Reloaded or How I Spent Most of 2003

I'm not really one to get too hung up on milestones and anniversaries when it comes to media like movies and albums, but May 15, 2023 will be the 20th anniversary of the release of The Matrix: Reloaded.

The much maligned sequel to The Matrix is probably a questionable choice for anniversaries to celebrate and I've spent most of the last 20 years defending my position that Reloaded is a good movie.  I'm not looking to go into all of that here, because regardless of how you or I feel about the quality of the movie, it's the impact that really forces me to acknowledge this particular milestone.


The impact that The Matrix: Reloaded had on me, begins with the impact that The Matrix had on all of us.  In 1999, the first movie really did come out of nowhere and devour pop-culture.  I remember seeing a teaser trailer during the Super Bowl at the end of January.  The spot that raised so many questions and gave no answers.  Then, the movie released in April, somehow with spoilers still intact.  It was the perfect union of high-budget action movies, wire-fu, and arm-chair philosophy with a fantastic soundtrack.  I was 17 when it came out so I was positioned perfectly as a naive, yet somehow cynical teenage white boy to eat up everything that Warner Bros was selling to me that had a label of The Matrix. 

But let's look past that blatant anti-consumerism, consumerism.  The Matrix, the film, was a significant fork in the road of my development as a human being.  It opened doors in the world of music, film and literature that I don't know would have been otherwise opened.  After seeing The Matrix in 1999 I decided I wanted to read books similar in subject and style.  This led me to William Gibson's Neuromancer and The Sprawl Trilogy.  To this day, when asked who my favorite author is, my immediate answer is still Gibson.  It also led me to Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, George Orwell's 1984 and Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Speaking of that one, The Matrix got me to go back and re-examine Ridley Scott's film adaptation Blade Runner.  I had attempted to watch Blade Runner once before as a middle schooler but couldn't figure out what I was looking at.  Similarly, I returned to Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell adaptation with fresh eyes.  I had seen it (and enjoyed it) previously, but now with a much deeper appreciation.  All of these works went on to inform my future as a reader, viewer, listener and writer.

On a professional level, The Matrix got me to pay closer attention to computers, the philosophy of hacking and our relationship with information.  Concepts that have been central to my career for the last 23 years.


So, when 2003 arrived it was a massive deal to me that suddenly there was going to be more of The Matrix and it's important to note that it wasn't just Reloaded.  Warner Bros was doing a first of its kind synergistic transmedia onslaught (something that now in the age of The Marvel Cinematic Universe and unending Star Wars is completely common place) and releasing The AniMatrix, Enter The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Comics volumes 1 & 2 and The Matrix: Revolutions in 2003.  It all kicked off May 15th, 2003 with the release of Reloaded and Enter The Matrix the video game.

I remember being amazed by the ingeniousness of the movie posters, each one showing a different movie character in front of a white background with their heads out of frame.  What audacity to show that a movie this big didn't even need to show their star actor's faces.

The trailer for Reloaded was one of the first trailers I remember downloading and frame-by-framing my way through (Revolutions was one of the last, thanks to some literal deus ex machina spoilers).

I remember seeing the movie then playing through the video game as quickly as possible so I could go back and see the movie again.  In a pre-Twitch streaming kind of clairvoyance, I recorded myself playing the game on to a VHS tape and then attempted to edit that gameplay down into a 3 hour movie.  The AniMatrix released a few weeks later at the beginning of June.  I bought the music for everything; the Reloaded score, the Reloaded soundtrack, the Animatrix soundtrack.  These movies also dove-tailed nicely with my blooming love of electronic music and my enduring love of hard rock.  It was the turntable scratching on Linkin Park's contribution song 'Session' that finally convinced me to give Linkin Park an actual listen, having written them off as too commercial after the success of their first album.  I've been a Linkin Park fan ever since.

I ended up seeing The Matrix: Reloaded in the theater 3 times over the summer of 2003.

Reception: Closing the Diamond

Many people were disappointed by the movie when it finally came out, feeling that it didn't live up to the hype or that it went off the rails in a direction they couldn't follow.  I fully understand those arguments and even felt a similar kind of trepidation in the back of my mind.  For instance, after hearing The Architect's speech at the end of the film, I went into almost a denial of sorts.  Hoping that Revolutions would take a different trajectory despite being telegraphed so clearly by that characters words.

There was an analogy I first heard in relation to The Mass Effect trilogy with regards to writing a three act structure and the storytelling pitfalls that can follow.  It lends itself to The Matrix Trilogy quite aptly.  The idea is that a three act structure is like a diamond.  The first act is the point of the diamond and, as it introduces the audience to its world and the possibilities therein, the point of that diamond widens out.  The second act comes at that widest point of the diamond where the world and the story has been described to its maximum breadth with the story seeming as though it could go anywhere.  The third and final act ends with that wide diamond narrowing to the bottom point: the finale.  It's a difficult task to bring an audience all the way through without loosing them as that diamond starts to narrow, fighting against their expectations as they begin to question the choices your characters have made and the circumstances in which they find themselves.

The Matrix: Revolutions doesn't close the diamond in a satisfactory way.  It was a disappointment and I remember taking quite a while to sort through my feelings about it after seeing it that November.  I still enjoyed it and still considered myself a fan, but I only saw that installment once in the theater which I think is telling compared to how I spent the summer of 2003.  

2003: The Year of The Matrix

That being said, anticipation, enjoyment and contemplation of the world of The Matrix is how I spent the year of 2003.  So, I think that is precisely why this 20th anniversary has struck me as more poignant than others.  This was very much an event in my life, it occupied significant space in mind for most of that year and it changed the trajectory of how I consume, enjoy and create media.  If we're being honest, it probably changed the trajectory of my life in a small yet tangible way.

So How Did You Feel About The Sequel?

When The Matrix: Resurrections came out in 2021, I didn't really care.  I was never the type of fan who clamored for a sequel and I secretly hoped they would never make one.  I watched the film the day it was released on HBO Max.  I fell asleep briefly at some point in the middle when they were freeing Trinity.  Ultimately, I thought it was clever and a good update.  I had the sentiment of "Well, if they had to make a sequel, I'm glad it was Lana Wachowski and I'm glad they did it the way they did."  I was disappointed by the action sequences and the fight scenes.  

I still firmly believe that The Matrix: Reloaded contains the greatest fight scene (The Chateau) and the greatest car chase (The Freeway) ever put to film.