Has this science fiction series died? If MATRIX 5 is to succeed, it must be a completely NEW story

A few days ago, out of the blue, came the news that Warner Bros. had given the green light for the production of a fifth Matrix film.

Jakub Piwoński

9 April 2024


In the year marking exactly 25 years since the premiere of the first film in the Matrix series, Warner Bros. studio has surprised us with news of plans for the fifth installment. In this column, I wonder whether this is good news and whether, perhaps, pop culture is eating its own tail before our eyes.

The rabbit hole goes even deeper. A few days ago, out of the blue, came the news that Warner Bros. had given the green light for the production of a fifth Matrix film. At a time when everyone is waiting for the same studio to officially announce the production of the third Dune, we were hit with this rather surprising bombshell, reopening questions about the future of this famous science fiction film series. Recall that a few months earlier, the same studio set its sights on producing a Harry Potter series, and even earlier, though we may have forgotten, declared the production of new films from the world of The Lord of the Rings. Warner Bros. is clearly gearing up.

This is, of course, a business decision. Warner is currently racing against Disney and Universal for supremacy in global box office revenues, so it needs to strengthen its position with brands it owns the rights to. Especially when an interesting proposal for a reboot emerges. Allegedly, it was none other than Drew Goddard who surprised Warner’s executives with a compelling enough idea for a reboot that they decided to seize this opportunity.

Therefore, one thing needs to be clarified at the outset for all the internet skeptics: the Wachowski sisters responsible for the series this time will have significantly limited responsibility, as they will be overseeing the project from the perspective of executive producers (at least Lana will). That’s one thing. The other is that currently, there’s no indication that we’ll see the return of the original cast, including Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. It seems that what convinced the top brass is an entirely new idea.

I base this impression on a logical conclusion – the original storyline of this series reached its limit. Lana Wachowski, independently directing the fourth installment, inadvertently proved two very important things – the hero’s story told in the trilogy is a closed narrative, accessible only through a meta-communicative perspective, which further emphasizes a well-known fact (and this is the second issue), that what this story truly thrives on was contained in the first part. In other words, Wachowski was tempted to continue this story with ideas that had been sidelined in her notes, but the attempt proved so audacious that instead of a full-fledged development, we got something between a homage to the cult classic “original” and a playful convention, which, in broad terms, resulted in a grotesque effect (though I wouldn’t call it an artistic failure).

Looking through the lens of the controversial Resurrections, it’s hard to see any potential in the news of a fifth installment of the hit science fiction series. But another perspective can be taken. Let’s consider, for example, The Animatrix, an anthology format created before Reloaded and Revolutions, which provided different stories balancing between reality and illusion. Then we realize that this world is broad, but so far, we’ve perceived it mainly through Neo’s story and mission. It’s a bit like Star Wars and the Skywalker family thread, clinging to which hasn’t brought anything good to the saga.

A prequel and the beginnings of the war with the machines? The fate of another chosen one? Or perhaps a story happening concurrently with or after the one unveiled by Neo? A skilled screenwriter will find a way to ensure that the next chapter of the Matrix is not just a coupon cutout. With this burden, Goddard will have to contend. He’s not yet a sought-after creator, but he has two things to his credit that make him an interesting candidate to take over from the Wachowskis in my eyes. Firstly, although he has a modest body of work, he can already boast an Oscar nomination for the screenplay of The Martian. Secondly, he is the author of the outstanding, albeit largely underrated The Cabin in the Woods, a horror film that had it all – convention play, terror, and surprising plot twists. In this latter aspect, the 2011 horror relied heavily on The Matrix.





However, rational considerations suggesting that the new Matrix might, but might not, succeed, are completely at odds with the fact that… we live in an era of reboots of well-known series, a phenomenon purely driven by commercial motives. This fact clearly influences how we perceive novelties related to something with which we have specific, historically rooted emotions. This year, we’re seeing Mad Max, Planet of the Apes, Alien. We view these series through the lens of nostalgia, which is very easily monetized today. I feel that decisions to revive brands are made more quickly now, due in part to the existence of streaming platforms, which provide another space for efficient distribution.

Yet, amid this carousel, there are often creators who genuinely want to create something new within an existing world. Blade Runner 2049 was a project that couldn’t succeed. And yet. I was also very skeptical about Prey. Here too, a surprise. In this latter film, the principle of – let’s approach this differently, but at the same time, give the audience something they know well within a world they know well – worked mainly. Can this method be useful in considering the directions of the new Matrix? Not every science fiction series is suitable for continuation – Terminator is a prime example. Matrix is also a dish that works best in relation to the time it was created and the original formula presented, without add-ons and extensions. This is what fueled its cult following – insatiability.

However, I believe that if creators do their homework and aim to pleasantly surprise us again, anything is possible here. I would be ignorant to already judge otherwise.

There is no doubt, however, that today’s cinema (and the world) fairly decisively deals with the choice between the blue and red pill. This also constitutes a secondary paradox of the entire situation. Judging by the fact that we still cling to old myths, we evidently prefer cinema as a dream rather than cinema that provides answers to important questions. Although in this case, the most important question is – can truth actually exist in cinema? And do we really want to know it?

Jakub Piwoński

Jakub Piwoński

Cultural expert, passionate about popular culture, in particular films, series, computer games and comics. He likes to fly away to unknown, fantastic regions, thanks to his fascination with science fiction. Professionally, however, he looks back more often, thanks to his work as a museum promotion specialist, investigating the mysteries of the beginnings of cinematography. His favorite film is "The Matrix", because it combines two areas close to his heart - religion and martial arts.

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