KEANU Reeves has been a busy man in the run-up to the release of The Matrix Resurrections on December 23rd.
The Canadian actor recently speculated about a fifth Matrix movie and where he’d fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one comment in an interview with the Guardian left me with a particularly sour taste of indignation in my mouth.
Reeves was addressing the perceived disappointment that critics and some portions of the fanbase felt about the original two Matrix sequels, Reloaded and Revolutions, which were both released in 2003.
The interview notes that Reeves is “sympathetic” towards these fans as he experienced a similar feeling when he saw the third Star Wars film Return of the Jedi as a 19-year-old in 1983.
“I went in, like, ‘Wow, I wonder, are they gonna do this, and will they do that…? And then I was, like, ‘Oh no. Oh no.’ Um, so I totally get it.”Keanu Reeves speaking to the Guardian
While I admire Reeves’ empathetic relationship with his fanbase, it feels inaccurate to assume those sequels were universal disappointments.
As someone who grew up thinking Neo and co were the coolest mob of cyber insurgents to ever grace my parents’ state-of-the-art Toshiba VHS player, I hold those two sequels in such high regard precisely because of their so-called imperfections.
Straight away, the release dates being just six months apart was marvellous. No waiting around for two years of filming. Critics argued it was rushed, I argue it was enthusiasm to give the fans what they want.
Furthermore, the sequels were said to be intellectually inept compared to the original. On the contrary, I believe the filmmakers focused less on philosophy and more on themes of adventure and hope. They also sidestepped turning an already ambitious rabbit hole of science fiction into a convoluted mess by relying on one of the best things about the original Matrix – the fight scenes.
Think of the scene on the highway or Neo versus Agent Smith clones in the park in Reloaded. Then think of the machines attacking Zion or Neo versus Smith in the rain in Revolutions. Forget about the outdated CGI – I’d only be getting moderately carried away if I said these were masterpieces.
Regarding The Matrix Reloaded, TimeOut said: “The longer this movie goes on, the harder it is to care.” I feel sorry for the writer here. Any time spent in the Matrix universe is time well spent in my opinion. I would’ve made them even longer if I had any clout whatsoever at the Warner Brothers studio.
It’s easy to attack sequels because they’re not as good as the original. Star Wars, The Hangover, Speed (another Keanu classic) – these films came out of the blocks so fast that they blew everyone’s mind, and in an effort to grab as much cash as they could, producers tarnished the legacy by dragging it out further than it ever should have been.
With The Matrix though, there were so many unanswered questions in the first that it would have been impossible and unfair to leave it on such a cliffhanger. Originally there was only supposed to be one Matrix sequel, but it became two, which could explain the short gap in between releases.
It’s these unanswered questions that critics say bog down the sequels, as they try and wade through some of the lofty pseudoscientific theory proposed in the original. But as a member of the audience and a loyal fan of the series, I accept that not everything is as simple as just continuing the same things that won you success in the first place. To create a franchise you need depth, and the first Matrix didn’t have enough.
Granted, at age 12 when my passion for the Matrix was cemented, I did not possess the overly critical view of cinema I am cursed with today. But even now in my late 20s, I will still revert back to the trilogy with open arms during a hungover movie marathon or a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Nostalgia is likely playing a role in my steadfast defence of the sequels, but I think to disregard both movies as disappointing is selling yourself miles too short, Keanu.
Watch the trailer for the hotly anticipated fourth instalment of the Matrix series below.