In 1999, there was one film that could take the spotlight from the dawning of the new millennium (no, it’s not The Phantom Menace). One film that would come to alter the landscape of cinema with its very creation. One film that would redefine the blockbuster, and stand out with the sort of jaw-dropping, eyeball electrifying visual effects that audiences have now come to expect. That film is The Matrix.
Unlike today, where electrifying superhero movies with massive budgets and dizzying special effects are par for the course, The Matrix departed from the formulaic action formats that existed throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Like George Lucas’s Star Wars before it, it was a game changing film that advanced filmmaking and technological achievement by the innovation of its creators. Borrowing concepts from philosophy, religion, computer technology, and neuroscience, it told the story of one computer programmer who fulfills the prophecy of The One to save the human race from enslavement by machines. The Matrix was a sleeper success, and its two sequels added to the uniquely imaginative world-building of the Wachowski siblings. In the past year, news of a “Matrix reboot” have spread, which have polarized fans of the original trilogy. CBR has the latest information on what’s possible, illogical, and just another glitch in the Matrix...
20 MAY BE TRUE: IT WILL BE A PREQUEL
The events of the hostile machine takeover and subsequent enslavement of human beings was detailed in a long monologue by Morpheus to Thomas Anderson in The Matrix. After having accepted to swallow a pill from Morpheus, Thomas is taken to “The Valley of the Real”, a simulated environment that shows the desolation on Earth after machines took over from their human creators. It’s purpose by design is to convince Thomas to join the human resistance and fulfill his destiny as The One who will free humans from being used as their new energy source. While this is all tidily summated, the Matrix reboot may focus on showing fans the series of events that led to The Matrix and its subsequent films.
The closest we’ve seen to a prequel to The Matrix was shown in The Animatrix, in which a series of short films by various artists depict certain periods of time before the human resistance had begun. Even so, they still don’t go into great detail, and a prequel film may satisfy fans hungry to learn about a specific event in their beloved franchise, the way Rogue One: A Star Wars Story chronicled how the Death Star plans were obtained in the Star Wars timeline.
19 GLITCH: IT'LL FEATURE SOME CAST FROM THE ORIGINALS
The names of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are synonymous with The Matrix franchise, and it’s almost difficult to imagine a Matrix Universe without them on-screen doing scorpion kicks in bullet time. Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne-Moss and Laurence Fishburne were all able to truly define those roles because they were the first to embody them. When news of the Matrix reboot first broke, fans were frantic to know if members of the original cast were going to return in some capacity. They weren’t too keen on anyone else attempting to play characters that they had come to identify with those actors.
This rumor was soon dismissed, especially when Keanu Reeves announced that he would only have anything to do with the picture if the Wachowskis were writing and producing it. None of the other members of the original film cast have been approached, for reasons that may be very similar. By all accounts the set was a very close, familial one, with members of the cast and crew bonding over the intense script readthroughs, and the martial arts training for the demanding fight choreography. Since Zak Penn has said the reboot will consist of an entirely new story, don’t expect to see your favorite Matrix stars again unless they make a surprise cameo.
18 MAY BE TRUE: IT WILL BE SET SOMETIME DURING THE FILMS
Following the same structure as the popular Animatrix anthology film, the Matrix reboot may be set sometime during the events of The Matrix trilogy but not focus on any of its main protagonists. Certainly while Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus were off battling agents in the Matrix or machines in the Real World, there were other Zion operatives on other missions that could use the spotlight. The Nebuchadnezzar was not the only ship operating in the Real World, and those other ships may be located in areas that would help flesh out all the environments mentioned but never shown on-screen.
Audiences would relish meeting new characters in the Matrix Universe and learning their backstories. Or, perhaps exploring the backstories of side or bit characters from The Matrix films that deserve more attention, such as the Merovingian, the Oracle, the Architect, or the Keymaker and their origins. Positioning the reboot during the existing films will make it less of a “reboot” and more of an addition without wiping away the artistic foundation that fans have come to love. A lot of creative integrity has been invested already in making The Matrix franchise one of the most unique and innovative franchises of modern cinema.
17 GLITCH: IT WILL BE PRODUCED/WRITTEN BY THE WACHOWSKIS
The Wachowskis are a visionary team of siblings that set themselves apart from other creative duos by creating fully immersive stories that are as narratively transformative as they are visually transportive. Their other films, such as V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas were all based on other properties, but the Matrix films were completely their own. They spent years developing them, getting inspiration from comic books, science fiction novels, philosophy tomes, and neuroscience journals. When The Matrix premiered in 1999, it was a game changer in terms of storytelling and filmmaking, and the Wachowskis are to thank.
