In our hearts, we all knew this day would come. Warner Bros. is planning a reboot of The Matrix just 18 years after the iconic sci-fi action film dazzled audiences around the world, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
An original story by the Wachowski siblings, The Matrix trilogy followed Neo, a computer programmer played by Keanu Reeves, who comes to realize that his existence is a simulated reality created by artificially intelligent machines. The films were lauded for their creativity, special effects, and distinct cyberpunk and manga influences. In total, the trilogy grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide.
Reeves is not expected to be “the One” to lead the new film. The Wachowskis, who also directed all three films, are reportedly not involved in the reboot at this stage either. It’s unclear whether the reboot will take the form of a sequel, remake, or spinoff story set within the same cinematic universe.
The Matrix will join other famous film properties—Star Wars, Godzilla, Planet of the Apes, and Terminator among them—receiving a recent franchise reboot or “reimagining.” Others include RoboCop, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, and Jurassic Park. Meanwhile, reboots of Indiana Jones, Predator, Jumanji, and every superhero movie that’s ever existed, are scheduled to hit theaters soon. And TV, for its part, is a dystopian wasteland of bland prequels to famous action movies.
Hollywood relying on tentpole franchises, instead of taking risks on original ideas, is not new or surprising. But many believed that certain properties like The Matrix were off limits—at least so soon after originally being made. It’s clear now, though, that the major film studios can’t afford to wait. They have no other ideas.
This puts the studios in a precarious situation, because the once tried-and-true strategy of inundating cinemas with popular franchise extensions no longer looks as foolproof as it used to. A slew of sequels and remakes performed poorly at the box office last year, leading some in the industry to wonder whether audiences are starting to crave more originality. Ironically, by avoiding the inherent risks in greenlighting unproven ideas, Hollywood may be taking the biggest risk of all.
Case in point: Paramount Pictures. The studio took a $450 million loss last year on the heels of several colossal franchise flops, including Rings, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Zoolander 2. Now Paramount is now looking for a new CEO, and having trouble finding one. (Sony, responsible for last year’s box office bomb Ghostbusters, was forced to take a $1 billion write down on its movie business in January.)
On top of their own struggles, traditional studios now have to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon for content. Netflix, which will release director Martin Scorsese’s next film (originally a Paramount property), just hired former Universal Pictures executive Scott Stuber to run its film division. Stuber, you won’t be surprised to learn, was a candidate for the Paramount opening, but Netflix got him too.
Could The Matrix be more successful for Warner Bros. than other franchise reboots have been for competing studios? Sure. Could it forge its own path and please audiences of the original trilogy? Absolutely. The rebooted Star Wars and Jurassic Park franchises have done so for Disney and Universal, respectively (for the most part). Warner Bros. has even had its own success with reboots recently, if the box office success of the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is any indication.
Of course, there’s also the possibility that the rebooted Matrix movie never materializes. Anything can happen this early in the development process (no director is attached currently). Warner Bros. could decide to put its resources behind a Lord of the Rings reboot instead. Or it could, you know, make a new movie.