Keanu discovering everything was a lie and he could do anything he wanted.

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They should never have been made and added nothing.

The first film is brilliant because it manages to keep you so close to the central character that you feel almost constantly vulnerable until he is given some powers to fight back. It helps with the stakes and attachment to what's happening. It is essentially classic storytelling with superb editing and direction. Reeves, well, you couldn't have chosen a better actor for that part. Culturally it seemed to hit the exact moment in time too.

I remember being in the cinema for Revolutions and there was widespread laughter in the audience at some of the unintentional silliness.

Haven't seen The Matrix for a few years but last time I watched it I was really impressed by the editing and the pacing of information, the balance of exposition. Learning about everything is a real pleasure. It's so satisfying when stories get that right and surprisingly few do.

Alberon

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I do have this nasty feeling that Matrix 2 and 3 will be seen as 'not that bad really' compared to Matrix 4[1].
 1. <Miranda>Ooh, I 've said Matrix too much and it's gone all funny. Matrix Matrix Matrix.</Miranda>

Haven't seen The Matrix for a few years but last time I watched it I was really impressed by the editing and the pacing of information, the balance of exposition. Learning about everything is a real pleasure. It's so satisfying when stories get that right and surprisingly few do.

Watched it a couple of times on UHD recently and it definitely does hold up.

I think a big part of the weakness of the sequels though is that they are too enamoured with the setting without really having the imagination to turn it into something of genuine substance. They would I think have been better off just sticking to the characters the way Starwars did with Empire, that's much of the reason why the first film works that Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and Smith are all excellent blockbuster characters and the film gives plenty of time to slowly playing their stories out. The sequels are so focused on the grand plotting theres very little time for this and what there is ends up feeling too melodramatic as a result.

This opinion is madness to me, really. When was the last time you watched it? The Matrix Reloaded is 6/10 at best.

I watched all three movies in March. I’d seen the original a few times but never either of the sequels (although I’d played Enter The Matrix on PS2, which I believe takes place during Reloaded). My letterboxd ratings were 5, 4 and 2 stars. I remember thinking the highway chase scene in Reloaded was particularly spectacular.

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The first one is also shit

Chollis

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The Matrix Reloaded is 6/10 at best.

The Merovingian and motorway sequence alone elevate it above a 6/10, come on now.

First one is the best action movie ever made and should be in everyone's top 10 list of all time, cheers

If you could somehow edit the last two into one average-length film focusing on the good bits (the highway chase in Reloaded; the final superhero fight in Revolutions) and leaving the plot as "oh no we're fucked now the machines have found us, go mess 'em up Keanu", you might have something.

The last two taken together have a decent enough plot but it's so badly and confusingly told it takes multiple watches to figure out that it literally just is "the machines have found our base so we're screwed; Neo is just something that happens when the machines leave the program running too long, time for a hard reset which involves deleting all the humans; the multiple Smiths are a virus that's going to take down the machines; Neo is the only thing that can defeat the Smiths; let's make a deal"

If you could somehow edit the last two into one average-length film focusing on the good bits

There are quite a few fan edits around that aim to do just that. I can't say I've bothered to watch any of them, but they're out there.

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The Merovingian and motorway sequence alone elevate it above a 6/10, come on now.

Take the motorway sequence.  There’s no sense of where they are trying to get to, or how much of that distance is left.  It’s arbitrarily endless until it stops, or Neo flies in to save them.  Until then, more and more consequence-free fight/dance sequences are inserted.

It’s an issue throughout both of the Matrix sequels that you never really feel how long things should last.  Endless Agent Smiths until Neo flies away.  The metal squid things attacking Zion, and they’re in those power loaders shooting them - you never know how many squids they’ve killed and how many are left.  Which would be fine if it was crafted properly but the scene lasts about seven years and all you can focus on is the present moment, which is boring grey stuff smacking around the screen. 

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For me the only way to watch the Matrix sequels now is with the critics commentaries from the DVD box set turned on.  Unfortunately they almost dry up before the end of the third film, but there are enough amusing comments and digs to carry you through.

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I like the sequels and I wish more major Hollywood films were like them

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Also, take the ghostly twins from the second film.  We are only just getting used to their powers when we see them in a car explosion.  Later on, we realise they haven’t come back into the film.  So the explosion killed them?  Was that meant to be clear at the time?  We’d seen them escaping all aspects of physical reality until then, warping through cars and avoiding knife stabs, and then they were in a fire and it looked like they were rising out of it.

All it felt like was loads of ideas being crammed into the film and then being left or forgotten once they were no longer as cool to have around.  I fully assumed the ghostly twins would be back in the third film after only being set up in the second.


The two agents who smashed lorries into each other never came back after that either.  Who knew.

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The Wachowskis revealed fairly recently that the Matrix was intended as trans allegory.  I didn’t know until I watched this video, which I am only part-way through:

https://youtu.be/M0VnYcMHuDc

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Having said that, there's a lot to enjoy in both the sequels - nowhere near the first, but cool characters, great design, some good action. Just not the pleasure of Keanu discovering everything was a lie and he could do anything he wanted.

There seemed to be a lot more potential at the end of the first film that was never really acknowledged in the sequels.  Neo was seeing Matrix code and was able to take apart the physical reality facing him.  In the final moments of the first film, that process happened to involve dissolving the threat of the bullets fired at him, as well as transcending the need for physical fighting, opting instead to launch himself into Smith to kill him.  And then, kind of as a gag at the end, he flew off into the sky.

