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The New ‘Matrix’ Trilogy Could Launch in 2017

By Leo Sun – Mar 5, 2014 at 8:11AM

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A new trilogy of Matrix films could be headed this way by 2017. But can these new films escape the fate of the original franchise, which collapsed under the weight of its own tech mythology?

It could soon be time for a new hacker hero to make the choice between the red and blue pills, according to a recent report from Latino Review. The report claims that Lana and Andy Wachowski plan to revisit The Matrix franchise, and possibly launch a new prequel trilogy by 2017.

The original Matrix trilogy hit theaters between 1999 and 2003, spawning a dazzling expanded universe of comic books, video games, and animated short films. However, the series reached a definitive, polarizing conclusion with the final film, The Matrix Revolutions, and the blockbuster franchise has been abandoned for over a decade.


Time Warner (TWX)/Warner Bros. hasn't confirmed plans for the film, but a new Matrix film would be an excellent move for both the studio and the Wachowskis, whose subsequent films failed to match the critical and commercial appeal of the Matrix trilogy. It could also give Time Warner a blockbuster sci-fi franchise to compete against Disney's (DIS -1.83%) new Star Wars trilogy, which will reportedly start with Episode VII in 2015.

Why hasn't anyone taken the red pill again?
To better understand the market for a new Matrix film, let's take a look at the commercial and critical performance of the original trilogy.


Production Cost

Global box office

Rotten Tomatoes

The Matrix (1999)

$63 million

$464 million


The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

$150 million

$742 million


The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

$150 million

$427 million


Total/Avg. Rating

$363 million

$1.63 billion

65% (avg.)

Source: Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes.

Although the entire trilogy grossed $1.63 billion on a combined production budget of $363 million, we can see two problems that Warner Bros. likely noticed after the release of The Matrix Revolutions -- that the third chapter failed to measure up to the first two films with audiences or critics.

In my opinion, the first film was a clearly executed, self-contained story, but the two sequels became increasingly convoluted and pretentious. The third film, in particular, took a bizarre twist and turned the sleek sci-fi tale into a chaotic, explosion-filled religious allegory that alienated and confused many viewers.

Neo sacrificing himself at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. (Source:

The Matrix Revolutions didn't leave audiences with the sense of closure and satisfaction that the original film provided. Instead, it left them feeling cheated, with all the sound and the fury generated by The Matrix Reloaded ultimately signifying nothing.

The Matrix should be revisited ... without the Wachowskis
Many Star Wars fans know that the stronger films in the franchise, such as The Empire Strikes Back (1980), were made without George Lucas' screenwriting and direction. Instead, Lucas wrote the plot, and a creative team distilled his vision for the big screen.

Warner Bros. should apply that same idea to The Matrix. The Wachowskis did a great job with The Matrix, but their subsequent writing and directing projects prove that they need help in refining their creative vision.

The Wachowskis wrote and directed two more films after The Matrix Revolutions -- Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas (co-directed with Tom Tykwer) -- and neither was a critical or commercial hit.


Production cost

Global box office

Rotten Tomatoes

Speed Racer (2008)

$120 million

$94 million


Cloud Atlas (2012)

$102 million

$130 million


Source: Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes.

Speed Racer, which was based on the 1960s Japanese manga and anime of the same name, was critically panned due to its overuse of CGI special effects and confusing action sequences. Cloud Atlas received a warmer critical reception, but like Speed Racer, it also failed to resonate with a wider mainstream audience.

Speed Racer -- lots of flash but very little substance. (Source:

Yet V for Vendetta (2006), which the Wachowskis wrote but didn't direct, fared better than both films, grossing $133 million on a production budget of $54 million. The film, based on Alan Moore's acclaimed graphic novel, has a 73% rating among critics at Rotten Tomatoes. It was directed by James McTeigue, who served as the Wachowskis' assistant director on The Matrix films.

Therefore, it would make more sense for the Wachowskis to write the story or screenplay, then let a new creative team streamline it into a more coherent vision. To find that vision, they should take a look at The Animatrix (2003), a direct-to-video collection of nine animated short films based on the Matrix universe.

Tapping into The Animatrix
Four of the films in The Animatrix were written by the Wachowskis, and featured the animation work of some of the top names in Japanese anime, such as Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Ninja Scroll), Mahiro Maeda (Blue Submarine No. 6), and Shinichirō Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop). The anthology offered a much clearer view of The Matrix universe than the one that was presented in the three main films.

Robots being executed in The Animatrix. (Source:

Audiences finally understood why the robots rebelled, how the Earth was plunged into eternal darkness, and the origins of some of the new characters who appear in Zion in the third film. It was essentially The Matrix without the pretentiousness of the second and third live action films, and it has an 88% rating at Rotten Tomatoes -- higher than any of the films of the trilogy.

If the Wachowskis and Warner Bros. are intent on moving forward with a new Matrix film, The Animatrix would be an ideal place to start mining for ideas.

My final take
In conclusion, I would love to see The Matrix return to theaters. However, I think that the Wachowskis should enlist outside help to remake and refine their machine world dystopia for a new generation of movie audiences. That way, the franchise won't burn out as it did in 2003, crushed under the burdens of its own techno mythology.

What do you think, dear readers? Are you looking forward to a new Matrix film or trilogy? Let me know in the comments section below!

Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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