Just look at the One Sheets. The Matrix has actual humans photographed. Reloaded has Neo and Trinity Photoshopped within an inch of their lives. Revolutions has photos turned into a digital illustration. This parallels the path of the films, The Matrix is a very good film. Reloaded is a not so good film. Revolutions sucks.
Part of my feeling has to do with time. If you come to Matrix as a Trilogy, then you probably don’t see much of anything wrong with the sequels.
A small aside.
Easily the best ever episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation is Best of Both Worlds Part 1. My least favorite episode is Best of Both Worlds Part 2. Again, if you’ve only seen these episodes back to back, you can’t understand why I wouldn’t like the second half of the episode. But I had three months to think about how Riker would deal with Locutus and the Borg. Having them take a nap was not a solution any fan of Star Trek thought up during the off season. So many of us were a bit disappointed by it.
Back to The Matrix.
The Matrix was a textbook example of the Hero’s Journey. It was a perfect stand alone film. Joseph Campbell would be proud. At the end of The Matrix, Neo has become a god in the matrix.
Those of us that loved The Matrix had four years to think about what might happen in a sequel-I can pretty much guarantee that none of us had visions of an hour long car chase in mind. The major flaw with the sequels is that the main characters are Programs and the humans are shown to be irrelevant. Somewhere between The Matrix and Reloaded, Neo lost his godhood, just as somewhere between Reloaded and Revolutions he lost his real world powers over the machines.
If I came to The Matrix today, having never seen any of the films, I think I might not feel such hatred for Reloaded and Revolutions. As it is, I feel completely betrayed by the sequels. Just as I feel betrayed by the second set of Star Wars films and the last Star Trek film.
JJ Abrams did a great job on the reboot of Star Trek and just the trailer of the new Star Wars film has restored my faith in him. So go ahead and hand The Matrix off to him as well. Let him pick up the story right after Neo flies away from the phone booth and let’s forget that Reloaded and Revolutions ever happened.