Films That Can Be Salvaged Part 8: The Matrix Sequels (2003)
The Rundown: An ambitious followup to 1999′s acclaimed The Matrix, Warner Brothers forged ahead with not one but two sequels that would be shot simultaneously and released six months apart in 2003. Reloaded expanded the universe established by the first film, but ultimately left audiences scratching their heads with all the ambiguity. Fans hoped for Revolutions to bring clarity and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, but were left disappointed. The end result were two films that did not measure up to the original.
What made it great: The action sequences and the majority of the special effects served as the highlights of the two films. The returning players also had moments to shine, but they were diluted by the expanded cast and meandering storyline.
What can be fixed: This may offend hardcore fans of the trilogy, but I believe everything could be fixed.
First and foremost, Reloaded and Revolutions can be condensed into a single film. A watchable film can be salvaged from these two mediocre ones. The primary reason for this claim is that there are so many pointless scenes.
Example: Neo fights a few agents at the beginning of Reloaded. After disposing of them, he then does his “Superman thing” and flies to the Oracle’s apartment, only to discover she is not there. Pointless.
The two films are littered with diversions and filler that don’t contribute to the main storyline, rather their only purpose is to bloat the running time. One could argue that every scene adds to the tapestry and cannon that serves as the mythology for the Matrix. That may be true, but let me ask this: are you better off knowing about midi-chlorians? Sometimes it’s better to fill the gaps with your mind.
Diversions also come in the form of characters that are not really needed. Newcomer Link and his marriage issues could be scaled back to nothing. The Merovingian proved to be a somewhat useless villain (though initially entertaining). All the council members ended up being toothless, as their politics didn’t provide any opposition or roadblocks for the protagonists to overcome.
The love triangle between Morpheus, Niobe, and Lock also proved to be fruitless, and doesn’t bear mentioning. Morpheus and Niobe can still hookup, and Lock can still be a minor antagonist towards Morpheus, and nothing would be missed as Lock could be seen as anti-prophecy/anti-Neo instead. If this triangle came to blows or something that impacted the story, then it warrants exploring. Right now it can be cut. Note: Apparently Niobe and her story arc are part of a merchandise tie-in to the video game Enter The Matrix. Talk about being shoehorned! I’m going to ignore all events that occur in the video game, despite being cannon.
To melt these two films down to one, some of the big-budget action scenes would be casualties. The biggest casualty would be “The Burly Brawl”, where Neo fights a few hundred Agent Smiths only to end the fight by flying away – something he could have done at anytime. Also, a lot of the CG in that scene was suspect. I’d trim this scene down to a minute or less, enough to demonstrate Smith’s cloning ability.
Another action sequence to be dealt many cuts is the prolonged invasion of Zion by the machines that ate up a bulk of Revolutions. I actually liked many elements of this invasion: the army of Mechs, the thousands of Sentinels, and the giant drill machines. But this battle is being waged by secondary characters – Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are all taking a backseat to this lengthy battle, and that is a detriment to the story. I envision this sequence being secondary to what the main three are doing. A comparable example would be Galaxy Quest: All the Thermians on the ship are captured and losing oxygen. They’re in a really bad way, but it all takes place in the background as Nesmith and his gang run around to try and save them.
One upside of condensing the two films into one is weaving a more cohesive narrative. One thing that undermined the films was Neo being so fixated on saving Trinity’s life in Reloaded, but she ultimately dies in Revolutions, somewhat negating all that effort. In a single film, her journey wouldn’t be so prolonged. Her actual death could be foreshadowed instead. In fact, she doesn’t need to be shown being shot. Neo can catch her falling, and we can move forward from there.
The end result would be a lean film that features a higher quotient of action thanks to many abbreviated set pieces culled from the two films. The secondary plot lines, characters, and politics would disappear altogether because lets face it, the first Matrix film did just fine without all the fluff.
Read the rest of the Salvageable Films series here.