Inverse Recommends

You need to watch the most divisive sci-fi trilogy ever on HBO Max ASAP

“No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”

Warner Bros.

“You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

In the run-up to The Matrix’s 1999 release, its marketing campaign revolved almost solely around obfuscation.

Warner Bros.

The Matrix was something so complex and bizarre, we were told, that it couldn’t even be explained. You had to see it for yourself.

Warner Bros.

When it finally arrived, The Matrix took its time letting you in on the secret. Its opening scenes showed impossible, inexplicable events, only explaining their meaning much later, after a series of even stranger things had occurred.

Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Getty Images

The mystery around The Matrix filled theaters. Word of mouth turned it into a smash hit and a cultural phenomenon.

Then came the sequels.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

The Matrix Reloaded made three times as much in its opening weekend as The Matrix did, but this time, word of mouth was not in its favor.

In place of secrecy, The Matrix Reloaded and its sequel, The Matrix Revolutions, piled on explanations and worldbuilding, robbing the series of its mystery while somehow making it even harder to understand.

Warner Bros.

But just because the two Matrix sequels divert from the original doesn’t mean they should be tossed out. After all, the trick The Matrix pulled off never could have worked twice, let alone three times.

Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Getty Images

Warner Bros.

Rather than mimic the original, Reloaded and Revolutions attempt the more difficult task of both expanding and subverting the mythology of The Matrix.

Warner Bros.

The One destined to liberate humanity from the machines? He’s another expected part of the system. The people who helped him succeed in the first place? Some of them are just computer programs.

The Matrix sequels ask us to consider what victory over our perception of reality even looks like, and whether Chosen One narratives themselves are part of the problem.

Ronald Siemoneit/Sygma/Getty Images

Archive Photos/Moviepix/Getty Images

The Matrix was an impossibly bold work — the second film ever directed by the Wachowskis, it challenged audience expectations and changed the way movies were made.

Warner Bros.

How could a sequel possibly work except for being just as surprising?

Warner Bros.

Sure, Neo (maybe) saves the day in the end, but only after seeing his entire world come crashing down around him again.

With sentient computer programs and an unfairly mocked rave sequence, the Matrix sequels move the spotlight from a superpowered savior to all the people (whether they’re flesh and blood or lines of code) fighting for a better life together.

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

If nothing else, trailers for The Matrix Resurrections explicitly riff on the previous films in the series, so watching the whole original trilogy could help you get the most out of the long-awaited sequel.

The Matrix trilogy is streaming now on HBO Max.

The Matrix Resurrections logs in December 22.

Warner Bros.