The Matrix Trilogy Is Perfect

The Matrix

Unfortunately everyone can be told what the Matrix is and you do it like two scenes later, Morpheus, you lying jackass.

Netflix correctly lists the directors without deadnaming them, adding them to the long list of film-related sites that are better at this shit than Wikipedia, which actually has a rather peevish note about their site policy appended to their article about this film, which when you have to do that is usually a great sign that it’s time to revisit whether or not your site’s policy is bullshit.

Humans would make very bad batteries. (I know the “real” plot hole of the movie is how the fuck did Cypher get into the Matrix by himself to meet with Agent Smith, but it still bears mentioning that the central premise doesn’t make any sense. Then again, I honestly don’t care as long as it’s easy to ignore and a good movie comes out of it, and both of those boxes are ticked here.) Also, I really give zero shits whether this is “the real world” or a simulation, so that part of the premise really doesn’t grab me? I do think it’s hilarious that a generation of retrograde “male rights activists” have used the red pill/blue pill dynamic as their rallying cry when this movie was made by two trans women. (Also, even in their own analogy, I’m not really sure why taking the red pill is supposed to make you see the world… exactly the way men have seen it pretty much forever. Oh, right, I forgot, feminists are running the world with borderline tyrannical powers. Clearly.)

Morpheus’s little speech to Neo about how most of the people in the Matrix are innocent bystanders but are also potential enemies because of how they’re tied into the system has a lot of interesting parallels to revolutionary ideology, right? I’m not blind to the fact that this point of view could be used to justify rather horrifying things and I’m not saying that it ought to be used that way, but at the same time, if I were inadvertently killed in an act of revolution because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, I wouldn’t want my death to be used as an argument against that revolution.

If the main thing you get out of this movie is an obsessive interest in the idea that reality is really a simulation, you have way too much free time. And all the people throwing money at “researching” this “possibility” could be doing much more productive things with the resources at their disposal.

Trinity forgot to say “motherfucker” after she told the agent to “dodge this” with a gun to his head. A glaring omission.

I’m really sad that they killed Switch and even more sad that they didn’t explore his character more. Like, I see his gender identity pop up on lists of things “you probably didn’t notice” about The Matrix, and while my knee-jerk reaction is “how the fuck did anyone not notice that,” I’m sure it’s actually the case for plenty of people. And it really feels like he could’ve been explored more.

I feel like the soundtrack of this film is an underratedly huge part of why it’s so awesome, but I also understand the focus on the visuals. (Less so the obsession with the whole simulation thing, but I’ve already covered that). Also, the fashion. I high-key need Trinity’s outfit.

Defibrillator kisses, an exciting new scifi/romance coming this summer to SyFy.

I could’ve done without all the prophecy stuff surrounding Neo, because it’s just such a huge storytelling crutch, but the movie gets by fine in spite of it.

Who else is in favor of a theatrical rerelease (and accompanying home media rereleases) of every single Wachowski film so their names can be corrected in the credits, Wikipedia can get off their damn high horse, and more importantly we can all have an excuse to go see all the Wachowskis’ movies in theaters and then buy them on blu-ray (preferably steelbook)? It can’t just be me, right?

Also, while I’m harping on this, please consider burning down Wikipedia and replacing it with a site that doesn’t consider deadnaming transgender people an important editorial standard that must be upheld at all costs. Thanks.

(S-Rank)

The Matrix Reloaded

The ending is a bit abrupt and weird, but that’s really the only complaint, right? Plenty of people complain about the somewhat dodgy CGI, but it compares favorably the most contemporaneous films (the freaking Star Wars prequels, Raimi’s Spider-Man movies). The only thing I can think of that came out around the same time that really blew it out of the water on that front was the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and that blew almost every film of its time out of the water in every category so kinda whatever?

I continue to be jealous of all of Trinity’s Matrix outfits. Also, I should learn how to ride a motorcycle.

Keanu Reeves’ subdued “Where are you?” > Christian Bale’s angry “WHERE ARE YOU?”

That puppy dog-eyed kid following Neo around and telling Neo he saved him and Neo putting his hand on his shoulder and telling him he saved himself probably gives every trans person Feelings.

Even though I don’t really care too much about the whole “we’re living in a simulation, man!” mentality, I do really enjoy a lot of the little details these movies fold into their worldbuilding. Deja vu in the first movie, ghosts/werewolves/etc in this one.

… come to think of it, how do babies work in the Matrix?

Smith: “It is purpose that binds us.”

Whatever works for you, man. Personally I recommend some nice, soft rope or padded cuffs.

It’s weird that both Lord of the Rings and The Matrix had their trilogies come out at roughly the same time as the Star Wars prequels, and they all had wars going on and a few council/senate/whatever meetings with heavy exposition, but the Matrix/Lord of the Rings ones didn’t have me popping caffeine to stay awake. That’s weird, right?

A lot of people give this movie a lot of crap for the really fun-looking dance orgy thing, and admittedly teenage me was very taken aback by the intercut explicit sex scene with Neo and Trinity, but now I kind of get a laugh out of how not kinky all the sex in this is considering that a lot of these people run around the Matrix in literal fetishwear. Teases.

The Architect using uncommon prepositions and adverbs doesn’t make his speech confusing.

Commander Lock is a good character concept, and they got a good actor to play him, but he was badly underwritten.

The action setpieces in this one are incredible (yes even the silly Neo vs. Smiths fight) but I’m not telling you anything new. Also from the “duh” file: I love, love, love the music in this.

Finally, that cake that gives you a spontaneous orgasm? I’m not impressed. That’s what cake should do anyway if it’s made right.

