Happy birthday, Neo! It's been 20 years since The Matrix arrived in theaters and proceeded to tear our brains apart, forever making us wonder if we're living in some kind of computer simulation--we totally are, by the way. Honestly, we've all tried bending a spoon with our mind at some point. The Matrix was a revolutionary film, loaded with interesting sci-fi concepts, incredible special effects, and some truly memorable performances from the likes of Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Carrie Anne Moss.
More than revolutionary, though, it's simply great. The Matrix is a practically perfect film, even when you sit down and watch it 20 years later. So much about it feels iconic, and it's all played so well, from the incredibly understated opening moments to the final showdown between Neo and Agent Smith in a dirty hallway. Unfortunately, everything that worked so well in the first movie completely fell away from the sequels that followed.
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions might look like the first movie and the same characters may appear, but all of the soul The Matrix has is simply gone by the time the third movie rolls around. Instead of the restraint the first film showed, which helped drive the narrative forward, Reloaded and Revolutions instead relied on heavy use of the visual trickery introduced in The Matrix and a convoluted story that lifted up Neo to be something of a computer Jesus and the only hope for all of human- and robot-kind.
These are movies that weren't regarded as good in the first place and have only gotten worse with age. They are the albatross hanging around the neck of the original. The Matrix is an achievement on practically every level. However, the films that followed have done nothing but drag it down.
Does it sound like I'm being a bit too hard on Reloaded and Revolutions? I assure you I'm not. I actually went back and watched the entire trilogy, from start to finish, and couldn't help but note every mistake I felt the sequels made. From the sillier moments like the orgy in Zion to bigger problems like what the movies chose to do with Smith, there's plenty to take issue with.
So come along as we look back at the 34 biggest sins The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions made. Then, go ahead and watch the first Matrix again and realize just how wonderful that movie is.
The Matrix Reloaded
1. Unlike the first, this movie has no chill
The Matrix is a true study in restraint. The first half hour of the movie feels like a low-budget thriller that hooks you in with story and character. Reloaded, however, goes a different route. The opening moments of the sequel set the incredibly loud and often obnoxious tone of what's to come with explosions, an overabundance of "bullet time" shots, and so much of everything that makes these movies inferior to the original.
2. Why do they all meet up to discuss the Matrix in the Matrix?
If everyone needs to get together to chat about destroying the Matrix, is the best place to do it really inside of the Matrix? A Matrix filled with Agents, a rogue Agent Smith, and all kinds of things designed to stop them. They do have CB radios in their ships. Maybe they'd be better off talking over those.
3. Neo doesn't stop flying
Listen, I get it. Neo learned to fly at the end of the first movie and, if I were in his place, I'd make use of the superpower too. So much of this movie is just Neo taking off or flying around, though. It's, honestly, pretty ridiculous.
4. Why is some of Zion's security force plugged in?
Visually, this moment looks super cool. But why is some of the security team guarding Zion's gates plugged into a Matrix-like program, while others aren't? What purpose does it possibly serve?
5. The Zion orgy rave still makes no sense
We all know this scene. We've all been confused by this scene. When Zion parties, things get wildly erotic--and I'm not talking about the Neo and Trinity sex scene, which is mostly awkward since the two don't have a ton of chemistry.
6. Smith leaving the Matrix is not how computer programs work
Smith is code. He's a computer program that has essentially evolved to become a computer virus. So how, exactly, does he somehow leave the Matrix and take over a human brain, assuming the identity of an actual person? The first Matrix movie used tech in a way that at least made sense. Once the tech infiltrates actual human biology in the sequels, though, that's a thing of the past.
7. "You do not truly know someone until you fight them."
This is a cool-sounding line of dialogue. Ultimately, though, it's a terrible one. Even within the parameters of this franchise, is he saying Neo and Trinity don't truly know each other? Because I would beg to differ. The Oracle seems to truly know practically everyone, and she doesn't fight anybody.
8. The twins are weird and bad
Thank God these two were confined to Reloaded, rather than both sequels. The twins were a bizarre and not very exciting addition to the franchise. What's more, they were played by a couple of actual twins who decided to set whatever charisma they had aside and play these two as plain and boring as possible.
9. Using Matrix code to show a woman having an orgasm is a choice
A lot of choices are made in Reloaded but none is as puzzling as the scene where the Merovingian explains how he coded a piece of cheesecake to give a woman an orgasm. The film even briefly switches to Matrix code as the camera goes up her dress. Who thought this was a good idea?
10. Trinity threatens to murder someone for just asking to kiss Neo
There's being jealous and there's Trinity pulling a gun on Persephone because she asks Neo for a kiss. It's such an extreme reaction that seems very out of character.
11. For Neo, real kissing means taking off your sunglasses
This entire moment is so awkward. Then again, his girlfriend just threatened to murder the woman he's barely kissing. Who can blame him for leaving his shades on?
12. Persephone immediately sells Neo and company out to get back at her husband
If Persephone hasn't immediately sent a henchman to tell her husband she was betraying him, this movie would have been roughly 45 minutes shorter. Everything that comes after this moment is simply because she wants to one-up her husband--something that is completely forgotten by Revolutions.
13. Why do agents bleed?
Agents are code, right? They can take over any person in the Matrix and they are clearly not human. So why do they bleed? Why would the machines, who created the agent code, make it so they can bleed?
14. Neo reached inside Trinity to remove a bullet
That computer Jesus can not only reach inside Trinity's body to remove a bullet but also massage her heart back to life is astounding. The key to these movies is that Neo can do anything at any time. Unfortunately, that leads to moments like this.
