The Matrix Trilogy | Teen Ink

The Matrix Trilogy

December 8, 2017
By CoolPoet737 DIAMOND, South Burlington, Vermont
CoolPoet737 DIAMOND, South Burlington, Vermont
86 articles 5 photos 15 comments

These days, it seems that everywhere you turn, technology is always there. The TV. The computer. Your phone, even. These pieces of metal, plastic, and advanced hardware serve you well, providing you the latest up-to-date news, weather, and texts from your mutual friends. But what if that wasn’t entirely the case? What if computer programs took the shape of human beings, poised to control or even kill you? What if it was a step further? What if, instead the computers being your servant, you served the computers, locked in an impenetrable virtual world where you unknowingly carried out your daily tasks while really unconscious and hooked up to wires that not only maintained the illusion of your daily life but even fed off you to provide power to an apocalyptic wasteland that is the real world? This is the question that The Wachowski Brothers (which we shall refer them to, even though they technically both changed the name to The Wachowski Sisters) brilliantly answered in their hugely successful Matrix Trilogy, which includes the excellent 1999 film The Matrix, the mediocre 2003 sequel The Matrix Reloaded, and the ummmm…not so great 2003 (yes, the final two were both made in the same year, which so happens to also be the year I was born) finale The Matrix Revolutions. The purpose of this article (as you have probably figured out) is to conduct a detailed review of all three Matrix films, starting with the first one all the way through the third one. So you can probably expect some semi-major spoilers in the following paragraphs (even though I do place warnings before most of them). And another thing is, as I have only seen the original trilogy at the time of writing, there won’t be much more than a brief blurb about the animated Matrix offshoot The Animatrix or the self-indulgent “documentary”  The Matrix Revisited. Now that that’s finally out of the way, just sit back and enjoy my insightful exploration of The Matrix trilogy in it’s entirety.

The riveting first film kicks off with a mysterious woman in black sprinting into the night on the tops of buildings in a series of gravity-defying stunts as the outraged (and baffled) cops trail her. Finally, she reaches a phone booth and manages to pick up the phone just as a truck smashes the booth to smithereens. However, when the wrecked remains of the phone booth are taken away, it’s only missing one thing: her. Meanwhile, an average Joe by day, computer hacker by night named Neo discovers a mysterious warning on his computer screen one night. The next day, he receives an even more mysterious phone call at his work cubicle giving him specific directions on how to get away from some strange black men who have appeared to be looking for him. Failing that, he soon gets captured and interrogated by them, suddenly waking up in his bed right when they place a creepy bug in his stomach. However, he soon gets found by the black-clad woman and a heavyweight bald guy, who effectively (and gruesomely) remove the bug from his stomach, take him to their place, inform them that he is actually living in a virtual world called the Matrix, and give him the choice of a blue pill, which lets him keep on living this illusion, or the red pill, which places him in the unknowledgeable terrors of the real world. Needless to say, he takes the red pill, wakes up in a man sized pod with all sorts of wires connected to him, disconnects the wires, and joins Morpheus (the heavyweight bald guy) and Trinity (the black clothed woman) on a very Star Trek esquire spaceship in their desperate battle to save humanity from The Matrix (yes, people can go in and out of The Matrix (as well as computer programs designed to teach Neo kung-fu, get him weapons to fight the bad guys, etc.) as freely as they choose, just as long as they’re hooked up), all while protecting their ship from these creepy giant bug-like machines. What really makes this movie work is the (barely) sustained tension towards the beginning as Neo (and you) are sustained in that eerie sense of not knowing if he’s in the Matrix, if he’s not in the Matrix and what the heck is going on anyway. Unfortunately, that aspect of the film would be quickly done away with in a pair of (admittedly) lesser-quality sequels which traded the intricacies of the first one for non-stop, eye-popping action. While that may be good (in a way), it still doesn’t make up for what began to be an interesting series. Anyway. while I think I’ve said too much already about what happens, I will say that there is a very excellent (and intense) scene that involves a subway. Enough said. The point is, this is an exhilarating science fiction action flick that I highly recommend to everyone who is reading this (especially the critics, who gave the film a “Certified Fresh” score of 87% out of 100 on the popular film criticism website Rotten Tomatoes)  If you could only see one Matrix film (or R-rated movie, for that matter), let it be this one. In fact, the plot ends on such a satisfying and (dare I say it?) conclusive note that it’s pretty hard to see the need for any sequels at all. Except money. Yep, money ($463, 517,383 grossed worldwide, making the film the highest grossing R-rated film in history) was the reason The Wachowskis ultimately decided to turn the Matrix into a trilogy. Their first reach toward that goal would be the action-packed sequel The Matrix Reloaded, which is the subject of the following.