(S-Rank)

The Matrix Revolutions

This might be only the second time I’ve ever watched Revolutions? I watched The Matrix so many times I’m pretty sure I wore out the VHS, because that was a period of my life when I would still watch movies over and over and over and over if I was really into them. I watched Reloaded a ton while waiting in a state of anticipatory hype for Revolutions, but I’m not sure I ever actually revisited Revolutions. And, as should be obvious from my rating, it definitely wasn’t because I was disappointed. I actually walked out of the theater feeling completely satisfied.

When I was asked recently by a friend why I had never revisited Revolutions before, I couldn’t quite explain why. Maybe, I eventually reasoned to myself, it was because while The Matrix was this singular/cool movie and Reloaded was great on its own but still carried this sense of anticipation for the next installment, maybe I was simply satisfied that the journey was done, there was nothing else to wait for. And I’m sure that played a part of it. But I think I know the real reason now.

This movie is fucking hard, guys. And it’s hard because it is just jam packed with consequences. It kind of reminds me of going from Mass Effect 2 to Mass Effect 3. Whatever you want to say about Mass Effect 3’s ending (and if you’re a fan of a series, the answer is probably “plenty”), the game itself is just excruciating in hitting you over and over with moments of consequence. It mercilessly hits you with ending after ending of stories of characters you’ve come to know like they’re real people in your life over the course of literal days’ worth of gameplay over the course of two games. Some of those endings are deaths, some of those endings are simpler parting of ways, you often have the choice of whether those endings are betrayals or culminations of lives’ ambitions. But there is hardly a second of that game that isn’t packed with consequences. And to me, that is what a conclusion in any form of media should be. The feeling that this is it. That everything has led to this, had to lead to this, and it’s going to go one way or another, but whichever way it goes there is no going back.

The obvious movie comparison is Return of the King. It’s contemporaneous, among other things. But while Return of the King lets most of its characters out the other side changed but surprisingly unscathed, The Matrix Revolutions isn’t as kind. I knew Neo’s blinding was coming. I knew Trinity’s death was coming. These were shocking, gut-wrenching moments the first time I saw the film, but this time the movie had no surprises left for me but that didn’t stop them from being just as gut-wrenching as they were the first time. And I think that might be the reason I haven’t revisited this film until now. I didn’t need to. These moments of profound consequence were burned into my memory by my single viewing just as surely as the “cool” moments from the first two films were over the course of multiple viewings. When something hits you like a ton of bricks, it’s just going to stay with you much more easily.

Another thing Revolutions shares in common with Return of the King, which I greatly appreciate, is that it spends quite a bit of time with characters experiencing anxiety before a battle, or when Neo and Trinity are parting ways from Morpheus and the others with their fates uncertain. None of these characters shy away from the fact that these things are terrifying. None of these characters put up a strong front or say something disarming. Everyone plainly admits that they’re fucking scared, because of course they are. When the time comes, they might face death (or the possibility of death) with something resembling the stoicism that lesser films have taught us to expect of our heroes, but you never really buy it. There is a profound human element here that the film never abandons. These aren’t superheroes. These are people.

Even Neo and Trinity, the quintessential superhero-like figures of the series, go through a meat grinder of anxiety in this movie. And they don’t take any of their decisions lightly. They tell each other how goddamn scared they are. Trinity vividly describes having trouble tying her boots because she’s so scared. And this, more than any flowery language, more than any profound declarations you might find in other films, contextualizes the depth of their commitment to their cause and to each other. Trinity describes herself as not hesitating before joining Neo, of there being no question of her not doing so. She tells Neo that he knew the second he looked at her that she was going with him, and she’s right. Neo tells her that he doesn’t know if either of them is coming back, and she knows that too. And she’s fucking scared. And he’s fucking scared. But there is nevertheless no question that they’re going to do what they must, and they’re going to do it together. It is impossible for me to imagine a better ending for these characters, one that is truer to everything we’ve seen in the past two films.

Trinity’s death will never not destroy me. I was a sobbing mess throughout the scene, and I do not want to live long enough to not feel that way. Part of it is all about the context, and the way these two characters have been deeply humanized to the point where it feels real. And it’s just a damn effective scene even in isolation. It lets her say everything she needs to say. The scene is about her more than it is about Neo’s reaction to her death. It’s not just providing him with additional motivation. It is the end of a story, of their story together. And it’s so goddamn effective that I never quite recover from it even during the unbelievably consequential events of the rest of the film. (Including one of the best movie fights you will ever see, by the way.) That emotional resonance doesn’t detract from those ensuing scenes. If anything, it enhances them. Anyway, I need to stop talking about this now because I’m already starting to cry again.

My stepbrother and I had an argument after we saw this film together in theaters because he liked the second film better because it was “more philosophical.” I didn’t have the vocabulary or the critical thinking skills at the time to explain exactly why I disagreed with him, but I insisted that the third film was more philosophical, and I stand by it. And it’s because the second film laid the groundwork, and it had a shit load more talking about philosophy (which is why it’s superficially defensible that the second film was “more philosophical” than the third), but the third film takes all of that setup and actually puts it into action. It answers the questions. It forces its characters to commit to their choices, to their beliefs.

The Matrix trilogy is perfect, and I won’t hear anything to the contrary. Even though I’ve always felt like that was probably the case, I haven’t seen this concluding chapter in over a decade, so there was always a bit of hesitation on my part to jump right into arguments like that. But there is no hesitation on my part now. The Matrix trilogy is near the top of any list I might make of greatest trilogies, greatest movie series, greatest whatever. And Revolutions is easily in the conversation as one of the greatest final acts in a movie series ever. Anyone who’s interested in how to do a concluding chapter of a trilogy correctly (hint, hint, as-yet-unknown Colin Trevorrow replacement) would be wise to familiarize themselves with how they did things in 2003, because I really don’t think anyone’s ever done it better than The Matrix Revolutions or The Return of the King.

(S-Rank)


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