The Matrix Relaunch: Why An Expanded Universe is A Good Idea

Or, at least, not a bad idea. We delve into the possibilities of making The Matrix expanded universe.

The Matrix 4 is officially in the works at Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures, with co-creator Lana Wachowski set to write, direct, and produce. In addition to Wachowski, novelists Aleksander Hemon and David Mitchell will be writing the screenplay, making the initial behind-the-scenes team for this sequel pretty damn impressive. 

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will also reprise their roles as Neo and Trinity, respectively… um, somehow, with production slated to begin as early as “at the top of 2020,” according to Variety.

While this not necessarily the Matrix Expanded Universe that we heard whispers about back in 2017, it’s the start of something new for the Matrix franchise that could possibly expand into even more projects, should Warner Bros. find it valuable and the Wachowskis jump on board in some capacity.

Though I understand the anxiety over the possibility of an ill-conceived relaunch, I also think that The Matrixfictional universe is also one that could support a rich, expanded universe. Here are a few reasons why…

The Matrix already has supported an expanded universe.

Before the MCU was a thing, The Matrixlaunched its own microcosm of an expanded (onscreen) fictional universe in the form of a compilation of short films called The Animatrix. Released in 2003 to accompany the release of The Matrix: Reloaded, The Animatrixpaid homage to the anime that inspired The Matrixwhile also expanding the world to its “unimaginable limits,” as the trailer above touts.

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The Animatrixuses the themes, settings, and characters of The Matrixtrilogy to tell new stories, some of which have nothing to do with the story or characters from the blockbuster trilogy. The Wachowskis wrote four of the nine shorts, but brought in some of their favorite anime directors to write and/or direct the other films. In other words: They let others play in this rich storytelling universe.

read more: What Went Wrong With The Matrix Sequels?

What kinds of stories does The Animatrixtell? “The Second Renaissance: Parts 1 and 2,” written by the Wachowskis, shows us the rise of the machine that would lead to the first Matrix; in “Kid’s Story,” we see the “self-substantiated” escape from the Matrix to the real world of Kid, a character who would appear in both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions; “Beyond” has teen Yoko follow her missing cat into a temporary glitch in the Matrix that becomes a playground for local kids until Agents come to fix the problem. Basically, the possibilities are endless.

Warner Bros. could do with another franchise.

Right now, Warner Bros. has two major franchises in its corner: The DC Extended Universe, which, while improving in the last few years, hasn’t performed as well as Warner Bros. had presumably hoped, and the Harry Potter franchise, which — while still drawing in lots of viewers — will need to do a lot in the coming years to keep interest while telling stories that don’t actually have Harry Potter in them, especially after the increasingly terrible Fantastic Beasts movies.

Enter The Matrix, an already established franchise that is not quite like any of the other franchises currently out there. While the other franchises tend to skew more family-friendly (even those with their more adult-geared installments), The Matrixis a decidedly adult-oriented storytelling universe that offers something superheroes, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Transformers arguably cannot. 

read more: The Matrix, Cypher, and the Curse of the Red Pill

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Yes, the studio no doubt hopes a The Matrixrelaunch will make them oodles of money. That’s how studios work. However, that doesn’t discount the possibility of The Matrix relaunch and/or expanded universe also being good. Because good movies tend to make money for their studios — not only in the short term, but in the long term, by solidifying their brand.

And, let’s face it, Warner Bros. could do with some greater positive brand recognition when it comes to expanded universe storytelling. The Matrixis an unexpected choice when it comes to Warner Bros. hedging its franchise bets, but it’s not necessarily a bad one. And the fact that Warner Bros. is looking for another steady franchise only implies that they will give it the attention it deserves.

In defense of beating a dead movie horse.

My philosophy when it comes to reboots, remakes, etc. is that a bad extension of a story I love doesn’t make me love that original story any less. If this continuation of The Matrixtrilogy — a series of movies that meant a lot to me growing up — sucks, that doesn’t cost me anything as a fan. I know not everyone feels this way, but, personally, the possibility of seeing a thing I love produce more things I love is worth the risk. 

read more: Megazone 23 – The Sci-Fi Anime That Predicted The Matrix

If Warner Bros. wants to pour more money into the world of The Matrix, even past Matrix 4, to see what new stories can come out of it, then I am eager to see who they recruit as directors, writers, and stars, and what they come up with together. If it sucks, we’ll always have Neo. If it doesn’t, we’ll have more stories to love and make us think critically about the world and our experiences in it.

Kayti Burt is a staff editor covering books, TV, movies, and fan culture at Den of Geek. Read more of her work here or follow her on Twitter @kaytiburt.

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