Their most recent foray into world-building storytelling was with Jupiter Ascending, a grand space epic that failed to impact audiences the way The Matrix had. Rather than return to the franchise that gave them so much notoriety (and so many film options!), they have turned their attention to producing. They’ve had much success there, especially with the intricate dramatic television series Sense8 which has a science fiction and philosophical bend that harkens back to their Matrix days. Some fans thought the Matrix couldn’t exist without them, but apparently it will have to. They aren’t interested in returning to that franchise in the foreseeable future, preferring to focus on their current projects.
16 MAY BE TRUE: IT WILL HAVE A SHARED UNIVERSE FORMAT
Marvel and Lucasfilm have had great success with a shared universe format of filmmaking, with each film released being interwoven to the plots and storylines of the others. This format can also allow for the exploration of several separate character origin stories in their own film series, which eventually come to connect over the course of the main series as a whole (see The Avengers). Applying a similar format to The Matrix could generate a sprawling level of world-building that the franchise naturally lends itself to.
This would be a smart move for Warner Bros. as studios are currently strategizing how to gain the most traction from their branded intellectual properties. Not every studio has a property like The Matrix that is so distinctly different than anything else in the current cinemascape. With the proper care and attention paid to it, it could produce a robust amount of films which the studio can release for many years to come. The Matrix has always been known for being subversive, dark, and thought-provoking, which grants it an enviable position among the bright-colored, family-friendly superhero movies being released today. The brand loyalty all but guarantees a solid return on investment, provided studio executives find the right creative team and writers to competently handle its material.
15 GLITCH: IT WILL BE A REMAKE
When news of the Matrix reboot was first announced more than a year ago, fans weren’t happy. They felt that Hollywood had run out of any new and creative ideas, and was coming for their revered franchise to squeeze what money it could from it. They were also confusing reboot with “remake”, and that made matters worse. A remake simply takes the same characters and recasts them, keeping the setting and situations the same. Remakes occur for more reasons than just the whims of money-hungry studios; they offer new stylistic approaches, as well as different perspectives on a known storyline, and can even incite interest from a new generation of fans. See also why Robin Hood, Dracula, and Sherlock Holmes get the Hollywood treatment so much.
According to the current writer attached to the project, Zak Penn, the Matrix never could, and never should, be remade. He would not want to do a disservice to the Wachowski’s artistic integrity, nor would he as a writer want to simply throw a new coat of paint on an old property. The new Matrix film will not be a remake (nor much of a reboot), but be it’s own story, with it’s own characters, written by an entirely new writing team.
14 MAY BE TRUE: IT’S IN ITS SCRIPT WRITING STAGES
When news of the Matrix reboot first started gaining momentum last year, it’s primary point of contact was Zak Penn, writer of such action movie staples as The Last Action Hero and several of the X-Men movies (the former he sold as a script when he was just 23). He’s known as a talented writer in Hollywood because of his ability to interweave complex storylines around material that is jargon-heavy. Sound like any franchise we know?
According to an interview featured in Cinema Blend, when asked about the Matrix reboot, he was quick to explain that it was only in the writing phase. He had no cast, no producers, and only the studio (Warner Bros) lined up. Since it’s in such preliminary stages, it’s safe to say that a number of components could change at any time, but assuming a script gets nailed down relatively soon the film could go into production by early next year. Warner Bros will want to be careful about releasing it close to when Avengers 4 and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 come out, however. There is cross-pollination among the fans groups and the studio will need a strong opening weekend if it hopes to ensure future films in the franchise.
13 GLITCH: IT WILL HAVE CONSULTATION BY KEANU REEVES
For some fans, Keanu Reeves is so imprinted into the Matrix coding as to be inextractable. The focus on his journey as Thomas Anderson from unaware software programmer and hacker to woke prophet and last hope of the human race is what gives the Matrix films their soul. Without the story of Neo, The One, there are no tertiary narratives in the Real World or the Matrix. Early on in the Matrix reboot development fans thought Keanu Reeves might consult on the project, since he was at the heart of it for a decade.
