matrixreloaded460He can stop bullets. Just not bad writing.

I still remember going to see The Matrix Reloaded. My friends and I had bought tickets for a prime-time Friday showing, but Thursday night I couldn’t contain myself. I knew there were going to be midnight showings at the theater right down the street, so I went to see the movie BY MYSELF. I have never had a more pathetic and sad moviegoing experience in my life. Not only was I by myself in a theater packed with people, but I couldn’t figure out what the hell I was watching. What had happened to The Matrix!!?? Where was all the fun? Why were there endless passages of nothing happening? Why were Neo and Trinity the most annoying couple in the world? Why was there more dialogue than a Woody Allen film? What was the plot of the movie?? To be honest, this was the easiest movie yet to find ten “screenwriting mistakes to avoid” from. They melted off the screen like butter. But it’s still so sad. Matrix Reloaded was one of the most anticipated films in the history of Hollywood. And it failed on just about every level.

1) JESUS CHRIST! STOP USING SO MUCH DIALOGUE – The Matrix Reloaded sunk under all its dialogue. Certain dialogue scenes (with Agent Smith, with the Oracle, with the Merovingian, with the Governor of Zion, and let’s face it – with just about everyone) went on for 5-10 minutes! I don’t care HOW good your dialogue is. Unless it is ripe with conflict, unless there is some impending doom, unless it is thick with dramatic irony or shocking revelations, it will start to bore us to pieces after the first couple of minutes. The Matrix Reloaded made one of the most obvious mistakes in screenwriting – the writers wrote dialogue for dialogue’s sake. Always remember that the average scene is 2 minutes long (so 2 pages). If you’re going to go over that, make sure it is absolutely necessary.

2) Know what kind of movie you’re writing – Know what movie you’re writing, and make sure you’re giving your audience that kind of movie. So if you’re writing an action sci-fi script, don’t drown your script in dialogue. If you’re writing a comedy, don’t write a lot of dramatic scenes. If you’re writing a thriller, don’t have your characters sitting around a lot. Audiences have a certain expectation when they go to a movie. If you stray too far from that expectation, they will turn on you.

3) Make your fights matter – One of the reasons why the first Matrix was so good was that every fight mattered, every battle had stakes attached to it. We knew that if our characters lost, something terrible would happen to them (or worse – to the world). Here, we have fights just to have fights. Take the first fight in the movie, where the “new” agents crash the Morpheus’s meeting with all the other ship captains. Neo fights the three agents and we don’t get ANY sense that there’s any danger at all. Neo is going to win. And even if he doesn’t, there’s nothing these three agents could do to 40 highly trained “freed” humans. So it’s boring. Always make sure there are stakes attached to your battles!

4) Simplicity almost always trumps excess – We see it time and time again. A small first film, and after its success, a huge no-expenses-spared sequel. Yet even though the story is more grandiose, the effects are better, and the set pieces are bigger, the movie’s not nearly as good. This is because, usually, when you try to do too much – when you have no limitations – you get lost. Most of the best stories have simple through-lines that are easy to follow. So just beware of trying to make this big sprawling epic-like sci-fi film. You’re probably best going with something simpler and easier to follow.

5) Beware of “dilly-dally” scenes – As I’ve always told you, you want to jump into your story right away. And technically, Matrix Reloaded does just that. They establish within the first ten minutes that the “machines” are charging towards Zion and they need to act. However then we get a pointless fight scene with Neo and the new agents, Neo and Trinity talking about nothing, Morpheus and Dreadlocks Dude chatting about belief or something, an 8 freaking minute landing scene, our characters walking through Zion, numerous characters having pointless conversations in Zion, etc. These are all dilly-dally scenes. No story is really being advanced, so they kill the story’s momentum. Cut out the dilly-dallying and get to the scenes that actually move the story forward, dammit!

