A week ago the internet was set ablaze with the mass geeking out of many a Matrix fan. The sense of excitement and anticipation was already palpable when we learned that Laurence Fishburne would join Keanu Reeves in the sequel to the latter’s “B movie” surprise hit John Wick, for the first time since they appeared in the Matrix trilogy. When the pair arrived to the premiere and were joined by the final member of the main trio of Matrix protagonists, Carrie Anne Moss, things really started to heat up. The level of excitement isn’t a surprise; The Matrix is, truly, a seminal Sci Fi action movie. For this trio to appear together and to show such evident and easy camaraderie is a pleasant reminder of a moment in cinematic history, moreover, it makes for really good fanboy photos.
But the exhilaration did not end there. Not hours but minutes after the images went public the inevitable talk of Matrix sequels was everywhere. And why not? The original films – though a self-contained trilogy – certainly left an opening for a return to that world. Many older films and series’ have gotten/are getting sequels. Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alien…a list too long to mention really. Some have met with more criticism than others but what was clear from the internet buzz was that there is still an appetite out there for more Matrices (ha.)
Now I realise the first Matrix sequels were met with some derision. Actually that’s not entirely true. Many forget that the first of the two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded, was actually quite well received at the time. Many were dissatisfied that it asked more questions than it answered but recognised that this is often the case with the “middle” movie in a trilogy, and were content to wait and find out how the story would resolve. The fact remained though; people thought it was a solid – if not exceptional – 7-7.5/10. Hardly a disaster. Also it made a ton of money. A ton.
Then came Revolutions. The bad apple that spoiled the bunch in so many people’s eyes. When the credits rolled and reviews came in, the common consensus was that Revolutions was a misstep. So much so, in fact, that people started to retrospectively disenjoy (nice made up word there) Reloaded, which I find a bit of a nonsense really but there you go. The damage was done. The Matrix sequels would live in infamy as terrible, terrible movies.
I happen to disagree with this accepted wisdom. And I know I’m not the only one. Certainly the vigour with which the group photo has been the launchpad for more movies talk is evidence that there is still some love out there. It could be, of course, that people would like to see the Wachowski’s make sequels that are a better legacy for the first film. But I really think it’s the former.
I think the Matrix Trilogy is a truly epic piece of cyberpunk action fiction. Certainly the first movie must be considered one of the best examples of its genre of all time. Make no mistake, The Matrix defined a movie generation and its legacy on sci-fi, action and western martial arts films cannot be in doubt. Its cultural impact would almost be impossible to determine. It inspired a raft of pretenders and nods to its ground-breaking action and special effects could be found in everything from kids’ animated movies to street dancing for many, many years after its release. It’s almost impossible to describe to someone who wasn’t old enough to have seen it in the cinema just how different it was from anything we’d seen to that point. Sure it had its influences but where it didn’t invent, it innovated and where it didn’t do either, it popularised. But I know I’m preaching to the converted. You’d have to look long and hard to find someone who won’t acknowledge how good the first movie was. And perhaps this was the problem.
Only a fool would claim that either of the original Matrix sequels were as good as the original but mostly due to that film’s incredibly high standards. The Matrix was a concise, unique movie that actually didn’t require sequels. But when talk of the trilogy emerged people were genuinely excited. The main problem was that people thought they knew where the new films would go. They thought they had it figured out. They thought the movies would remain a special effects and action driven, cyberpunk, man vs machine, war epic…but the reality was that the movies became philosophical, quasi-religious, superhero films that – to the critics – spent too much time on meaningless exposition and squandered opportunities with new, interesting characters. The movies became preachy, verbose and were seen as evidence that the Wachowski’s hadn’t understood what we liked about the first film (cough….George Lucas….cough cough.) I actually agree with many criticisms of Revolutions and, to a lesser extent, Reloaded but, crucially, I believe that there are more good ideas than bad and they offset my criticisms to the point that I enjoy the films. A lot. Are they as good as the first? No. Are they as bad as everyone likes to remember? No way.
Anyway I’m actually not here to mount a defence of the original sequels. That has been done to death on the interweb. Though I could….and would if our readers decide they would like to see one? No, I actually wanted to finish by looking at how we could see more Matrix films and why I think that more films would be a good thing! (Though again bear in mind, you’re dealing with someone who liked the original trilogy in its entirety….If you didn’t, then….go watch “the superior” Dark City…or Inception. Nerd)
Firstly, and as we’ve already discussed, there is an appetite for more! The main ingredient! The people want more so give them more! Certainly a desire for more would be a big motivation for the studios involved. Indeed, last year the rumour was that Warner Bros. were desperate for a big blockbuster franchise for 2017 to compete with Star Wars: Episode VIII and Avatar 3, and new Matrix movies were the answer. The fan reaction to the photos last week can’t have done that any harm.
Secondly, and also already mentioned is the fact that a lot of other big franchises are being resurrected and, although not all have been critical hits, many have and have also been box office successes. The new Star Wars movies, Alien, Trainspotting, Finding Dory, XXX (hey it’s made a decent ROI). There is certainly a trend developing in Hollywood toward taking well-loved movies or franchises and revisiting them. The Matrix certainly has a case in this regard.
Thirdly, the Wachowski’s have something to prove. Disregarding TV projects and their various screen writing and producing credits, the reception to the duo’s last 3 directorial efforts – Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending – has been, in the main, lukewarm at best. Now I should say they may not feel they have something to prove given their other successes but if you had made a movie regarded as one of the best of its kind and proceeded to drop the ball on the sequels and everything you’ve directed since, wouldn’t you want to give it another bash? Fourthly, The Matrix by its very nature is cyclical. As we discovered everything that happened in the trilogy had happened before and would happen again. The perfect premise (excuse) to revisit the world.
Lastly, and most importantly in my opinion, The Matrix still feels like it has unexplored potential. Underused but interesting characters, a wealth of backstory and lore from the Animatrix etc. could be explored, underdeveloped ideas e.g. what we think of as myths (werewolves, vampires, superheroes) are rogue programmes – how cool was that? The ambiguity of the machines as the “bad guys.” All things worth further consideration. Of course some of you will be thinking “hey those are the reasons I didn’t like the original sequels!” well…yeah…and wouldn’t you like those ideas to be given more screen time? Wouldn’t that make you want more movies? And for fans like me, it’s even easier. More Matrix. Score.
Of course we may never get more Matrix movies. But the current trends of bringing back old franchises, not to mention that Keanu Reeves is –as clearly evidenced by John Wick- still physically up to the task, means that the idea isn’t as ridiculous as we may have once thought/hoped/feared (depending on your feelings.) If it ever does happen, I’ll certainly be in line at the cinema day one.