It being a day with a Y at the end in a year made of numbers, Hollywood is considering rebooting a thing. In this instance, that thing is The Matrix trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Warners Bros have Zak Penn on board to write it and Michael B Jordan in talks to star.
Know what? We’re up for this. Big time. Let us tell you why…
First off, the original Matrix is 18 years old. That’s one of those numbers no one wants to hear but it’s the truth. This is a movie that came out at the turn of the century and perfectly mined the dystopian end of millennium fantasies of its time period.
But The Matrix is pre-iPhone. It’s pre-broadband. Pre-Netflix. Pre-Tinder. Pre-Uber. Pre-App economy.
Much like William Gibson covered everything but the mobile phone in Neuromancer, The Matrix thought of everything other than the ubiquity of connectivity. Not to mention drone technology, robotic warfare, crowd funding, social media and anyone of the dozen or so other innovations that have either changed our lives for the better or murdered our attention spans right in the face, depending on where you’re sitting.
That’s incredibly fertile ground to explore in a story about humanity’s epically bungled first contact with sentient machines, the apocalypse that follows and the hybridised society that follows that. Anyone worried about Penn’s name being on this thing (tough on X-Men: The Last Stand; tough on the causes of X-Men: The Last Stand) should be reassured by that. Plus the dude co-wrote Avengers Assemble and that’s still a massively good time.
Then there’s the technical aspect of things. The Matrix took the nascent bullet time technology, married it to Eastern action cinema and created something that felt both whole and absolutely unlike anything we’d seen before. This is a film within sight of its 20th birthday and it still looks good, and a lot of that comes down to just how bleeding edge it was at the time. Plus, those effects are constantly married to both character and plot. The wire work, the bullet time, the relentless gunplay – it’s all tied to the film’s unique combination of a virtual world with very real consequences.
Bullet time was riffed on for years after the original movie and it wasn’t the film’s only enduring influence. The fight choreography and wire work would become a mainstay of Hollywood action movies for years and while none hit the same heights as The Matrix, many of those techniques are still used today. The Matrix really was a gear change for action cinema. Now, with CGI, synthespians and a newfound respect for physical stunt work too, it’s a perfect time to revisit the movie. The tools, put in place at least partially by the original Matrix, to make a great new version are already in place. Especially as another movie series has recently turned action cinema on its head once again.
Enter, stage left, John Wick. Probably judo-throwing a dude while shooting another one in the face. Twice.
A Matrix reboot that coupled the ambition of the original with the locked-off, close-up fight work that Stahelski and Leitch brought to the original John Wick would be a thing of beauty. A battered, bruised beauty that’s really good at Judo. The two John Wick movies and early word on Atomic Blonde show just how good they are at this and just how perfectly this style of action cinema would meld with the world of The Matrix. If the Wachowskis aren’t involved, back the truck of money up to their houses instead.
But here’s the thing. The Wachowskis do have to be involved. The two Matrix sequels are colossal failures as movies but like we said at the top of the piece, this is a series that’s almost 20 years old. The Wachowskis have changed massively as artists and their work on Sense8 is unique, possibly revolutionary and frequently brilliant. Most importantly, it constantly puts the characters front and centre in a story that would all too easily drown in spectacle. That is the exact reason the Matrix sequels failed and the exact reason the series’ creators should be given a chance to come back and reboot it. We know they’ve made it clear they don’t want to come back but we’d love to see them do it.
Then there’s the cast. It’s no accident that Keanu Reeves is front and centre in two of the definitive western action series of the last two decades. His relentless work ethic, coupled with the real authority he brings to the screen, anchors The Matrix trilogy even when the CGI is at its worst, which it frequently is. He’s said he’d be happy too come back as long as the Wachowskis were involved and based on just how good he is in the John Wick movies we’d be delighted to see him return. Although there is the small matter of Neo being dead to contend with. Perhaps an appearance as the cyber-messiah Neo was sort of bodged into becoming would be in order.
But perhaps no more than that. Because the unspoken secondary purpose of a reboot is to use an old property to bring new people to the fore. A Matrix movie is a golden ticket, people will go to see it regardless of reviews. That means the studio has a chance, arguably an obligation, to throw some surprises in there.
That’s why Michael B Jordan is such a great choice. He’s an effortlessly versatile leading man, Creed and Fruitvale Station both prove that. But the rest of the cast needs to be that good too. Performers like Jessica Henwick, Tessa Thompson, Jason Momoa and Lewis Tan have been knocking on the doors of the big leagues for a while now. And yes, we know Momoa’s been in Game Of Thrones and is Aquaman but that could still turn out to be a seawater-poisoned chalice. Momoa, Thompson, Tan, Henwick and a generation of actors and actresses coming up right now deserve the chance to make it big. A new Matrix deserves, needs, a cast that will be as iconic as the original.
So, we at MCM Towers are absolutely in favour of a Matrix reboot, if it’s done right. Give us the chunky physical action of John Wick, the 2017 Wachowskis at the helm and a cast of performers ready to learn kung fu and we’re there with bells on. Just do us all a favour and maybe leave the Architect and the wobbly CGI in the past where they belong.
Article by Alasdair Stuart