Mr. Anderson. Welcome back, we missed you…
Ask a geek about any major sci-fi or fantasy franchise and they will almost certainly give you numerous reasons either as to why filmmakers should either commence making another movie in the series; or as to why it should be avoided like pestilence.
No other movie series suffers from this wide range of opinions than The Matrix. The original movie, strongly regarded as a classic by both fans and critics alike, was a stand-alone epic. It was revolutionary and visually exciting.
…& then the sequels came out.
The previous two chapters of The Matrix tale, Reloaded and Revolutions, were met with mixed reviews and thoughts from viewers. Reloaded gained much critical praise, though Revolutions was not as fortunate. The two films to this day suffer from perhaps the widest ranges of judgments that any movie probably ever has. For every person that said the sequels sucked, there is another person that found them just as exciting as the original film.
So, when conversation on the issue of whether or not the Wachowski Brothers should ever make a fourth Matrix movie; as in the case with the sequels – reactions and opinions become very polarized. Those disenchanted with the follow ups usually reply in the negative; while those who loved the movies continue to hope that the brothers will intend to return to “the desert of the real” sometime in the future.
At the end of the day, however, the decision to make a fourth Matrix movie will not hinge on the wide range of opinions the films have generated. It will come down to an argument of money.
Combined, the three Matrix films were budgeted an estimated $363,000,000 by Warner Brothers.
Worldwide, all three films made a total of $1,615,900,000. That is nearly a $1.2 billion profit. Yes, that’s right: $1.2 Billion.
That does not include revenue generated from DVD rentals and purchases, video games, merchandise, and the rest.
In short, two factors will determine whether there will be a Matrix 4. Factor number one is obviously the money, the bottom line, and the earnings. Despite your opinion on the movies, they make money.
And factor number two is whether the Wachowski’s essentially want to make the film or not; which eventually at some point, they probably will.
Take a look at George Lucas as an example. Back in the mid-1980s, he shrugged off the likelihood of any further Star Wars films. Over 15 years later he announced Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III. My point is the people who make these films have the liberty at any point to change their minds and return to their sagas.
The Wachowski Brothers could undoubtedly do that.
But, some people might ask, what could the film probably be about? Some feel that The Matrix Revolutions wrapped up the trilogy. Whilst it could be easily perceived that Revolutions closed the story arc nicely, there are still unanswered questions, and further possibilities.
So, let us take a look what a 4th Matrix movie could possibly investigate…
The Death of Neo
I am not convinced that Neo is truly dead. It certainly appeared that way at a glance in Revolutions, but right at the very end, the Wachowski brothers in actuality left it wide open. It was not made clear whether Neo, in the “arms” of the machinery, was dead or unconscious. The positioning of Neo at the end of the movie is deliberate, in a crucifix style position, hinting that with sacrifice comes the resurrection of the One. Neo, fundamentally, is the messianic figure of the Matrix on the traditional hero’s journey. Though the fall of Neo does indeed look sacrificial, the Oracle herself says at the end of the film that she suspects they will be seeing Neo again in the future. Like with every scene she has in the three films, she knows something that the viewers do not.
The Human Objective Changed
In the first two movies, the Human Resistance is fighting for the total freedom of the human species; for their fellow people to be free from the bondage they were born (or grown) into – from imprisonment to total and unconditional freedom.
But by the time Revolutions comes around, the goal has changed. When Neo faces Deus Ex Machina in the Machine City, when asked what he wants, he responds with, “Peace”. The notion, though related to freedom, is actually very different. Neo’s battle becomes one of instituting a truce or peace time between humanity and machines; as opposed to complete human freedom from the Matrix.
Essentially, while his efforts did undeniably end the war to that point, even The Architect states his doubts to The Oracle on how long this “peace” would actually last.
In the second and third films, references are made to the Predecessors by The Merovingian, The Architect, The Oracle, et cetera. The Predecessors are the previous “Ones” that were placed into previous versions of The Matrix. What if, as part of the mathematic code established by the Architect, at the ‘reboot’ of each Matrix, a digital program version of a Predecessor was loaded with the new Matrix to balance the equation.
That could ascertain characters such as the Merovingian and Seraph as “Predecessor Bots“; they are the software inserted into a new Matrix based upon previous Ones. In other words, they are consequential effects from the reloading of a new Matrix – an imaging of a previous One, in software format.
The reintegration of this imaged version of the One into an updated Matrix is principally the sum of an unbalanced equation; the system is trying to self-correct from the universal anomaly, as outlined by the Architect in the second film. It could explain also the Merovingian’s fascination with “cause and effect” – the One fulfilling his destiny and the reloading of a reloaded Matrix is the cause; the reintegration of the imaged One (the Predecessor Bot) an effect. In actual fact, this would make a lot of sense if the Merovingian was the First One.