The flying annoyed me, because I felt that it involved accepting physical distance within the Matrix that we had seen Neo transcending.  I felt using his mind to draw places towards him, essentially teleporting himself, would have been more in line with his progress, but I understood the flying looked cool as a final gag, like the flying Delorean at the end of the first Back to the Future.


The problem came with the sequels, when the Wachowskis decided that films two and three should continue to focus on Neo’s journey.  But we had already had the full form of the hero’s journey in the first film, and he was transcending physical reality by the end of that.  He should have been a myth by the start of Matrix Reloaded - a godly figure referenced away from the main action, no longer accessible to the mere mortals that we’d be spending time with. 

But they wanted to continue Neo’s journey, so they took what we’d witnessed him achieve at the end of the first film:  seeing Matrix code, stopping bullets in thin air, and flying, and they made these three things his powers.  His only powers.  The notion that he had transcended everything else was only in my head now:  he was back to fighting agents with his hands and feet which, by the way, Morpheus and everyone else could also do, for reasons that were never addressed.

So it felt like the sequels never connected with the first film, for me.  They certainly were not intended from the start as the producers would go on to claim.  If they’d been planned from the start, they wouldn’t have put Jennifer in the car.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2021, 09:32:20 AM by Replies From View »

Mister Six

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<although I’d played Enter The Matrix on PS2, which I believe takes place during Reloaded)

Yeah, IIRC there's a bit in some mission briefing where they tell one of the rebels that she needs to blow up a nuclear power plant, and it all sounds very exciting, but then the film just cuts to her watching the plant explode from a distance - because her mission was actually in the video game. But most of the people in our audience didn't know that, and the cinema burst into uproarious laughter at the anticlimactic cut.

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Yeah, IIRC there's a bit in some mission briefing where they tell one of the rebels that she needs to blow up a nuclear power plant, and it all sounds very exciting, but then the film just cuts to her watching the plant explode from a distance - because her mission was actually in the video game. But most of the people in our audience didn't know that, and the cinema burst into uproarious laughter at the anticlimactic cut.

Is this the game that explains things like why Morpheus lands on the car of someone he recognises during the motorway chase scene?

Captain Z

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They introduced way too many interesting concepts (multiple Agent Smiths, Neo/the One as a repeatable programmed event, Zion itself) when one would have sufficed.

Yes, and nobody's even mentioned Bane/Smith or "The Architect" yet. The latter particularly seeming like needless exposition that completely slowed down the story as things were starting to ramp up.

RFV summed up my other thoughts, it essentially just becomes a superhero movie where Neo predictably has the specific power to do something exactly at the right moment to save the day, but only having built up sufficient peril first. Of course he should be able to teleport himself to a specific location instead of having to fly harder than he ever has before. Or just fly away right at the start of the multi-Agent Smith fight to save himself the bother. Oh, phew, he caught Morpheus just in time. Oh, phew, he caught Trinity just in time. Oh, she's fatally wounded, except oh no wait Neo can pull the bullet out now. Wasn't that handy.

There seemed to be a lot more potential at the end of the first film that was never really acknowledged in the sequels. 

[...]


The problem came with the sequels, when the Wachowskis decided that films two and three should continue to focus on Neo’s journey.  But we had already had the full form of the hero’s journey in the first film, and he was transcending physical reality by the end of that.  He should have been a myth by the start of Matrix Reloaded - a godly figure referenced away from the main action, no longer accessible to the mere mortals that we’d be spending time with. 

Yes - I remember thinking, at the time, that it would have been a lot more interesting what they ended up doing with Neo what The Force Awakens did with Luke Skywalker, where it's the hero's fucked off and we're not sure what he's up to. And I thought there was a really interesting, obvious line of enquiry that the sequels could have taken but didn't, which is: now that Neo is God and he can rescue everyone from The Matrix, should he? There's that guy who just wants to stay inside and eat steak all day, and actually that's a pretty reasonable take on the whole situation, isn't it? etc etc.

The Wachowskis revealed fairly recently that the Matrix was intended as trans allegory.  I didn’t know until I watched this video, which I am only part-way through:

https://youtu.be/M0VnYcMHuDc

This is unkind of me but I don't really believe they intended this at the time, even if they say they did.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2021, 12:12:40 PM by popcorn »

It seemed really obvious after the first film that the big conflict in any future films should have revolved around whether people wanted to live in a perfect world that was totally made up, or in a shitty world that happened to be the real one. I guess they couldn't figure out a way to illustrate that conflict using kung fu so it was totally ignored.

The other obvious angle the sequels ignored was the whole "layers of reality" thing that was such a big part of the first film. While waiting for the sequels there was a lot of speculation (or just discussion amongst my mates) about how they were going to have to pull off even more "you thought this was reality? Fool!" twists to deliver the same thrills as the first film, and they just... didn't bother. The crap burnt sky future is reality, live with it.

I know the sequels are a mess story-wise and nobody (rightly) likes the hippy orgy scenes and half the story takes place off in video games everyone's forgotten about now, but I think a big part of the problem with the follow ups is that they just left out or ignored a lot of the angles that made the first film so much fun to think about afterwards.

Sebastian Cobb

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The first one is also shit

Glad I'm not the only one. I thought they were alright at the time when I was an infant but looking back they do seem to be oddly dated for the time, effectively a more po-faced version of dystopian scifi films that had come a few years earlier.

I think many who like The Matrix will see this as typical Vice contrarianism, but personally I think most of the criticisms are reasonably fair:
https://www.vice.com/en/article/7b7kje/the-matrix-is-dated-and-embarrassing

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