and its timing couldn’t be better. 17 years on from the pioneering sci-fi classic, time has softened the crushing disappointment of sequels The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions – seriously, what even happened at the end of those movies? – and rendered the original a charming anachronism. Back in 1999, Neo might have been shocked to discover he lived in an artificially constructed virtual space meant to pacify and control you, but – in a world before Google Ads, MySpace and Amazon Prime – Neo probably would have taken the blue pill if he knew about 2017's digital utopia of two-day shipping, relentless commodification and (mis)information overload.
The Matrix’s vision of a connected world seems quaint by our real world standards not even a generation later. So rebooting the series in a modern context feels like a perfect opportunity to make The Wachowskis’ signature work relevant again. What does a perfect Matrix reboot look like, though? We share our thoughts below, and would love to hear your ideas for how the series' can be reborn… or shut down with an EMP blast.
1. An experimental sequel that really makes the most of a (largely wasted) concept
You know, there’s actually a version of this Matrix restart that does the franchise a lot of good. No, seriously. I promise. You see, for me, The Matrix was ultimately a tragedy of wasted potential, its scenario far too big and interesting in scope to be wasted on a linear (and increasingly messy) trilogy focused around a single storyline. The end of the first film should have been the starting gun for a whole swathe of exciting, stimulating, experimental fiction, the ‘be-anything, do-anything, experience-anything’ nature of the world inside the Matrix itself wide open to any kind of creative interpretation possible. Look at the mostly brilliant Animatrix anthology to see what I mean.
A grand array of different takes and interpretations on the core concept that explore it from every creative and existential angle available, from huge, action-adventures, to delicate, weird stories of personal discovery, experience, and exploration of a malleable and ever-changeable unknown. I really don’t want a Matrix reboot. I want a sequel that can exist somewhere in the Matrix continuity, but set a precedent for exploring stories, themes, and ideas that the original trilogy let fall by the wayside in favour of increasingly big and gimmicky fights. A series restart right now sounds awful, I know, but handled right it could be the best thing that's happened to the franchise since 2003. David Houghton
2. Keep it inside The Matrix
The biggest mistake the Wachowskis made in making The Matrix sequels was in thinking that these characters were more interesting than their world. Morpheus, Neo, Trinity, and even lovable ancillary characters like Dozer were perfectly functional as archetypes, foundational structures that could hold up the conceptual cathedral of a virtual world meant to psychologically contain human beings so their energy can feed a race of conquering machines.
The moment the movies started spending time in the boring human world with its soap opera relationships and Philosophy 101 pontificating was the moment it stopped exploring the reality bending implications of living inside of and being able to manipulate the Matrix itself. If Neo returns, don’t have him spend 15 minutes in some tautological debate about the nature of reality. (Ugh. The subway platform conversation in Revolutions. UGH.) Have him and his new band of rebels visually explore the confines of the world they inhabit. That is, and always was, the good stuff. Anthony John Agnello
