The Matrix Trilogy: Some Final Thoughts
I enjoyed the films and am looking forward to the Matrix Resurrections but there are some things I need to say as a reviewer.
I admit, I’ve given this trilogy a hard time. But I do actually enjoy the films… when I’m not thinking about them. There are some good elements, and I want to point those out before going further.
First of all, the relationship between Neo and Trinity is solid. It develops with the trilogy and we don’t have to suffer through a bunch of “will they?/won’t they?” tropes. A viewer can get invested in their relationship, so it hurts when Trinity dies. I appreciate any film where this risk is taken, instead of breaking up the characters and then getting them back together just so the writers don’t have to show the relationship’s growth.
Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus’s relationship is also strong. They work well together. A viewer can easily get emotionally invested in them and care about what happens to them — despite the growing number of plot holes which pop up along the way. Hugo Weaving, who plays Agent_Smith, is a compelling villain, and the rest of the cast is strong as well.
The problem with the Matrix trilogy that it tries to say too much, so the messages conflict when they’re not downright confusing. The writers pick and choose when the machines become sentient. There is no definite mechanism which explains how they’re transcending their programming.
Furthermore, we are asked to see many of these machines as practically human, especially the computer programs with the child at who pop up at the end. But why should we? How do we know they are not just simulating human behavior? And the characters are never shown to battle with the notion that the computer programs are becoming more human. Everything is just accepted without question, which hurts the story’s believability.
Lastly, there are the themes of the film. We have fatalism, free will, embracing your humanity. That sometimes manifests as belief and love and other times manifests as listening to your baser impulses. And there is also the theme of belief in a higher power. Despite the adult nature of the films, I do think the trilogy is advocating for a higher power. What this means in the context of dualism — the universe as a constant battle between equally matched forces of good and evil — I have no idea.
I’m still not sure if dualism is meant to only exist in the Matrix or outside of it. Dualism is also used as a justification for the purpose of Agent Smith and his grudge against Neo. Both are avatars for the good and evil within the Matrix, but when one considers that Agent Smith’s autonomy was given to him by Neo, it doesn’t make sense that Smith would become an agent of evil. Presumably, Smith, in the beginning, should have been nothing more than a cold computer program, but he is portrayed as a real source of malevolence even in the first film. How can a program be evil? How can it want to escape the Matrix? How can it want anything?
Practically speaking, you need a villain for the protagonist, so it’s certainly not problematic that Agent Smith exists. But the film series would have been tremendously improved if it had attempted an explanation for these anomalies, especially as the trilogy developed and we discover more of these programs that are essentially human. Again, belief is the core message of the trilogy, but the message gets lost in all these competing themes and plot holes. The end result is a mess of ideas clumped together in an incoherent script.
I don’t expect the fourth movie to correct these issues. Given the stretch of time between films, what is more likely to happen is that the writers are going to reestablish the universe and pass the torch to some younger actors in an attempt at a franchise. But I am curious to see if they try to resurrect Neo using some form of transhumanism. No doubt he will exist as a program within the matrix. But will they be able to get him out of the Matrix with a new body, perhaps, a mechanical body? I just hope they don’t kill off Trinity and Neo in their attempt to pass the torch. I mean, how many times can Neo die in this series?