Conventional wisdom will tell you there is only one good Matrix movie, and it’s called The Matrix. Conventional wisdom is wrong.
The Matrix Reloaded does everything movie lovers claim they want in sequels, and complain that Hollywood so rarely delivers: it expands the cast of characters while still taking care to enrich the returning players, it delves deeper into the themes of the first film while widening the scope to include even more, it explores the fictional universe in ways that illuminate the character’s motivations, it ups the ante on cutting edge special effects, and expertly raises the stakes for a grand climax in a promised third film.
It’s smarter, has more exceptional action set pieces, and even a more consistent sense of morality than the original The Matrix. It always bothered me that Neo and Trinity casually sacrifice innocent humans by the dozens in the first film. I am sure it was a deliberate creative choice that in Reloaded, the heroes battle only virtual “programs”.
So why the popular opinion that both Matrix sequels suck? Here’s my theory: the concluding film in the trilogy (The Matrix Revolutions) fails to live up to everything set up by Reloaded. The mediocre third film makes all three look bad in retrospect. With time, I maintain people will look back and reappraise the entire trilogy and recognize The Matrix Reloaded as the best of the three.