6) Comic-relief characters must be organic to the story – There’s nothing I hate more than a character who shows up telling the world, “I’M THE COMIC RELIEF CHARACTER IN THE MOVIE!” As was the case with “Kid,” the character who barrels up to Neo and Trinity when they arrive in Zion, begging Neo to let him take his bags in a comically eager manner. As with any character you write, they should emerge from the story organically, instead of being decided upon as “that kind of character,” then forced into the movie like a square peg in a round hole. This was one of the big reasons “Jar Jar Binks” was so disliked in the Star Wars prequels. He screamed “Here I am! The comic relief guy!” as opposed to coming upon the story in a natural way. Look at C3PO and R2-D2 from Star Wars. Their comic relief comes very specifically from the story, as R2 is determined to deliver his message, and C3PO is wary if all the fuss is worth it.

7) Use an intriguing mystery to get us through your setup – No matter which way you spin it, the first act requires you to set up characters and plot, which can be tough to keep entertaining. By providing the audience with an intriguing mystery, it makes this setup move along a lot faster, as we’re eager to find out the answer to this mystery. That’s why The Matrix was so awesome. We had to know, “What is the Matrix??” One of the reasons Matrix Reloaded is so boring is because there is no mystery in that first act. It’s pure setup (and poorly written setup at that). We get bored quickly. And if a reader is bored within the first act, you have little chance of getting them back.

8) Addition By Subtraction – Matrix Reloaded is a classic case of having way too many characters. When you have too many characters, the audience’s focus is spread too thin. They begin to have trouble remembering what each character is after, which can be a script killer if that happens with the main character. And guess what? That’s exactly what happens in Matrix Reloaded. Because we have to keep track of so many people, we forget what Neo’s doing, which makes most of Matrix Reloaded confusing.

9) Break into Act 2 should happen on page 25 – The moment where your hero officially sets off on his journey should happen on or very near page 25. I don’t usually use ultra-specific page references when breaking down structure, but I believe in this one because whenever I see it broken (as it is here – our characters don’t actually go out into the world and start doing things until page 40) I start to get antsy. We come into a story wanting to see a hero go after something. The longer that’s delayed, the more bored we get. Of course, this rule can be broken if there are lots of intriguing mysteries in that first act, lots of conflict, or lots of strong scenes. Unfortunately, The Matrix Reloaded has none of that.

10) Plot points over action scenes – When writers feel their script is slowing down, they often insert an action or set-piece scene to “pick things up.” The thing is, these scenes always feel empty, because you’re inserting them into the story for the wrong reason. That’s why the infamous “Burly Brawl” scene, where Neo fights 200 Agent Smiths is so boring, because we don’t know what the point of it is. It literally feels like someone said, “We need an action scene here.” Instead, if you feel like your script is slowing down, insert a plot point, something that changes the story and throws it in a slightly different direction. For example, in the original Matrix, Cipher (a member of the good guys) secretly teams up with the bad guys. This is often a more exciting way to engage the audience.

BONUS TIP – Combine a plot point WITH a set-piece – Who says you can’t do two in one? Since the studio folks love big set-piece scenes, you might feel the pressure of adding them inorganically, despite the advice I just gave. Well, why not combine your set-piece scene with a plot point? For example, in the original Matrix, a plot point that occurs when they go see the Oracle is that, surprise, the Agents are waiting for them. A battle/chase (set-piece) ensues. This way you end up killing two birds with one stone.

  • DD

    My ex-girlfriend only watches chick flicks, but by some sort of miracle, I was able to convince her to watch the Matrix with me on DVD since she’d never seen it. (She’s never seen Star Wars either and REFUSES to watch it.) 2 hours later, she was like “WOW! That was a seriously great movie!” and I was like “let’s watch Matrix Reloaded on netflix streaming tomorrow night!” We start that up… thirty minutes later we’re both like “Wow! This movie is terrible!” and turned it off. Never made her finish it, or the trilogy for that matter. So there you go, the Matrix trilogy in a nutshell. Turns “believers” into “non-believers.”

