(Updated) The good, the bad, and the ugly of a Matrix remake
UPDATED: The Matrix project may not be a remake after all. Instead, it may be something much more sinister – a prequel. New reports are circling that the role the studio is looking at Michael B. Jordan for is as a young Morpheus. One or more films would follow the young Morpheus as he takes his first steps out of the Matrix and into the real world.
Reports are also flying around that WB is considering creating a writers room dedicated to the Matrix, which would work to develop multiple projects based on the original Matrix films. That would include films set before, during, and after the original trilogy. It would be similar to how Disney and Lucasfilm are approaching the Star Wars movies.
According to a report from the Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. and producer Joel Silver are considering a Matrix remake. The discussions are still very early, but the studio is even said to favor Michael B. Jordan in the lead role.
Silver is said to have approached WB about rebooting the franchise. The details are still scarce, but the studio was – unsurprisingly – very interested. The Matrix series helped define WB in the late 90s and early 2000s. The first film was groundbreaking in several ways, and remains one of the most influential films of the last 20 years. It helped to usher in a new era of special effects in action films. The sequels, however, were mostly seen as a failure.
Reactions to the sequels to vary from passable to franchise ruining, but the general consensus is that they failed to live up to the promise of the first. A reboot could give the studio – and fans – another shot at getting it right. Just don’t expect anything original.
While this is still very early, the studio must be more than just interested if it already has a star in mind. Jordan hasn’t commented on what would be a franchise role, and it’s not clear if he is interested or available, but it would be a huge starring vehicle for the actor who is already a borderline A-lister.
The studio also has a screenwriter in mind for the first draft; Zak Penn has been hired to write the script. That should give fans a momentary pause. Penn’s resume includes several of the worst superhero films made, including Elektra, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Incredible Hulk. On the plus side, he also is credited with the story for X-Men 2 and The Avengers. He also wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Ready Player One adaptation.
As for a director, that is an open question that probably won’t be answered for a while yet. The original directors, the Wachowskis, haven’t been approached, but WB is said to at least want their blessing on the reboot. Even if they refuse, however, the studio could still move ahead.
Silver’s role is a little more unclear. Although he approached WB with the idea for the reboot, in 2012 he actually sold his interest in the movies to WB for $30 million. The studio might once again tap him to act as producer on the new movies, but they could also thank him for his time and send him packing, possibly giving him an executive producer credit as a consolation.
Keanu Reeves, star of the original franchise, recently stated that he would be willing to consider returning to the role but only if the Wachowskis are involved. WB will probably opt to start fresh with a new cast and a new creative team though. There has also been talk of a Matrix TV show, but the studio seems to have moved on from that idea.
At the moment, this is all still very much in the planning stages, but given WB’s current position, it seems like a very real possibility.
WB had a good 2016, earning $1.9 billion, but it was still lagging badly behind Disney with $3 billion. WB also put out the second most films throughout the year with 25, far ahead of Disney’s 16 movies. Disney had a much, much better return on its investments, and with the Marvel movies still rolling, no end in sight to Star Wars annual releases, its own properties like Beauty and the Beast, and other franchsies possibly in the works – including Indiana Jones and a new Tron – things probably aren’t going to change anytime soon.
In most ways, WB is struggling, at least compared to Disney. It continues to try to emulate its rival’s success with shared universes and multiple franchises. The DC films are still an open question, but its older properties – Harry Potter, Tarzan, and recently King Kong to name a few – have shown potential (although the Legend of Tarzan was a bomb).
This year alone it has reboots of CHiPs, a new King Arthur movie, another adaptation of Stephen King’s It, a Blade Runner sequel, and two DC films. 2018 is even more loaded with reboots and franchise films.
WB is very much in favor of the “grind it until you find it” method of film distribution. Rebooting The Matrix might seem risky, but it was a major franchise for WB that left a lot of fans disappointed. If the right people are involved, fans might flock to it. Even if it isn’t any good, it might make money and that should satisfy the studio.
Like so many other studios sitting on popular franchises, WB is seemingly developing The Matrix the wrong way around. It saw a potential source of revenue and decided to begin development. That almost guarantees that the reboot has no chance of being groundbreaking or original like the franchise it is rebooting. It will be developed with the concept of making money first, which means the script will do all it can to minimize risks and maximize its appeal to the largest possible audience. In other words, expect a watered down trilogy.
At this point, the best we can hope for is the same story in the first movie and a war story in the second and third. Say what you will about the originals, but they were at least ambitious and unique. The reboots may be better than the flawed originals, but they won’t be great. They may make money, but they probably won’t be long lasting either.
That’s the age we live in. It’s not new and it’s not surprising.
So if you loved the first Matrix film but hated the sequels, well, good news. If liked the original trilogy, however, you may not like what WB cooks up. Don’t be surprised to hear an official announcement in the next few months.