It’s the age of Hollywood remakes, and it’s the age of 90s nostalgia, so nothing could be more natural than noise emerging about the idea of a Matrix reboot. At this stage, it really is just noise — we don’t know who’ll be directing, if Keanu Reeves will be involved, or anything, really. Word is that Warner Brothers is thinking of Michael B. Jordan for the lead, but that just means it’s 2017 and someone’s making a movie; after Creed, the former star of The Wire and Chronicle is on everyone’s get list.
Despite (or perhaps because of) the limited information available, the internet erupted with enthusiasm and criticism — mostly criticism — in the wake of the stories that emerged throughout March. It seems like The Matrix was important to a generation of people, especially those who grew up in the 1990s, and that they’re not best pleased by the idea of a remake. Despite the somewhat disappointing sequels, the first film is remembered fondly and reaction to the idea of a remake seems generally negative.
Is a new Matrix film a good idea? Is remake fever out of control? And why would anyone want to reboot the franchise anyway? After all, it’s only been 14 years since The Matrix Revolutions. Let’s see if we can tackle some of the questions this story raises.
Given what we know — and that isn’t much — the new film isn’t a remake of the original movie. It appears to be intended as a relaunch of the franchise, but not of the storyline; we’re not looking at another tale about Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and Agent Smith, but a story of some other characters elsewhere in the sitting, possibly with some cameos from the original cast. Think Rogue One, not Amazing Spider-Man.
Is there a market for it? Well, there’s definitely a certain amount of 90s nostalgia going around at the moment — even the much-mocked comic art of the period is experiencing something of a critical reevaluation. But whether The Matrix can be part of that is less clear. After all, with the exception of some of the stuff about computers, it hasn’t really dated much. It influenced so many other films with its mixture of cyberpunk style and Hong Kong action that it still looks like most other big-budget Hollywood action movies, at least to the extent that big-budget action movies still tend to look like The Matrix.
And as for the rest of it — if you were a smart 14-year-old in 1999, raised on action movies, comic books and video games, the movie’s spin on Philip K. Dick probably seemed mindblowing. It was well-presented, for sure, but once you’ve revealed the true nature of the universe and told the story of its chosen savior, what do you do for an encore? What do you do the day after you save the world?
That’s not to say you can’t spin stories in a world previously defined by a big hero. Marvel’s done it, and Rogue One was well-received. But until we know more about a new Matrix film, fan reaction’s probably going to be defined by our worst fears. That’s the nature of knowing nothing. Until that happens, like the original film’s heroes, we’re just living in darkness, waiting for someone to show us reality.