    • GeneralChaos

      …”Turns “believers” into “non-believers.” Maybe that would’ve been a good subplot for the sequel – the leader of Zion believes he is the Chosen One and won’t accept Neo or maybe he sees Neo as a threat to his rule (I have no idea what the sequels are about – I stopped watching the 2nd after maybe 30 minutes and never touched the 3rd).

  • wlubake

    The Matrix killed its own sequels before they even started. At the end of the original, Neo has established himself as essentially unstoppable in the Matrix itself. Your villians are now pussies compared to your hero.
    What it forced them to do was (1) have a bunch of low stakes in-Matrix action scenes, and (2) move most everything to Zion and the real world, where our hero is vulnerable. We don’t care about Zion. It isn’t cool. The Matrix, where guys are jumping from building to building, is cool.
    Neo’s abilities in the Matrix were too much. He had absolute control of the Matrix, and it killed the drama and suspense in the sequels.

    • GeneralChaos

      Good points. Maybe the sequels should’ve dealt with him trying to live up to being the savior to the people of Zion and all of humanity.

    • andyjaxfl

      I remember reading an early draft The Matrix Reloaded online that was dated shortly after the first movie came out. I don’t think it was fan fiction, but I might be wrong… anyways, it revolved around a new Agent Smith manipulating a human still plugged into the Matrix, and training him to reach his full potential (as Neo did at the end of the first movie) so he can ultimately challenge and kill Neo. It’s been over 12-years since I read it and I don’t recall the specifics, but the final act was a massive battle between Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and the rest of their crew, against this Anti-Neo, agents, and a massive army. It was pretty similar to Akira, and violent as all hell.

      • wlubake

        That sounds much cooler. I think the response from the original said “more Neo, Smith and Morpheus”. So they went in the direction to give more Neo, Smith and Morpheus.
        When I heard there was a sequel in the works, I actually predicted that Neo would die early in the movie given that he was powerless in the real world. That would have pissed off a ton of people, but at least it would have been true to the world created in the original. Instead we ressurect Smith and give Neo magic powers in the real world too.

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          I think the response from the original is “brother, we now have the power to make the movie exactly how we envisioned it. Let’s put philosophical babble in it, and have people searching on the internet to find the hidden meanings.
          It actually hurts when I write this. The Matrix is being sitting at the top of my list since it came out.

      • JakeMLB

        This actually sounds great. Too bad.

      • andyjaxfl

        I found the original first draft of The Matrix Reloaded. It’s dated April 1999. If you google “the matrix reloaded first draft” it shows up on the first result, which is the Internet Movie Script Database. The writing style appears Wachowski’ish…

      • Jarrett_H

        That sounds like a perfect way to attack a Matrix sequel. Really wish they had went that route instead of the route they choose. Such a shame. I wonder how much say the studio had in the story for the sequels.

      • Nate,-The.html

        Here it is. It’s actually pretty good. A lot better than what we got.

    • MrTibbsLive


    • Frinkk

      Isn’t that true of every superhero movie ever? (Superman was unstoppable on Earth! They killed the whole franchise before the first movie started!)

      What it did is forced him to become responsible for his allies, who were still vulnerable.

      It also let us see Zion, which is very cool. We’ve seen The Matrix already. We know what can happen there. We can re-watch the first movie if we want to see that. New settings are basically always cooler than sitting around in an old one.

  • deanb

    “Zion, hear me!”

    As far as I’m concerned, any film that does NOT have a subterranean rave/orgy scene is simply not worth watching.

    • LV-426

      Extra points should be awarded to the chocolate cake orgasm gag.

  • andyjaxfl

    This movie felt like a 1st or a very rough 2nd draft. The Wachowski siblings had such great success with the first Matrix, but a lot of that can be attributed from the rewrite after rewrite after rewrite the producers and studio made them do. If you have the time, you can check out the progression of those drafts at almost every free online script collection.

