Watch This: Joe Pantoliano on Why the Matrix Sequels Failed

April 24, 2009

Joe Pantoliano

"Ignorance is bliss," isn't it? Before we begin, let me be clear - I personally loved Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions. Of course, by mentioning this, both fans and haters are going to come out of the woodwork to argue. However, what I can't argue is that Revolutions only made $139M at the box office, which was $142M less than Reloaded and $32M less than the first Matrix. It should've been a much bigger success, but it wasn't. Why? That's another question that doesn't really have an answer, however, I'll let Joe Pantoliano stoke that fire again. This interview comes from and is a fascinating watch for Matrix fans.

Before reading on, I suggest you check out this video, which is only just a few minutes long. The interviewer asks Joe Pantoliano why Matrix became such a huge hit, and he goes into a discussion about the sequels.

Its been some six years since Reloaded and Revolutions hit theaters, and we've had a long time to discuss what went wrong (well, at least those who didn't enjoy them had discussions), but I'm still fascinated by Pantoliano's answer. It's a fairly simple response at first, but what he gets into near the end is very interesting. If you think about how Hollywood works, although there are plenty of movies that are copies that become more successful than the original, it's that first mind blowing experience that true cinephiles hold in high regard and never forget. I think that's the best point that Pantoliano makes.

Of course, haters of the sequels will argue that the Wachowskis screwed up anyway, and even though they had a chance to blow us away again, they didn't. However, I'll argue that they did blow me away with Speed Racer (at least visually), and that may be because it was something new, and it wasn't a sequel or a copy of their own movie(s). So, extending Pantoliano's discussion, maybe the Wachowskis aren't gooda t sequels, because at that point they start to just copy themselves? I hate to say something like that, since I think they're visionaries, but maybe they tried too hard (or not hard enough) on Reloaded and Revolutions?

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IMO, the Wachowski's substituted the story/philosophy found in the first film for the advances in technology prevalent in the sequels. John Gaeta is a technical wizard, but they relied on that surface wizardry too heavily and lost the philosophical rabbit-holes that were so rampant in the first film. I don't think it's so much that they started copying themselves, instead, it's more accurate to say they were forced to take a film that ended at a 10, and start Reloaded at an 11, bump it up to a 17, and then have Revolutions end at an eventual 25 -- it just can't be done. At least when it's all about the flash, the shock and awe. It all comes down to story, and all the technological advances and innovations aside, The Matrix's story is what cements it as a spectacular film. Reloaded and Revolutions are watered down and too disparate. The Zach Snyder-effect, all flash, no substance.

Brandon Lee Tenney on Apr 24, 2009


The only thing i didn't like about the movies was when they created that tiny sub story on why the Oracle looks different than before, just because the original actress died. It didn't needed explanation, people sometimes just die = / Plus i didn't like the replacement Oracle actress = /

L1A on Apr 24, 2009


did anyone come away from this interview thinking that Pantoliano is an a*hole and feeling like you now know less than after the interview than before it (and not in a good way)?

dirtydog on Apr 24, 2009


I loved Reloaded and Revolutions also. And people don't give it enough credit, and i'm sad that some people would rather trash it than realize that they were huge R Rated, cyber punk, over the top, interestingly pretentious, movies. I mean, these days we are lucky to even get a big R Rated action movie.

Darunia on Apr 24, 2009


all the matrix's ruled my face if you disagree watch "The Philosophy of the Matrix" that should change your opinion of the squeals and show you more of what the Wachowskis wanted you to see.

Roarsaysalex on Apr 24, 2009


I always refer to these things as pulling a "Wachowski". A scenario where someone pulls of something brilliant without even having the intent or sense of it. The first matrix was just awesome for its story, innovative effects and fight sequences. It was raw intent without without any money or popularity motivations. The problem with the sequels is that they realized they had something brilliant and popular so they went into the next two with the intent of trying to top the first. That took away the raw genius of the story and action. Instead it was replaced by over the top CGI, muddling up the story and even adding a bit of MTV to it. Ugh the horror. There are very few directors that can make sequels and not let money or fame interfere with the passion of telling the story at its best. I'd throw James Cameron in that mix.

JimD on Apr 24, 2009


The problem with The Matrix sequals was they tried to do too much at once. In the second film Neo was already fighting 100 smiths. They should have saved those kind of action scenes for the third one. They went way over the top instead of progressing gradually. Thats my opinion

james on Apr 24, 2009


Number 7 you touch on a reason I hate the sequels, because they look too fake at some points, particularly when he is fighting 100 Agent Smiths, Neo and the Smiths don't look real, it looked cartoonish to me

Jmoney on Apr 24, 2009


And what exactly has Joe Pantoliano done since the Matrix?

