I must say at almost half the runtime of the two movies it combines, there isn't a whole lot I found myself missing in this edit. There are a couple things that were cut out here that I wish were left in though. I like Agent Smith discovering the ability to jump into an unplugged body, I like Neo in the train station, and I kind of like Neo discovering he can affect the sentinels in the real world. As for additional cuts I wish were made, I was hoping that the Neo vs 100 Agent Smiths fight would be a little trimmed down. I absolutely hate when Neo becomes a smooth CGI creation and the fight becomes cartoonish and uninteresting. The fight starts out good, but I think some of the sillier elements of this could still be cut out to keep it more in line with the original movie's aesthetic.
Of course, the problem with this is that there are SO MANY moments in these sequels that dive into bad CGI that it would be impossible to cut them all so maybe why bother in the Agent Smiths fight? I feel like almost every action sequence in these movies starts out great, but at some point gets too big for its britches and goes full CGI and just sucks you out of it. If it wasn't such a jarring transition and the effects were better and more subtle, it wouldn't be a problem. But that's no fault of the editor here. Jerick can only work with the footage available.
So while I would say it's worth watching this just to save some time with the prequels, it can't fix some foundational problems with the sequels themselves. In the first movie, everybody was scared of one Agent Smith and 5 Sentinels. It was a huge plot point in the movie. In these sequels, Neo leisurely fends off dozens of Agent Smiths and Zion battles millions of Sentinels. It's much too far of a stakes/danger leap to expect the audience to care about it. There are ways of upping the ante without just multiplying it by a thousand.
I too, long ignored the Matrix sequels for their infinite bloat, so opposite to the timeless and abundant first iteration - which I still esteem as a personal all-time movie favorite. Jerick's Decoded, however, expands so gloriously on everything the first one set in motion on action and worldbuilding, that in most merits it could be considered not only the greatest sequel ever but maybe even better than the original.
Its beyond amazing how the narrative from the back-to-back sequels is tied neatly into a single story rather than a two-part, a direct follow-up of The One's path that takes us along from the hidden doors in the Matrix to the steel-cold reality of Zion. The war with the machines is now the same personal conflict Neo faces in his epiphany, his journey for enlightenment is the choice in which the fate of humankind depends upon. There are no sideplots, no detours, no distractions. No frame or second is wasted, and all the characters have their place and role made crystal clear to move the story forwards. They do what they were made to do, and they know what they must know. It's so thematically fulfilling now, that the movie (edit) follows the mantra of purpose with the same devotion as its system inhabitants do. People are not having rave parties, crafting ammo, making love or getting stranded in train station limbo. The generous runtime of the edit actually spans a mere few hours to life or death of the human race. The stakes are high and there's a gripping sense of urgency throughout, and yet the pace is just perfect and the rush of events is only determined by their natural resolution.
The increased stakes, like so, inject a high-octane dose of adrenaline to keep one on the edge of the seat. The battle for Zion, particularly, has always been the most redeemable spectacle in Revolutions, but seeing it again by Jerick's point of view, its just breathtaking. I usually loathe the now widespread use of swarming drones CGI as a cheap trick to fake a sense of scale, but in the form of the relentless Sentinels against the whole of Zion's military might is truly a sight to behold. It remains a SciFi powerhouse hallmark that really shines in Decoded. The overall shift in focus when compared to the first movie is a clear narrative direction that sidelines the encounters inside the Matrix to highlight what is at stake in the real world. That unfortunately, is proportional to how good the sequences in these different realms look. Don't get me wrong, the practical and choreographed Reloaded sequences of the Burly Brawl and the Highway Chase are still stunt paradise, but honestly I expected them to be completely excised of the cringeworhty digi-doubles (ie. brawl Neo and Highway Agents). Whereas the Zion pieces remain impressive, the digital FX in the Matrix are still very fake-looking and could have been further trimmed.
It goes without saying by now that the editing is masterful, and while I have no gripes with seamlessness, there are some few bits that do feel contrived. Specifically when Smith confronts the Oracle and she barely reacts (to avoid changing actresses, I understand), and by the ending when Neo and Trinity travel to the Machine City. I thought Neo's lost sight was nicely handled, but there's an unsettling feeling that Trinity does not belong in the scenes that follow (rightfully so).
Lastly, I think the implied retrieval of Neo is a nice touch, but that last shot of the ship's winch should linger a bit longer before the credits roll, or... it should end with some scenes inside the Matrix explaining what actually changed there after Smith. We know that Zion is still standing but what does it mean for the machines? What is next for the humanity still plugged in the system? That's something that worked in the first movie before anyone imagined of watching a sequel, and I think it would do wonders for the edit instead of it ending so abruptly in the real world. There are, of course, some unused shots shown during the credits, including one with Sati, but since she plays no part on the edit, it makes no sense to show her whatsoever (or other scenes cut, for that merit). Also, the rave footage would be really badass if it kicked in along with Juno Reactor's beat during Navras, instead of making the whole of the end titles. Talking about titles, I'd love to have called it just "The Matrix Revolution" (in singular, yes).
I didn't think I needed Decoded before, but it lives up to its legendary status amongst fanedits.
Loved the original Matrix and the Animatrix. Reloaded was good, but really hinged on resolving so much in Revolutions....which totally disappointed. For me, it's been easier to pretend there are no Matrix sequels than to deal with 'taking the good with the bad' in the sequels.
