- The Matrix franchise became oversaturated in 2003 with the release of two sequels, a video game, and animated films, causing a decline in quality and critical reception.
- The sequels, The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions, failed to live up to the original film, receiving criticism for excessive action and a lack of depth.
- Despite the negative impact of the Year of the Matrix, the franchise’s expanded universe, including games and comics, helped maintain its legacy and influenced other franchises, keeping The Matrix alive into the 2020s.
Although The Matrix is still considered a staple in cinema history, it is also true that the year that The Matrix was the most popular, 2003, was also the year that the franchise became doomed. In 1999, the sci-fi action movie The Matrix was released to incredible acclaim. Many considered it the best sci-fi movie of all time, and praised it for its action sequences and outstanding special effects. Then, four years later, The Matrix franchise exploded with new sequels, new games, and new shorts that ultimately led to the franchise’s tragic downfall.
Despite being iconic, The Matrix franchise died out pretty quickly. Unlike other film franchises that have been pumping out sequels for years, i.e. Star Wars, the MCU, The Matrix franchise expanded, but only so far. For example, The Matrix: Resurrections is the latest installment in the franchise, having been released in 2021, but it still feels as though The Matrix is stuck in the late 1990s. In reality, that’s because that was era when The Matrix was most successful, and it hasn’t been able to garner the same attention since. Unfortunately, the franchise may never be able to break free from that problem.
2003 Was A Huge Year For The Matrix Franchise
Although The Matrix has been around since 1999, the true “Year of The Matrix” was 2003. Four years after the release of the first film, the directors, the Wachowskis, premiered two sequels: The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. This was both a major event and also a strange occurrence. Typically, a franchise releases sequels year by year, however The Matrix didn’t follow this standard. Because the Wachowskis knew they wanted The Matrix to be a trilogy, they filmed the next two installments side by side and then released them within a few months of each other. Reloaded was released in May 2003 while Revolutions came out in November 2003.
Surprisingly, The Matrix phenomenon did not end there. Two more pieces of the franchise also launched in 2003: The Matrix video game and six animated short films that made up The Animatrix. So, audiences were not only able to complete The Matrix film trilogy in 2003, but they could also participate in the franchise through the video game, and furthermore, get extra content through The Animatrix anthology film. Ultimately, 2003 was a year of overflow for The Matrix franchise, and it only stands out more when considering that the franchise didn’t expand nearly as much after that year.
The Year Of The Matrix Was Too Big Of A Leap For The Matrix
Unfortunately, the Year of the Matrix was more hurtful than it was helpful for the franchise. In 1999, The Matrix stood out because it was a self-contained sci-fi film that perfectly balanced its unique cyberpunk world with thrilling action sequences. But in 2003, suddenly it was more than just The Matrix. There were two sequels and several other properties attached, along with that first successful film. In the end, it was simply too much too soon. The Matrix franchise became oversaturated because so much came out in the space of a single year.
Along with having too much content at one time, The Matrix sequels and expansions also made more room for the franchise to be critiqued. While 1999’s The Matrix was well-received and well-loved, giving it a solid reputation, the overflow of new content completely changed this outlook. Critics suddenly had much more story to consume, and not all of it was as strong as the first movie. If The Matrix sequels had come out one by one, the franchise’s reputation would have morphed slowly, but unfortunately, because it all came out at one time, The Matrix received one major critical punch.
The Matrix Sequels Never Lived Up To The Original
Another aspect of The Matrix’s 2003 downfall was that The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions never lived up to the original The Matrix. While the first film was critical gold, the other two films were seen to be decreasing in quality. The Matrix: Reloaded had generally positive reviews, but some felt that the film suffered from an overabundance of action and expository dialogue. Meanwhile, The Matrix: Revolutions was a major disappointment for critics and audiences, who felt that the final film was anticlimactic, unsatisfying, and prioritized special effects over its characters and previous philosophical themes.
While it isn’t uncommon for franchise sequels to be disappointing compared to the original film, The Matrix may have been able to avoid this disappointing ending if it hadn’t been for the Year of the Matrix. If the Wachowskis had waited to make and release The Matrix: Revolutions rather than releasing both sequels in 2003, it may have been an entirely different movie, affected by how The Matrix: Reloaded was received. In this way, The Matrix could have had a better ending, which would have kept the franchise’s popularity going instead of it dying out after 2003.
Matrix’s Expanded Universe Is Still The Year Of The Matrix’s Biggest Legacy
The Year of the Matrix may not have had the positive impact that the Wachowskis likely hoped for, but The Matrix didn’t complete lose its legacy. Despite the fact that The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions weren’t nearly as well-received as the original The Matrix, the franchise’s expanded universe was still beneficial in some ways. For example, the games, comics, and animated films that came out of The Matrix franchise were cool additions that added more than they took away. Plus, they inspired other franchises that have, as a result, kept The Matrix alive into the 2020s.
All in all, The Matrix franchise was overexpanded in 2003, making it both incredibly popular, but also leading to its downfall. While The Matrix sequels didn’t do much to positively impact the franchise, the other The Matrix properties did help keep the franchise alive and maintain its good legacy. Ultimately, 2003’s the Year of the Matrix likely wasn’t the wisest move for The Matrix franchise, but fortunately, it is still hailed as a respectable and important series of films. This is only exemplified by the 2021 film The Matrix: Resurrections. The Year of the Matrix may have been questionable, but the franchise is still fully intact.