Has there ever been a trilogy in which the later movies have fallen so far short of the level set by the first? I didn't catch either of these in the theater and this may have been the first time I saw the first half-hour or so of Reloaded, but great gosh and gee whillikers are these two movies ever bad. Unhook them from the first blockbuster and you have some stuff that straight-to-DVD schlock-fests laugh at and take lunch money away from. Connect it to original and you have one of the most bewildering missteps I think I've ever seen in 40-some years of moviegoing.
The original Matrix movie married a familiar story, some surprisingly serious philosophy, good old-fashioned karate-choppin' action and beyond-the-cutting edge special effects to make it a box-office smash. The uber-cool style and unexpected braininess covered over quite a few logical gaps -- like why the machines didn't tap geothermal power like the human beings in Zion did, or why the machines decided to pick human beings that had already tried to kill them as the creatures to make into batteries instead of something a lot dumber or...you get the point. It ends with Keanu Reeves character Neo telling the machines that he knows their game and he's not going to play anymore. Moreover, he's going to start telling other people what he knows and the whole Matrix program will fall. No sequel required. Fine popcorn movie that also tickles your thinkin' bone.
But it made a mint, so the creators cranked up a couple of sequels without bothering to include a story worth a darn. Except for the highly entertaining highway chase scene in Reloaded and the quiet grace moment where Trinity sees the sun in Revolutions, the sequels are either too talky, too repetitive, too murky, too convoluted, too dumb, too mystical, too goofy...again, you get the point. From the weird rave scene and ridiculous presence of Cornel West and cloned fight scenes -- by which I mean that the scenes repeat each other, not that Reeves fights clones, although I guess he does -- of Reloaded to the big dumb CGI battle and hive of new-and-unnecessary characters and Neo's powers suddenly working outside the Matrix in Revolutions, the second and third movies of the Matrix trilogy are a textbook case for using time travel technology to wipe them out of existence.
In the unofficial competition of "which moviemakers most destroyed their own legacy," the Wachowski brothers and their less-than-pointless sequels edge out George Lucas and his loud, dull "prequel" trilogy to Star Wars -- if only because by the time he released the prequels people were already beginning to suspect Lucas was a hack, and until Reloaded spilled out into the theaters nobody dreamed the Wachowskis only had one good movie in them.