This also matches up with the mythological establishment of Merv. The Merovingian is the holder of “lost souls” (exiled programs marked for deletion), and is the owner of Club Hel. The parallel is, of course, with that of the tale of Lucifer: the first fallen angel. Perhaps The Merovingian was the First One, and then subsequently, the First Predecessor Bot. This would have, indeed placed him in a position of power strong enough to reign over and capture (whether through care, temptation, or force) lost exiles.
While some expanded sources identify Seraph as a former agent of the Matrix (often depicted as an angel), it is also likely that Seraph is an imaged version of a Predecessor. If Merv was the first One, his dialogue of “The prodigal child returns” has more meaning in Revolutions. Agent Smith also recollects, “I remember chasing you was like chasing a ghost”; to which Seraph answers back in a very Neo-like fashion, “I have beaten you before”. I believe Smith is alluding to an era when Seraph was The One (“It is happening exactly like before…“), and he was being hunted down.
There is much discussed in Reloaded and Revolutions that suggest at the similarities between Neo and these characters like the Merovingian and Seraph. They can all see the coding of the Matrix, just like Neo does. They can all “bend the rules” established by the programming of the Matrix. Persephone speaks to Neo and says of the Merovingian, “He was like you”. As a matter of fact, she compares herself to Trinity also by saying, “I envy you, but such a thing was not meant to last”.
Merv and Seraph are just two examples of possible Predecessor Bots. They understand much about the history of the Matrix before Neo learns the many truths from the Architect. Merv talks of surviving the predecessors to advance into the newer versions of the Matrix.
So, the theory, in concept at any rate, is that the Matrix as established by the Architect is a harmony of mathematical meticulousness. However, the math suffers from a systemic anomaly, from which the hypothesis of “The One” was created to help balance the equation. In other words, by means of logic, the machines attempt to self-correct the Matrix as things become unequal. As the Matrix moves into a new version, a bot image of the previous One is inserted into the Matrix. That is the speculative theory anyway.
Having said that, when the Matrix was restarted after the Smith virus was deleted, could it have been possible that the algorithm imaged or ghosted a Neo program bot? Neo, in the eyes of the Architect, had already fulfilled his function: he had returned to the Source (a mental connection made that was exploited by Merv in Revolutions – when Neo was a captive of the Trainman). Neo is also far out of the ordinary from the Five Predecessors; his general attachment manifested itself as love for Trinity (a relationship I believe was purposefully engineered and directed by the Oracle). When you come right down to it, Neo is set apart from the Previous Ones, and it could be possible that with the equation trying to correct itself, a Neo bot could have been reimaged into the Matrix to “help balance the unbalanced equation caused by the systemic anomaly”.
Face it: the Machines are evil
Come on – do you really think that the Machines are going to keep the peace? Do you really think that the Human Resistance is going to stop trying to free humans that have not opted out of the Matrix? Neo’s deal with the machines was the deletion of Smith for “peace”. If Neo survived and was merely unconscious at the end of Revolutions, then it is entirely possible that he was taken into confinement by the machines.
If Neo had been let go from the Machine City, he would be living proof that he bargained for human freedom. By keeping him as prisoner, the machines are hiding this particular deal from the humans, which gives them a tactical advantage. If the machines, at any time, compute the necessity to move back to the “old ways” for survival, they can do so. Keeping Neo unseen gives them another tactical advantage: Why send back the most powerful human being to their enemies?
Or maybe the actual enemy of humanity is humanity itself?
I mentioned earlier that The Architect expresses uncertainties and doubts on how genuine and how long the new peace will last between the machines and the humans. In the story of The Second Renaissance, from The Animatrix, it is the humans who first turn on the machines they have created; in proceedings that spiral beyond control in which eventually evolves into The War. The Machines have an extensive memory, and the doubt expressed over this peace is perhaps justified.
The past, as it seems, has a habit of repeating itself. Or rather, those who ignore history are the ones who are condemned to repeat it. In the newfound era of peace between humanity and machines, it is entirely possible that it is a human or group of humans (perhaps obsessed with the original Resistance goal of total freedom as opposed to simply a truce) that give rise to a new battle; a new war. The characters of Neo and Morpheus may be required to not necessarily fight for peace; but to help maintain it – even if it means battling humans instead of machines.
Morpheus is dead – Morpheus is not dead.
According to the storyline established by The Matrix Online, Morpheus demands the return of Neo’s body to the humans. This never happens, and so he begins to take matters into his own hands, through sophisticated “terrorist attacks” within the Matrix itself: he creates and detonates ‘code bombs‘; weaponry designed to show the truth to humans (bluepills) the truth behind the Matrix. His dealings cause him to lose many allies both in Zion and within the Matrix.
