Despite its rampant success and impact on the film industry, in the years since the final film bowed, The Matrix films have been the target of much vitriol and generally looked upon poorly. It’s an odd happenstance where nostalgia seems to be working against the movies, rather than for it.
The reasons for this are varied and up for debate (I still enjoy the films, but whatever), and I could spend an entire article discussing its decline in pop culture…However, that’s not what I’m here for today. With the recent news that Warner Bros. is looking to reboot the franchise with a new story/actor, I wanted to remind people that it’s okay to be excited for new/more Matrix films. There’s a few reasons why:
Reboot vs. Remake
Reboots and remakes are nothing new in Hollywood, and despite it feeling like there are more of them than ever before…it’s just more noticeable. That said, the trend in recent years have been more about rebooting franchises, rather than completely remaking them. This method keeps the original films as a part of the story while finding new ways to move the franchise forward into the future, without explicitly being a sequel.
X-Men: First Class, Star Trek, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes are great examples of reboots that work within the context of existing films while still managing to tell its own story. Jurassic World, while ostensibly a sequel, works as a reboot as well in many regards. Talking about remakes and reboots may seem like nothing more than semantics, there are marked differences in how they approach a film’s source material and storytelling.
When the news about The Matrix reboot first hit, everyone’s general assumption was it would be a remake, but that’s not the case. The new film’s screenwriter, Zak Penn, has explicitly stated the new Matrix is meant to be a “revival” of the franchise, not simply re-doing what’s been covered.
We won’t be seeing a retelling of the “Neo” story, where a chosen one has to save all of humanity. Rather, it’s a story that will exist within the established continuity while telling a new story with different characters (unless they go with a pure prequel). In this way, the new Matrix film(s) would work similarly to how Rogue One and Fantastic Beasts did for the Star Wars and Harry Potter franchises.
If you enjoyed the original Matrix films and the stories they told, you’re in luck, as nothing will change with that, and you’ll be able to enjoy them right along with the new one. If you didn’t care for the original films, well, you should be able to enjoy the new ones independently. It’s a win-win no matter how you’ve felt about The Matrix franchise in the past.
Still Stories to Tell
Along the same lines of it not being a remake, this is an excellent time to remind everyone, there are TONS of unique and interesting stories to be told within the Matrix universe. The video games, and Animatrix short compilation makes it clear that the lore built into the core of the films provide fertile ground for any number of new tales.
A movie exploring the early days of the resistance, the first people who “woke up,” or even a side story that works in tandem with the original films could all bring about engaging stories with new characters. Hell, the idea of rebooting (literally) is built into the films’ story, serving as a primary point for the villains at the end of Matrix Reloaded. So technically, a new film could tell an alternate version of “the One” storyline while still being set within the same universe. I’m fairly certain the odds of that happening are slim, I’m just saying, there’s plenty of new story potential for more Matrix films without even coming close to treading the same ground.
Sitting right at the cusp of the turn of the millennium, the films brought the idea of “cyberpunk” to the forefront of pop culture. In some ways, The Matrix films are a product of their times, which means that many of the films cyberpunk elements are definitely showing their age. A quick example are the amount of landline phones (something integral to the story and tech) that pop up in the trilogy, where nowadays smartphones rule and landlines are virtually nonexistent. There are a few more “dated” aspects to the films, which makes a reboot seem like a good idea.
I love the story behind The Matrix films, and it’s unique take on the battle between man and machine is something worth exploring further. The reality, however, is that the films’ reliance on integrating tech concepts from that specific time period means they haven’t aged as well as you’d like. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the films (yes beyond the first one), but it’s far less revolutionary these days than when it initially hit the big screen.
Because of this, an update feels necessary and something that could do the story some good. Being able to update the technology within the story will help connect to newer generations, while also opening up new storytelling options. Along with updating the technology and certain story elements, a new Matrix movie means the chance for new levels of awesome/insane action moments. Regardless of how dated some of the set pieces seem to be these days, there’s no denying the impact The Matrix had in raising the bar for action in films.
One of the most recognizable aspects of The Matrix, one of the things that instantly springs to mind when you think of the films, is the martial arts. The Matrix broke the mold for fight scenes and in the years since filmmakers have pushed fight choreography to new heights. Any new Matrix film will be able to take advantage of these advances, with the chance to once again push things further…it’s an exciting thought and one I’m giddy about.
The First Movie is Great
Something that seems to be lost in all the Matrix rhetoric is the fact that the first movie is pretty amazing. Seriously, when you mention The Matrix films to people, they start groaning about it, completely hung up on how the sequels were handled. I get it, but it’s important to remember that the core of the story is pretty damn impressive and a lot of fun to boot.
When news about this revival came out, some of the first things I started seeing popping up across the net, were others talking about how The Matrix isn’t an original film and borrowed from several other properties in order to tell it’s story. Yeah, it’s as true now as it was then. I don’t think there’s ever been any doubt about the heavy influence of manga and other Sci-Fi properties had in The Matrix, but people use it today as a denouncement of furthering the franchise.
The point of The Matrix wasn’t that it was an entirely new story and did something no one had ever seen/read before, it’s that it told the story (derivative though it may be) in a fresh/unique way for new audiences. The idea of self-aware machines enslaving mankind wasn’t a new concept, but it’s presentation took the story to another level entirely. It presented itself in a way that attracted a bigger audience and new generation, enabling them to tell a powerful story. As is true with ALL forms of storytelling, cliches and recycled ideas aren’t inherently bad in and of themselves…it’s all in the presentation.
The driving themes behind The Matrix story is one that’s virtually timeless. The concepts of fighting back against impossible odds, faith in the face of adversity, and being willing to open your mind to new things remain points worth talking about. Being more dated at this point, it’s harder to get new audiences to engage with the legitimately powerful messages the trilogy presents; especially in the first film, which is chocked FULL of symbolism.