I cannot stress how much I enjoy the three Matrix films, and yet I feel I have to defend myself. I have heard it time and again how the first film was a strike of genius, and the last two merely bleak copies.
I beg to disagree, and I'll try to explain why.
The first film is brilliant, and most fans of The Matrix would be on my side. The film, when it first came, was new, it was different from everything else, and the actors were not Hollywood polished, they were so much more. The story was hard to get, but not in a way that made you give up. I wanted to understand, I wanted to find the secrets to The Matrix.
I remember sitting in the movie theatre filling up with emotions I didn't know I had, how I instinctively knew the film had to be close to magic, and how it still touches me on several levels. And so far I know you all hear me! But what about the other two? I'll try to unravel that by asking even more questions, as it is the questions that drives us...
What is the Matrix?
And why is it that only the first film is considered genius?
My personal opinion is that the three films has to be seen as one whole story, and indeed that's what the Wachowski brothers had in mind.
The story, every single factor, balls to bones, was ready before making the first film. During the time it took from one to two they had in mind that the technology would become even better. But then they simply decided to make the rest in one go as they figured technology was as good as it would get. Maybe they were wrong, maybe not, but there you go. How do I know this? I have a book about The Matrix, and it tells in detail about the road from storyboard to film.
But for those of my readers that need a proof of the visual kind, then watch the first film again, and pay close attention to the first time Neo is caught by Agent Smith. Before the "interrogation" we see Neo through the screens of The Architect. Remember The Architect from film two, the one hiding behind the door only The One can go through? YES, that Architect, and I can assure you they are the same screens...
But the first film is a more philosophical film than the other two. You have the question on wether Neo is the one or not. But once that fact has been established you can't very well bring back that question. The story has to move on. And they don't for one second try to make the first film again, no they actually move on. This is where the criticism comes in, I think. People wanted the first film again, but then why not watch the first film again.
I'll agree that the two last films are more in the shape of action films than a philosophic journey, and probably more clear cut and comprehensive than the first. But they also are the next logic step. First they are establishing that they have the means to fight back, and then the war starts.
We can still locate the philosophy if we want to :-) There are several stages of existence throughout the films (this is Neo in particular, but changes like this are present in all of the principal characters).
Neo's change from prisoner of the Matrix to a member of the free world.
Neo's change from member of the free world to a prophesied savior.
Neo's change from a prophesied savior to a warrior.
Neo's change from a warrior to a Messiah.
Neo's change from a Messiah to a prisoner of the Matrix, thus fulfilling the prophesy about him, finally ending the war.
Now, can we detect any kind of symbolism in Matrix... Well, duh!
I think one can find symbolism in every single frame. And also references to literature and philosophy. I'm seeing Samuel Becket's Endgame, I'm seeing the Bible, I'm seeing Shakespeare (Hamlet, Othello, The Tempest etc), I see Descartes and Hegel. I see a comment on dictatorships around the world... And I can probably keep looking and keep finding deeper meanings for as long as I wish.
So what if Morpheus and Agent Smith speaks in capital letters the entire trilogy, so what if Neo has one facial expression (if that), so what if Trinity is more bad ass than any woman ever alive, so what if there are some cliché's used time and again, so what if the second and third film are more action films than the enigmatic first film, so what if it is yet another version of Christian stories regarding resurrection (among other things) and freedom of choice and so on, so what that most of the movies are basically green (notice that there is a green filter whenever they're in the Matrix)!
The world of film will never be the same.
And even if I don't have the answers, I urge you to look at the three films as one...because they are :-) Further I hope to get a few comments on this if you disagree, or even if you agree... because I would love to learn more...
So, what is the Matrix?
One of the most significant movie trilogies in the world.
Have a great weekend!