    This movie just feels like people were too afraid to tell them “No, that’s not a good idea, try reworking it from a different angle or drop this story threat altogether.”

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      So, when a movie is good is because of the rewrites that the studio suggested, and when a movie is shit is because again the evil studio wanted to turn the movie into a Michael Bay flick?

      • andyjaxfl

        The first few drafts were okay (keep in mind it’s been quite a while since I’ve read them so I don’t quite remember every detail) and they had the backbone of what the movie would ultimately be, but producers/studio/whoever pushed them to make it better, which they did.

        I should have been more clear in my above post though. I agree with a point you made in a comment above about the brothers having the power to finish their story as they saw fit, and the studio gave their blessing. I don’t think it was a good idea to give their blessing. Someone should have pushed them to make it better.

        • Panos Tsapanidis

          Unfortunately, the outcome seems to support what you’re saying.

  • jae kim

    the problem of neo being too powerful reminds of the problem with superman.

    superman’s invulnerability just makes him boring to watch. even with the weakness of kryptonite, it’s boring since you see it coming.

    they should have had neo discover his abilities throughout the sequel, and not have him be this invincible flying superman rip off at the end of the first movie.

    • Nate

      I get what you mean. He acquires his abilities in the first movie but doesn’t fully understand them so he spends the sequel learning how to control them. That’s actually a pretty good idea.

      The problem with the sequels is that the Wachowski’s created this awesome universe with the first one but didn’t have a frigging clue what to do with it afterwards.

      I actually kind of hated Neo in Reloaded. He was pretty selfish. He should have gone through the door at the end instead of saving Trinity. But obviously they wanted him to come back for Revolutions so they had to go with that idea.

      A better way of bringing him back would be to have him go through the door only for it to glitch causing the war to keep on going and Neo getting trapped in the machine city where he learns how the war started. So the rest of the characters have to find him and fix the problem so the war will end. At least that way I wouldn’t want to reach through the TV and slap him for being selfish.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        Nate, not to defend the sequels but the reason Neo chose to save Trinity was the factor that was about to bring The Matrix to its end. Neo’s predecessors (five of them) all chose the door that saves Zion, which only perpetuated the cycle but didn’t fix the bug (the emergence of the One).

        The architect’s job was to find a way to eliminate the appearance of the ONE (Neo aka The Anomaly as an agent calls him), and bring balance to the system. He couldn’t; a Neo was always emerging (due to the huge power of the human creativity and imagination) so he tried to balance the scale by creating the powerful version of Smith – the negative version of Neo.

        The Oracle, as we discover at the end of the trilogy, managed to find the solution (no more Neos, no more Smiths = peace between humans and machines = balance in the system) by pushing Neo to fall in love. As it seems, The Oracle manipulated both Trinity and Neo (she told Trinity that she would fall in love with the One, which acted as an inception) into falling in love so that Neo would choose the other door. Though the risk the failure of the entire system was possible (At the end of the trilogy the architect says to the Oracle “You played a dangerous game”), but she wanted to discover a way to squash that damn system bug (the emergence of the One). And if we take into consideration that throughout the movie everyone is talking about freedom of choice and not believing in fate, then it becomes very ironic when we realize that Neo was just a pawn of the Oracle.

        I think this is what the Wachowskis had in mind, but they failed to communicate it to the viewers very clearly. I spent a lot of nights on forums and fan sites and watched the movies numerous times and I believe that this is the gist of The Matrix. The universe they created it was amazing but they cornered themselves when they made Neo undefeated. I wish they would made more movies based in this universe.

        I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

  • MrTibbsLive

    After The Matrix the sequels were so anticipated that they were almost certain to disappointed just about everyone.

    It was impossible to duplicate the sensation in the sequels because Neo didn’t know what he was capable of in The Matrix. That anxiety from the first film kept the viewer on the edge of their seat and couldn’t be recreated once Neo knew his powers. It’s like trying to recapture the anxiety the night you lost your virginity — it simply can’t be done

  • Poe_Serling

    Great post, CR.