First, let me just get this out of the way. The Matrix Reloaded has absolutely no plot at all, period. OK, I guess there’s a very loose plot involving Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, the entire crew, and their continuing fight (again) with the Matrix’s ultimate baddies (including Mr. Smith (the main evil computer program from the first film), and his hundreds of thousands of clones), but that’s pretty much it. Unless, of course, you count the budding love interest between Neo and Trinity, which is explicitly defined in a surprisingly graphic sex scene. While I won’t be detailed about what happens, I will say that although that particular scene wasn’t X-rated by any means, it was definitely one of the most (if not the most) graphic depictions of that type of situation that I’ve seen so far (and believe me, I’ve seen a lot). In any case, though, that and the noticeably bloodier action earned the franchise it’s first true R rating (the first one should’ve been PG-13, fair and square), as well as vast approval from audiences, who spent $742,128,461 on the film worldwide, shattering the standards set by the first one. Even the critics were nuts about this film, with Roger Ebert raving that the film is “a triumph over the original” (which it is most definitely not), and Rotten Tomatoes giving the film a surprisingly high rating of 72% out of 100. However, before you judge me, I will say that I most definitely did NOT hate the film. I do have to admit, the action sequences are very well choreographed (if slightly over the top) and the film is very watchable, even if it does lack that first film’s subtle balance between action and plot, as well as it’s opening nail-biting suspense/tension of not knowing whether he’s in The Matrix or not (which would be completely done away with in the ludicrous finale). The point is, if you saw the first one, loved it, and want just a little something extra to satisfy your Matrix cravings, fine, watch it. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. Otherwise, you might not be interested. As a bit of a side note, while I won’t say what happens, I will say that the second one ends on a major cliffhanger, with a “to be concluded” flashing across the screen, therefore forcing you to watch the poorly executed finale The Matrix Revolutions.

