It seems obvious now the rumours are doing the rounds, so why didn't anyone think of it before? Why not reboot The Matrix?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros is currently developing a reboot with the intention of developing it into a cinematic universe, a la Marvel and Star Wars, with multiple films sharing continuity and focusing on different characters and the like. Given that their attempt to do the same with DC has pretty much gone sour, trying it again with a different property might be a smart move. The Reporter, er, also reports that they are currently trying to get Creed (and, er, Fantastic 4) actor Michael B Jordan into the starring role.
So it’s probably inevitable that news of the reboot is going to get a negative reaction. So iconic, and sacred, is the original film (and to a lesser extent its sequels), that surely any filmmaker would be mad to try and retread what the Wachowski siblings have already done?
Now, I’m a huge fan of of the original film - and have long named it as my favourite film, since I first saw it aged 15 - so you’d think that I’d be in the core “hater” demographic. But actually… I think that a reboot of the Matrix could be incredible. Here’s why.
It’s Already Got A Proven Shared Universe
While we mostly think of shared universes as a post-Iron Man thing, or something from comics of old, The Matrix already has history supporting spin-offs and other stories, outside of the Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and the rest of the cast. In fact, arguably the Wachowskis were more ambitious in their desire to tell a larger story as they didn’t just make multiple movies, they made the Matrix multimedia, with a consistent canon spanning videogames, comics, and animation too.
In The Animatrix, we got nine distinct animé filmmakers takes on different aspects of the universe. None of which featured Neo. For example, Final Flight of the Osiris was a full-CGI short story about the crew of another rebel craft, and The Second Renaissance was a cartoon documentary outlining how The Matrix was created in the first place. A Detective Story was a noir-style detective thriller about the hunt for a hacker known only as “Trinity”.
Matrix Comics was similar - first published online (which was new and revolutionary at the time), and later published, these also told side-stories in the Matrix Universe.
Then, of course, there was the Enter The Matrix video game - which in retrospect also felt ahead of its time as a third person adventure game for Gamecube, PS2, PC and the original Xbox. The story focused on some of the side characters from the Matrix sequels, and to support the game, the Wachowskis actually filmed full cinema-style cutscenes with the same actors for use in the game.
Simply put - there is already proof that there are way more stories to tell, and I’d be excited to see more than just the main narrative brought to life. The Matrix is, after all, an entire world - so why not tell us, say, a heist story in which one crew from Zion has to steal some code from inside the Matrix? Or what about a drama played like Arrival, exploring the concept of identity in a world where images and appearances can be hacked? There’s countless possibilities.
It Could Weave In 21st Century Themes
When The Matrix came out, the world was a different place - and since then, our fears about technology have evolved and changed. Thematically, surely there’s plenty of material for a decent new Matrix film to chew on? Surely there are obvious allegories for mass surveillance, given that Agents can appear anywhere? I can’t work out if this is a trite point to make or not, but given that Michael B Jordan is black, surely the African American experience puts the idea of an all powerful system that can control and oppress you into an interesting new context?
And what about the fact that we’re now always connected - that there’s no such thing as “going online” any more, as the device that connects us lives in our pockets? We can’t disconnect from our Matrix - can people in the Matrix universe really disconnect from theirs?
And of course, there’s been a revolution in machine learning and artificial intelligence since the original film was released. Why not modify the source material so that humans are not being used for their heat, but for their brains? (This would be better for thermodynamics nerds anyway.) What does that say about human attributes and work? I’m not smart enough to know, but I bet some Hollywood scriptwriters have some big ideas.
It Could Put Pioneering CGI To Work
And finally, there’s the one other way The Matrix changed film: It’s groundbreaking special effects. Two decades ago bullet time was at the cutting edge - spinning a camera around a frozen actor was a remarkable feat. But in an era where we can watch the Avengers team up and fight Ultron together in one long shot, it feels positively quaint.
But this seems like a perfect opportunity to put the franchise in the hands of some of today’s pioneering film makers - to see what they can come up with to stun us. What about Gareth Evans, who directed The Raid? Chad Stahelski, who directed John Wick and its sequel is surely an obvious choice for stylish gun fu?
If anything, the Matrix is more relevant today than it was two decades ago - and I’m excited to see what Warner Bros can do with it.