I recently re-watched the original Matrix for the first time in probably, oh, eight years or so. I was sort of worried that a decade’s worth of spoofs and imitations would rob it of some of the initial impact, but I’m happy to report it still holds up as a very strong film. Also, it’s definitely one of the best looking blu-rays I have seen, even though they went just a tad overboard with the green tint in this one.

Re-watched Matrix: Reloaded, as well. Still enjoyed it quite a bit, although I remember once thinking I preferred it to the first film. Not sure if that is still the case – it had better action scenes, but suffers from a dragging pace in the first act. Still a very worthy sequel that unfortunately is often criticized more for the sins of the third film than for any real problems it itself has.

Then there’s The Matrix: Revolutions. So, alright, I did still like the movie quite a bit. I was worried that watching it so soon after watching Reloaded might be a negative, but I am now of the opinion that this is really the ONLY way to watch Revolutions. I think one of the problems people have with it, even if they don’t realize it on a conscious level, is that it is doesn’t work at all as a movie on its own. Reloaded and Revolutions were filmed at the same time and are essentially one giant movie, and that can really be felt in the third film, which is pretty much just one long climax. It doesn’t have a three act structure – sure, it kind of tries for one with the opening twenty minutes of Neo stuck in the train station, but it’s really just farting around at that point, killing time till we get to the good stuff.

Another interesting thing about it, and probably another reason it is far less popular than the others, is how little time is actually spent in the Matrix in this movie. Almost all of the movie is in “the real world,” and most of what scenes are in The Matrix are either in the Smith-corrupted version or the Merovingian’s club, which is such an over-the-top portrayal of a fetish club that it doesn’t feel real, anyway. This emphasis on Zion and real-world action lends the movie a totally different feel than the other two, and I think it was pretty ballsy of the Wachowski’s to conclude the series with a movie that mostly avoids the sort of action that dominated the previous two.

That leads me to my one big complaint – the battle of Zion. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool sequence, and it looks absolutely stupendous watching it on blu-ray on a large-screen high-def TV. But the problem is that none of the three main characters are involved in it. For twenty or so minutes, the movie instead asks us to follow a bunch of side-characters we barely know and hardly care about. Heck, one of the main characters of this sequence (the butch chick that is clearly an “homage” to Vasquez from Aliens) is literally introduced with just a couple lines of dialog only minutes before the battle. This is such a weird filmmaking decision – to take Neo, Trinity and Morpheus out of the equation for such a long stretch in the climactic film of the trilogy – and one that suggests the Wachowski’s were starting to get a little too overly-confident in their connection with the audience.

That being said, I still enjoyed the movie, and think the final battle with Smith is one of the best moments of the entire series (now THIS is the sort of fight I think we all want to see in a Superman movie). And unlike many others, I really enjoy the way it all wraps up. Once again, this was a bold choice, and was bound to alienate most of the audience, who grew up conditioned to expect total happy endings from a lifetime of Hollywood movies. But I like that the movie ends with an uneasy peace between man and machine – this is how wars usually end in real life, and I find it a lot more appropriate to the series than if the humans had simply won, somehow fixed the sky, and then gone above-ground and had a party with Ewoks.

It’s interesting; I’ve found that most of the people I know who enjoy Revolutions and the series as a whole are writers, whereas the people who only like the first movie and hate the sequels are just the average movie fans who want action above all else. I’m not trying to claim this as a “we’re smarter than you” sort of thing, not at all. I just think writers and like-minded people are a little more willing to get swept up in the sequel’s deeper meanings and philosophizing. And don’t get me wrong, I realize that a lot of the stuff in these movies is simplistic, first-year philosophy class mumbo jumbo. But, still, at least it’s trying, and it still feels a lot different than most other action/sci-fi series because of it. I still believe the Matrix series will come to be slightly better appreciated as a whole over time, once more and more people can watch it in one sitting and not deal with the hype-created letdown of a third movie that didn’t really mesh with the others. Time will tell, but until then, I’m damn glad I bought the whole thing, and I will continue to re-visit it every few years from now on.

Final scores for the series:

The Matrix: A

A cinema game-changer that deserved every accolade it got, and still holds up today as one of the best sci-fi films of the modern era. A lot of people like to hate on The Matrix because every movie that came out afterwards tried so hard to be it, but to hold that against the movie or the Wachowski’s is ridiculous, and is equivalent to saying artists should never try to be revolutionary because of what it might lead to. Likewise, I can understand not liking the sequels more than I can not liking this one, since those are obviously more flawed films, but to act like the first movie sucks just because it’s follow-ups weren’t so hot is also pretty dumb. Godfather Part III didn’t make the other two movies bad.

The Matrix: Reloaded: B-

Probably could have been a pure B if they had tightened up the pace and eliminated that god awful Zion rave scene. Still, this was the movie that exposed a lot of Matrix fans, who claimed they enjoyed the first movie more for its philosophical meanings than its action. But when that element was increased in the sequels, a lot of people tuned out. I actually like the philosophical hokum, personally. Reloaded‘s real main problem is an unavoidable one – it’s just not as new and original as the first, and so feels a lot more predictable)

The Matrix: Revolutions: C

My issues with this one are laid out above. It’s an OK climax to the series, and I like some of the big ideas in it, but it doesn’t work as a stand-alone film and leaves the characters we care about out of the action for too long of a time. If you view the two sequels as one film, I guess I’d give it a C+, only because of the length and a few unnecessary sequences – did I mention that I hate that rave?