Morpheus is hunted down and murdered by a bounty hunter (perhaps a program) known as The Assassin. He is believed to be dead. However, prior to the murder many of the redpill players of the game (the players representing the human resistance within the Matrix) were informed that Morpheus needs to ‘fade away’ to “lay low”.
In other words, Morpheus is in all probability hiding; his “death” orchestrated to enable him to fade away and lay low. This progression of events is done purposefully in the game. The crews behind the scenes of the Matrix clearly want Morpheus (at least temporarily) out of the picture in the expanded universe, as this would free them up to reclaim his character for any future film ventures they undertake.
Discovery of Neo’s Captivity
Let us say that members of the human resistance spot the Neo Program in the Matrix. Intelligence gets back to Morpheus, and the humans discover, (shock and horror) that Neo is actually alive, though not in the Matrix. That is his “copy” – a Predecessor Bot – but in actuality, he is held captive by the machines. This would prompt the Human Resistance into a movement to free Neo.
In fact, a holographic version of Morpheus appears in one point of The Matrix Online making claims that Neo is alive and the Machines have him held captive.
The Neo Bot alternatively, could be the antagonist of the story. Maybe he is like “Evil Neo”, and is destructively affecting both the humans, the hiding programs (like the Merovingian), and the machines. Perhaps the only way to stop Neo Bot is to bring the real Neo in.
This could sound hackneyed, but when you think about it, which other character is more powerful or equivalent in power to Neo? No-one… the only logical step forward in a Matrix sequel (if it follows the Predecessor bot theory outlined above) would be if Neo fought his “clone” – in this argument, The Neo Bot – it could be a cool scene.
However, some may argue that this conceptualization has previously been done with the Neo vs. Smith battles. Smith is literally the polar opposite of Neo; he is the Anti Neo.
Okay, so who is “the bad guy” then?
The Matrix Trilogy established that Agent Smith was Neo’s enemy of the saga. Smith to Neo is like Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker; despite being the major antagonist and protagonist of the story, the bad guy always has a boss. In Star Wars, it was Emperor Palpatine aka Darth Sidious. In The Matrix, this role is fulfilled by the character that would become known as The Architect.
Now, I Am not suggesting for a minute that The Architect ought to get out and jump around going all kung-fu on Keanu Reeve’s ass. That would look dismal; but it would also run contradictory to the story… A program is designed with a function, and the purpose of the Architect is not to fight, but to develop and build. In other words, like Palpatine, he is the master strategist. For the heroes to win the day, he must be taken out. The Oracle’s protector is Seraph; and it would stand to reason that The Architect would have some kind of protector also – another possible rival.
If not, there are existing characters that could fulfill that role. Agent Johnson or the Merovingian both come to mind as possibilities. Merv would stand out as a great nemesis for Neo in a 4th film because he has already proven himself as a bad-ass, and secondly, we’ve only seen him send his thugs after Neo. There is certainly much more than meets the eye with this meticulous chap; and if The Matrix IV was ever made, I would guarantee he would be in it.
Smith could still be the adversary. Meet Smith 2.0
The great thing about software is that it can be recreated, reghosted, reimaged, redeveloped, and upgraded. While Smith was primarily destroyed by Neo, eventually freed from the system, and finally obliterated (like a Trojan being wiped by AVG). But unlike humans, machines do not forget to “back-up”. Somewhere, contained by the confines of the world of the machines, is another version of Smith (perhaps improved), ready to be deployed as a weapon at any given moment.
Expanding on the personality of Smith could also be more enlightening for the audience as well. Through the route of the original trilogy, he eludes to his chasing of Predecessors and exiles. He bestows the audience with a connection between him and Seraph. Any connection he may have had with Merv though never was explored. Perhaps this is an avenue that could be taken as well.
But wait, isn’t The Matrix a trilogy?
If you recall to when the first movie came out, the initial concept was pitched to producers and studios as a trilogy, should the original film be successful. The Wachowski brothers had every intention of developing the concept into more than one film.
When the time came to put together a sequel, according to a variety of sources, including Wikipedia and IMDB, several concepts and script treatments were developed, but most knocked back by Warner for further revision. As time developed, rumor has it that the Wachowski’s had written one script, which was way too long. Rather than sacrifice certain scenes, they decided to divide the script in half.
So, essentially speaking, Reloaded and Revolutions were initially conceived as ONE film, not TWO. Which goes forth to say that perhaps there were and/or are plans for a third screenplay, or now in hindsight, a fourth film.
Moreover, it is up to the Wachowski’s whether The Matrix is a trilogy, quadrilogy, nonilogy, or whatever. If the celebrated genius Douglas Adams can go out of his way to make “a trilogy in four parts”, then so can these guys.
At any rate that is my rant. It may all be just speculation, but… it is inevitable…
I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you: a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries; a world where anything is possible… Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.