I encountered the Matrix films in high school and was blown away by their mind-bending concepts and fantastic fight scenes. The Matrix served as a gateway drug to my love of comics, anime, and underground culture. Since then, I’ve had an attraction to long coats, slow-motion shots, and over-powered protagonists. Given that the fourth Matrix is slated to release in 2021, it’s the perfect time to explore how The Matrix changed our reality.
As for that upcoming Matrix movie, I’m keeping my hopes at a low-medium. Lightning doesn’t strike twice and The Matrix franchise’s biggest hurdle is clearing the high bar it raised for itself. I highly doubt that the fourth Matrix will deliver anything new in regards to visual presentation or aesthetic to maintain brand consistency. I suspect that we will be treated to a “safe success” like the Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a retelling of the first Matrix movie using fresher faces and the veteran cast in mentorship roles.
Nevertheless, I do believe that the world of The Matrix is ripe for exploration as proven by the Animatrix anthology. There are many great shorts — my favorite of which follows a group of kids who discover a glitch in the Matrix but believe that they’re in a haunted house. These animated shorts were able to tell more emotional character-driven stories without worrying about dumping exposition or fulfilling an epic hero’s journey.
It’s worth noting that Will Smith was originally tapped for the role of Neo, but turned it down because he didn’t understand the script. Now, I love what Keanu Reeves did with Neo, but I know that if The Matrix had come out in 1999 with a black protagonist, that would have changed cinema forever. The characters of Morpheus, Trinity, and the Oracle show women and African Americans in positions of power, wisdom, and grace. Even The Matrix Reloaded‘s city of Zion is noticeably Afrofuturistic. Aspects of Queer culture were always hinted at in The Matrix and may finally get explored fully in the new film.
The Matrix has left quite a legacy in action cinema and while most films are derivative, a few have carried the torch. I would count Kingsmen: Secret Service, John Wick, and Lucy to be spiritual successors to The Matrix. Kingsmen took over-the-top action to new heights while John Wick showed that Reeves still has plenty of fight left in him. Lucy, meanwhile, managed to combine movie spectacle with philosophical exploration and will doubtlessly gain its own cult following of curious minds.
The Matrix was definitely a product of its time; some aspects have aged well while others have not. It has been parodied, homaged, copied, and ripped-off ever since its release. While The Matrix is undoubtedly a remix of many stories that came before it, the film stands shoulder to shoulder with its influences.
It’s important to recognize that The Matrix was an original story and not a sequel, remake, or direct adaptation. The film starred a cast of (relatively) unknown actors, broke new ground in visual effects, and exposed the masses to complex philosophical ideas.
To top it off, The Matrix franchise has always been rated R; it’s for adults, and the film takes its world and characters seriously. There was no need for self-deprecating humor to make the characters more “relatable.” The human world outside of the Matrix program is dark and gritty, but humans are seen as worthy of living as opposed to nihilistic products of an amoral environment.
More than another Matrix story, I would like to see more original R-rated movies with unique visual presentation, evocative soundtracks, sexual subversiveness, well-choreographed fight scenes, and thought-provoking philosophical ideas.