Unfortunately for the fans, Reeves won’t be offering his two cents this time around. No doubt promotion for John Wick 3: Parabellum and Replicas will take up a vast majority of his time, or any of the other seven movies he has out between this year and the next. As much as it would be great to have his input in lieu of the Wachowskis’, the movie series that put him on the map doesn’t need his help anymore. He has passed it on to a new generation of actors and storytellers, and he will continue to use the skills he honed during his time filming it (kung fu!) to impress in all his other action spectacles.
12 MAY BE TRUE: THE WRITER OF READY PLAYER ONE IS IN CHARGE
It was thought that the book Ready Player One would be impossible to adapt into a motion picture. Though it was an immensely popular bestseller, it was considered too convoluted and complex to translate to cinema. Enter Zak Penn, a writer specializing in the convoluted, the complex, and the fantastical, having already written numerous X-Men films and the story for The Avengers. Under the guidance of Steven Spielberg, he accomplished the impossible. Ready Player One takes place in a virtual reality world very much like the Matrix, where humans implant themselves as avatars and accomplish anything they want. Penn was able to highlight expository and nuanced dialogue that properly conveyed the rich depth of the futuristic virtual environment.
Penn has always been a great fan of The Matrix films. He has immense respect for the Wachowskis and their contribution to script writing, genre movies, and filmmaking at large. Their vision didn’t come from any specific book but was formatted to be a cinematically told story, rich with world-building, character development, and mind probing philosophy. Penn feels that no one can live up to their standard, and that the Matrix should never be “rebooted” in the sense of erasing all that they did to create it. It’s his desire to honor their vision, and tell a new story that continues where their genius left off.
11 GLITCH: IT WAS ALMOST A TELEVISION SERIES
Many franchises are finding great success with television series. The format allows for proper character development, multiple story arcs, and time enough for plot points to be fully fleshed out. Netflix is killing it with Daredevil and Jessica Jones, while network television has The Flash and Arrow, among others. For a brief period of time, it seemed that perhaps the Matrix would follow in the footsteps of Marvel and DC television, and find a home on cable or through a streaming service.
Depending on the network or service a Matrix series attached itself to, it could have been a great fit. Like Game of Thrones on HBO, it could be allowed to be as dark, subversive, and thought provoking as its storyline required, and even network television is getting bolder with its narrative choices. Of course to do it properly, it would have needed a decent sized budget for the visual effects, something which the film series has always been known for. The PVC outfits only look cheap, but the wire-fu costs money! A proper budget would also mean getting the best writers and acting talent to bring the series to life. Alas, it seems the cinematic method of storytelling will be the predominant way in which fans explore the Matrix Universe.
10 MAY BE TRUE: NEO WON’T BE IN IT
Like Harrison Ford is synonymous with Han Solo and Arnold Schwarzenegger is synonymous with Conan, Keanu Reeves is synonymous with Neo. Both Han Solo and Conan the Barbarian have now been played by different actors in movies based off of the performances of the originals, but no actor has touched the role of Neo. When an actor’s performance, demeanor, and face are instantly recognizable with a character, it’s difficult for fans to accept another person in the role. They made it famous, and without them, it’s difficult to predict if a franchise will be as successful.
At New York Comic Con, Keanu Reeves was broached on the subject of the Matrix reboot while speaking on a panel for his next movie Replicas. He claimed no knowledge or interest in the reboot, and the jeers from the crowd seemed to back up his statement. In previous interviews, he’s said he wouldn’t be involved in anything to do with the Matrix unless the Wachowskis were involved writing or directing it. If the reboot doesn’t focus on Neo, it will give a chance for a new star to champion the brand, and let it go in new directions not dependent on a plot involving The One. Reeves also has his hands full with the John Wick franchise and other projects, and likely wouldn’t be able to devote his time to another franchise that’s so physically demanding.
9 GLITCH: IT WILL BE ABOUT A YOUNG MORPHEUS
While the majority of the focus of the Matrix films center on Neo and the prophecy of The One helping the human resistance defeat the machines, much of how he learned to operate within the Matrix itself he learned from Morpheus. In Morpheus he had a mentor, a friend, a confidante, and a true believer. Morpheus’s belief in The One permeated every aspect of his life, and inspired hundreds of freed humans to take action against the machines. He helped free dozens of them himself with the help of his crew on the Nebuchadnezzar, and that time period could be interesting to explore.
