And so, as sure as day turns to night, another pop cultural relic that was definitively concluded many years ago is to be dredged up for a sequel.
Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Lana Wachowski – one half of the director duo behind the original trilogy – are back for a fourth instalment of The Matrix. This comes as somewhat of a surprise, as though the original movie is undoubtedly one of the best and most influential sci-fi films of the 1990s, its sequels failed to live up to the hype.
- Keanu Reeves will return as Neo in The Matrix 4
- The biggest movie releases of 2019
The Matrix Reloaded, released in May 2003, was met with middling reviews, but still made waves at the box office with a record high $92m opening weekend return in the US, the most for an R-rated movie until Deadpool in 2015. It eventually took over $740m worldwide.
However, the cliffhanger ending (which revealed that Neo was able to use his powers in the real world) was not enough to draw audiences back in for a third round. The Matrix Revolutions, released six months later in November 2003, was much less successful, taking in $300m less than its predecessor.
Reviewing the film for the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrestled with his own fandom to give an honest critical assessment of the third film.
"The Matrix Revolutions is where I sadly fell out of love with the whole exotic franchise," he said. "But only after watching it twice, like the hapless fan that I am, carried along the first time by residual fan-devotion, then awoken the second time around to the terrible truth: The Matrix Revolutions is a bit rubbish." He wasn't alone in this view: the movie holds a pathetic 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Still, with sequels and franchises powering the box office in 2019 like never before, Warner Bros are hopeful that there is a sizeable audience for The Matrix 4. And, if we're being honest, we'll likely be among the first in line for it, no matter how skeptical we may be at the outset.
What could happen in Matrix 4?
At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, Neo brokered a peace deal between the humans in Zion (the last remaining city in the real world) and the intelligent machines who had taken over. This was on the basis that Neo was the only person who could stop Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), a rogue computer program in the Matrix who was intent on destroying both the real world and the computer simulation.
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However, in doing so, Neo had to allow himself to be assimilated and ultimately destroyed by Smith. He dies in the real world, too, and is carried away by machines. Trinity also dies in the film, leaving us wondering how exactly these two will feature without erasing the ending of the original trilogy.
With peace restored in the real world and the Matrix rebooted, all was calm at the end of the film, but in the closing moments, a nugget of hope for a sequel was dropped. Inside The Matrix, the Architect (who created the simulation) and The Oracle (a clairvoyant program) hinted at the possibility of another war between man and machine. When the Oracle was asked whether we'll see Neo again, she responded: "I suspect so... someday."
Well, after more than 17 years, that day is upon us. As we've seen in the John Wick series, Keanu Reeves is more than able to kick ass in a massive action franchise in his mid-50s, so that is not something that we're worried about.
The real barrier here will be resurrecting its two leads. Strangely, the only one of the core trio from the original films who didn't perish in Revolutions, Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, is the only one who is not currently scheduled to return.
According to Variety, Fishburne's role may be re-cast with a younger actor, which makes little to no sense considering Moss and Reeves are now well into their fifties. Let's hope they convince Fishburne to get involved, or that they write his character off instead of tampering with his legacy.
One thing we're certainly excited for is how the technological advancements made over the course of the last 17 years will be applied to bring The Matrix to life. The CGI from the original films naturally look dated when compared to some of the better superhero films of today.
As for the plot, it seems likely that the film will be set many years after the original, and explore a newly developing war between man and machine. It's plausible that Neo survived that final battle and disappeared somewhere inside the Matrix to live out a life of solitude, perhaps on a vineyard in the south of France, a la Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard.
Alternatively, to really follow through on the Jesus metaphor that pervaded his whole "the one" thing, perhaps he did die, and he's set for some sort of miraculous resurrection.
Or maybe we'll discover that The Real World is actually also The Matrix, requiring yet another unplugging to be truly free. Or it could be none of these things. The Matrix is, after all, "a world where anything is possible."
Let's just hope it's better than Revolutions...