Fuelbot on Apr 24, 2009


thats CGI for you.

freestyLes on Apr 24, 2009


I watched a doc on the Matrix sequels and there is a bit where Carrie Moss says "Finally, i'm doing some acting" and then there's another bit halfway through the production where Hugo says "I haven't said a line so far". The priority was to get the effects and the visuals well. Also the sequels were filmed together. And also, Keanu had more physical stuff to do and he really was pushing a lot into that. My point is that, there are a lot of reasons why the sequels turned out ultra cool but with no substance. Also (again), come on - if you had to some up the plot of Matrix Reloaded in one sentence it would be - FETCH THE KEYMAKER. That's the plot of a generic videogame, not of a sequel.

Michael on Apr 24, 2009


#9 Joey Pants did Sopranos.... Besides, Joey Pants has accomplished so much in his career, its ridiculous. His resume is x10 longer than any other actor in the Martix with a lot of well known flix in there.

L on Apr 24, 2009


JOE PANTS IS THE SHIT. He is a terrific actor. Speed Racer was great, The Matrix was great. I feel like the Bros. were not even trying on the sequels, that they saw them as a cash in.

theWatchtower on Apr 24, 2009


In my opinion, the Matrix sequels failed when they spent too much time playing up the religious subtext of Neo as "The One" and wasting audiences time with the big robot shoot-out at the end of the third movie. I think it's generally regarded that production on the sequels were rushed out the door and, by that point, The Wachowskis had retreated too far into their own world to deliver anything as impactful as the first movie. Joey Pants has a point about audiences having an affinity for the original experience, but the fails to explain the instances where the sequels are better than the original - Godfather II, T2, Aliens, Toy Story 2 and so on.

Tom Brazelton on Apr 24, 2009


Rave scene. That cemented the feet, then threw it into the river. I watched the first Matrix film and was blown away, weirdly I was staying in Sydney so walking out the cinema I was in the Matrix.

Crapola on Apr 24, 2009


I don't need to hear Pantoliano's opinion to realize why the sequels were bad...When the Wachowski noticed the huge success that they had, they didn't know how to handle that. Then they though "OK, forget the story let's focuss on the visuals, action scenes and a couple of sexy scenes, that is what makes money" 150 mill dollars in special effects?!?!? even today that's a whole budget for a good and expensive summer movie. They simply lost their focus, lost the story and stretched the caracters too much. Morpheus as a spiritual leader?!...Neo like the human version of God?!...The Merovingio like a "Goodfather". WTF? The success of sequels like T2 or Alines are based on the continuity of the stories and caracters.

Fercho on Apr 24, 2009


Also, NEO WAS GODLIKE AT THE END OF MATRIX 1. But they had to make him less powerful for the sequels. Also, THE MAIN ENEMY WAS SUPPOSED TO BE THE MATRIX, NOT MR SMITH(S)

Michael on Apr 24, 2009


the Matrix was awesome, easily in my Top Ten of all time #2 and #3 are dead to me...only saw them once with no urge to ever watch them again i'm with "crapola" that upon watching the "Rave" scene i knew this had turned to dog crap

darthwhitey on Apr 24, 2009


I personally liked all three of them.

????? on Apr 24, 2009


on a side note- speed racer was tight

real talk on Apr 24, 2009


i love his dialect^^

Lars on Apr 24, 2009


This is completely superficial of me to say, and I love Joey Pants. Memento, Matrix etc, he is a great talent. But he looks like a complete d-bag slob in this interview. Sit up in the chair for crying out loud and at least try to hide that disgusting gelatinous excuse for stomach! wow is that distracting and sad.

drew on Apr 24, 2009


Oh yeah Speed racer ruled! I could see why that wasn't successful, it was hard to follow for idiots and had a lot going on, but I think if you watched it properly and enjoy anime it was great. I think it's pretty under-rated.

