The Matrix Reloaded Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The Matrix sequel was released on May 15th, 2003.

Keanu Reeves as Neo flying in The Matrix Reloaded

The first sequel to the legendary sci-fi masterpiece The Matrix turns 20 years old today. It was released on this day in 2003. It endured a four-year simultaneous production of the second and third entries. The Matrix Reloaded returned The One to the silver screen and shattered box office records.

Reloaded followed the original film’s universal acclaim. This sequel was given double the production budget and marketed over its predecessor. It became the summer blockbuster of 2003. The sequel boasted more elaborate action sequences. It included a fight between Neo and 100 Agent Smiths and an iconic freeway chase. The production company built a one-and-a-half-mile-long stretch of freeway to film the sequence.

We also see Zion for the first time, as it was only mentioned in the original. Additionally, we are introduced to Programs. They are digital beings within the Matrix that don’t operate as Agents and sometimes even find themselves aligned with the humans.
Looking back, Reloaded may have been too ambitious for its time. The fight between Neo and the Agent Smith copies is brilliant initially but jarringly shifts into an overblown CGI-fest where none of the combatants look real. The original is so beloved because all its fight scenes were practical (aside from the bullet time sequences) and impeccably choreographed by martial arts legend Yuen Woo-Ping.

Reloaded is, in many ways, even more philosophically dense than its predecessor.

Fans of this aspect of the franchise appreciate this element of the story. Choice questions and free will play a vital part in the narrative and set it apart from other action films. But the long-winded speeches by the Merovingian and the Architect punctuating the action put many casual moviegoers to sleep. Your mileage may vary on the Matrix sequels, but Reloaded has enough exciting sequences to satisfy fans of the original.

Unfortunately, after the brutal reception of 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections, the Wachowskis have clarified that they would like to move on from the Matrix series. Still, we need to look no further than The Animatrix (the anthology collection of animated shorts that acted as a narrative bridge between The Matrix and the sequels) for proof that this franchise can thrive in the hands of other artists. As artificial intelligence continues to permeate every facet of daily life, we can one day see a return to this iconic, highly relevant premise.

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Writer, native Texan, DBZ fanatic, and budding Oscars historian

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