While Morpheus was a popular character in the Matrix franchise, focusing on him creates the same problem that focusing on any of the original cast members does; it’s an unoriginal concept that would move the franchise backwards instead of forwards. There are so many new characters and stories to tell that focusing it on Morpheus’s origins, while interesting, hardly seems vital. Besides, one only has to look at the success (or lack thereof) of Solo: A Star Wars Story to see that fans don’t need to see everything a character purportedly did that was mentioned in the first film they appeared in. Morpheus will remain the legend he is as Zak Penn focuses on writing a story involving new heroes.
8 MAY BE TRUE: MICHAEL B JORDAN IS BEING TAPPED TO STAR
Michael B Jordan has gotten a lot of play recently, giving a scene-stealing performance as Erik Killmonger, arguably one of the most memorable Marvel villains of recent years, and starring in HBO’s recent remake of the dystopian classic Fahrenheit 451. One showcases the charisma and dynamism he brings to a role, while the other conveys his somber depth and earnest sensitivity. His star is on the rise and he will almost certainly want to attach himself to another tried-and-true franchise.
Since nothing is known about the plot of the Matrix reboot or what sort of protagonist(s) it will focus on, we can only guess how Jordan’s talents will be utilized. If he plays a recently freed person like Thomas Anderson, he’ll need to demonstrate the internal struggle of being pulled between the world he knew (the Matrix), and the world he’s come to know as reality (the Real World). If he plays a veteran of the human resistance like Morpheus, he’ll need to show determination, hardened resolve, and perhaps even a little cynicism. And of course, within the Matrix itself, no emotion whatsoever. There were also rumors Michael B Jordan would be tapped to play the new Blade, so we’ll see which franchise he ultimately commits to or decides to drop depending on shooting schedules.
7 GLITCH: IT HAS A COMPLETED SCRIPT
No sooner had Zak Penn opened his mouth about writing the script for the Matrix reboot than he was asked when it would be done. Fans wanted to know all about the aesthetic the film would have, who was being cast, and what time period (or periods) it would take place in. He has so far been very firm that the script writing process is still in its infancy, that he’s really doing nothing more than brainstorming and collecting lose ideas. Scripts change constantly, as new information and inspiration is gathered, and based on the desires of the creative team and producers.
Because of the tendency for studios to hunt for TNBT (The Next Big Thing) to franchise and make money off of, no doubt Penn is dealing with a lot of pressure from fans as well as people in the film industry. He’s fortunate that he doesn’t have to be in that much of a hurry -- enough time has passed since the last Matrix movie came out that the new film will be relevant whenever it finally goes into production. Unlike other studios that have to keep cranking out serial films to capitalize on their popularity, Warner Bros is allowing him to take his time.
6 MAY BE TRUE: IT WILL BE PART OF A MULTI-MOVIE DEAL
In this day and age, the second a film is successful it gets greenlit for a sequel. Sometimes it’s only based on opening weekend sales, sometimes opening night sales, and sometimes all it takes are presales to secure a multi-movie franchise. World-building franchises like the Matrix movies, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Lord of the Rings (now getting one of the most expensive television series greenlit through Amazon for five seasons already) can be repeatedly tapped for more material because their environments are a goldmine for it.
When Guardians of the Galaxy first premiered, some industry critics thought it would be too esoteric to make its multi-million dollar production costs back, but it became one of the most popular additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and brand. Similarly, when The Matrix first came out, critics thought its dark look, subversive themes, and fetish-looking wardrobe would be a turn off to audiences. It ended up being a cult hit that made money through word of mouth. A sequel, The Matrix: Reloaded was greenlit and the anticipation was so huge from its predecessor that ticket sales were unprecedented at the time. Warner Bros is hoping to recapture that magic with several more films set in the Matrix Universe.
5 GLITCH: IT WILL BE A REBOOT
Though the term “Matrix reboot” is getting thrown around a lot these days, it’s implication couldn’t be further from the truth. A reboot means that the franchise would be taken in a different narrative direction by using the same setting and characters to tell a different story from the original. It’s often done when studios are out of creative ideas, want to make more money off of a franchise, or more altruistically, want to ingratiate a new audience of young viewers into the fandom by updating the franchise for their zeitgeist. A reboot is terribly difficult to do if the original was so, well original and revered.
Writer Zak Penn has stated numerous times that the new Matrix film he’s writing won’t be a “reboot” in any way, shape, or form. He very much admired the creativity and innovation that the Wachowskis gave the original Matrix films, and would never want to overshadow what they accomplished. Much like Rian Johnson will be doing in his next Star Wars trilogy (which won’t focus on the Skywalker family at all but other beings in the greater galaxy), Penn will simply use the world the Wachowskis created to cinematically tell stories involving new characters, new environments, and new events.