Crapola on Apr 24, 2009


I think this would be good information, like 6 years ago.

tacoscat on Apr 24, 2009


main reasons: the rave scene, harold perrineau, pisspoor scripts/plot

harrison on Apr 24, 2009


A couple things... I loved Speed Racer. To me you could tell, these are guys that get Speed Racer. I don't think the masses liked it because the masses wouldn't like or get Speed Racer the TV show. It's about CAMP. And not the kind with TENTS. Matrix sequels... I tend to agree with the people that are calling them crap. It is funny that there were implications in the sequels that themselves would have made better movies. For example... Neo started to be able to do some weird things in "reality..." I believe it was during the 2nd movie... and rumors started hopping around that even the reality was a farce, and that they would wake up to find out that THAT was a Matrix as well at some point. Why not? That already goes places I like better than what I saw on the silver screen.

dRailer on Apr 24, 2009


Even though I liked Reloaded and revolutions at times they seemed forced and were givven the quick go ahead to make money. I think they should never have made 2 and 3 or maybe at least given it some time to let a real story come together.

BadKarma on Apr 24, 2009


I agree with joey P. Expectations killed the sequels. people walked into the theater thinking they would be blown away. The first one showed us bullet time for the first time, and the 360 freeze frame, it was insane. I enjoyed the sequels (minus the rave). Peoples expectations kill a lot of movies, I try to go in and enjoy the story I'm being told, not create one in my head and the bitch about it when the film doesn't follow suit.

theotherbluth on Apr 24, 2009


Why did the sequels fail to live up to the standard set by The Matrix? There isn't just one reason. Some have already been mentioned here. Here is my simple view on one of the factors that derailed the sequels. It all comes down to expectations. Few people knew anything of the Wachowskis or their work prior to The Matrix and so had no reason to expect greatness from the film. Many people would not have thought Reeves capable of delivering the performance he did as Neo and thus were surprised. Then there was all the new technical aspects of the film which showed us stuff we had never seen (Pantoliano's point). By the time Reloaded came out, everyone had had time to watch The Matrix several times and it had become idealized in the minds of many fans. People tend to overlook, ignore, or forget a film's flaws when they love it and have seen it numerous times. So, going in to see Reloaded, fans were thinking unobjectively about how great The Matrix was and expecting Reloaded to deliver the same kick in the gut experience they had when they saw the first film. The problem is that it would be nearly impossible for the Wachowskis to deliver another film like that. Now everyone knows what they are capable of. They have seen the cinematic tricks and that Reeves can act. Their expectations for Reloaded, Revolutions, and every new Wachowski film are much, much higher than they were for The Matrix. It is as simple as that. Again, this is just one of several factors contributing to the disappointment in the Matrix sequels.

kp on Apr 24, 2009


I liked Reloaded, but I think the main thing was that no one cared about Zion or anything. They just wanted to see more of kicking ass in the Matrix itself.

Dan W on Apr 24, 2009


Can I say, duh? Seriously. Duh. Was there ever a more obvious answer? The other problem, when people saw them, they said don't go for the stupidly long love scene with holes on people and no nudity (which she's not that attractive anyhow) and (not to be racist) the stupid black rave underground tied in. If I wanted this, I'll watch MTV or go to the mall on the weekends. There was nothing to it and they tried but they did not seem to care as much which is fine. All these reboots can bring technology to the table with movies, creating something entirely new whether it sucks because of writing or what, but The Matrix had the same technologies as the others therefore we weren't blown away by graphics, we did not need to know about a continuing plot, the first ended fine, and frankly like Joe said, we were bored.

Hey Ya on Apr 24, 2009


I think the first film is a minor masterpiece. The second two are good, but not AS good. The first one I think had a great build-up to its revelations, and it had the perfect mix of action and philosophy. The second two were made sort of as one movie, and neither one individually had that same mix. They also had no build-up, it was just crazy action from the word go. I still enjoyed them and think they did add things to the story, though, and I think they're unnecessarily reviled. They just tried to do a little too much action and spread the story elements a little too thin.

scm1000 on Apr 24, 2009


The matrix's are some of the most in deep mind blowing movies ever created. If you wern't a fan of 2-3 then you should take the time to check out "The Philosophy of The Matrix" it will show you how deep the rabbit hole truly is and its fucking DEEP

DoomCanoe on Apr 24, 2009


The first matrix was great The second one had a cool fight scene where Neo fought all the dudes comin at him The third was a horrible attempt at a live action Dragonball adaptation, it was worse than Dragonball Evolution. I'm sorry but these movies just suck out loud.

Kail on Apr 24, 2009


As a director myself Alex, I agree with you. There is a tendency to always look back on your last work and you think about "copying" yourself. Sometimes it's about trying to perpetuate something fun or something good about the last "product". Even as an honest-to-goodness feeling. It is not something the audience normally appreciates because to them it becomes something akin to short-changing them. And yes, there's also that "try harder" feeling, because you don't want to short-change anybody. You then begin to turn the dial higher until you reach a point where you ARE trying too hard to please.

