Keanu Reeves on Why we Love The Matrix and the Future of the Franchise
by Kim Taylor-Foster
“Why we/I love The Matrix? I think it’s a wonderful script and… what does that mean?” begins Keanu Reeves as he tussles with a question that has an intricate answer.
He’s chatting to Fandom ahead of the release of one of the most anticipated sequels in recent years; one which comes 18 years after the last cinematic chapter in the Wachowskis’ epic science-fiction saga. Plot details have been closely guarded around The Matrix Resurrections, but we do know that both Reeves and his co-star Carrie-Anne Moss are back in the iconic, groundbreaking roles of Neo and Trinity. The fourth film in the franchise explores further the story of a machine-built simulation of the ‘real world’ to which humans are ‘jacked-in’, experiencing a virtual reality they think is real while their real-world bodies are utilized by the machines as batteries for power.
The original movie, The Matrix, was released in 1999 amid fears of the Millennium Bug breaking an increasingly digitally-dependent society, and riding a wave of technophobia. It quickly cemented itself as a classic sci-fi blockbuster.
Repeated viewings prompted contemplation of the film’s deeper reaches; its knotty philosophies and themes still passionately debated today. Indeed, my book Why We Love The Matrix was published earlier this year and delves into its myriad aspects, which I’ve been invited to discuss at length many times over since it came out. So what are the reasons The Matrix has endured, according to one of those closest to it, and why does Keanu Reeves himself love it?
The two, it seems, are one and the same.
Aesthetics and Depth
“Just all of the different characters and ideas,” Reeves explains in answer to the question he’s posed himself about what the phrase “wonderful script” actually means. “I think the films are beautiful to look at, the aesthetics, and I feel like it’s a story that we all have inside us, that we all relate to. What is the world? What’s going on? Just the [questioning of the] nature of things, and this idea that you can have a choice to either stay in a virtual world of illusion or seek a kind of reality. I feel like that’s something that we can all relate to and so when we see these stories that can help teach us, and entertain us, and that we can take into our hearts, I think that’s what helps it stay around.”
Priyanka Chopra, who plays the grown-up Sati in The Matrix Resurrections, an ‘exile’ programme created without a purpose where all programmes should have purpose in the previous sequels, agrees that there are multiple reasons it’s endured. She points out how far ahead of its time the original film was.
“There are so many things to love about The Matrix franchise but predominantly it’s the mixture — the amalgamation of scale, science fiction, imagination — but at the same time delving into questions about choice; consciousness,” she says. “It’s deep and at the heart of it, it’s love but at the same time you see all of this incredible action and stunts. I just think it’s a world that is so far away from – not too far away anymore – our reality that it just became an obsession at the time when [the first film] came out. It was so ahead of its time, there was nothing like it that you’d ever seen. What’s not to be obsessed about?”
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who plays Morpheus in the film, believes that because it was ahead of its time, The Matrix has only become more relevant – making now, as we’ve marched ever closer to some kind of reality that mirrors some of what’s broached in The Matrix films, the perfect time to resurrect the franchise and begin a new chapter.
“I think people continue to talk about it because … The Matrix reintroduced — definitely on a pop culture level — conversations about what is real,” says the Emmy-winning Watchmen actor over Zoom. “Is this really happening? Are we in a simulation? And as time moves on, we get closer and closer to that actual possibility. We spend hours every day living in virtual spaces. Even the way we’re communicating right now, there’s a virtual reality, alternate reality even, to the way that we’re having a face-to-face conversation. So, the concepts in The Matrix become more and more relatable and I think that’s why people are willing to go on the ride. As time progresses, it becomes more relatable.
Thinking Outside of the Matrix
Carrie-Anne Moss who plays Trinity in the franchise – a character I’d argue is the most significant in the original film and certainly one of the most important tritagonists ever committed to a big-screen blockbuster – acknowledges that its brilliance and the passion people reserve for it also come from the fact repeat viewings promote deeper understanding of its many facets.
