Word spread like wildfire last week that Warner Brothers plans to revisit The Matrix in the near future. While the involvement of the Wachowskis has not been confirmed, superhero film scribe Zak Penn (X-Men: First Class, The Avengers) is in talks to develop a new film in the near future. This news should be exciting. For all the flaws of the sequels the original Matrix remains the best blend of action and science fiction of the past two decades, and it pushed special effects forward in ways that changed the industry. However, the rumblings that a new film will serve as an “origin story” for Morpheus, with Michael B Jordan stepping into Laurence Fishburne’s role, threatens to put a damper on enthusiasm.
The world of The Matrix remains one of the most fascinating and ripe to be explored territories in all of science fiction. A bold creative team could tackle it from any number of angles. They could explore the state of the uneasy truce between the machines and humankind at the end of Revolutions. Now humans have the choice to wake up and live outside of the Matrix. How would they react to waking up and finding the planet has become a near obliterated and uninhabitable mess? How many would try to rebuild society based on their lives in the Matrix versus trying to found a new society? How many who choose to unplug from the grid wind up resenting their decision to the point that they wage a new insurrection against the machines? What about those who take Cypher’s tactic and choose to remain blissful and ignorant about the real world when presented a choice to exit? What would life under under this new arrangement resemble?
If a new creative team remained hellbent on exploring the Neo timeline, the Animatrix proved there’s an abundance of fertile ground and stories to tell with new characters. Like the Star Wars expanded Universe, the world of The Matrix remains a vast, almost uncharted domain. Exploring a potential parallel storyline, or even a cycle of The Matrix that predates the last one would not serve as a reboot, remake or reimagining of the Wachowski’s vision, and could exist as canon alongside the original films.
Michael B Jordan is an exciting and talented young actor and I hope the reports of him headlining a new set of films is true. However, choosing to tell the arc of character with a predefined ending is as boring a choice as Warner Brothers could possibly make. It’s a lazy decision that would most likely hit the same beats of the original film that will end with young Morpheus discovering the identity of “The One” he is destined to find. I’m sure there will be Easter eggs and call backs to the original trilogy. Some marketing whiz will insist the films have to show how Morpheus first found his favorite pair of shades.
The obvious counter argument is Rouge One, which tells a story with the predetermined end of the Rebels gaining possession of the Death Star plans. Yet telling the origin story of Morpheus differs from Rogue One in a big way. Last year’s Star Wars prequel introduced a whole crew of new adventurers fans had never met before. While we knew there plan would be successful, we did not know what the fate of this squad would be. While we could venture a reasoned guess given they are non factors in the original trilogy, the Star Wars universe is vast enough and contains enough room side stories that their absence could be explained.
Right now, any new Matrix movies are a long ways off. With the DC Superhero film division a hot mess, Warner Brothers needs another franchise to take off.