(Photo by ©Warner Bros.)
In March of 1999, over 22 years ago, the Wachowkis unleashed a fresh new take on sci-fi action upon the world and changed the way movies are made forever. The Matrix envisioned a dystopian world in which humans are trapped in a digital simulation while robotic overlords use their slumbering bodies as a source of energy, and one unsuspecting man holds the key to humanity’s salvation. The film, which utilized state-of-the-art technology and special effects alongside world-class martial arts choreography, was a runaway success, and the Wachowskis got right to work filming a pair of sequels.
That is, of course, where the story changes. While the original Matrix is a Certified Fresh gem widely regarded as one of the most influential films of the past few decades, spawning all manner of spin-offs and multimedia tie-ins, the two sequels that followed on its heels aren’t treated with the same reverence. Both released in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions fell victim to the law of diminishing returns, particularly the latter.
But let’s be clear here: Reloaded is still also Certified Fresh at 73% with a nigh-equal 72% Audience Score. Expanding the narrative of the first film to include more of the “real world,” Reloaded went hard on the deeper philosophical musings that were merely subtext to the cyberpunk thrills of the first film, and though it didn’t skimp on the action either, some were thrown a bit by its headier themes. (See the 2003 MTV Movie Awards spoof for evidence.) Revolutions brought the action back but, according to critics, poured in such a dizzying amount of it that it became numbing.
In other words, it was clear to everyone that there was no way the sequels could ever match the freshness and impact of the first film — rarely does that ever even happen — but in trying to build a richer mythology, the Wachowskis lost a lot of fans.
Of course, they didn’t lose everyone. There are still plenty of folks out there who swallowed the right pill (we’ll leave it to you to decide whether it was red or blue) and stuck with the franchise every step of the way, leading to its revival this week with The Matrix Resurrections. Will this new installment be enough to engage older fans and bring in new ones at the same time? Could it be the beginning of a new chapter in the Matrix saga with even more stories to tell?
While regular co-host Jacqueline Coley is still out this week, Mark Ellis is joined by Winston Marhsall, co-host of the YouTube channel Blerds N the Hood, to talk about The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Winston believes the scores for both sequels are wrong: he feels Reloaded probably shouldn’t be as high as it is, and Revolutions deserves a lot more recognition than it typically gets. Listen in as they talk about the first time they saw the films, their favorite scenes, and the sometimes inscrutable philosophy baked into the story.
Check in every Thursday for a new episode of Rotten Tomatoes Is Wrong (A Podcast From Rotten Tomatoes). Each week, hosts Jacqueline and Mark and guests go deep and settle the score on some of the most beloved – and despised – movies and TV shows ever made, directly taking on the statement we hear from so many fans: “Rotten Tomatoes is wrong.”
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Meet the hosts
Jacqueline Coley is an editor at Rotten Tomatoes, with a focus on awards and indie coverage but with a passion for everything, from the MCU to musicals and period pieces. Coley is a regular moderator at conventions and other events, can be seen on Access Hollywood and other shows, and will not stand Constantine slander of any kind. Follow Jacqueline on Twitter: @THATjacqueline.
Mark Ellis is a comedian and contributing editor for Rotten Tomatoes. He currently hosts the Rotten Tomatoes series Versus, among others, and can be seen co-hosting the sports entertainment phenomenon Movie Trivia Schmoedown. His favorite Star Wars movie is Jedi (guess which one!), his favorite person is actually a dog (his beloved stepdaughter Mollie), and – thanks to this podcast – he’s about to watch Burlesque for the first time in his life. Follow Mark on Twitter: @markellislive.