Remakes and reboots are as much a part of life as death and taxes, so it was inevitable that the news that The Matrix – one of the most influential films of the science-fiction genre and a landmark in effects work – is getting a reboot would generate strong backlash. It’s also understandable: While such things are popular and profitable, audiences are still hungry for new voices. Indeed, when The Matrix was greenlit, it was considered a major risk given that the directors, The Wachowskis, were relative unknowns with one film to their name and no experience in the sci-fi genre.
That gamble paid off, however, and The Matrix grossed over $460m from a $63m budget, led to two sequels and essentially revolutionized the genre. It’s hard to overlook the immense shadow The Matrix casts over 21st century Hollywood. A remake or reboot will probably never live up to that, but there’s no reason it couldn’t still be an interesting prospect.
It would also offer an incredible opportunity for a rising star director to helm a project of limitless ambition and craft something new from the foundations. It’s become commonplace for Hollywood’s major franchises to offer tentpole franchise features to up-and-coming directors who made their names on the indie scene, and it’s often yielded brilliant results. In that tradition, and following in the footsteps laid down by the Wachowskis, we’ve compiled a list of potential directors who would be excellent choices for a reboot of The Matrix.
With Get Out passing $100m at the American box office and sitting comfortably with a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s safe to say that director Jordan Peele will see plenty of opportunities opening up for him. While he has already talked of wanting to make more “social thrillers” (he has at least four planned for the next decade and we’re sure Blumhouse Entertainment will be happy to foot the bill for anything he makes), Peele’s skillful blend of satire, thrills and social provocation would make him an ideal fit for The Matrix, which has always mixed action with commentary. Even with its technological focus, The Matrix gets to the heart of what makes us human, and Peele himself admits that “The best and scariest monsters in the world are human beings and what we are capable of especially when we get together,” which could take a fascinating form in a reboot.
Taking risks is par for the course with Nacho Vigalondo. His darkly comedic genre-twisting stories have intrigued and perplexed in equal measure, with his latest film, Colossal, combining a story of self-destructive loneliness with the Kaiju genre, as Anne Hathaway plays a perpetually drunk loner with a psychic connection to a monster stomping over South Korea. It’s safe to say that few others are making films like Vigalondo’s in today’s market. He has no problem with tackling major social and personal issues through a bombastic genre lens, which would suit The Matrix to a tee. Any reboot of the franchise would be a brilliant opportunity to allow a director of ambitious personal style to run rampant with fresh ideas and visuals rather than copying everything that’s already been done.
Sundance is notorious for plucking unknown directors from obscurity and elevating them to stratospheric heights, yet it also struggles with the gender double standard that rules over Hollywood. Male directors of indie hits are immediately offered big-budget opportunities while women must work harder to prove themselves capable of the chance. Ava DuVernay joked about this problem in an anecdote regarding herself and fellow Sundance Lab member Colin Trevorrow. One of the most criminally underrated names to come out of the festival over the past few years has been Jennifer Phang, whose short films have won several awards while her feature debut Advantageous won a Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision at Sundance. The sci-fi drama is an intriguing combination of dystopia, family drama and feminist critique, all shot on a shoestring budget, and few films of its kind in recent memory capture the crushing sensation of feeling trapped in a system that hates you. She’s perfect for The Matrix and the exact kind of director Hollywood should be taking risks on.
The horror genre has been the breeding ground for many a major talent, and few horror debuts caused as much of as stir in the critical community as Jennifer Kent’s terrifying tale The Babadook. The film boasted exceptional attention to detail and scares so effective that even William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist, bowed down in appreciation of Kent’s talent, and she later went on to win Best Director and Best Film at the AACTA Awards (the Australian equivalent of the Oscars). Kent has become a highly-courted director, with HBO on the line as well as a number of potential projects lined up, yet we feel she’s shown enough ability to warrant a risk from a major studio with a property like The Matrix. She’d be an excellent choice for capturing the real horror of being a cog in the machine of an all-encompassing system that’s the stuff of paranoid nightmares.
