In the midst of an extraordinarily weird and bad news week, which in 2019 is really saying something, a bit of good news descended upon Tuesday like a lush unexpected care package on a harsh desert island.
The news: Matrix 4 is officially happening, with several key players from the original trilogy returning. Only one word could capture most people’s reactions to this news, and that word is obviously “Whoa.”
Just how excited should everyone actually be, though? Didn’t the second and third movies get progressively worse, making it seem as though The Matrix was never designed to be a trilogy, but rather that after the first film’s surprise box office bonanza, the Wachowskis expanded their original vision in a direction that never quite gelled and may have actually succeeded only in diminishing some of the shine from the entire concept?
Okay, yeah, that interpretation may have been what happened. However, at this moment, there is every chance Lana Wachowski (the only of the two siblings returning) is keenly aware of the lukewarm reception to the latter two Matrix films and sees part 4 as a chance for redemption. Viewed through this optimistic lens, this news can only be exciting to fans of the franchise, of which Fast Company employs several.
For anyone else equally excited, here’s everything we know so far, and a little speculation about what we don’t.
Who is returning?
Several of the major principals are back. Lana Wachowski is writing and directing, and Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are starring, despite Moss’s Trinity character having died in Matrix Revolutions. It’s hard to imagine this film going into production without Reeves, who is currently riding a career high 30 years in. Original conceptual designer Geof Darrow tweeted that he was back in as well.
Who is not returning?
The other Wachowski, Lilly, is reportedly cowriting and co-showrunning a Showtime dramedy called Work in Progress, which could be the reason she isn’t involved. There are probably other reasons, though. Laurence Fishburne, who anchored the first film in both gravity and coolness, has similarly decided he doesn’t need more Matrix in his life at the moment, and his pivotal role, Morpheus, will likely be recast. Original producer Joel Silver is not attached to the new film.
Who is involved for the first time?
One source of excitement around the new entry in the series was sort of buried in the hubbub around Tuesday’s announcement: Lana Wachowski’s coscreenwriters. The first non-Wachowskis to write bullet-time action scenes or smoothly expository dialogue are Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, two exceptionally well-regarded literary novelists. Wachowski and Mitchell have some history together. In 2012, the director adapted the writer’s Cloud Atlas into a film that has its share of fans but was a commercial and critical flop and is now mostly remembered for its many faces of Tom Hanks. Here’s hoping that the second collaboration between Lana Wachowski and Mitchell bears more successful fruit. Let’s focus on the fact that a Wachowski is working with serious literary heavyweights who write imaginative, intellectually engaging fiction. Yes, please!
What will this one be about?
“Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now. I’m very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends,” Lana Wachowski said in the official announcement. It’s not a lot to go on, but it is enough to make one consider everything that has happened in the last 20 years (and perhaps more recently) to make the themes of The Matrix more relevant. The rise of social media and ease of home delivery have propelled us into increasingly digital existences, while the political landscape has shifted in such a way that many people feel fully in the thrall of forces beyond their control that are selling them a version of reality that simply does not exist. Yeah, I’m thinking The Matrix’s themes are back, to paraphrase Keanu’s other big franchise character, John Wick. Also, for anyone who wants to get into speculative territory, here’s a wild Reddit theory that takes a close read of the Matrix Revolutions ending to divine a possible plotline for part 4.
When will we be seeing it?
Production is supposed to start in “early 2020,” which means that the project likely won’t see the light of day until summer 2021. But this is The Matrix we’re talking about, so who knows, really? There is no spoon, whatever the hell that means.