15. Now Neo can control things outside of the Matrix?
If Smith can leave the Matrix, so can Neo's computer superpowers, right? It's these sort of things that got worked into the mythology of the sequels that make them dumb. Instead of sound reasoning for choices made, strange twists are seemingly thrown in because they look cool--even if that means Neo is now a superhuman in the real world. Or maybe he's not and the real world is also a Matrix. Is the Matrix a Matrix-within-a-Matrix? We'll never know. And, honestly, it's not worth a fourth movie, which would undoubtedly be called The Matrix Remixed or some such thing.
The Matrix Revolutions
16. Simply unnecessary gymnastics
Much like Reloaded, Revolutions starts with no chill whatsoever. From the jump, everything is over-the-top ridiculous, including Trinity's jumping a subway gate by doing a very fluid forward flip while everyone else just hopped over it like normal people.
17. Even for the Matrix, ceiling walkers are a stretch
Remember the first Matrix movie when it was incredibly impressive to see the likes of Neo and Trinity running up a wall to get a new angle on their foes? This is an extreme version of that, where the villains just live their lives running around on the ceiling for some reason because it's impossible for this movie to leave well enough alone.
18. The nightclub scene is just nuts
Is this a bondage nightclub? What was the pleather budget for this movie? Who designed these looks? How out of place did everyone feel on set this day? Why are Persephone and the Merovingian still together after that whole betrayal thing? That's just a small sampling of the questions I had during this baffling scene.
19. Smith is somehow more over-the-top
What made Smith so scary in the first film was how calm and collected he was. That started to crumble when he was interrogating Morpheus. However, any sense of Smith being scary is out the window now.
20. No seriously, Smith is beyond zany
The Smith we all feared is long gone, replaced with this giggling maniac.
21. This Agent Smith impersonation is equally ridiculous
But don't worry, since Smith also somehow escaped into the real world, another actor can do their take on the character.
22. Neo realizing Smith left the Matrix in real time
Neo can control the machines, seemingly knows everything about everything, and is best friends with the Oracle. The amount of time it takes him to realize Bane is being controlled by Smith, though, is shocking. Thankfully, the Wachowskis choose to show that realization in real time.
23. This strobe light brawl is just bad
This is another instance of style over substance. Neo and Smith/Bane didn't need to fight lit only by strobe lighting. But they thought it looked cool, so that's what we got. Unfortunately, it makes the entire thing difficult to watch and understand. Of course, it's not the worst fight of the movie, which we'll get to.
24. If Neo can see while blind, what's the point of blinding him?
If a blind Neo can still see the machines and their essences--because machines have essences, I guess--why blind him in the first place? He navigates his way to machine city, can still see Smith, and doesn't seem all that hindered.
25. Why is this what blind Neo sees?
And why is this what Bane looks like to him? If Smith became Bane in the real world, would his essence still look like Smith, glasses and all? Because that doesn't make a ton of sense.
26. The entire Kid subplot
I can't believe it took me this long to talk about Kid, the young Zion citizen introduced in Reloaded that, I think, wants to be Neo when he grows up? Clearly, the Wachowskis thought he was a major figure in the franchise, as he appears throughout the sequel movies. Unfortunately, he's just not a good fit. With so much going on, it's hard to care about this teenager who just wants to be part of the team. At least he gets a hero moment, though.
27. So little of this movie is in the Matrix
His hero moment highlighted a major problem for me, though. So little of Revolutions actually happens inside of the Matrix. You'd think a Matrix movie would make ample use of the computerized world. However, by the third movie perhaps they'd run out of ways to make it interesting? Whatever the case, we spend an incredible amount of time watching robots attack Zion and kill humans, rather than Neo dodging bullets or Trinity jumping motorcycles over exploding buildings.
28. I don't even know where to start
Speaking of things not happening in the Matrix, what the heck is this? A blinded Neo can feel the machines but is this the ghost of one flowing through him? The movie doesn't really explain what's happening here, though. Instead, it just happened and he and Trinity move on in their quest to reach the machine city. Whatever is happening here, though, needed to be explained in the moment. It's just another instance of something that looks cool for no reason.
29. Trinity's very long death
Much like Neo realizing Bane was Smith, Trinity's death happens incredibly slowly. I would say the scene of her dying is, conservatively, 45 minutes long. It's also fairly anti-climatic as she essentially dies in a car accident on the way to save the universe. You deserved better, Trinity.
30. The giant machine face
I'd forgotten this happens. The machines turn into a giant face to talk to Neo. There is absolutely no reason for this to happen but I'm so glad it does. Why? It highlights how ridiculous and silly these movies became, compared to how great the original was. It's like the giant machine face is laughing at us all.
31. The final Neo vs. Smith fight is awful
Remember when I mentioned a fight much worse than Neo vs. Bane earlier? This is it. The final battle between Neo and Smith is essentially Superman v. Superman, except it's at night, in the rain, and practically impossible to see. The setting allowed the Wachowskis to do some interesting things with the water but the scene, as a whole, is unbearable.
32. No, this isn't religious at all
Get it? Computer Jesus is actual Jesus. In case the religious undertones of this franchise weren't hitting you over the head hard enough, a literal cross of light burst out of Neo's chest.
33. The rules for the real world make no sense
And then, somehow, this happened. I don't understand the rules of the real world within the framework of these movies. They're more confusing than those inside of the Matrix. How light explodes from Neo's eyes and mouth while he's still a living being is senseless, but then again that's par for the course with this movie. And again, it makes me wonder if the real world is another Matrix.
34. Neo is antivirus software
And thus we get to the moral of the story. Neo is antivirus software. In the end, he saves the day by deleting the infection (Smith) and returning the program (the Matrix) to the status quo. It took three movies to just run a McAfee antivirus scan on this system and only thousands of people had to die.