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 The Matrix . 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 The Matrix Reloaded ’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, The Matrix 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?