Is it just me?... or are The Matrix sequels just as good as the first film?

One Total Film writer argues the case…

In our regular polarising-opinion series, Total Film writer Matt Looker asks, is it just me? … or are The Matrix sequels just as good as the first film?

"I love TheMatrix. The first one, obviously – not the sequels." It’s a distinction I’ve heard so many times that it makes me want to reach for the red pills, the blue pills and every-other-colour pills just to try to escape the conversation, let alone reality. What’s really so bad about The Matrix sequels?

OK, yes, I know TheMatrixReloaded’s rave scene is a sordid, techno-orgy mess filmed to satisfy the Wachowskis’ own punk-y inclinations. And, yes, the Architect makes about as much sense as a drunk hobo playing Mad Libs. And, oh, the trilogy ends on such a downer – heaven forbid that a blockbuster doesn’t conclude with the guy kissing the girl while fist-pumping the air.

But The Matrix has flaws, too. Consider Morpheus’ “scorched sky” speech, or the “humans are batteries” science fart. The difference here is that, like any good sequel should, TheMatrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions escalate everything tenfold. So yes, the flaws are apparent, but it’s a small price to pay for the bigger, ballsier action sequences, isn’t it?

After all, we all loved experiencing bullet time while Neo bent over a bit to avoid being shot, but in Reloaded we experience it during a lorry-crash explosion while our hero flies through the air to save his friends, all during the climax to one of the greatest car chases ever filmed. I’ll take hundreds of Architects sweatily writhing against each other in a Zion rave if it means that I get to see something that awesome.

The truth is, the only real problem with the sequels is the audience. After the first film’s simpler, hacker-to-hero story, cinemagoers were resentful because the follow-ups undermined the everyman-is-chosen-one set up in order to ask more questions than they answered. Is Neo really The One? If The Oracle is just another program, can we really trust her prophecy? If Neo is just the latest in a long line of similar anomalies that have no real consequence, has that just rendered the whole story redundant?

Suddenly, those viewers who were only comfortable getting their head around the colour-coded exploration of free will in The Matrix complained because the sequels asked “what is the meaning of existence?” and then didn’t provide an answer. But what was the alternative? Just show more of Neo beating up Agent Smith and saving the world? Why suffer another déjà vu glitch?

No, for those who moan about an endless run of reboots, remakes and adaptations, The Matrix trilogy might be the last great franchise not based on a book/comic/videogame/meme. For those who complain that blockbusters are dumb, mindless explosion-fests, The Matrix sequels spend as much time exploring great modern philosophical posers as it does showing kick-ass action. For those who whine about studios churning out sequel after sequel after sequel, Revolutions offers finality to a story that, Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy aside, is rarely seen in our current franchise-milking age.

Surely The Matrix sequels are everything we, as film lovers, should be applauding. Or is it just me?

 Agree or disagree? Have your say below and a selection of the comments will be printed in our next issue.

Comments

    • peterbadger

      Aug 29th 2014, 13:03

      The main "problem" that my friends used to moan about with all of the Matrix films was usually "The action scenes look way too CGI. I don't like it". I'd usually explain to them that the whole point of the Matrix is that Neo and Agent Smith are INSIDE a computer simulation and are able to do things within it that stress the simulation beyond normal operating limits, so when they go all "Superman" on each other it makes sense that it would put the whole system under such huge stress that the World loses some clarity and resolution in order to keep up with all the information it needs to process. In short, they are in a computer generated world. The big fight scenes look CGI because they ARE CGI!

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    • Fozzy

      Aug 29th 2014, 13:07

      I think it's you. Look there's a lot to like in the sequels, but what marks the first movie out is the economy with which the story is told. I like the sequels, but they just became overblown. I've got nothing against the way the story ended, it just took frickin' ages to get there, and the final fight with Smith is the biggest load of old cobblers ever. It's a bit like comparing the final light sabre duel at the end of the Sith to the showdown between Vader and kenobi in A New Hope (Plinkett's right!), it's slicker, longer and certainly better choreographed but you just don't feel the same sense of character development between Neo and Smith in their final fight as you do in their first bruiser. Just because you can do more doesn't mean that you should and eventually the sequels just get so bloated as to become boring, and that tantalising final shot in the first movie is ruined.

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    • SiMan

      Aug 29th 2014, 13:12

      I've recenlty watched the whole trilogy again recently and although i think the original is the best, i whole-heartedly agree with you. I think the sequels have always had an unfair deal in the audience critisicms department. The films still hold up today and the effects don't look as dated as other blockbuster films from that era (even the burly brawl still looks good, if a little overly CGI'd). Many people reference the plot as non-sensical, but the Wachowski's were never really praised for actually taking the sequels in a direction that not many would have predicted; ie most people were expecting the 'real world' to still be a part of the Matrix. What they did, with the idea that there have been multiple versions of Zion and the machines have instigated another form of control by constantly wiping out and restarting the human resistance, was actually quite brilliant. As you've stated as well, the action scenes do what every good sequel should; up the ante. The burly brawl, the Chateuax fight, the highway chase are all impressively done and the assault on ZION itself is still an absolute blast to watch. There was talk recently of another trilogy being done - one thing i realised at the end of the third one was that we are never actually told / shown that Neo is dead. We just assume he is. Wonder if he could be re-introduced into a new trilogy. I would recommend for all those haters of the sequel that haven't watched them in a while to give them a retry and see if their opinion of them has hanged at all.

