Re­boot of “Ma­trix” is a ter­ri­ble idea

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Alyssa Rosen­berg The Wash­ing­ton Post

The ut­ter cre­ative bankruptcy rep­re­sented by the news that Warner Broth­ers is de­vel­op­ing a re­boot of “The Ma­trix,” the wildly orig­i­nal 1999 block­buster film about the last stand in a war be­tween hu­man­ity and the ma­chines that have sur­passed them, is too ob­vi­ous — and hon­estly, too de­press­ing — to dwell on.

It was dead­en­ing enough to watch Hol­ly­wood re­peat the same story beats over and over again in gen­res like su­per­hero movies that were de­signed to re­peat and re­set: See­ing the in­dus­try pre­pare to can­ni­bal­ize its own most cre­ative block­busters makes me won­der whether mass cul­ture wouldn’t be bet­ter off if the San An­dreas Fault just opened up and swal­lowed the 30-mile zone.

And the idea of go­ing back into “The Ma­trix” isn’t just bad be­cause it so de­stroys my hope for the fu­ture of orig­i­nal ac­tion movies that I’m tempted to give all this up to go study il­lu­mi­nated manuscripts in a vault some­where. From a fi­nan­cial per­spec­tive, the virtue of re­mak­ing an ex­ist­ing prop­erty is that it comes with high “pre-aware­ness” baked in: Warner Broth­ers can trust that view­ers are ba­si­cally fa­mil­iar with the es­sen­tial con­cept be­hind “The Ma­trix,” so the com­pany doesn’t have to waste time ex­plain­ing it and can just get around to sell­ing the new version. And on this score, the strength of “The Ma­trix” also rep­re­sents a risk for Warner Broth­ers: “The Ma­trix” comes with a kind of pre-aware­ness that may pre­vent a re­boot from truly stand­ing on its own.

One of the most en­dur­ing con­ceits of “The Ma­trix,” and one of the film’s strong­est vi­su­als, is the choice be­tween a red or blue pill that Mor­pheus (Lau­rence Fish­burne), a leader of the anti-ma­chine re­sis­tance, of­fers to hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves), who has been ex­plor­ing el­e­ments of the world that seem to have a cer­tain wrong­ness. The red pill will of­fer Neo a chance to see and un­der­stand the re­al­ity of his ex­is­tence, but at the risk that he will be shaken to his core, per­haps even shat­tered. The blue pill will re­turn him to a rel­a­tively com­fort­ing ex­is­tence with­out answers to any of the ques­tions that have been dog­ging him, but with his equa­nim­ity and san­ity in­tact. Neo chooses the red pill, of course, and our ad­ven­ture be­gins.

But even if a re­booted version of “The Ma­trix” were to take us in a rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion, what would the red pill re­veal to the next main char­ac­ter, and to us? And what would it mean? Even if he or she doesn’t use the red pill at all, what would au­di­ences per­ceive the movie’s real mes­sages to be?

I ask this, be­cause in the years since “The Ma­trix” hit the­aters, that scene has been re­pur­posed as a de­vice for var­i­ous fac­tions of the alt-right, most fa­mously so-called men’s rights ac­tivists.

If noth­ing else, I can’t imag­ine that di­rec­tors Lana and Lilly Wa­chowski, the di­rec­tors of the orig­i­nal movie and its se­quels, who are both trans­gen­der women and have em­pha­sized the value of di­ver­sity and fe­male lead­er­ship in their work, would sup­port or even be min­i­mally neu­tral in the face of such a re­pur­pos­ing of their con­cepts.

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