    I remember seeing The Matrix back in the day, and it was one of those “Oh, wow!’ movie experiences.

    And the sequels?

    I always felt that they were ambitious and visually exciting, but lacked the visceral punch to the gut of the original for many of the reasons pointed out above.

    Also, I’m looking forward to see what the Wachowskis have up their sleeve for us with their current production Jupiter Ascending.

    • jae kim

      I think they made the classic mistake of relying on set pieces to carry the movie.

      I remember seeing the first trailer for the matrix with neo dodging bullets and the camera panning in a circle around him. it became a cultural phenomenon of sorts with even the NFL getting into it for a while. I think this may have gotten to the brothers who may have thought these ‘cool’ technology and eye candy were what made the matrix great. it was part of it, but only a part. in the sequel, they filmed a great highway chase scene with motorcycles and 100 agents fighting neo and expected everyone to say the movie was great because of it.

      looking back, I’m beginning to suspect they had no idea how to tell a story at all.

      • Poe_Serling

        “… they made the classic mistake of relying on set pieces to carry the movie.”

        True. Carson touches on that same thing in point 10 above. I had an actor /martial artist friend involved with the highway chase scene. He
        told me they worked on the sequence for a couple of months.

    • Cfrancis1

      Poe, you and I have similar tastes. I agree. I didn’t actually hate Reloaded. While it wasn’t nearly as good as the first, I did dig some of the set pieces, even though they were set-pieces-for- the-sake-of-set-pieces. It’s not unwatchable. But the plot is a mess and it does drag in parts…

      Revolutions on the other hand… Wow. Total crap fest. If I heard Neo call her “Trin” one more time, I was gonna puke. Annoyed the hell out of me. And the ending was beyond pretentious.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. A few years back, I bought the Matrix Trilogy on the cheap at a Big Lots store. Since that time, I’ve re-watched The Matrix on numerous occasions, Reloaded maybe two or three times, and Revolutions just once.

        And the casting in parts 2 and 3 always puzzled me. Monica Bellucci sitting on a couch… what a waste. ;-)

  • Logline_Villain

    TMZ story of 3/4/2013:

    The Wachowskis Sued for $300 MIL — You STOLE Matrix 2 & 3

    Here’s a shocker … someone other than Lana and Andy Wachowski wants credit for the awful sequels to “The Matrix” — and now, the man is suing the filmmakers for $300 MILLION, claiming they jacked his ideas.

    Thomas Althouse filed the lawsuit against the sibling producers, claiming they lifted ideas for “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” from his script “The Immortals.”

    Althouse says he submitted “The Immortals” to Warner Bros. back in 1993, but never heard back.

    In the suit, Althouse says he finally came across the ‘Matrix’ movies in 2010 and immediately recognized similarities to his own work — including plugs in the back of characters’ necks, robot-like “agents” dressed in suits, and characters trapped in a train station.

    Althouse is suing the Wachowskis, Warner Bros., and producer Joel Silver for copyright infringement. By the way, the $300 million he’s demanding is a tiny fraction of the Matrix franchise which is valued at about $2 BILLION!!

    Calls to the Wachowskis and WB haven’t been returned. Joel Silver had no comment.

    • Jaco

      He’s representing himself. Good luck with that.

      And he’s also trying to make it a RICO claim. Double good luck with that.

      Boy, would I love to be at his deposition.

    • LV-426

      If anyone had right and reason to sue the Wachowskis for The Matrix, they would be cyberpunk authors like William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Masamune Shirow, and perhaps the Ghost of Philip K. Dick.

      This guy though… Because they have plugs in their necks? Characters trapped in a train station? Seems like you’d need more than a few things such as these to tie The Matrix to some spec script from the early 90’s.

  • NajlaAnn

    Thank you. All excellent pointers and I couldn’t agree more with #6. I’ve watched a few films [imo Ruby Rod in The Fifth Element] where it seems the Comic Guy got tossed in just because. It’s kinda irritating to say the least.

