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Here’s what The Verge wants out of a fourth Matrix movie

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Fans are excited about the planned film, but why? We asked the Verge staff to lay out their hopes

Photo: Warner Bros.

On August 20th, social media was suddenly abuzz with the official announcement that Lana Wachowski, half of the sibling team behind the original Matrix trilogy, is officially making a fourth Matrix movie with original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. The announcement instantly sparked fervid speculation: where could a fourth Matrix movie even go since the trilogy-capper, 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, killed off Reeves and Moss’ characters and seemingly ended the war between man and machine? How do you continue a story that so pointedly wrapped up its loose ends?

There are certainly a lot of possible answers in a series that consciously, from the start, played with the break between fantasy and reality and ended with the kind of death-by-crucifixion Biblical imagery that openly invites a resurrection of some kind. It’s certainly possible for the man-machine war to heat up again, too. Just look at how many times Skynet has been defeated, then tried to change the past in the endless Terminator franchise. But given how poorly the second and third Matrix movies were received, why are fans excited about the prospect of another outing? What are they hoping to see? We polled Verge staffers for some perspective.

Tasha Robinson, film / TV editor: The easy answer is that we’re all somehow hoping for a groundbreaking movie that makes us feel like the original Matrix made a lot of us feel — like we were seeing something new, daring, and different. When The Matrix introduced bullet-time slo-mo to cinema, when it abruptly declared that the entire world is a lie, when it openly asked whether viewers would rather live in a comforting fantasy or a brutal reality, when it served up a visual smorgasbord of goth-inspired trenchcoated heroic badassery, all those things felt new in 1999. It’s hard to imagine what could possibly feel as fresh in 2019, now that we’re living in a future of infinite CGI effects. But then, if we could imagine it, it wouldn’t surprise us, would it?

So I want surprises from a fourth Matrix, and, above all, that means a film that doesn’t just tread familiar ground, that isn’t just trying to be The Matrix 1999 with the same cast and conflicts, but with technical upgrades. I want to explore a new part of this world. I want new characters and new ideas instead of Keanu Reeves trying to top his John Wick action. And for God’s sweet sake, I don’t want it to be a prequel. I don’t care how Morpheus woke up and got his fancy glasses and met Trinity and started the pharmaceutical factory that pumps out red and blue pills. Whoever invented the idea of “continuing” a franchise by filling in past details no one cares about can go suck a rock. Take this story forward instead of backward, and I’ll be there on opening night.

Liz Lopatto, deputy editor: Remember in the first movie how the 1990s are referred to as the peak of human civilization? Well, sometimes that feels a little too real, you know?

A lot of the fun of The Matrix is the fight scenes, and John Wick drove that home. Really good fight scenes are emotional, unexpected, clearly choreographed so the viewer can follow the action, and beautiful. (Just look at the showstopping horse-as-weapon of John Wick 3!) I don’t especially care about the mythology of the original Matrix movies since I barely remember Reloaded and Revolutions, but I’m really excited to see what the stunt choreographers will do and what the advances in technology will allow. The movie doesn’t have to make sense. Let’s just see some cool fights.

And let’s not forget the soundtrack, which was a huge part of setting the scene. What does The Matrix Revival sound like? Is it still The Propellerheads?

Jay Peters, news writer: Like Liz, I’m here for the fights. Just give me a fight that tops Neo versus the Agent Smiths in Matrix Reloaded, and I’ll be happy.

Brennan King, video director: I’m totally here for the fights. But looking back at the first film and The Animatrix, I hope we see an interesting twist on the Wachowskis’ vision of the future. Mostly, I’ll be there for Queen Moss being lead in this.

Jon Porter, international news writer: It was a tragedy that The Matrix never got the expanded universe it so deserved. Sure, we got to see bits of it via the hit-and-miss Animatrix and the oft-ignored Matrix comics, but these always felt like small concept pieces rather than standalone stories in their own right.

Given the breadth of the universe, it almost seems like a shame that Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne-Moss are returning for the fourth movie. As far as I’m concerned, Neo and Trinity’s story is done, and now it’s time to learn about what else is going on — both in the Matrix and in the real world. What kind of missions are the rest of Zion’s hovership crews getting up to when they’re not searching for The One? Are there any humans left alive in reality, outside of Zion? And what in God’s name are powerful computer programs like the Merovingian up to when they’re not being antagonists in the films?

As tempting as it would be to try to continue the story of the original Matrix trilogy, I’m far more interested in the universe expanding beyond Neo, Trinity, and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar in the fourth movie.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Justine Calma, science reporter: As a college activist way before the word “woke” was a thing, community organizers drew lessons on resistance from The Matrix — from the dangers of infiltration to the pitfalls of putting all your eggs in one “chosen hero” basket. There’s also clear environmental collapse in the Matrix universe. With the impending climate crisis upon us perhaps sooner than we’d expected and the swell of popular political protest, I hope the new Matrix movie maintains and updates its relevance to all the people who see themselves as part of “the movement.”

