It seems like every single day we’re writing about the next big reboot, remake, or sequel. Either that, or we’re talking about the concept of reboots, remakes, or sequels. Heck, just yesterday, we posted a story on writer/director Joss Whedon’s feelings on us currently living in an age where every single property that’s ever existed is fair game to pick back up, dust off, and repackage (his quote is addressed further in this article). It’s how the industry thrives. When marketing to mass consumers, studios have learned that attaching a familiar name is a surefire way to get more butts in seats.
While this seems like an awful atmosphere for creativity, we can’t dismiss the entire industry. There have been dozens and dozens of classics that have been made as a result of this trend. Without this trend, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be a thing. Longform storytelling wouldn’t have really made its way onto the big screen. We wouldn’t be seeing our favorite novels making it to TV screens as mini-series or longer running shows. As many downsides are there are, there are equally as many positives. Don’t think genuinely great storytelling can only be found through a groundbreaking premise. More than anything, it’s the execution that counts.
It’s with that level-headed mind that I’ll be bringing up The Matrix. As reported earlier today, Warner Bros was in the early stages of developing a Matrix reboot, and they were even contemplating assembling their very own writer’s room to help hash out the best for them to tackle this intimidating project. They were also reported to be eyeing actor Michael B. Jordan to lead the film, but as to what his role would entail is still a mystery, as they have yet to even figure out where to take the film.
I have to say, I don’t envy the writer — or group of writers — that will need to tackle this bastard. While it’s not impossible to make a movie like this work, I will say it has more of its work cut out for it than most other franchise. Why?
Here are a few reasons why a Matrix reboot is a tough sell.
THE NOSTALGIA FACTOR
Okay, so admittedly, this isn’t just a factor that affects The Matrix, but I think it’s uniquely situated to where it may be affected more than most. The first Matrix was a movie that was grounded in an abstract an unique idea that many mainstream moviegoers hadn’t seen before. Sure, it had likely been tackled before in other medium, but to coat it in an action movie so that it was accessible to the masses? Revolutionary. There’s a reason the movie has stood the test of time. It was one of the first movies that proved that an over-the-top action flick didn’t have to be mindless.
From that moment on, it cemented itself in the hall of fame as a film that took action to a whole new, thought-provoking level. It may not have done it best, but in the eyes of many mainstream audience members, it certainly did it first. As such, their recollections of that moviegoing experience is heightened, setting a bar so high that neither the sequels (The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions) nor the impending reboot can live up to it.
“I see a little bit of what I call monkey's paw in these reboots. You bring something back, and even if it's exactly as good as it was, the experience can't be. You've already experienced it, and part of what was great was going through it for the first time. You have to meet expectations and adjust it for the climate, which is not easily.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying The Matrix is the only film that suffers from the nostalgia factor. But given that their film is so well known as a result of the big splash it main, it takes away an element that viewers will never get to experience again.
THE MYSTERY IS GONE
The Matrix may have been a philosophical action film, but for the first half or more of the movie, it was a mystery. I recall my own personal experience seeing this movie in the theaters. I had no idea what I was in for. All I saw were some posters with some dudes dressed in leather, as well as some sweet gun-toting action, and I was sold. What I got was way more than I expected. In the first third of the movie, my brain was chockfull of questions:
Who were these agents? Why did they want Neo? Is this Morpheus guy trustworthy? Now are all these people moving so fast and jumping so high?
I’ll forever remember the thrilling scene where Neo escapes the office building, as well as that horrifying scene where his mouth disappears for some strange reason. What was this world? How is all this stuff happening? This wasn’t just an over-the-top stylized action film. All the style and superhuman aspects actually had explanations. They were explanations that Neo sought to learn, and the audience went right along learning with him.
Fast-forward to now, and that’s no longer the case. We all know the world isn’t real. We all know it’s a computer simulation, and that the humans are just being used as an energy source for the machines. Even if you haven’t seen the film, chances are you know the premise, the twist, and the outcome. The very idea of this film has become so deeply embedded in pop culture that it’s impossible to escape.
Should this film be a reboot that tries to re-tell the story of Neo, it won’t have that same key effect. It has The Matrix in the title, and we already know what the Matrix is. The idea is worn, and if they try to go down that remake rabbit hole, it’ll end up being little more than a standard action film.
THE MATRIX RELOADED & THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS
So we’ve talked a bit about why the film would have a hard time working as a remake, but what about a sequel? Sadly, if they were to take this route, it would likely face similar pitfalls of the two sequels. While The Matrix Reloaded managed to still be somewhat interesting on a philosophical level, by the time The Matrix Revolutions had rolled around, it had ceased to be a philosophical film, and turned into humanity’s struggle against the machines. I’ll admit, I don’t really have the hate for the final film that most do, but no matter how I look at it, the movie is nothing like the original.
Gone were the ideas. Gone was the philosophy. All that we were left with was that human struggle, and ultimately, that isn’t enough to set it apart from every other action film out there.
If they were to decide to make a sequel to The Matrix Trilogy, we would likely be in the real world. The questions would be nonexistent, and we’d be left with a completely different story of man versus machine. Perhaps the wary truce that had come about had worn thin, and there was another impending war. That sounds kind of interesting, but it’s not what makes The Matrix The Matrix. They'd have to fabricate a whole new layer to this franchise, and if they did that, it would run the risk of being overly-convoluted and contrived.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not out here to say that a successful Matrix reboot is impossible. It’s not. Filmmakers and storytellers surprise audiences on a daily basis. Every year, I’m bound to come across at least a handful of stories that somehow change the way I perceive and appreciate the art, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.
That being said, Warner Bros will have a narrow bridge to cross with this one. It’s a film franchise that was built on ideas, and if they want to move forward with it, we’d at least like to hope that the idea isn’t to turn it into another big action film franchise á la the current state of the Terminator franchise — one that’s just a former shadow of itself.
What do you think the bigger trouble is with a new Matrix film? Is there anywhere left for this to go, or did they say all they needed to say with the first three films? Let us know your thoughts down below!