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Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. | Warner Bros.

The new sequel, the first for the franchise since 2003, may be a result of Keanu Reeves’s very good year.

They say a rising tide lifts all boats, and what could prove this adage more fully than Keanu Reeves’s unexpected 2019 cultural surge yielding news that The Matrix 4 is officially happening, 20 years after the franchise first debuted.

The actor’s 2019 “Keanaissance” shows no sign of stopping, and now Variety reports that the star of the revolutionary 1999 film and subsequent sequels is reuniting with his co-star Carrie-Anne Moss for the fourth film in the series. The previous three films, The Matrix (1999), The Matrix: Reloaded (2003), and The Matrix: Revolutions (2003) have grossed over $1.6 billion in total.

Matrix co-creator Lana Wachowski will be writing and directing for Warner Bros., without her sister and co-creator Lilly Wachowski — but she told Variety in a statement that the sisters’ original shared vision for the franchise would be expanded.

“Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now,” she said. “I’m very happy to have these characters back in my life and grateful for another chance to work with my brilliant friends.”

One of the most compelling themes that has emerged around The Matrix since the film’s release two decades ago is its resonance as a metaphor for trans identity, given that both of its creators have since transitioned.

The Matrix’s other metaphorical reinvention is far more unfortunate and unpredictable — the appropriation of its famous “blue pill / red pill” metaphor by the misogynistic men’s rights movement as a symbol of “waking up” to the “truth” about the evils of feminism. In reaction to the news fans of the franchise expressed hopes that the new film would be able to serve as some sort of corrective:

Meanwhile, many Wachowski fans were just happy to hear that a Wachowski project — any Wachowski project — will soon be in production again; after two successive box office failures with Cloud Atlas (2012) and Jupiter Ascending (2015), followed by a struggle to find a large audience for their cult series Sense8 on Netflix, the Wachowskis closed their Chicago production house in 2018. Until now there’s been little news regarding what other projects, if any, the siblings had on their schedule.

While the Wachowskis’ star has been flickering, however, Reeves’s has been in full uptilt, with one recent success after another making him one of 2019’s most unexpectedly trendy celebrities.

The Variety report indicates that Warner Bros. was eager to capitalize on Reeves’ current cultural ascendancy, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to have him reprise his most famous role: that of Neo, the lonely office worker who gets caught up in a dystopian nightmare involving artificial intelligence that enslaves humans, apocalyptic climate meltdown, and a warped virtual reality he has to fight his way out of. A superb ensemble cast and incredible aesthetics helped ensure the film’s legacy; every character, from Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus to Joey Pants’s skeptical Cypher to that spoon-bending kid, has since become iconic.

Neo’s trip through the Matrix made him the ultimate geek fantasy. But the Matrix was much more than a giant nerdgasm. It was one of the most significant films of 1999 as well as the entire decade, and its highly stylized action sequences and groundbreaking “bullet-time” effects were like nothing in cinema history. The Matrix’s influence on the subsequent 20 years of action and sci-fi cinema is impossible to overstate. (It also won every Academy Award for which it was nominated, taking home a total of 4 trophies, including one for Best Film Editing and another for Best Visual Effects, a pretty hefty feat for a sci-fi film of the era.)

The fim’s pseudo-philosophical parlance made ideas like taking the red pill, seeing through the matrix, and realizing that “there is no spoon” commonplace in broader American culture. These ideas became apt touchstones for Gen X-ers as they dealt with an emerging tech wonderland of virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and the ins and outs of online and offline worlds. And while the subsequent two films in the series were met with a comparatively mixed reception, they’ve each received a considerable amount of reappraisal in recent years — as has Keanu Reeves himself.

Clearly, the timing is perfect for this announcement. Now we just get to kick back and wait to see how far down the rabbit hole Lana Wachowski will take us next.

Author: Aja Romano

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