  • Midnight Luck

    so, is Reloaded the second Matrix? or the third? must be Matrix 2 right?

    I saw the second one (because someone put a dead fish in my mouth and a gun to my head and swore I wouldn’t make it til tomorrow if I didn’t go with them) and it was #1 or #2 worst movie I have ever seen (followed quickly by the original Matrix).

    Since I seem to be the only person in the known universe to have HATED the original MATRIX, disliking this one isn’t a surprise I am sure. But Holy Bat-shit Man, with all the money they made on the first one, with a clear Greenlight to do anything they wanted, could they have possibly written a worse story / script? I hate to even call it a Story, cause it wasn’t. Again, a bunch of Directors / Producers / Etc so impressed with themselves, all they can come up with is: “Put a bunch of actiony – CGI – shit in there, blow crap up, do that crazy film thing you guys did on the first one, and make it 4.5 hours long! Story, no one gives a crap about a story, we’ll make it up during editing!”

    I think it would be difficult to really narrow down how not to make the mistakes this movie made, because, well, the entire thing was a ghastly mistake. They didn’t do one thing right. And this is made even worse by it being a follow up to one of the most successful movies of all time. So let down doesn’t even cut it.

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      “Since I seem to be the only person in the known universe to have HATED the original MATRIX…”
      Nope, me too :-) And I already had the feeling back then that the Wachowski’s were bad storytellers.
      I saw RELOADED as well. Wow. Couldn’t agree more with C’s review.
      I’m not gonna try REVOLUTIONS.

  • ximan

    Yes, yes, and more yes. Although I would really love to see Carson rip deeper into the shit-storm that was the Matrix sequels. I do remember reading about a female sci-fi writer claiming they stole her ideas for the first film. She said something like “That’s why they couldn’t duplicate the large accessible ideas from the first film–they weren’t their own.” And she even pointed out how the Wachowskis refused to comment/speak to the press regarding how they came up with the original Matrix. She was all, “How can you make this extremely successful film, an instant classic, and have NOTHING to say about how you brought it into existence.” Maybe another tip should be DON’T STEAL OTHER PEOPLES IDEAS…YOU CAN NEVER MAKE THEM BETTER. lol

    • LV-426

      Highlander 2 says “hello”.

      The original Highlander was a pretty cool fantasy-action flick. The sequel was a complete WTF???? Both were made by the same director.

    • StoryMapsDan

      @ximan: That woman who claims they stole her idea was exposed as a fraud years ago, but because the internet is forever…she lives on. The basic narrative ideas behind The Matrix have been around for centuries, but it was the genius of the Wachowskis that created the unique mix of the elements that became that incredible first film. Having just watched it again, it’s amazing how tight it is. Every level of filmmaking is executed perfectly (well, maybe except for some acting bits by Keanu) and it stands the test of time.

      • LV-426

        Didn’t she also claim that James Cameron stole or was influenced by her writing when he wrote The Terminator?

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Yes, she did. Why stop at THE MATRIX ? :-)

          • LV-426

            She forgot to sue Harlan Ellison.

          • Marija ZombiGirl

            Yeah, but since he already sued JC for stealing the Terminator character, maybe the suing got too complicated…

      • ximan

        Wow, I would love to read how she was exposed! Gotta link??? Either way, it is a little strange that they never talk about how they created the story. If only to expound on which narrative ideas they used, because you’re right, there are many.

  • JakeBarnes12

    If you haven’t read the first “Matrix” shooting script, I strongly recommend it.

    Beautifully terse, evocative action writing, like haiku.

    • JakeMLB

      One of my favorite scripts. Elegant, really. Much of their writing is like that though not as polished.

    • Panos Tsapanidis

      Indeed it was really good. I think the limited budget forced them to do some changes i.e. the opening scene which includes a train that passes by the buildings.