4 MAY BE TRUE: IT WILL HAVE A COMPLETELY NEW STORY
The storyline of the Matrix trilogy of films had a complete beginning, middle, and end. Though the ending of the third film Revolutions left some questions unanswered and some ambiguity about the fate of Neo’s character specifically, retreading old ground would do little to reignite interest in the franchise. For that reason, Zak Penn, writer for Ready, Player One, The Avengers, and the X-Men franchise has insisted that the reboot is not a “reboot” at all. The new challenge will be to use the Matrix world to tell a story that gives homage to the original films while giving a fresh perspective.
A reboot typically uses the same characters and setting but tells a different origins story for artistic or narrative reasons. Penn isn’t anxious to step on the coattails of the Wachowskis and wants to tell a new story simply set in the Matrix Universe. He wants new characters, new environments, and a new take on what fans love about the Matrix world. This will let him see his artistic vision realized, without offending the creators or the fans. After all, the Matrix isn’t yet twenty years old as a franchise, and to reboot it now, less than fifteen years after the final film was released seems premature at best and lazy storytelling at worst.
3 GLITCH: IT WILL BE RATED R
The Matrix was a ground-breaking movie for a number of reasons, chief among them being its visual effects and thought-provoking storytelling. When it appeared in theaters shortly before the dawn of the new millennium, it had an R rating due to the sheer amount of violence in it, blood, and squirm-inducing sequences. It was an film for the adult crowd that was never intended to be for children, either with its aesthetic, it’s thematic concepts, or it’s marketing. It was both the first of its kind and the last of its kind, for shortly thereafter the era of bubblegum, candy-coated superhero extravaganza movies would reign supreme.
The Matrix was a sleeper hit in 1999, a rare film that happens to be a blockbuster with cult status. Rumor has it that with Zak Penn’s new Matrix film, it will tread the familiar family-friendly territory that his Ready Player One film did. No doubt it will be designed this way on purpose to be accessible to a wider demographic, and perhaps get groups of roaming teenagers with a PG-13 rating. Unfortunately, this may well alienate the fans of the franchise that flocked to it precisely because it wasn’t for a wider demographic and who will, now, express their disappointment by not supporting it with their ticket purchases.
2 MAY BE TRUE: WARNER BROS WILL STILL DISTRIBUTE
It’s a good time to be a big studio that has such a bankable piece of IP in its vaults like Warner Bros. While other studios try to buy the rights to other intellectual property, spending buckets of cash in the hopes of gaining the next successful franchise, Warner Bros has been quietly sitting on The Matrix for years. Out of it came films, spin-offs, an online role playing game, video games, and comic books. With its distinct look and vibe, it was unlike anything that had been seen before or since, and practically became a cultural revolution all it’s own at the turn of the 21st century.
When talk of the Matrix reboot began over a year ago, Warner Bros was set to produce and distribute it as they had done decades previously. Where once The Matrix had to film in Australia on a budget because the studio executives didn’t trust its success in the states, whatever director and creative team is assembled will now have unbridled access to whatever budget it wants. It will have proper promotion, marketing, and hype, similar to when George Lucas announced he was beginning production on the Star Wars prequels. No doubt the studio that has been producing it the longest knows the brand loyalty the franchise will generate and will treat it with appropriate dignity.
1 GLITCH: IT WILL BE RELEASED IN 2019
The untitled Matrix film, if further along in pre-production, could possibly be released in 2019, but Zak Penn has stated the script writing stage is barely underway. With half of 2018 almost gone already, and no other writers attached to the project, it’s doubtful that Penn could finish anything with enough time to even begin shooting in 2019. Currently films have at least a good 3-4 months of marketing, with teasers, trailers, and tie-ins before a film’s release, so anywhere in 2019 would be ambitious.
Making a film involving the Matrix Universe isn’t a simple process. The writing is incredibly complex, and the script will undoubtedly go through many drafts. Casting will also take time, and if Penn and the rest of his team are like the Wachowskis, the cast and crew will be made to study up on philosophy, neuroscience, and whatever other materials will help them get into the headspace to make the film. The Matrix and its sequels also suffered setbacks due to injury from the demanding fight choreography, so that has to be factored in as well to the timeframe. Warner Bros will also want to be careful about releasing it in a year that has both the third installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise and also the fourth Avengers installment.