The Matrix Revolutions kicks off with (minor spoiler alert!) Neo stuck in a train station that’s (somehow) between the real world and The Matrix. After (unsuccessfully) trying to get onto the train that will carry him to freedom, we then follow his (mis)adventures trying to break free of this eternal prison while Morpheus and Trinity frantically race to find him by breaking into a sexy bar and threatening a seductive French man (who first appeared in the second installment), chasing a grimy street man known as the Trainmaster (yes, he’s involved with this whole train thing as well), and finally finding Neo at the station. Then, we’re off for some tedious chatter with a very Whoopi Goldberg-like computer program known only as The Oracle (who was definitely in the first two films, but not as the same actor), before she gets captured by (and cloned into) Mr. Smith. Once they’re done with that, they all proceed to chase a pair of computer programs of a man and a little girl. However, just when Mr Smith corners them and is about turn both of them into Smith clones, the camera inexplicably cuts away. Was it out of sheer dignity that the camera decided not to show the (somewhat) gruesome cloning of a little girl into an evil, horrifying monster? (Although a mini-Smith clone would actually be pretty funny) Probably not. If anything, the violence is grislier than ever, escalating to the point where a man’s face is just about sliced to bits by the machines (the gruesome wounds are graphically shown on-screen for an extended period of time as he dies). And it doesn’t stop there. Mr. Smith manages to get inside one of the crewmates’ bodies and wreck havoc before finally getting offed, face bloody all the while. People are gruesomely impaled by the bug-robots. Did I mention that Mr Smith’s human form manages to even (big spoiler alert!) blind Neo with a torch, leaving him chair-bound to just point out things to Trinity (who later gets impaled as well) with extremely impaired vision? What a wonderfully sweet and positive movie. Certainly secures that R rating, that’s for sure. Gore aside, another reason the movie doesn’t quite live up to it’s predecessors is that except for the scenes that I already mentioned, the film is basically just an extended Aliens-style battle with the giant bug-robots that enslave them all. Seriously. While it might seem refreshing to put most of the movie in the real world as well as focus on the ever-present danger of the machines, it leaves virtually no room for anything resembling character development, much less an actual plot. Even more urgent than that is since Neo was blinded and Trinity has to keep watch over him (at least, until she gets killed), they’re both virtually out of the plot. Just when you’re absolutely certain this film couldn’t possibly hurtle further off the rails, Neo somehow winds up in the Matrix again, sight restored, fighting Mr Smith in the pouring rain. It’s times like these that really make me wonder how Hollywood got to be like this. Anyway, after about 15 minutes straight of kicking, punching, and massive explosions, all in the same rain-splattered (and ridiculously overdone) place, we finally get the ultimate anticlimax, which is (biggest spoiler of all!!), Neo simultaneously dying AND wiping out all of Smith’s clones, all at the same time while all the bug-like machines retreat and the shocked remaining population joyfully cheering victory, all while the Matrix restarts, with the man, the girl, AND the Oracle all inexplicably showing up unharmed and showing no trace of ever being Smith’s clones at all (which is really odd, considering that anyone else who became Smith’s clones was destroyed along with him), as well as the computer program who created the Matrix in the first place (who was also in the second one as well). So to sum up the movie, I can safely say that it was definitely the worst Matrix film I’ve ever seen, period. The critics definitely thought that as well (who gave it a 36% “Rotten” score on Rotten Tomatoes), as well as the audience (who only gave the film $139,313,948 in North America ($427,343,298 worldwide) as opposed to the $150 million budget). Even if you’re looking for a satisfying ending to the trilogy, it doesn’t really work as that either. The point is, the ONLY audience that I would even remotely recommend this overblown finale to are die-hard Matrix fans, and even those people will probably wind up scratching their heads as to why the heck something that started off so cool wound up being such a trainwreck.

However, the Matrix story doesn’t quite end there. Somewhere in between the releases of the second and third Matrix films, a collection of nine short CGI and hand-drawn animated films related to the Matrix. Although The Animatrix ultimately didn’t turn out to be as popular as the main trilogy, it still received a “Fresh” rating of 89% (though only out of 18 reviews, as opposed to the trilogy’s total of 594). And as for The Matrix Revisited, although I haven’t seen it, I have heard from some critics that all it is is the Wachowskis rambling on for two hours about how great the Matrix is, so that’s probably a no. The last thing I need to watch is a Matrix-themed repeat of Dear Mr. Watterson, which an hour and a half of the same thing, except it was Calvin and Hobbes they were promoting. ‘Nuf said. However, something that was released that I might potentially be interested in is The Ultimate Matrix Collection, which includes all five Matrix films (including Animatrix and Revisited), as well as five bonus discs, all on Blu-ray. If it means that I’d be able to own the entire Matrix universe, good and bad, for me (and potentially my future kids) to watch one day, then fine, I’ll take it. And speaking of the Matrix universe, it’s been expanded even beyond that. The Wachowskis continue the Matrix story on the website The Matrix Online and the notion of a reboot is even being considered by Warner Bros, who are currently working on several different storylines (including one about a young Morpheus) as I type this right now. Anyway, the whole point of this is that the years have gone by, The Wachowskis have changed their genders (not to be homophobic or anything, but seriously, why did they do that anyway?), an infinite number of sci-fi flicks, sequels, remakes, reboots, and prequels have been made (some taking the gore factor to the bloody limit), and the sheer joy of a new Matrix film coming to the theater has been all but forgotten entirely, but one thing’s for sure: like it or not, The Matrix, in all it’s forms, will always be here, whether engrained in our minds or in the minds of popular culture. If nothing else, that’s the reason why, even after the 18 years now since the first film was released upon an unsuspecting public, we will still remember this groundbreaking trilogy for decades to come.

The author's comments:

I wrote this article because I figured I might as well get SOMETHING out of watching the Matrix trilogy in it's entireity.

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