First thing’s first: Thankfully, the widely reported news of a Matrix “reboot” was inaccurate. A small mercy in this era of reboots and remakes, to be sure.
However, the fact remains that writer Zak Penn wants to work with Warner Brothers and create a spin-off of some sort without involving the Wachowskis—the original trilogy’s creators. From the sound of things, he’s looking at doing a Morpheus origin story.
Pause for long, exhausted sigh.
No one asked for this to happen. Not even me. But I think there’s a silver lining, because while I’m side-eyeing the idea of a Morpheus prequel without the Wachowskis pretty hard, I DO agree that the Matrix universe provides a rich and interesting world for potential spin-offs.
Someone once told me that if you identify problems without offering solutions, you’re “just bitching,” and I took that wisdom to heart. Behold: four Matrix spin-off concepts that MIGHT not suck.
A spin-off that explores the lives of any of the incredible side characters from the original trilogy
Niobe. Link. Zee. Tank. Switch. Niobe. So many characters with fascinating (and potentially interlocking!) backstories, all with histories far enough removed from the plot of the existing films to give new writers plenty of breathing room. If any side character consistently left me wanting more, it’s Niobe. For those who need a refresher, Niobe is first introduced in The Matrix Reloaded, and is a complete badass who pilots the Logos ship. Despite the fact that she totally owns every scene she’s in, we know very little about her background except that she once dated Morpheus (yawn). How did was she originally freed from the Matrix? How did she become such a skilled pilot, able to navigate routes that other experienced pilots consider impossible? I want movies with these answers in my eyeballs right now.
On the flip side of this coin, how does Niobe’s life compare to someone like Zee, who has (presumably) never been inside a ship and, thanks to being born in Zion, can’t jack into the Matrix? The combined potential of these two contrasting perspectives is exactly the kind of development I’m excited to find in great sci-fi.
And on that note…
A spin-off that explores the society of Zion in more depth
We get a few fascinating glimpses into this underground society, such as the iconic dance rave sequence and Neo’s visit to the engineering level where he observes the machines that keep the city running. But what about the daily lives of these people in the LAST HUMAN CITY on Earth? Presumably, many of them have jobs or responsibilities, and families or loved ones. What sort of education do they offer children? How do the experiences of native Zion children compare to those freed from the Matrix? What sort of games and toys do they enjoy? Are there holidays in Zion? Major conflicts? An entertainment industry? Social classes? I want to know everything.
This is an instance where writers would have an amazing opportunity to create original characters and expand upon this existing universe. And yeah, that doesn’t pander to the masses as well as “Did you know Morpheus was once . . . younger?!” but a story set in this recognizable universe will be exciting on its own. Slap some of that iconic green “digital rain” on the trailer and we’ll pay attention!
And that gets me thinking…
A spin-off that explores the life of a human who lives in the Matrix for the full duration of their story (aka a bluepill)
Here’s another way original characters, such as those presented in the spin-off stories of The Animatrix, would work beautifully. Imagine a young hacker genius who learns the truth about the Matrix somehow. She understands that society is nothing more than a programmed virtual reality being fed into her brain and the brains of everyone around her, like a global MMORPG. However, she has no interest in leaving, considering everything she’d have to give up—her friends and family, the places she knows and loves, her identity—most of her life as she knows it would vanish. “Fuck that,” she says, although she’ll lend a hand to redpills from time to time, careful to avoid disclosing herself to any Agents.
But, oh shit, eventually, the other side finds out about what she knows, and they’re pretty interested in her skill set, to boot. They offer her a deal: help them track and defeat the rogue unplugged humans who keep running up walls and shit or be deleted. In the interest of self-preservation, maybe she even agrees and turns on those she once helped. Or, for a bigger twist, maybe she begins to resent her knowledge of the truth and works to ensure that no one else in her life has to bear the same burden. Caught between two (three?) worlds, this character has to figure out how to work her way out of an impossible situation—all the while protecting those she cares about.
And that leads me to…
A spin-off that explores the lives of the sentient programs who inhabit and maintain the world of the Matrix
We know that within the Matrix, programs like the powerful and wealthy Merovingian and his wife Persephone are mostly indistinguishable from the people around them. We also know that programs who misbehave are subject to deletion, and that some rebel and become corrupt in the form of “paranormal” creatures or ghosts. . . So, um, where’s my movie about THAT? We get a brief glimpse of the vampire programs (VAMPIRE. PROGRAMS.) that Merv keeps as servants, but this is clearly the tip of the iceberg where program culture is concerned. I want more, damn it! (But, um, let’s forgo any pasty dreadlocked ghost twins this time around.)
Plus, there’s a flip side. When Neo visits the train station, where programs can upload and download to and from the Matrix, he meets a family of programs: Rama-Kandra, Kamala, and their young daughter, Sati. Rama-Kandra explains that while he and his wife have roles where they come from—presumably a virtual space of some sort housed within Machine City but outside the world of the Matrix—their daughter was born with no purpose and faces deletion if she remains. So, okay, sure.
Except: If programs are able to meet, wed, and reproduce within their separate world, WHAT is going on there? Do they live and interact the same way programs do in the Matrix, or do they only take on “physical” human forms upon upload? If they do live in another society, it is likely not based on the world humans remember, as the Matrix was, so… what does it look like? What would a city built by sentient machines for programs to inhabit look like? For now, we can only speculate, but holy shit would I watch a movie built around these concepts!
My favorite thing about these concepts is that they wouldn’t even have to stand alone! There are almost endless ways writers could blend and combine these ideas to create a totally new and fascinating story. I know, I know: New and fascinating in Hollywood? That’ll never fly! Maybe not. But a Matrix fan can stay in her dreamworld.