SS on Apr 24, 2009


The Matrix was a "pretty off the hook" movie.It introduced amazing technology at a good time.Loved the concept of the movie and how the Wachowski brothers brought the legend to life in a completely fantastic way.

Fisherr on Apr 24, 2009


The sequels weren't as good because they didn't make a movie with 2 and 3 in mind. That was a lie -- after it was a hit. It should have stood alone and does. As my friend points out -- if Neo is The One, then it's over. He can't be stopped and never really made any sense why he was even challenged. And showing the real world made it depressing, stripped away all the stuff we loved. Not to mention saving his love interest then having her die in the next movie. Stupid. It wasn't Star Wars. It was Blade Runner. Should have been 1 movie that let us fill in the holes. Ending with Neo flying, knowing he will save us all, is perfect.

BONO on Apr 24, 2009


All this has happened before, and will happen again...

Rogue on Apr 24, 2009


Rave Scene. I desparately held onto my Matrix love even through the horrid CGI mess of Reloaded... but #3's rave scene illicited a surprisingly hostile response from me. I was actually angry at the Wachowski's for putting out this condesending piece of garbage. It ended my love affair with all things Matrix, and it's too bad because there were actually some interesting ideas in there if you check out some of the behind the scenes stuff, and what story they wanted to tell. It just fell apart. 100 Smiths was my first notion that the Matrix was a fluke, and this was more than solidified for me by the end of that horrid, elongated tribal rave scene. I wish it had more substance, because the final battle with the water sphere effects should have had a lot more weight, and looked better than most everything else in the trilogy. If I pretend there was no 2 and 3, I can still enjoy the occasional Matrix viewing if it's on cable... but you can bet your ass I won't be buying the blu-rays.

Mark on Apr 24, 2009


Bottom Line: The Matrix can be viewed in two different ways. 1. The Matrix--nothing after--brilliant. 2. The Matrix Franchise--all three--brilliant. Give me a job at

Nick on Apr 24, 2009


I really enjoyed the final fight scene with smith it was epic. LOL imagine they do The Matrix REEBOTED hahaha

werdnafaz on Apr 25, 2009


I personally love all the films as well. Personally, I think the biggest reason the third didn't rake in the money (that it should've) is it was released way too close to Reloaded. Should've taken the LotR design and spaced them at least a year apart to give hype to build again. The same would've happened to Star Wars Episode 2 and 3 had they been released in the same year.

Animegamer on Apr 25, 2009


#29 The Matrix was not the first movie to use bullet time. Do your homework. But on a mass scale Matrix was the first.

REAL6 on Apr 25, 2009


Ten years ago, the Wachowski Brothers consulted with a Research Assistant named Sxean Lee-David of the University of Washington. Sxean was conducting experiments in Virtual Reality under the guidance of Hunter Hoffman phd along with another phd Candidate. During that time, Sxean sent a Game design based on this knowledge to Warner Brothers. A few weeks later two unknown Directors at that time, ( Wachowski Brothers ) contacted Sxean for ideas and advice in Virtual Reality, ( the possibilities, needed technology, etc,... ) Sxean gave them the idea for "bullet-time" along with dialogue ideas, including the overall look and style of the movie. They promised Sxean a part in the Film Industry, and a credit in the Matrix film. Ten years passed and Sxean Lee-David has yet to be mentioned as a major contributor to the ideas that created the first Matrix movie. The Wachowski brothers are hacks, they take ideas from hapless College students and old black ladies. The entire Silver pictures company is unconscionable, they will steal, pirate, and infringe copyrights to keep themselves too FAT. Karma has it's way. and that's why Speed Racer was such a bomb. LOL ROFL. They will never create anything better than the first Matrix cause it was never their original ideas in the first place. Ten years of GREED and SELFISHNESS.

Chuck Wood on Apr 25, 2009


The Matrix story was stolen from an African American lady who wrote a script called The Third Eye. She won a huge sum of money from WB for copyright infringement. She also came up with the idea for The Terminator movie. This story was screwed from day one. Karma is a bitch!!!

