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A fifth Matrix film is everything the Wachowski sisters feared

A fifth Matrix film is everything the Wachowski sisters feared

Just a couple of weeks after the 25th anniversary of the premiere of The Matrix, Warner Bros. has confirmed that a fifth entry into the sci-fi series is on the way.

The big news with the announcement is that neither of the sibling director-duo Lana and Lilly Wachowski are attached to direct. Instead, Drew Goddard is writing and directing the film.

Goddard is best known as the writer-director of Cabin in the Woods and Bad Times at the El Royale, while his scriptwriting work for The Martian earned him an Oscar nomination.

This will be the first feature film in the Matrix series to not have a Wachowski sister writing or directing, after the pair worked together on the first three before Lana took sole directing credit for the fourth, The Matrix Resurrections in 2021. Lana is attached to this new edition as an executive producer, keeping some Wachowski talent in the mix at least.

Whether any of the original cast – including Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving – will return is unconfirmed. The new cast brought in for the fourth film – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris and Priyanka Chopra Jonas – have also not been confirmed to return.

Behind the scenes on The Matrix
Behind the scenes on The Matrix - Warner Bros.

“Drew came to Warner Bros. with a new idea that we all believe would be an incredible way to continue the Matrix world, by both honouring what Lana and Lilly began over 25 years ago and offering a unique perspective based on his own love of the series and characters,” Warner Bros. Motion Pictures president of production Jesse Ehrman said.

Goddard himself was effusive to the Wachowskis’ legacy. “It is not hyperbole to say ‘The Matrix’ films changed both cinema and my life,” he said. “Lana and Lilly’s exquisite artistry inspires me on a daily basis, and I am beyond grateful for the chance to tell stories in their world.”

Unwanted sequels

25 years ago, the Wachowskis rocked the world of sci-fi. Their bold and innovative film The Matrix was unlike anything else that had come before it.

Whether it was the 90s leather trench coat aesthetic, the Philosophy 101 plotline or the innovative “bullet time” camera work that captured their Wuxia-influenced fight scenes, The Matrix became the blueprint for what early 00s sci-fi aspired to but could never truly capture.

In many ways, the Wachowskis themselves fell into this same trap. The two sequels – The Matrix Reloaded and_The Matrix Revolutions_ – both delivered in terms of larger-scale set pieces, but beside a few intriguing new philosophical musings, never reached the heady heights of the original.

For years, the Wachowskis swore they’d never make another Matrix film. Rumours would pop up and cast-members would admit their interest, but it was all hot air. The Wachowskis weren’t interested.

However, the production studio behind the franchise, Warner Bros., had other ideas.

In 2017, Warner Bros. confirmed they were developing a relaunch of the films with screenwriter Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk) attached without any Wachowski involvement.

Lana Wachowski attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Jupiter Ascending' in 2015
Lana Wachowski attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' 'Jupiter Ascending' in 2015 - Paul A. Hebert/Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP

It was only after Lana Wachowski was hit by sudden inspiration in 2019, following her parents’ deaths, that she considered making a fourth movie in the series. She reported that her and her sister had been hounded annually by Warner Bros. for a new film since 2003, but only now with a new idea, Lana started work on The Matrix Resurrections.

The fourth film – created without Lilly’s involvement – managed to create a genuinely intriguing new chapter in the franchise by crafting a story that mused directly on the studio pressures Warner Bros. had exerted on the Wachowskis.

Set in the future, where Thomas Anderson (Reeves) is the video game developer who created the original The Matrix trilogy but is haunted by dreams suggesting the events of the films were actually true.

As Anderson is forced to work on an unnecessary sequel by – none other than – Warner Bros., he reveals a complex plot by the machine architects of the matrix to once again imprison the human race, this time utilising the hope of the original film’s plot as a power source that also kept the humans in check.

Not like this

via GIPHY

The Matrix Resurrections was a box office bomb and hardly adored critically. Much of the criticism was fair. But where it shone was in how it managed to pull off the unnecessary sequel that Hollywood deluges audiences with, while actually adding something interesting to the mix.

Lana Wachowski took the brief of a forced studio sequel and turned it on its head, creating the sort of postmodern metatextual repudiation of the industry that Ryan Reynolds and his tired brown-nosing fourth-wall breaking Deadpool series could only dream of.

There’s a great little bit of dialogue in the film where Smith (Groff) tells Anderson that Warner Bros. is making a Matrix sequel. “They informed me they're gonna do it with or without us,” he says.

Later in the film, new character Bugs (Jessica Henwick) reflects Lana’s own fears of how the industry chews up and spits out creative ideas: “They took your story, something that meant so much to people like me, and turned it into something trivial. That's what the Matrix does. It weaponizes every idea. Every dream. Everything that's important to us.”

While Goddard is a competent screenwriter, his most recent directorial attempt Bad Times at the El Royale was basically just a Tarantino rip-off. He's hardly the most exciting name if you were hoping for the same level of breath-taking innovation that defined the first film.

It seems, after all, that the Wachowskis have lost their battle.