Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
So everyone and their mama checked out the trailer for the new Matrix film Resurrections this week. If somehow you haven’t seen it (and I hope your cave is nice and cozy) or you want to rewatch it for the 20th time you can watch it below:
This article is not a trailer reaction (I’ll do that next week in The Big Slice newsletter) but a revisiting of the four previous Matrix films (I’m including The Animatrix). And in lieu of a regular review I will be looking at how well each film holds up. With a Machine City-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s get to it:
The Matrix (1999)
The one film you would assume would hold up the best is the original film. It is stylised, iconic, groundbreaking, influential and oft-parodied with memorable scenes and characters, a cool hero and an awesome villain. And it is all set to a rocking soundtrack and sweet main theme. Oh, and the hallway shoot-out remains one of the best action scenes ever put to film. And while The Matrix holds up very well it remains an imperfect film.
The main issue is the pacing. The film lags somewhat in the first act and is excessively cryptic. The second act is exposition-heavy but is told in an interesting way. And the third act is glorious testicles-to-the-wall action. During my rewatch I got a little impatient with some of the early wheel-spinning. So while the Sci Fi mystery aspect may work initially I found it did not hold up as well as the action. And I think Dark City, which came out a year prior and had many similarities, had a much stronger Sci Fi story. Still a great and highly entertaining film though.
The Animatrix (2003)
The Animatrix is an anthology of nine anime shorts set in the world of The Matrix. I haven’t seen it since it first came out and my memories of them were quite vague. And rewatching it I was quite impressed, and I think after the first film it holds up the best. The beautiful CGI Final Flight of the Osiris is easily my favourite, delivering interesting characters and a compelling story in just a few minutes. And who doesn’t love a striptease sword fight? It is also one of the few stories that directly connect to the films so it is required viewing.
After Osiris I loved Matriculated, which has the twist of humans putting robots in a simulation to turn them. If the animation reminds you of the series Aeon Flux that is because it was written and directed by that show’s creator Peter Chung. This one is trippy, thoughtful super dark and just awesome. The Second Renaissance I and II are a prequel detailing the events leading up to to the war with the machines and the creation of The Matrix, and it paints the machines in a far more sympathetic light and the humans in a far more negative light. I wish we could have gotten some of this in the films because it added a really cool layer to the story.
I also enjoyed the noir of A Detective Story, the gorgeous animation and action of Program, the quirky animation of Kid’s Story (the character of the Kid features in the sequels), and the whimsy of Beyond. I found World Record to be the weakest entry but it is still worth watching for the cool animation. So if you’re looking for more Matrix content and I also enjoy great animation then you need to plug in to The Animatrix.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
And this is where things start to go downhill. Reloaded is just an uneven film. The first act is plodding (did we really need the Zion orgy party?) and the early action scenes simply do not work, whether it is the boring fight between Neo and the upgraded Agents or the Neo versus Agents Smiths fight that started okay and then dived headfirst into the uncanny valley. The pins crashing sound effect really was not necessary to remind us that we were watching a cartoon.
But the film is saved in the second act. The whole visit to The Merovingian is cool and I enjoyed seeing the weapons fight between Neo and The Merovingian’s thugs. We also get to see Morpheus and Trinity shine with their battle against the super cool Twins and the exhilarating highway chase involving both the Twins and the Agents. Great stuff. Sadly the third act is a bit flat despite the memorable scene with The Architect, which admittedly does hold up well. And the film kind of goes on past where it should have ended and feels very anticlimactic. But the biggest issue with this film (and the next to a lesser extent) is the Neo/Trinity relationship. We know their love is a driving force in both their lives but we only see them together in three situations: getting physical, stressed or in action. We never get to see them being normal or know why they love each other outside of it being in the script.
In conclusion, the second act of Reloaded holds up well but the rest is just kind of meh.
The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
I know Revolutions has its defenders but I am not one of them. This movie did not work when it came out and holds up even worse. I think The Wachowskis got so caught in their lore that they forgot they still needed to tell an entertaining story. Now I did enjoy the anti-gravity shoot-out involving Seraph, Morpheus, Trinity and The Merovingian’s goons. And yeah, that’s about it.
How do you make a Matrix film and spend so little time in the actual Matrix? They tried hard to make us care about all these side characters in Zion fighting off the endless Sentinel army but I truly could not bring myself to give a crap. And the Niobe piloting stuff was just meh. I did enjoy the trip to the Machine City though. That had some very cool visuals including Neo and Trinity finally seeing the human fields. But then Trinity dies in a dumb way after delivering the most mundane death speech. Did the Wachowskis learn to write romantic dialogue from George Lucas? Sheesh!
And after waiting sooooo long for the final Neo/Agent Smith clash what do we get? A highly CGI mess that looked like an episode of Dragonball Z only darker and with more lightning. I think the franchise’s increasing reliance on CGI over practical effects was one of its downfalls. And hopefully it is a pitfall they don’t repeat with Resurrections. After the fight Neo dies and I felt nothing. And Zion celebrated the end of the war and I felt nothing. And Sati and the Oracle mourned Neo and I felt nothing. A whole lot of nothing. The only thing I liked in the end was the brief scene between The Oracle and The Architect. That’s it. Of all four films Revolutions is easily the one that holds up the least in every aspect. Let’s hope Part 4 puts the franchise back on a positive trend when it releases in December.
So are you a fan of The Matrix franchise? What’s your favourite scene? And you can check out more Sci Fi action below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.