I've noticed an amazing phenomenon in recent years. And in a nutshell it's this: People who have just recently seen the Matrix 1,2 and 3 for the first time (ex: 2010-2014), or people who were born after 1999, adore the Matrix Trilogy. And this blew my mind. After talking to students, teaching-assistants for years, I realized that these are the reasons:
-1: The Matrix 1 is not mind blowing anymore:
In 1999, The Matrix was pretty much incredible. Unprecedented. Now? After the Avengers, LOTR, Transformers...bullet time is pretty "meh" at best for young people/new viewers. So they don't have that same "mind blown" experience we did or have ridiculous expectations set up for the sequels. To quote my friend's 10 year old son after watching Matrix 1 last month: "Pretty cool ideas. The fight scenes were alright."
-2: The Trailers are not there to desensitize the audience:
For me, the "aha moment" came when watching the Matrix Trilogy with my ex-girlfriend. Someone who had never seen 1 trailer of any of the 3 films. And I swear to God, she was floored more by the sequels than the original. When Neo fought the 100 Smiths, she said "They filmed this. Someone actually made this. This is unbelievable. How?". You see, she didn't have the Reloaded/Revolutions trailer available online to watch 500x, ruining and building up the spectacles that were about to be seen in Reloaded/Revolutions. Everything was as fresh as when we first saw the Matrix 1 in 1999.
-3: No time between the films.
a) New audiences will usually watch all 3 films within a few days of each other. There's no months (or years) of pondering and building up ideas. b) Waiting 6 months for Revolutions, is the same as waiting 6 months for the final hour of the "Dark Knight". Imagine that for a second. Because that's all Revolutions is: "the ending to Reloaded". Imagine if the final hour of the Dark Knight was considered its own film. Audiences would have flipped: "That's it? The Joker and Batman have a 3 minute fight...and it's over?"
-4: The Trailers didn't spoil the surprises.
When people went to see Revolutions in 2003, every single person on earth knew that it would end with Neo vs. Smith in the rain. However, watching them the way they were meant to be seen (without spoilers), changed my entire perspective. In fact, the people I've shown the trilogy to had absolutely no idea how it would end. Only when the Oracle mentions that "Neo or Smith would settle the war" is the first time that the idea of "some confrontation" comes about. Seeing 4-5 jaws collectively drop the second Neo goes in for the final battle was very satisfying.
-5: Time changes everything:
I'm sure in the mid 80s, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" was a huge disappointment. But now? I think most people will agree: "Well, it's not as good as 1 or 2, but it has it's moments. And I'm glad it was made. It's still really fun." Movies are seen very differently years after they were made. I know friends who told me Blade Runner got 1/10 reviews at the time. So did other classics that were ahead of their time. And the Matrix sequels are no exception. And I'm noticing all over that perceptions are changing.
-6: Hype destroys everything:
I once told a college student that "Mad Max: The Road Warrior" was a masterpiece that he had to see. He gave it a 2/10 rating. "Boring/predictable/stupid" was his review. That's when it hit me. You can't ever go into a movie expecting it to blow you away. It's almost as unfair as going into a blind date expecting the same thing. Again, new viewers or younger ones never had to experience that insane hype.
I can finally "get" why these movies are being seen positively after years of bashing. They're legitimate 7-8/10 films (especially together as a 2 part narrative), that were treated as if they were "Highlander 2 bad". And that, my friends, is an unforgivable crime in cinema.