A Universal Theory of Bad Movies: The Matrix Reloaded


Yesterday we began with an introduction to my universal theory of bad movies stating that all that divides a regular movie from a bad movie is three or four notable flaws. These flaws can be noticed by most anyone and end up dominating people’s discussion of the film afterward. We have decided to call these story tumors based on the way they inhibit and feed off the story in unhealthy ways.

Today we are looking at The Matrix Reloaded.

The Matrix Reloaded: Four Fatal Flaws

Everyone has their personal story of how excited they were for the followup to the hugely popular first Matrix film and how their expectations were massively let down. The problem with Reloaded is not that the film is a load of crap. Some of it is pretty good and clearly it had some potential. What ruined it was too many plot tumors. There were way too many problems than anyone, even your little brother, could point out.

Reloaded definitely kicked off its story with some issues, like the overload of characters and boring talking, but all of these could have been forgiven if it weren’t for what was to come.

Plot Tumor 1: The Cave Rave

Morpheus gives a motivational speech to the gathered assembly of Zion. Yes, the Sentinels are coming to kill and murder them all. They will probably all die, but it’s okay because everybody partay! Suddenly the solemnly serious tone of the first Matrix film is shattered by Morpheus’ personal night club. Audiences would not forgive or forget this one.

Plot Tumor 2: Attack of the Smiths

The last time we saw Neo fight Agent Smith, we watched in awe as he became the One and simultaneously accepted his role as deliverer of the human race and turned the Matrix in his personal playground.

But now in the battle with an army of Agent Smiths, there are no stakes. Smith can duplicate himself at will and by implication can’t be killed by normal means. Neo has complete mastery over the Matrix and presumably can’t be killed by normal means. It’s rather boring. And even worse, it looks terrible.

The first Matrix film had special effects that inspired a whole generation of copycats. But in the battle with Smith we get a fight scene that clearly looks like fake CGI Neo spinning around fake CGI Smiths. How do you go from groundbreaking to cheesy? No matter what the answer, it left audiences with something bad to talk about it. In isolation it probably could have been overshadowed by the later fight scenes but more plot tumors were to come.

Plot Tumor 3: The Merovingian

This was not a good character. He was confusingly the only French program in the Matrix and he inhabited strange dance clubs oddly reminiscent of the Zion cave. Two dance parties in one Matrix movie, really? Worse, he was totally unlikeable. He didn’t represent anything except for maybe psuedo-intellectual snobbery and French stereotypes. Not good, a huge plot tumor.

He was also completely tangential to the plot. He just happens to have the Keymaker. In the next movie he just happens to own the train station program where Neo is trapped. An annoying pointless character loosely tied to the plot but featured heavily is a big fat plot tumor. When you have cool nemeses like the Agents and Sentinels, something like this weird rapey French guy is asking for trouble.

Plot Tumor 4: The Architect

This is a case of taking something profound (the nature of reality from inside an artificial Matrix imprisoning all of humanity) and mushing it into gobbledygook. The Architect was a memorable villain but in all the wrong ways.

He speaks in exotic barely comprehensive logic-speak. He sits in a room full of monitors and twirls his beard. Bad guys are supposed to be threatening, not stuffy. They should exude some type of inner fortitude, not dribble drabble.

And the Architect is here to overturn everything you thought you knew about the Matrix. He is the puppet master behind the illusion and he bears terrible news: Neo is not special. No, he’s the result of a complex equation trying to balance itself. There have plenty of Ones floating around the Matrix and it’s all part of the game programs like to play. In this one moment everything cool about the Matrix suddenly became a math problem. And that, my friends, is a honking big unforgivable story tumor.

And that’s really it. Those four plot tumors bring down the entire Matrix franchise. Just fixing those four completely obvious potholes in the story and I swear people would be calling Reloaded one of their favorite films of all time. What separates a regular movie from a bad movie all comes down to three or four obvious missteps.

Get ready for Monday when we take a look at X-Men Origins: Wolverine.


2 thoughts on “A Universal Theory of Bad Movies: The Matrix Reloaded

  1. I actually didn’t have a problem with the concepts put forth by the Architect near the end of the film, but I did think that it was poorly executed. I agree with all your other criticisms, though. These ‘story tumors’ do seem to grow worse and worse the more you put them in the greater context of how the Matrix setting is built.

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