My expectations were low when I recently re-watched the entire Matrix trilogy. After all, as a huge fan of the series when it first came out, I was worried that the pre-1999 computer hysteria, the quasi-religious themes and the outdated technology would irritate my sensibilities.
When sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were released to a shrug from most fans in 2003, the films felt more relevant now than they did at the time. Hacking into computers is more common than ever before.
It seems as though we’ve been hearing more and more horror stories about people’s private data being stolen by cybercriminals over the last year. Governments may use the internet to exert some degree of control over their citizens in some cases. With the rise of social media, humans find themselves spending a large portion of their waking hours staring at their screens. We spend more time communicating with friends online than we do in person, according to a survey released just last week.
The Wachowskis weren’t the first filmmakers to depict a world in which man and machine wage war, but the original Matrix, which was released in 1999, predicted the rise of the internet in people’s lives. Since then, terms like “digital footprint” have been coined to describe the extent to which we entrust our personal information to the digital world.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has stated that privacy is a thing of the past. Elon Musk, on the other hand, believes that artificial intelligence is a real threat. So much so that Tesla Motors’ chairman and CEO have compared the company’s development to “summoning the demon.”.
‘Free your mind’
For those who don’t know, The Matrix series is about Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker who finds out that the world is a computer simulation made by a race of machines that have taken over Earth. This simulation, called “The Matrix,” lets people live a virtual life in a world that looks like ours, while machines grow and harvest people to use as a constant source of energy. Neo, who is said to be “The One” who will free people from slavery, must fight the evil AI inside and outside of The Matrix with his captain Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and other soldiers in this future war.
Even though 2003 was called “The Year of The Matrix,” 1999 was the best time for the series to make a big impact. The Y2K panic mentioned above made us think about how much control we had over machines, and the movie was a great way to show off the potential of the new DVD market. It was my first DVD, and it came with a lot of extras that showed off the format’s potential. Plus, with its unique use of special effects, “bullet-time” trick, wirework inspired by Hong Kong, dapper fashion, and kicking techno soundtrack, it made the year’s much-hyped Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace look like a lumbering dinosaur.
After four years, things had changed. Pirates of the Caribbean had just become a big hit, and the Wachowskis’ wordy saga just wasn’t as in tune with the cultural moment as it had been before. Because the first movie did so well, the people who made it planned a huge addition to The Matrix universe. In 2003, there were not only two expensive sequels but also nine animated shorts that were later put together on a DVD called The Animatrix. Not to mention the video game Enter the Matrix, which might be one of the most ambitious games ever made.
Enter The Matrix
Back in the day, I was a staunch supporter of The Matrix sequels, though I must admit that the Wachowskis made a mistake by attempting to spread the story across so many different mediums. When it was released in the interim between The Matrix Reloaded and its two sequels, Enter The Matrix (available on Playstation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and PC) filled in the storylines that had been left out in the film.
It was also important to keep track of characters from entering the Matrix, as their stories became central to the plot of The Matrix Revolutions. This helped audiences connect with the characters and understand why they were placed in important roles. Morpheus is put in the passenger seat by Jada Pinkett Smith’s Niobe, a playable character in the video game, during a climactic scene in the final movie in which she is piloting a ship under attack. For those who hadn’t spent hours playing Niobe on their consoles, the decision by the writers must have seemed like a strange one.
Even though the sequels received lukewarm reviews, the game received a cold reception. Almost all video games released in conjunction with Hollywood films are terrible. In my opinion, this is because of the time constraints placed on developers as they rush out a product to sell around the film’s hype. You played as either Niobe or Ghost (Russell Wong), soldiers in the war against the machines who, like their big-screen counterparts Neo, Morpheus and Trinity, operate out of a hovercraft in the real world where they hack into The Matrix.
The Wachowskis’ experiment with entering the Matrix was a failure. Even though the game was a success, the public didn’t seem to like the idea of the perfect marriage between a PS3 and a cinema seat. However, this does not negate the fact that this flawed product has some value. The hook of being able to perform the high-flying, all-action setpieces of the films is fairly well-captured once you get to grips with the tricky control system. While the left analogue stick is used to move your character around, the right analogue stick can only be used to look around in a first-person view when you aren’t moving, which makes it difficult to get your camera to swing in the direction you want while engaged in a shootout.
Despite this, there are a few impressive moves. It’s possible to slow down time and perform all kinds of crazy moves while evading bullets and shooting in mid-air in Bullet Time (the game’s name for it). The cartwheel bullet-dodging while firing an M16 at your enemy was the most satisfying part for me.
Considering how trigger-happy the Matrix movies can be, the game’s ammo supply is woefully inadequate. Additionally, the game’s driving sequences, which have you mounted on the side of a moving car and firing at oncoming vehicles, feel particularly dated and incomplete. However, the film’s production values make it stand out. There’s no need to worry about missing out on the Wachowskis’ hour-plus of original footage, which could easily be incorporated into The Matrix Reloaded if you so desired because the soundtrack is straight from the film’s soundtrack.
I think one of its best features is that it makes you feel like you are actually in the Matrix. I never got the impression that the Wachowskis wanted viewers to wonder if our reality is made up of digital simulations. The Matrix, on the other hand, is much more subdued, as if it were created by a machine. And it appears to be much smaller and less populated than Earth. Adding a familiar greenish hue to the artificial world, the game succeeds in nailing these aesthetics.
For the sake of completeness, I’ll mention the sequel to the franchise: As an MMORPG, The Matrix Online was released in 2005. To be honest, I hadn’t even heard of this game before researching for this piece and, as the game’s servers were shut down in 2009 due to low subscription orders, I can’t go back and play it now to give you an opinion on it. Despite this, IGN described the game as “only enjoyable for hardcore fans of the franchise” when it was released.
Path of Neo
The Matrix: Path of Neo, which came out the same year as entering The Matrix, fixed many of the film’s flaws. To make things more fluid, the movement and camera systems in this third-person action-adventure game have been swapped out for more familiar controls based on analogue sticks on the left and right sticks, respectively.
Visually, the PS2 and Xbox were pushed to their physical limits. Because it wasn’t tied to the previous films, Path of Neo (again directed by the Wachowskis) felt more like an out-and-out video game than a prequel to the original.
As a compilation disc of segments from the trilogy, Path of Neo allowed gamers to relive the most memorable scenes, such as the lobby shootout, rooftop assault, and the Agent Smith slugfests, rather than adding to the Matrix universe. While it still required the use of up to three trigger buttons to perform some of the more impressive moves, the game gradually added new abilities to Neo’s repertoire, allowing players to become more familiar with the character.
It’s possible that Path of Neo failed to make an impact because the public was unwilling to return to a series they felt let down by. Even so, it’s a solid adventure game that got lost in the haze of negative backlash. If it weren’t for The Matrix, I’m not sure how it would have been received.
There are flaws in the series. Keanu Reeves as Keanu Reeves, the Wachowskis’ habit of presenting plot exposition in dialogue scenes, and the cringe love story between Neo and Trinity. At least the film’s directors were able to get a few laughs out of him. However, just as with movies, there’s a lot to love about video games as well. Plug your old sixth-generation console into the wall and see if that works.
“I can only show you the door,” says Morpheus, as a final word. It’s up to you to go through it.”