3. How about some ladies, please?
Ok, look, I know how cliche this is, the chick asking for more chicks in a reboot. But step back for a moment and think about everyone who matters in The Matrix. Neo? Dude. Morpheus? Dude. Agent Smith? Dude. Cypher, Tank, Dozer: dude, dude, dude. Trinity is a major character, yes, there to provide some much-needed humanity to the proceedings and she’s absolutely cool as hell, but by and large her responsibility is “look good in vinyl” and “be a love interest for Neo.” The Oracle is female because hey, that’s what women over the age of 40 are for, dontcha know - dispensing wisdom. The Matrix is a techno-fantasy for everyone, so how about we get a starting lineup that’s a bit more representative of everyone, yeah? Susan Arendt
4. Make it an (existential) horror movie
When you spend all your time with characters who can bend the rules of The Matrix to leap across city streets and dodge bullets, it starts to seem… pretty cool, actually? Why would you leave that behind, especially if the alternative is a sweaty rat's nest of humanity like Zion? The Matrix reboot needs to dial back the stunts and pay proper tribute to the existential dread of realizing your life is an intricately simulated lie - and, having made that realization, the mortal terror of knowing that you are now an enemy of the simulation itself. The first time you see an agent it should make the little hairs on your not-actually-real arm stand up: this dour businessman is a physical manifestation of your world's will, and it wants to kill you. Connor Sheridan
5. Practical effects wherever possible
Part of the thrill of the original movies for me was the amazing and very real fights, plus my first real introduction to wirework stunts. The story was great, the design was amazing and everything was beautifully shot but for me the real ‘wow’ was seeing it actually exist. Even that bullet time effect that blew everyone’s mind was very practically constructed, using hundreds of still image cameras on precisely timed triggers. Somehow, knowing Keanu, Carrie and Laurence had trained their asses off to make it work made everything even more impressive (apparently Reeves used to walk off set after a day’s filming and straight into an ice bath to sooth his aching body). The new movies needs to keep that spirit alive; the second CG actors start bouncing off walls with whatever digital passion they can muster The Matrix reboot loses its passion. Leon Hurley
6. Learn from The Animatrix… and Mass Effect: Andromeda
There’s no better guide to the future than the past, and a Matrix reboot could do a lot worse than borrow some ideas from The Wachowski Brothers’ 2003 anime movie . It comprises nine short films based on The Matrix Trilogy, exploring the origins of The Matrix and how mankind slowly loses control to the machines (a more believable power struggle than an overnight catastrophe), an athlete defying reality through sheer willpower and a group of humans trying to teach machines not to kill them… told from the perspective of the machine.
The Matrix’s malleable universe is ideal for exploring humankind’s existential angst, and the distance between what we consider to be eternal, versus a byproduct of our time. And just re-reading that sentence makes you realise how quickly things could go wrong – as it did in the later Matrix films – if the reboot gets too bogged down in detailing the unknowable.
Here’s what *not* to do: forget the previous films existed. Mass Effect: Andromeda appears to be making the same mistake, by ignoring the trilogy that went before. Perhaps conspicuously so, in an attempt to engineer a ‘shock’ nod to nostalgia, but we’ll see. A movie set millennia after the original trilogy might be interesting, in which humanity has reclaimed the earth… but is in danger of repeating an unthinkable mistake, which might not be too clumsy a real world political analogue, if deftly observed. Dan Dawkins
7. Keep the look and style intact
Long black trench coats and wraparound shades are soooooooo 1999, but then again, The Matrix's entire aesthetic is "scribbled drawings found in a Gen X-ers high school composition notebook". The washed-out color scheme, the all-black, all-leather, all-the-time wardrobe, the dated tech and '90s-era electronica - that's what The Matrix is. It's a story about a bunch of ravers fighting back against a computer program littered with Nokia phones while quoting entry-level Nietzsche. To modernize that, to try to make it 'hip' and update it for the 21st century, would go against the core foundation of what makes The Matrix special. Keep Rob Zombie's "Dragula," keep the Hackers rejects, keep the stoner philosophizing. DuJour would be proud. David Robert
8. Don't forget the little details
For all the spectacle of the blockbuster action sequences, a huge part of The Matrix's charm is how it much thought it puts into the little things. It's so ingenious to associate the sensation of deja vu with a momentary glitch in the Matrix, a pretty logical explanation for a ubiquitous quirk in the human brain. Or how about that classic that everyone remembers - a special effect that gets a mere seven seconds of screen time, made unforgettable by the sheer visual imagination of infinite weapon racks, summoned at will, blasting past you like a speeding train.
If the fleeting moments that help fill out the lore of the Matrix (such that it is) get as much attention as the intense shootouts and mesmerizing kung-fu, the reboot can hopefully produce just as many "Woah" moments that stick in the audience's mind for their cleverness, even though they had no real bearing on the core plot. Lucas Sullivan
Images: Warner Bros.