  • Paul Clarke

    10) Plot points over action scenes – Most important action writing advice ever.

    Biggest mistake is action movies. Writers/filmakers confuse on screen movement and action with story movement/story development. Action scenes without stakes are boring. Action scenes without their own little to-and-fro twists and turns are boring. — See the remake of Total Recall for examples.

  • martin_basrawy

    excellent article. the same lessons can also be applied to the pirates of the caribbean sequels.

    • bruckey

      so true and yet they go on and gross silly money

  • StoryMapsDan

    I recently watched Reloaded again and I think it’s the long Act One that kills it, but only the long Act One. After that I think it’s pretty incredible, although yes a lot of that is due to the set pieces, but the writing holds up within the established world and throughline.

  • tom8883

    Why would anyone ever want to write set-pieces that are not plot points?

    • Jaco

      Because nobody in Brazil, Russia, India or China really cares. More booms, more bucks.

      • tom8883

        Making the set-pieces essential to the story need not diminish the booms and I would say increases the bucks if done properly.

        • Jaco

          I don’t disagree with you at all. Would love to see more booms tied too story – it’s how I try to write.

        • tom8883

          Plus, unless you’re already a pro, your purely booms for bucks script will never get very far. Everyone knows you can’t break in unless you know how to write. Even if most of the folks in BRICland don’t care.

  • carsonreeves1

    Whoa cool. Is this available anywhere? Did you do a sound edit anywhere?

    • DMCC

      Good idea on the sound edit. Attempting an upload overnight of the re-edit, and might be able to email you a link tomorrow.

      • Will Shooter

        Id be keen on that link too dude! :)

  • jridge32

    The Neo versus Army of Agents really was about the lamest fight scene imaginable. It just didn’t matter in the least. Goes on for like 10 minutes, until Neo finally says screw it, I’m outta here. The Agents look at each other like nothing happened.

    The freeway sequence, however, was pretty great. Actually, the chase in “T3″ put it to shame. None of this has anything to do with screenwriting, though; action scenes are usually pretty dull to read.

    • garrett_h

      Not only was that fight scene pointless (Agent Smith LITERALLY shrugs and walks away after), it looked terrible on screen. Even today when I watch it I feel like I’m watching a cartoon. Wayyy too much CGI.

    • LV-426

      I’m surprised they didn’t use that Neo vs swarm o’ Smiths fight sequence to break Neo down so that during the rest if the film, he’d have to build himself back up into an even more powerful ‘One’. This would have done two things:

      1) Brought back the type of conflict the original film had. Will Neo be able find enough strength and conviction to believe in himself again, so as to defeat the viral like Smiths spreading throughout The Matrix? What if this defeat means that Neo is not The One? Remember how Morpheus preached how he had found the One, and that the people of Zion had to believe in the prophecy? Or how about all the followers/worshippers that gather to greet Neo when he returns to Zion? All that falls apart if Neo gets the crap beaten out of him by Smith, an enemy thought to be dead or deleted if we go with computer lingo.

      2) Neo gets knocked down a few pegs. The danger and stakes return if Neo is not this god-like being throughout the entirety of the two sequels.

      Also, what if inside The Matrix, the people still plugged in to the system end up losing some faith in Neo after Smith beats him down? That adds to the stakes in terms of the resistance having trouble recruiting more people. Maybe people stop believing in the truth and fall back into being deluded by the illusion that is The Matrix? Perhaps Smith wants back into the system, and feels that if he discredits Neo, the powers that becwill accept him back.

  • GraemeMcPhail

    I generally hate scifi, but one day I really need to see these Matrix sequels.

  • garrett_h

    I was VERY disappointed in The Matrix Reloaded (Revolutions too). And you nailed it Carson. The FUN was gone and replaced with all these musings about faith and reality and who knows what else. BORING.

    The Matrix was basically a fun sci-fi chase movie (Star Wars, anyone?). Reloaded was a college lecture on existentialism or some shit, masquerading as a sci-fi flick.

