Can We All Admit That a Matrix 4 Is a Ludicrous, Truly Unnecessary Idea?

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Can We All Admit That a <i>Matrix 4</i> Is a Ludicrous, Truly Unnecessary Idea?

Come back in time with me for a moment, if you will. The year is 2003. You’re walking out of a theater from a screening of The Matrix Revolutions, the last thumps of this particular era’s obsession with industrial rock fading from memory as you process what you just saw.

You are disappointed, most likely, by a film that squandered the depth of setting handed to it by the now unfairly maligned Matrix Reloaded, an extremely competent sci-fi action film that has since been drawn inexorably into the gravitational well of Revolutions’ perceived failure. In this case, rather than rolling with the intriguing broadening of Neo’s world that Reloaded established, Revolutions has instead fallen back on climactic superhero spectacle, ultimately devoid of meaning. It’s a film that just runs out of satisfying ideas, trying instead to prop itself up with the crutch of “epic” CGI battles that have aged particularly poorly. Walking out of that theater, you’re probably a little crestfallen that The Matrix couldn’t retain its momentum across the finish line, but you’re at least happy to see it end in a definitive way.

matrix-revolutions-rain-fight.jpg Fighting in the rain adds +10 EPIC points; everyone knows this.

What you are not thinking is “boy, I sure wish the Wachowskis could restart this story again,” despite the fact that they’ve just finished emphatically ending it. And with that said: Why the hell are we living in a world where a Matrix 4 was just announced with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, 20 years after the original hit theaters? Given the incontrovertible way the series was meant to conclude with Revolutions, it smacks of cynical money-making even more than most revivals of valuable IP, à la Jason Reitman’s upcoming Ghostbusters, just a few years after the last attempt to reboot Ghostbusters. Because The Matrix series ENDED, y’all. Unmistakably, with finality, if not entirely satisfyingly, it ended. In case it’s been a while since you’ve seen Revolutions, allow me to remind you of the state of things at the end of that film.

Neo is dead, having sacrificed himself for the good of both the machines and the surviving humans, to ensure a world free from the corrupting influence of Agent Smith. Peace has been established between the machines and remaining humans, as a glorious new world of equality dawns. Trinity is dead, embarrassingly impaled on a bunch of rebar. Morpheus is alive—the only one of the three main characters who theoretically survived the end of the film, and the only one who apparently isn’t returning for Matrix 4, with Variety saying the part could be “recast for a younger take.” Because of course that’s how this is going to work, right? The one character who’s NOT dead will be the one actor not present in this reboot/sequel. That is prime chef’s kiss material, right there. Who wants new movies and fresh ideas, when we could have THIS?

So then, what do you do in a Matrix 4, as written and directed by a returning Lana Wachowski, without the partnership of younger sibling Lilly? Let’s consider a few of the possibilities, which all suck in their own, equally ham-handed ways.

1. The Machines Break the Agreement
The most simple and obvious way to continue this story—after a period of peace, the machines renege on their agreement in some way, or refuse to keep freeing people from The Matrix, as was promised in the accord at the end of Revolutions. Maybe, in a scrabbling attempt at profundity, it’s the humans who break the peace accord by attacking the machines. Needed once again, The One reappears in the form of an inexplicably older Neo. Trinity … is just there, somehow. Morpheus has transmogrified into a younger man. The fight begins anew, and the entire arc of the original trilogy has been efficiently undermined.

This is not a good option.

matrix-revolutions-happy-ending.jpg The machines’ beautiful promise of truth, equality and … oh hell, screw it.

2. The Story Takes Place Between Films
The story somehow takes place in the considerable gap between The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded, as newly minted The One, Neo battles agents and the group has their first real successes in fighting back against the machine authority. Everyone is inexplicably 20 years older than they should be. Morpheus is an entirely different human being, now far younger than Neo for some reason. The ending is never in doubt, because we know exactly what happens in Reloaded and Revolutions.

This is not a good option.

3. Time Travel Shenanigans
The series descends into full-on, Back to the Future Part II self-referencing as Neo and Trinity hurtle backward and forward through time, creeping around in the backgrounds of scenes from the first three films, occasionally turning directly toward the camera for long, theatrical winks at the audience. The meaning of every prior important scene in the series is redefined in the dumbest way possible.

This is not a good option.

4. We Just Straight-Up Ignore Reloaded or Revolutions
In an era where this has suddenly became the most popular way to produce a long-delayed sequel (see: Halloween), we can’t look past the possibility that Lana Wachowski just shrugs and says “Eh, let’s try that again,” tossing Reloaded and Revolutions to the non-canonical curb in order to pick up directly after The Matrix—-well, 20 years later, for some reason. This might be the most attractive option, but is there any reason to believe the same writer would pull things off more satisfyingly NOW, rather than in the wake of their greatest success? And may we remind you: No Laurence Fishburne.

This is not a good option.

5. It’s an Alternate Reality
A.k.a., “even we don’t really know how to make this story fit in, so we’ll let the geeks in the audience come up with something plausible in their own head-canon.” This would simply be some kind of tangentially related/“re-imagined” take on The Matrix, which goes back to muddy the waters of the first film and make us all question why any of us enjoyed this IP in the first place. Maybe Trinity is actually The One here! Maybe young, recast Morpheus is The One! Maybe the “real world” is just another simulation, and we’re actually three or four Matrixes deep! Maybe they’ll be able to make about 25% of this make sense on screen!

This is not a good option.

And that’s just it—there are no good options. When a good reason to produce a film simply doesn’t exist, beyond “it might be profitable,” it’s really hard to accept it as anything other than a completely cynical cash grab, even with the original writer-director and stars on board. Is it hearsay to write that, in an era when Keanu Reeves is arguably the most beloved man on the internet? Perhaps, but it’s not as if the guy has never made a poor decision in his life regarding his choices of starring roles. 47 Ronin is indeed a film that still exists, much as we’d prefer the contrary.

Let’s just hope, for his sake, that The Matrix 4 doesn’t manage to surpass it in all the wrong ways.


Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident genre geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more film and TV writing.

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