The 2013 thriller Blue Ruin turned more than a few heads upon its announcement with a Kickstarter campaign that showed the true power of the new and relatively untested crowd-funding model. The stripped down revenge thriller premiered at Cannes as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section and garnered rave reviews for its impeccable storytelling. His follow-up, Green Room, was an intelligent horror with stunning cinematography that melded genre scares with an all too real neo-Nazi threat. While that film sadly under-performed at the box office, it further demonstrated Saulnier’s dazzling skill as a director of genre efforts, and after making the thriller and horror genres his own, science-fiction feels like a natural step forward. He has expressed a desire to direct sci-fi “as long as I can tell those stories in a ‘grounded and artful’ way”, and while The Matrix may not be a work explicitly rooted in realism, it is one that invites limitless possibilities for striking visual storytelling, which Saulnier would flourish at (he was even put forward as an ideal choice for directing The Batman by none other than Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn). Few can create tension as unbearably effective as he can, which would suit the world of The Matrix and bring horror to its shores.
Many Brits will be familiar with Cornish’s work as one half of the comedy duo Adam and Joe, but it’s his directorial debut Attack the Block that put his name on the map as a solo talent. The sci-fi action comedy followed a gang of teens in South London as they took on an alien invasion from the block of flats they lived in. It’s a dazzling piece of work that mixes genres, laughs, scares and social commentary, all with a distinctive visual flair (the film also introduced audiences to John Boyega, who’s gone on to bigger sci-fi things). It’s a surprise that Attack the Block didn’t catapult Cornish into a slew of major projects. While he did contribute script work to both Ant-Man and The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, he hasn’t returned to the director’s chair. He was announced as the director of an adaptation of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash in 2012, but little has been heard from the project since. That novel is widely considered one of the biggest influences on The Matrix, so it’s clearly in Cornish’s wheelhouse. If it never gets off the ground, the producers of The Matrix would do well to snatch up this urgent talent.
Stephen Soderbergh once referred to Shane Carruth as “the illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron.” Even that wonderful description doesn’t quite do him justice. From the beginning, Carruth has eschewed the conventions of film-making and the sci-fi genre, focusing on an experimental structure and labyrinthine dialogue that refuses to rely on exposition. Primer, which he wrote, directed, produced and starred in, as well as composing the music, is a singular piece of work that pushes the time travel trope to its most cerebral limits, and Upstream Color is a dizzying feat of emotional and scientific storytelling that’s densely layered and strikingly abstract. The chances are Carruth would probably be considered too indie for something like The Matrix, but he’s got the making of the ideal choice for such a project. He’s fearless in his study of the complex, and can mine the most exceptional results from the tiniest of budgets, helping to balance out the inherent risk of choosing Carruth for something as beloved as The Matrix. It’s a phrase that’s bandied about often with many directors, but it’s completely true that nobody today is doing what Shane Carruth is doing, and that should be invested in.
When her directorial debut Girlfight caused waves at Sundance, many predicted that Karyn Kusama could go on to become one of Hollywood’s best and brightest. Sadly, that never came to fruition. In the meantime, Kusama has made interesting, if not always successful projects, including the stylistically fascinating but incoherent Aeon Flux and the criminally underrated horror-satire Jennifer’s Body. Her latest film saw her return to her indie roots with The Invitation, a chilling thriller with a slow-build that leads to a wildly effective climax. Kusama has admitted to struggling to work effectively in the studio system, citing her difficult time making Aeon Flux and her lack of control over the final cut. That may put off some producers, but Kusama’s talent is undeniable and would bring much needed grit to any franchise.
Brit Marling & Zal Batmanglij
While Batmanglij is the quiet directorial force behind indie hits Sound of My Voice and The East, as well as the curious Netflix drama The OA, his work is a true partnership with his co-writer and producer Brit Marling. The pair have worked together for several years and the results have piqued the interest of many a critic. Sound of My Voice was a dream-like low-budget psychological thriller that explored the mind games of a secretive cult, then their follow-up, The East (produced by Ridley Scott), revelled in the ethical ambiguities of a group of eco-terrorists. While The OA divided viewers and critics with its genre-bending mish-mash of sci-fi, fantasy and mysticism, it’s a wholly unique experience that few directors would be able to replicate with the same level of success. Marling and Batmanglij’s work combines the cerebral with the hypnotic, with detailed focus on exploring the characters who find themselves stuck amidst the most bizarre of situations. Imagine a new Neo navigating the Matrix as claustrophobic and alluring as the world of The OA.
We’ll keep you updated up the latest updates with The Matrix reboot. Which directors would you like to see tackle this project?