“I love the way that as an audience member of those movies, you can watch them over and over again and understand deeper layers of what’s being shared on screen,” she says. “And then you can take that and make it your own, and it can expand your mind to think outside of the Matrix, or outside of the box, and I think that’s really fun. I personally enjoy doing that and the movie has definitely opened my mind and continues to do so.
“Even in just the making of the movies — like us doing action that was so hard that I didn’t in my mind imagine I could ever do. Could I ever run alongside a wall? No, I didn’t know how I was going to do that but we did it. And it definitely made me grow in a lot of different ways.”
The Power of Love
The Matrix Resurrections is a film that fans have been looking forward to immensely, though some with trepidation, since the second and third films continue to prove divisive, despite making a bomb at the box office. The fourth live-action movie is not what you might expect from a Matrix film but also at the same time it’s exactly what you should expect.
“I thought this movie compared to the previous ones was hopeful, bright [after I first watched it],” says Chopra. “And the love of Trinity and Neo was at the heart of it. I think that really stood out to me: the power of love, the power of fate, and what happens when they come together. I have chills right now. That really, really got me in the movie.”
The theme of love has always been critical to the Matrix franchise — and indeed in most of the Wachowskis’ work — and The Matrix Resurrections consolidates this. The emotional aspect of the film is something that Abdul-Mateen also identifies as a strength, alongside other highlights.
“There’s so much heart in this film,” he begins. “I want to be careful not to downplay the action, and the technology, and the surrealism, and the blending of worlds that people gravitate to The Matrix for, but surprisingly there’s a lot of heart in this film. And I think that that’s really necessary for this time around.”
He praises writer-director Lana Wachowski for everything she’s poured into it.
“Lana is a different artist this time around and this film is also a reflection of where she is as an artist. Still as brilliant as she was before in the previous incarnations of The Matrix, but we get to see what that film looks like in her brain, in her imagination, 20 years later. I think that’s very exciting.”
The Impact of The Matrix Resurrections
The film will no doubt provoke numerous conversations in much the same way the previous films have, and it will likely endure in a similar way. That’s to be celebrated, especially in an age where we are bombarded from all angles with a glut of disposable entertainment. But what does Abdul-Mateen hope that the impact of this film will be?
“One, I want it to feel good,” he says. That’s an important sentiment in this pandemic era. “I want people to be able to go to the film and have an excellent movie-going experience. I want them to be inspired, I want them to be excited about the fight scenes, and the technology, and the callbacks to the first three films. I want them to be excited about some of the new characters and some of the new propositions we put forth in the film – I think it’s also a film about hope, and about love, and about connectivity. There are several messages in the film and I hope those are some of the ones that audiences latch onto.”
The Future of the Matrix Franchise
And what about beyond this film? Because there will definitely be an appetite for more from audiences, and there’s surely more still left to say. If we were to get more movies, what would the cast want to explore?
“That’s a Lana Wachowski question,” says Reeves. “I mean, if she wanted to do another story and wanted to include me I would be honoured and grateful, and I’d like to see what happens to Trinity and Neo, and the world.”
Keanu Reeves certainly seems keen to explore Neo and Trinity’s story further, and Carrie-Anne Moss concurs: “Totally, of course … it would be amazing.”
Chopra is also in, and outlines what she’d want to see in the future of the franchise: “I would love to see where Sati’s character would go and [find out] would she be able to find her greater purpose? Which is peace for all humanity, which she has done [before] and stood for – humanity and machines [that is].”
Abdul-Mateen is a little more cautious: “If I’m honest, I think that before I even get to those conversations, I just want this film to come out and to see how this film resonates with audiences. In terms of where you go next, I think that would depend a lot on how it’s received by the world, and how it’s digested, and then to say, based on that, is there a need to continue on or did the film do what it was intended to do?”
It’s interesting to think that another instalment in the franchise could take the response of audiences into account — initially, you’d think that might be a no-no for an artist like Lana Wachowski, but of course, it’s very meta and totally on-brand for the Matrix franchise.
Abdul-Mateen also admits that talk of The Matrix future for him is “a very exciting conversation.” He’s not the only One.