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‘The Matrix’: Why Relaunching the Franchise Without the Wachowskis Is A Terrible, Terrible Idea

An open letter to Warner Bros., begging the studio to think hard before it takes the red pill.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1628347a)The Matrix, Carrie-anne MossFilm and Television

The Matrix

Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock

Dear Warner Bros.,

Look, we see where you’re coming from. All the cool kids are doing it — reviving their IP to create new franchises for new generations. And yes, if a woman was nine months pregnant when she watched the seminal sci-fi action film written and directed by the Wachowskis, her kid would now be graduating from high school. So it’s not exactly shocking that, almost exactly 18 years after the first film’s release, reports emerge that you’re laying the groundwork to relaunch “The Matrix.”

The Wachowskis aren’t currently involved. It’s unclear if they will be. But if you’re planning to revive “The Matrix” without the Wachowskis — well, that’s completely insane.

We know that in the current cultural landscape, those who believe old titles and premises should be left alone are increasingly viewed as Luddites. We know it looks so, so tempting — the franchise grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide. But we wonder if you understand what made “The Matrix” great in the first place.

“Matrix” was a shocking and original vision, and after 18 years it’s possible to take that for granted —  but you shouldn’t. The Wachowskis fused genre, technique, and technology to synthesize one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic experiences in living memory. It changed the way we thought about how action could work on screen.

The storytelling floundered on the “Matrix” sequels, but they were ahead of their time in how the narratives incorporated other platforms, including video games and comic books. (And kudos to you, Warner Bros., for giving the Wachowskis the freedom to do that.) “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” still represented the originality, dedication and love of filmmaking that the Wachowskis have always brought to their work.

Currently, Lana Wachowski is bringing that love to the Netflix series “Sense8,” directing all episodes of the second season that’s set to premiere in May. (Lilly wasn’t actively involved in Season 2, but might return if the show comes back for a Season 3.) It’s entirely possible they won’t be interested in returning to the franchise that launched their careers. But that’s no reason to overlook the factors that led to the film’s initial success.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore/REX/Shutterstock (1645877a) The Matrix, Laurence Fishburne Film and Television

It’s fascinating to look back at the film and realize how deeply personal it was. When Lana and Lilly Wachowski made the film, both were pre-transition and years away from coming out as transgender. That journey is reflected in a storyline based on breaking free from your world as you understand it, and in the film’s distinctive and androgynous costuming.

“The Matrix” was also very much a product of its era, a time when the idea of living a life largely online was scary and exotic. Those themes could be updated, but it’s hard to imagine having them the same impact.

To be fair, news that Zak Penn is writing a treatment isn’t the worst thing; he has a solid reputation for handling genre content (including story credits on “X-Men 2” and “The Avengers”). But the simple truth is “The Matrix” isn’t a sandbox in which everyone can play. It was a delicate sandcastle. Don’t kick it down.

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