At the beginning of 1999, there was only one movie that everyone was talking about: after 16 years of waiting, finally, there was going to be a new Star Wars movie. And by the end of 1999, geeks the world round were vowing never to watch another Star Wars and dressing up as their new favorite sci-fi messiah- Keanu Reeves’ Neo.

Coming essentially out of nowhere, The Matrix turned every nerd in America into a kung-fu lunatic bursting at the seams with fan theories, decked head to toe in leather that made them look slightly less cool than they imagined.

It’s hard to think of another movie that got the hype that The Matrix did. Most big movies tend to dominate a niche, but this had something for everybody. It was cool enough to be popular with action fans, and it was pretentious enough to get a thumbs up from critics. It pushed the envelope on what technology in movies could look like. It was violent without being gory, smart without being boring- the only thing the movie didn’t have was Jar Jar Binks, thank God!

While virtually everyone liked The Matrix, some people absolutely loved it. The Matrix bordered on religion for nerds in high school or college. People started to identify themselves by the roles that the resistance members had in the film (runner, cipher, the lady in the red dress) and invent huge amounts of headcanon all over the internet explaining minutiae in the films to each other. Overnight, every kid who’d opened a command line fancied themselves a superhero digital ninja martial arts master hacker.

And then Warner Bros announced not just one sequel, but two. Fans went absolutely bananas, and America experienced its first-ever transmedia entertainment event. Leading up to the release of The Matrix Reloaded, Warner Bros released The Animatrix and trailers for Enter The Matrix, a cross-platform video game whose story was tied into the story of Reloaded.

Fans were in heaven. Finally! More Matrix! Comics, anime, games, movies! Who could ask for more? Of course, some skeptics thought the sequel couldn’t be as good, but fans always promised that the Wachowskis’ genius knew no bounds and kept their faith.

On the opening night of The Matrix Reloaded, fans were offered a choice. They could take the blue pill, remember that sequels are never as good as the original, and go in with low expectations … or they could take the red pill and see how far down the hype train goes …

Not shockingly, they took the red pill.

Early reviews of The Matrix Reloaded were heartbreaking. People who’d built the series up in their minds had it all come crashing down around them. Just four years after rising above a tired, cash-grab sequel, Matrix fans were staring down the barrel of their very own Jar Jar Binks: a cringe-worthy Cave Rave sex scene that lives on in infamy.

So as Matrix Resurrections makes its debut, fans are starting to believe again. But this time, just to hedge their bets, they’re dressing up a little less and taking a big glass of water with their blue pill.

Top Image: Warner Bros.

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