    Regarding #4, this is the same problem with Chronicles of Riddick. I LOVED Pitch Black. The story was simple. It was tense. And it moved. Then, they decided to expand the “mythology” of the universe. If they had kept it simple they would have been fine.

    And with #7, I thought going into the movie that Zion would be their ace in the hole. We didn’t see much of the “real” world in The Matrix, save for ship interior scenes and some isolated exteriors. I was very anxious to finally see Zion. And there it is, right in the first act. I felt they should have drawn it out. Saved it for the midpoint or so. That would have built mystery and anticipation. Once we’ve been shown Zion in all it’s (boring) glory in the beginning, the intrigue is gone. It sucked the air out of the movie for me.

  • ripleyy

    Yeah, but the set pieces were cool as hell. I mean, the brawl scene was awesome to watch. Even if the story was bad, the action was on par of what you’d expect from a Matrix film.

  • Jim

    I was never a huge fan of the original Matrix to begin with, so the sequels being what they were didn’t surprise me – but I’ve always been fascinated with the correlation between The Matrix and another sci-fi movie that came out the year before: Dark City. Both have very similar themes and deal with slavery, destiny, becoming “the one”, and heavy doses of existentialism. I much prefer Dark City as it has a little more “soul” to it.

  • Cambias

    There was an IMMENSE elephant in the room which could have been used for a great deal of dramatic tension but was, sadly, ignored. I refer to the morality of the hero’s actions.

    In the first movie, Morpheus gives Neo an all-purpose morality pass by saying that, essentially, the Matrix is so evil that anyone not fighting it is evil, too. So it’s perfectly okay to kill cops and bystanders because they’re not hip rebels in shades and black sunglasses.

    Now what if Reloaded began with an incident that showed Neo how morally bankrupt that idea really is? If he’s fighting to “save” humanity from the Matrix then the humans within that Matrix have value as humans, right?

    So Neo has to learn to fight without fighting. Win without killing. No more all-purpose morality pass. It would neatly mirror the process of maturing, too.

  • K.B. Houston

    Absolutely love these articles. What I love most is how they don’t overlap. There’s always something new and unique to learn from each one.

    1 and 4. Totally agree with this rule. In writing classes a common theme is less is more. Even in the most dialogue-heavy films there are ways to space conversations out so that it’s not one bulky chunk of talking followed by the next. When in doubt, always cut something rather than adding something unnecessary.

    8. I recently watched Magnolia. Didn’t like it. A big reason why: too many characters. You don’t know who to root for and who to dislike. There’s no main character and nothing that keeps you coming back to a “home base” throughout the film. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from watching movies over the years it’s that one great character beats multiple good ones any day.

    9. I think this is a good guideline but I think the earlier you jump into your story the better. One of the greatest characteristics of The Graduate is how quickly Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce Benjamin. Within the first 10 minutes the most intriguing and critical plot point is established. That immediately hooks you for the rest of the film.

  • fragglewriter

    I’ve always hated this movie even though I’m not a fan of the Matrix series.

    There were way too many characters in the film and I still don’t know what the movie is about after watching it 3 times.

  • Frinkk

    What are you talking about? Smith is dramatically upgraded every time we see him after that. In the second movie, he can clone himself, indefinitely. (If there was no tension in the Smith-Neo fight in that movie, it was because everybody knows The Hero can’t die in movie 2 of a trilogy, not because Smith was a weakling.) By the third movie of the trilogy, Smith can fly, and much better than Neo. He also has superior fighting skills, controls the weather, and can see the future. It’s hard to think of a power he *doesn’t* have!

    I’m not sure what “change the Matrix” you think they should have done in the sequels, since the antagonist changed from “Matrix agents” to “one rogue agent”. It makes sense that a rogue agent wouldn’t be able to restart part of the matrix like that, and I can’t recall any case where it would have helped the machines to have done this. We barely see any non-Smith agents after the first movie ends.