J.N.L on Apr 25, 2009


yo thats six or wat!

jo on Apr 25, 2009


When all's been said and down The Matrix sequals made huge amounts of money, so I'm sure the studio was happy. I don't believe what Joe is saying. The problems which where mostly with part 2 was not because we have seen this before, it was because the brothers really tried to amp things up. They got a bigger budget and tried to include to much into one film, and the dialogue was just plan awful. As for the special effects I lot of it looked fake as hell. Whereas I thought part 3 was pretty good. It did not try to follow the same path as the first two films, and it was set mostly in the real world and not that of the matrix. And what was also so great with part 3 was that it didn't follow certain patterns in a trilogy. It was not what I would call a real happy ending. Yes the machines stopped invading the humans, but for how long?, and as for our hero he lost his eye sight and the love of his life. The brothers should have stayed on the same path of the first film.

Bizzaro on Apr 25, 2009


The Matrix sequels failed because they were never supposed to exist in the first place. The first film became a cultural phenomenon and was revolutionary in many ways. The special effects weren't the only thing holding it up, there was an intricate and philosophically layered plot which captured many people's imaginations. When it made a ton of money and became uber-popular the Wachowski's got dollar signs in their eyes and were blinded. The Matrix Reloaded amped up the special effects but it was all superficial because they forgot about the plot which was continually raising question but never providing any closure (a problem which ruined Revolutions as well). The special effects became mind-numbingly overused and in many instances looked outright fake. Revolutions again added more special effects but the plot was never providing any answers to the questions and issues raised in Reloaded, it felt as if they were literally being side-stepped. The plot was shallow and did not satisfy the viewer's curiosity. The problem occurs with many movies. If you create an entire film riding solely on special effects with little plot to back it up you are asking for failure. When the sequels came out it was obvious that the Wachowskis had never planned for a trilogy. The use of philosophy in the original became hackneyed and shafted in the sequels. In short, the original became an icon because of the balance of action and plot. The sequels leaned too heavily towards action with little regard for the story.

SlashBeast on Apr 26, 2009


Its a massive challenge for any linear connected trilogy to have a middle part that can rise above being purely a conduit between first and third. (and i know there are instances of the middle part being superior but it is rare) To me the main problem was that the second movie could not stand up on its own without the third. It didnt in its own right have enough substance to live up to the expectations created by the original. As purely an action movie it had some great elements, an under rated part of the film has to be the car chase which i remember being truly entertained by, but I did find the storyline disappointing it did seem to get bogged down in introducing the premise. The 3rd movie was always going to be an improvement because it had a climax. Also to add to what 'pants' (!!) had to say- maybe from a mainstream audiences point of view the real pull of the first movie was the sfx when seeing the second movie with the sfx no longer groundbreaking perhaps the audience was lost on the cyberpunk sci element? these are very very sci-fi movies. sci fi movies without the wow factor in terms of a visual element the audience hasnt seen before can have a polarizing effect. And these movies are more related to the niche genre of japanese scifi manga than anything else. I seem to remember finding the 2 sequels enjoyable enough at the time but the proof in the pudding is that i havent seen them again since.

rep6 on Apr 26, 2009


SlashBeast hit it right on the head. The first Matrix movie was a perfectly contained film. There was no need for the other two and they weren't planned for, as is obvious, because the story in those two films is very weak and the dialogue is dreadful. The sequels were bereft of strong story lines or characters that mattered and were made to cash in on the first film. probably the only good thing that came out of the hype surrounding the two sequels was the Animatrix.

vargas on May 21, 2009


I have always maintained that Reloaded and Revolutions are misunderstood masterpieces. They are the 2001s and Blade Runners of our time. The theme of The Matrix Trilogy is unity. Unity of mind, body and spirit. Unity between Man and Machine (both politically and physiologically). Unity of cultures. Unity of philosophy. It's about balance versus imbalance, and how perceived imbalance is really just "the system trying to balance itself out". In the end, however, it's all "inevitable". There can only ever be one destination. There is no choice, no free will. The only thing we can choose is to accept our fate, and in that acceptance, we find peace, we find Nirvana, we find enlightenment. This is what The Matrix Trilogy is about. Neo goes from someone impetuously says, "I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life," to someone who says, "You were always right - it was inevitable." That is his character arc. That is his understanding. That is his enlightenment. And the way in which the Wachowskis are somehow able to weave this mast thematic premise - with reams of references to the various human ventures to explain The Big Question - into a seemingly straightforward action-adventure narrative is absolutely astonishing. It is a masterpiece. This much I promise you.

Manfred Powell on Jun 19, 2009


^ No.

Glass on Nov 17, 2010


Does anyone know where this video lives now?  It's no longer available via the link in this article.

Slick on Nov 8, 2011

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