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    • FBPBoland

      Aug 29th 2014, 13:29

      The problem with the sequels is that they are way too long and pretentious.

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    • Roastbbq

      Aug 29th 2014, 14:46

      You either take the red pill or the blue pill with the Matrix trilogy, it depends how far down the rabbit hole you wish to go. But you have to admit the stunning effects have not been surpassed or better used to this day.

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    • LSJShez

      Aug 29th 2014, 15:23

      Great points, well made. I do agree with them, but the films aren't as good as the first one.

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    • steembot

      Aug 31st 2014, 14:22

      Take my word for it....it's just you.

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    • Toursiveu

      Aug 31st 2014, 19:00

      There's plenty to like about the sequels but the main problem is that they're too long and somewhat pretentious. The success of the first film came from the fact that the Wachowskis had managed to put many philosophical questions in a screenplay that was limpid. The sequels on the contrary were too complicated? When you need character like the Achitect to basically stop the movie for 10 minutes to explain the plot, you know there's a problem... especially when you're wondering what the hell he's talking about... Another problem is the wooden acting. Everybody was great in the original film. But watching Carrie Ann Moss' death scene in Revolutions was cringeworthy. The performances of Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Jada Pinkett-Smith (all unlikeable characters) didn't help. Some action / CGI sequences have aged worse than those from the first film. It's hard to watch the fight between Neo and the thousands of Agents Smith today. Last but not least, any good screenwriter would tell you to NEVER finish your film in the nature. That last scene on the bench is just wrong on many levels. Basically the sequels suffer from the same things that ruined the Star Wars prequels. Ask me what A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are about and I can tell you the story from beginning to end. I can't do that with the prequels, I don't remember what happens or why... Same thing with those Matrix sequels : yes I remember some great action sequences, but very little else.

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    • 2Dglasses

      Sep 1st 2014, 12:10

      They arent as good, they are still decent efforts, but far too many characters spoke in waffle that seems to have been inspired by the Sphinx from mystery men. Not just the architect too. Also, having not seen the animatrix or played any of those games, i lost interest round about the time when someone implied that Zion had been destroyed and they started again over and over with 9 people...eh? What about Tank and all the other 'purebred human' guys? Did they forget? Did they not notice? I'm not sure it was ever made clear. What needed no explanation in number 1 was explained, just not eveyr well.

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    • vincevega

      Sep 2nd 2014, 8:51

      no no.

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    • norajohnson819

      Sep 2nd 2014, 13:02

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    • endofdays2

      Sep 3rd 2014, 11:45

      The first is groundbreaking, the 2nd one went weird with the werewolves, vampires, etc. The 3rd one is very watchable but still not on a par with the original which is still one of the best sci-fi films ever made IMO.

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    • FBKTudor

      Sep 4th 2014, 11:30

      I'm probably singular in my opinion too, but I think The Matrix 1 & 2 are as good as each other. The second film had excitement in spades, which were killed dead with The Artchitect and The Oracle. But the first film I never found particularly original either (being already familiar with the idea of the matrix thanks to a1975 Doctor Who episode called The Deadly Assassin, in which the Doctor and the assassin are hunting each other in a virtual world called The Matrix and everything looks and feels real). Yet both the first 2 films had great action and great innovation in terms of effects and action sequences. The third I found dull, maybe due to the drawn out battle and characters I wasn't that vested in.

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    • mosley909

      Sep 4th 2014, 12:05

      i quite like the sequals... the biggest problem in them was trying to shoe horn agent smith into the plot, he died in the first one and should have stayed dead, with a different villain for the sequels more inline with the plot. but i liked the ideas, i liked the visuals, the battle for zion is awesome. yes maybe it over reaches, but at least it reaches.

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    • Seedorf

      Sep 4th 2014, 20:47

      'The truth is, the only real problem with the sequels is the audience'. I knew all along that the Resident Evil films were awesome. When critics kept saying how bad they were, it wasn't the films that were the problem, it was the critics.

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    • jenniferaenglan

      Sep 7th 2014, 17:43

      my Aunty Samantha got a stunning black Dodge Dart Sedan by work part time using a laptop... visit this site right here.......... www.paygazette.C­ℴ­M

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    • Screener

      Sep 28th 2014, 10:52

      Interesting rebuttal on widely held attitudes to the sequels and how the audience should be held accountable for an official position regarding their status. It's true, the sequels aren't as good, although as Looker rightly points out, there are scenes within both that are arguably some of the finest yet put on screen. But masterpieces like The Matrix are rarely followed and met by sequels that can match them, they're either diluted to the point of apathy or force fed. The real question is, did The Matrix need sequels at all? Probably should have taken the blue pill on that one...

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    • Meatt

      Oct 2nd 2014, 15:26

      I've been preaching this for years. The second matrix is my favorite of the trilogy. The dialogue and world-building that happens in that movie is outstanding. The scene with neo and the oracle on the bench has no unneeded words and explains the whole purpose, plot, and philosophy of the movies. The merovingian scene, the architect scene, the possibility that Zion is just another layer of matrix since the last 5 iterations haven't worked (which would explain Neo's magical abilities outside of the matrix). It's all just really fun to lose yourself in. I think people got bored with the dialogue or it went over there head, so when the action scenes came they decided that the movie was just boredome plus actions scenes. I've actually fast-forwarded through the action scenes in Reloaded because I liked some of the speeches and dialogue so much. I'm with you.

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