Watched this edit with my girlfriend, who had only ever seen the original. So she was a useful barometer to me of what worked. The intro was good and the Reloaded fight scenes are a crowd-pleaser still. Figuring out what was going on with Smith and what his role was amongst all these programs, old programs, rogue programs, viruses, etc....well, that was pretty confusing for GF, but I remember it not being super easy watching the originals either, so maybe that's not the fault of this edit.
A lot of the small removals in Reloaded were fine, and not missed. The integrations from the videogame are so seamless that GF couldn't guess which ones they were. I personally found the continual checking in with these various crewmembers on other ships to be needless distractions. The acting/dialogue was often kind of cheesy and while I appreciate the attempt to flesh out this world, better to trim the fat. OTOH, I missed Seraph's fights (how are you gonna have Colin Chou in but not fight?!) and a few more bits showing Smith's progression would've been helpful.
When you get into Revolutions is where the edits really make or break the cut. I always hated the whole sub-plot of Bane betraying Neo, and he is thankfully excised from the film cleanly and perfectly. Also, the ending of Reloaded wherein Neo starts to exhibit real-world superpowers is confusing and messy and never fully explained... this edit attempts to get rid of all that, though a bit imperfectly. We're still left with a suddenly-different-looking yellow energy flash machine colliding with the ship at the end, blinding Neo out of nowhere. GF was absolutely confused by this. We're also both watching the parallels of Niobe and crew fighting like hell to get into Zion while Neo and Trinity head into the heart of the Machine City with zero guns and somehow inexplicably make it past blasts, bombs, and missles. There's no real explanation in the edit. And Neo's suddenly blind in the end and we're like...."Okaaaay. I guess that's symbolic...or something?" It really has little impact or meaning here.
As far as the Oracle, the Architect, Agent Smith, and the Machine God.... well, there's a nightmare of dense ideas to sift through here, so I totally sympathize. Coming up with a cohesive, focused narrative must be murder. In Jerick's edit, it basically comes down to those who insist they have choice (Free Will) versus those who think there is a master plan, or fate (Determinism). It's an interesting conflict, and plenty on it's own to base the argument on. It's problematic though, because characters like Smith and Morpheus make comments or act in ways that seem to flip flop from what their core beliefs are. Morpheus believes in prophecy and fate, and Smith seems to believe in that as well (adhering to a master plan/program) but then they both act against those interests at times.
This edit cuts so much of Revolutions that it becomes hard to trace how characters know things and what their motivations for doing things are. For example, I totally missed what Locke's great plan was (a huge EMP blast?) or why it failed. Seems like the kind of thing that shouldn't play out off-screen and then just be summed up in a sentence. I also missed how Neo knew to go to the Machine City or what his motivation was. GF did catch both of these, though even though the 'vision' implication of Neo's was clear, she didn't get why the Machine God would need Neo. Neither of us understood the exact dynamic of Oracle/Architect, and how Smith knew to go after Oracle, or how he found her, or how he got so powerful. Then the ending itself leaving Trinity alive worked very well with all the cuts, but for us, retrieving Neo in that weird fade seemed to hint that maybe he hadn't died? It was an ambiguous ending. Cut to Zion rave, but still playing very ominous music at first. It wasn't clear that everyone was about to celebrate, it felt quite at-odds. Also, wouldn't they first be rebuilding and mourning all their dead? Wouldn't they be making a shrine to their savior or staying at his bedside? It just didn't work for us as a wrap-up.
Ok, so most of the main narrative issues aside, I think this does replace the original 2 films. If you're looking for that. Yes, there are parts that don't really work, but if you try to do them differently, it'll probably make some other narrative aspect worse. So I don't know that there's a way to get a whole lot better than this. OTOH, that kind of just convinces me that the sequels aren't for me. I have no problem stopping with just The Animatrix and pretending R & R don't exist. There are so many repetitive cheesy bits in Revolutions especially (everyone doing the hand 'come on' gesture, "You did it!"- "No, WE did it.", sunglasses off- now this fight is serious, "Arrrggh! Arrggh! Come on!", etc) that it just really highlights how rough the material was to work with, no matter the edit. Great effort by Jerick, but I just don't think you can make a worthy sequel out of the originals. This is an enjoyable watch if you keep your expectations low, though.
Unlike the majority of audiences, I've personally never hated the Matrix sequels. I dug the hell out of Reloaded, and while Revolutions was a disappointing conclusion, it's more of a mixed bag than it is an outright bad movie. This edit, which combines the two films while also adding in elements from Enter the Matrix and making necessary changes, is phenomenally impressive. Everything's incredibly engaging and focused, the editing's off-the-charts, and the end result not only makes for a wonderful Matrix sequel that's on par with the first but also a much more satisfying conclusion to the overall story. Really, really great stuff.
Thanks for the super kind review!
First off, thanks to Jerick for taking on this project and helping me find the dl.
It has been a while since I watched the Matrix movies, so I pulled out my DVD of the first one to refresh my memory, then followed up with Jerick's edit. Audio & video quality & editing are excellent. If I didn't know better, I would not have realized I wasn't watching a studio release.
It's been long enough since I watched the originals that I didn't remember some parts until later, reading the change list. I mostly didn't miss anything! I do think Trinity got a bit sidelined later in the edit, and the story resolution comes up kind of quickly. I could've done with a bit more lead-up and more involvement from Trinity, and wouldn't have minded some of Neo's "real world" super powers. He is "The One," and that wasn't 100% there for me towards the end. Still, that's a matter of taste and it's hard to make more than minor criticisms here. If I could rate 9-1/2 for Enjoyment, I'd bump up my score slightly.
Oh, and I would've been okay with more Persephone.... ;)