The Matrix is getting rebooted, and the big question on everyone’s mind is: What will that look like?
Based on what sources told The Hollywood Reporter, Warner Bros. is interested in pursuing stories within the Matrix universe without necessarily bringing back the original characters. The stories would revolve around different aspects of the war between machines and humans. It all sounds very intriguing, and those who’re thinking, “I’d love to get my hands on that right now,” well, you’re in luck.
Because Warner Bros. already made that movie in 2003. It’s called The Animatrix, and it’s the best movie in the franchise.
Here’s what Warner Bros. can take away from The Animatrix
The Animatrix consists of a series of short films that take place in the Matrix universe, but they don’t fully acknowledge the events of the main films. In fact, the only time The Animatrix is ever referenced is in The Matrix Reloaded, when a kid Neo saves during one of the vignettes shows up. Other than that, however, the two are kept completely separate. That’s part of what makes The Animatrix so intoxicating.
One of the mistakes directors and writers often make with reboots is thinking that they have to tell the same story over and over again. There are only so many times, for example, that we can see Spider-Man be bitten by a radioactive spider or watch a young Bruce Wayne mourn his parents. Most superhero movies think they have to retell the same origin story in the same way other directors have as a way to stay true to the material they’re adapting, but films like The Animatrix prove that if the world is intoxicating enough, reboots can use their creative freedom to explore other stories.
The Animatrix is a bit of a special case, in terms of structure. It’s made up of numerous short stories, so different areas of the Matrix’s universe could be explored without having to rely on one specific narrative. There were stories that had absolutely nothing to do with the Matrix universe as we know it, but that didn’t take away from it feeling like a Matrix movie. The core elements and themes that made The Matrix so beloved in the first place are apparent in every short. Even though The Animatrix isn’t a feature-length film in the same way The Matrix was, each of those shorts could have existed as their own feature-length project.
That’s what makes The Animatrix such a strong example of how Warner Bros. should approach a reboot. By using a well-developed premise and expanding upon those characters, it’s not impossible to create an important and defined story.
The Animatrix isn’t a reboot and no one is arguing that it is. It is, however, a perfect example of what the stand-alone mentality can do for a franchise. The same can be said for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, which did incorporate a few characters from the original, but managed to tell a completely independent story. Rogue One is a spinoff more than anything else, but the formula used to create it could also be applied to a reboot.
What The Matrix needs to do to succeed as a reboot is forget nearly everything that has come before it, but pay homage to it respectfully. With that being said, however, the film also needs to include the Wachowski siblings in some way, even if they don’t step behind the camera.
Part of what makes The Animatrix work as well as it does is how much influence the Wachowskis had on it. The siblings wrote four of the nine animated shorts and oversaw aspects of the other five. Even though it wasn’t solely their project, as the creators of the original film and its sequels, they took an important role in ensuring that the overall tone of The Animatrix’s shorts were somewhat inline with The Matrix.
As of right now, the Wachowskis are not involved with the project. They aren’t planning to direct, write or even produce the reboot. Even though you can point to Star Wars: The Force Awakens as an example of a franchise film that managed to succeed despite not having its creator around, it did have members of the original Star Wars crew on board. John Williams provided the score, Lawrence Kasdan wrote the script and Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill were all involved.
The Matrix reboot doesn’t have that. Zak Penn (Elektra, The Incredible Hulk) is being eyed to come up with the story and Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights, Black Panther, Creed) is being eyed for the lead role. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne aren’t involved. There isn’t anyone to point out that something feels a little out of place. Considering the movie isn’t a direct remake, the film can get away with experimenting, but the key to a successful reboot is the acknowledgement and feel of what came before it. That’s hard to do without people from the original on board.
The Matrix reboot can work. No one was really clamoring for it, but it doesn’t have to be a disaster. If we study The Animatrix and how that contributed to the expansive world that became the Matrix universe, it may even be possible to tell an even better story than the original 1999 film.