Chaim Gartenberg, news editor: Has anyone said “fight scenes” yet? Because fight scenes. Like Liz said, look back at what this team was able to do 20 years ago, and remember all the massive leaps in CGI and stunt cinematography that we’ve made since. Who cares if the surrounding sci-fi philosophizing or whatever handwaving reasons are invented for both Neo and Trinity to be alive make sense? (Spoiler: it won’t, probably.) Just give me some incredible action set pieces, and we’re good.

TC Sottek, executive editor: I don’t care that the second and third Matrix films were poorly received. (For the record, I don’t think they were that bad. And come on… The Matrix Reloaded is still one of the horniest movies ever made.) I do wonder how they’ll deal with the nasty coopting of their little “red pill” in the intervening years. But the 13-year-old in me is not asking too many questions and just wants to be in his seat early for opening night. Hell yeah, teach me kung-fu and how to fly a helicopter. The world has gone to shit, and I don’t mind reliving the past a little bit with Trinity and Neo.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Sam Byford, Asia news editor: Like probably everyone else, I’m keeping my expectations very much in check. That said, I’m interested to see what Cloud Atlas author David Mitchell can do in a film screenwriting role, and I don’t think Lana Wachowski would return unless she knew she had something intriguing to add. But I think the Matrix lore is a lost cause at this point. So given that Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are returning, the best-case scenario is likely a visually incredible mindfuck.

Kevin Nguyen, features editor: Quentin Tarantino gets criticized a lot for culturally appropriating Asian film. I don’t necessarily disagree with that, but what the Wachowskis have done in their career is more or less the same, just more respectful and reverential to the source material. Does that mean the Wachowskis make better movies than Tarantino? No, but it makes their work more ambitious, even if it’s flawed.

The Matrix movies — the sequels, in particular — are what you get when Hollywood appropriates in ways that are more imaginative than whitewashing characters. Sure, Revolutions has airborne fight scenes ripped straight from Dragonball Z GIFs. But it also has the body horror, the anxiety of apocalypse, and the meandering soliloquies about whatever. You know, the stuff of classic anime. Does it make good art? Not always. But it makes wild art. And in an increasingly Disney-fied world of commercial film, I’ll take the weirdest version of a blockbuster any day.

Ruben Salvadori, director of audience development: The first Matrix movie was already pushing the boundaries of CGI and cinematic tricks to an impressive level for the time. Twenty years later, film audiences are now accustomed to blockbusters with heavy visual effects that sometimes are successful (like most of the ones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) and often end up being gimmicky failures. (Sorry, Aquaman.) It will be interesting to see whether Matrix 4 lives up to the expectations when it comes to cinematography. But truth be told, the recent Chuck Norris-esque hype around Keanu Reeves is going to be enough to get most people to book their seats in theaters.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Nick Statt, news editor: The best part of the Matrix films was never the truly outrageous narrative or even the spectacular action scenes. (Although those are a close second.) It was the richness of the world and the range of influences it was based on. Watching The Matrix, for the first time ever, I felt like I was watching a piece of art from creators who thought the same thoughts about anime, action films, martial arts, philosophy, and technology as I did — and who somehow managed to mash it all together in ways that left deep imprints on 12-year-old me.

So for a new Matrix film, I’d love to see the best parts of the Animatrix worldbuilding — what’s society like now? Is the Matrix still active? — combined with a similarly worldly product of global influences, instead of a product dead-set on reliving the glory of the original trilogy. But hey, if all we get is some up-to-date CGI eye candy and a fair amount of kung-fu, I can deal. After all, Reloaded was always the most fun film in the trilogy, even if it made very little sense at the time, or even now.

Julia Alexander, reporter: Okay so, here’s the thing: The Matrix Reloaded is actually fine. I have fond memories of it. It was the first movie with a sex scene in it that I ever watched — and I was very confused by it all! Why, my 11-year-old self asked, would you leave the dope dance party in a cave? This also leads to more important questions like, “Why don’t more Matrix movies have dances?” Is The Matrix Reloaded as good as The Matrix? No, but that’s only because The Matrix also has dancing set to Rob Zombie in a cool goth-meets-’90s-cyberpunk club.

Look, this is just a drawn-out way of saying that I want Lana Wachowski to Jupiter Ascending the fourth Matrix movie. Lean into the ridiculousness of it all! This is a movie franchise built around a superhero who fought a bunch of monotonous secret agents to save the world from giant AI bugs. Nothing about that is cool, but it’s totally sick. If The M4trix is basically this franchise’s Jupiter Ascending, I’ll be very, very happy.

Sean Hollister, senior news editor: I once wrote a totally serious college paper about morality vs. obedience in The Matrix because I knew I could get away with it. That would not have been true of the film’s sequels. All I ask is that future generations can be afforded the same opportunity to turn kickass entertainment into good grades. Pretty sure I got an A, by the way.