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Why The First Matrix Movie Will Always Be The Best In The Franchise

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  • Posted on 08th Apr, 2022 14:58 PM

The Matrix is one of the greatest films of all time, but with another Matrix sequel being released it has shown us yet again why it reigns supreme.

p>On March 31, 1999, an action movie was released that would change the world of film forever. It would combine action sequences that rivaled anything and everything that had come before it, a cyberpunk setting that had come right out of a novel, and the existentialism that one would typically only find in a college classroom. The Matrix immediately became a cultural powerhouse, bringing red pills versus blue pills, bullet time, glitches in the Matrix, and amazing shades to the masses.

With audiences drawing in over 400 million dollars, it was inevitable that sequels would be made. But like many other franchises before and after The Matrix, the sequels did not measure up to the massive expectations that the original set. It's one of the few problems with having a wildly successful predecessor: most of the time, whatever comes afterward will only live in its own shadow.

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Why The Sequels Feel Lackluster

The sequels did what any would do with an unexpected mega-hit. Lily and Lana Wachowski went bigger, but as the saying goes, that's not always better. They even made tie-in media like the Animatrix and a video game with live-action cutscenes filmed from the set of The Matrix: Reloaded and Revolutions. The story got huge and so there came more they needed to tie in with the already thick Matrix lore. But as fans of other massive franchises know, the bigger you go, the harder you can fall.

The Matrix got overrun by the weeds of its own story to the point of not cutting itself out. In came scenes of minutes and minutes of characters going on about ideas that mostly just confused the audience. The sequels presented audiences with amazing concepts and ideas, but they weren't presented as supplemental content to the story or action of the original. Instead, they were presented more as the content itself, with the action only serving as interruptions to the conversations. The major consensus of the sequels is that the films went epic, but got muddled in their attempt to expand on their own lore. They just weren't as tight and precise as The Matrix was and the massive ideas they were dealing with, only made it worse.

The ideas grew and evolved from the first installment, but the action lost almost all of its magic. The first film had a balance of everything from action to philosophy. Every character had motivation, and the film presented questions, but answered them along the way. The sequels went down their own rabbit hole and didn't really know what to do with some of their characters. For example, Morpheus was very much at the forefront of the first film, as his motivation was at the heart of the story: Did he find the one? But by the end of the film, that question is answered, and instead of giving him something new to hold onto, he lost all motivation in the sequels. For a character as massive as Morpheus, that isn't a good sign for the rest of the film showing. For the most part, the only characters that had anything as far as depth and growth in the sequels were Trinity and Neo, the two biggest characters of the trilogy.

The Iconography Of The Original

Keeping all this in mind, possibly the biggest reason the sequels will never be on the level of the original is part of the aforementioned problem of the successor being wildly popular. Put simply, the first movie caught lightning in a bottle, and it was naive to think that any film afterward would meet the expectations that were created. There have only been a few sequels in the past that either met or even surpassed its predecessor, such as Lord of the Rings or Terminator 2. These all had high expectations to meet, but they met them by changing up the formula, while keeping the skeleton of what made it great in the first place.

The first film was a combination of a well-thought-out singular story, massive ambition, and the passion to create something new and amazing. Although it still had its philosophical moments, it wasn't just a rinse and repeat of heavy and long-winded conversations about choice and destiny interrupted by action sequences. Everything had a purpose, and it had no fat to trim off of it.

Now in hindsight, The Matrix sequels are not as bad as they were originally touted out to be, they're not great, but they are fine, and that also goes for Resurrections. For the most part, the sequels were held to an impossible standard of meeting the hype of its predecessor as well as pleasing their target audience of action film junkies. Simultaneously, they had to delve back into the philosophy that had become ingrained as the film's DNA. But what made the first film great is that it took that philosophy and perfectly submerged it into a tightly constructed action movie that would last for generations.

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