The Matrix 4 is set to reunite Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss when it (hopefully) arrives in 2021, but after 18 years how will the fourth movie change the franchise’s signature style? In 1999 The Matrix became an instant hit, with its unique blend of sci-fi dystopia, revolutionary action sequences, and philosophical insights. With their first film, The Wachowski siblings introduced audiences to a thoughtful brand of action which tapped into the pre-Y2K anxiety that defined much of the culture at the time. But beyond that, The Matrix carved out its place in cinema history with a unique style that extended from its subtle green color grade to the sleek monotone outfits donned by the main cast.
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After this initial outing came two infamously-flawed Matrix sequels. Arriving in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions never quite reached the heights of the finely-balanced original, despite some equally-exquisite action scenes. And while the follow-up films fell short in many ways, they did manage to build on the unique style established in the 1999 debut. With the introduction of a greatly expanded cast of characters, and a story that went beyond the limited environs of the first movie, the Wachowskis had a chance to really explore production design and solidify their innovative franchise as a genuine trend-setter of the early 2000s.
Now, some 17 years after The Matrix Revolutions, a fourth entry in the series, helmed by Lana Wachowski, is officially on its way – at least it will be after its coronavirus-induced delay. With such a large gap between films, there will undoubtedly be some production design challenges to address this time around. How does a film so symbolic of the turn of the century update itself for the 2020s without losing its memorable style? How will a payphone-less world work for a cast of characters that rely on that now-outdated tech to exit the Matrix itself? Or will Lana Wachowski opt to set the whole thing in the same time as the original trilogy? Here’s a look at what’s known so far about how the The Matrix 4 is shaping up in terms of style, and where the series is likely to go with its renowned production design.
The Matrix 4’s Visual Design
1999’s The Matrix struck a subtle balance between action and philosophy, and its equally-subtle color grade helped to emphasise the film’s refined aesthetic. With a washed out, blueish shade defining the apocalyptic real-world scenes, and a dreamy green tint helping to give the Matrix itself a recognisable character, the film used its visual style to cement itself in the minds of enraptured sci-fi fans. As the trilogy went on, the films generally became more bombastic and that green color grade increasingly less subtle. Both The Matrix Reloaded and Revolutions simultaneously ramped up the action and the green stylisation of the in-Matrix scenes – just take a look at the highway chase scene from Reloaded, which looks like it unfolded on someone’s front lawn.
For The Matrix 4, there’s been nothing in terms of official screenshots or trailers from the movie, so it’s unclear just how drastically the scenes will be coated in a specific hue. And with production on The Matrix 4 beginning in February before it was completely suspended in mid-March, it will be some time before the footage enters the color grading process, so fans will have to wait to see what kind of extra visual flair Lana Wachowski gives her modern update to the franchise. But hopefully, she and her team are aiming for that same understated tone from the 1999 original. Anything more would further undermine much of the work the first instalment did to establish its subtle visual identity.
How Clothing And Costumes Could Differ In Matrix 4
Of course, one of the biggest visual challenges The Matrix 4 faces is updating its costume design for a modern audience while maintaining a sense of continuity from the original trilogy – that is, if the story isn’t set in the same time-frame as the existing trilogy. Original costume designer Kym Barrett’s subdued, mostly-black outfits were neutral enough to ensure that 17 years later The Matrix doesn’t actually look all that outdated. That said, the shiny PVC and leather ensembles are no-longer as cutting edge as they once were.
While official images are yet to surface, Twitter has provided us with its usual bevvy of unofficial set photos from early in the new movie’s production – and it’s difficult to tell just how much has changed since 2003. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and crew were spotted filming on the streets of San Francisco back in February, and both Neo and Trinity appear to have embraced a more casual style. However, another on-set look at Reeves and Moss filming Matrix 4 emerged some days later showing the former on the back of the latter’s motorbike. This time the pair appeared to be dressed in much the same attire as the original movies. Neo is once again wearing his signature long black coat, while Trinity appears to have maintained her penchant for black leather – albeit a much less glossy version.
Regardless of whether the all-black look is making a return, based on the first set of images it seems fairly certain Neo will not be limited to his long black coat. In fact, he looks to be an altogether more rugged version of himself this time around, with Reeves sporting his John Wick beard and longer hair. Does this mean the world of The Matrix 4 will be much closer to the world of 2020? As with most of the information surrounding the film, that remains unclear. However, in Warner Bros’ official announcement of the upcoming sequel, Lana Wachowski was quoted as saying “Many of the ideas Lilly and I explored 20 years ago about our reality are even more relevant now,” – suggesting she’s at least thinking about tying the Matrix to our current time.
Whatever the final outcome, it seems she and her crew have moved away from the slick suits of the original trilogy, if only for a few brief scenes. One thing you can pretty much count on, though, is that the Agents will return sporting their Secret Service-inspired suit-and-earpiece ensembles. Though, with Hugo Weaving reportedly not part of Matrix 4‘s cast this time around, perhaps whoever replaces him as the central antagonist will surprise audiences with a new getup.
The Matrix 4 Will Likely Have Updated Cell Phones
Another central component of the original trilogy, cell phones were the primary connection between the Matrix and the real-world. Back in 1999, Nokia ruled the cell phone market and its 8110 phone, with the slide out keyboard cover, featured heavily in The Matrix. A specially-designed handset from Samsung would feature in the two sequels, which at the time looked fairly futuristic, with its spring-loaded earpiece. Now, Samsung’s bulky design looks embarrassingly pre-historic compared to modern smartphones. If The Matrix 4 picks up the timeline where Revolutions left off, viewers might see a similarly outdated design. However, if The Matrix 4 does in fact feature a simulation based on the world of 2020, that could mean Neo and his crew arrive with iPhones in-tow – although it seems they’ll be doing so without Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus this time around.
With technology evolving drastically in the years since The Matrix Revolutions, the inclusion of the modern smartphone could have numerous consequences for the upcoming film. Will Trinity and Neo be FaceTiming with the real-world from inside the Matrix? Prior to this, the Matrix could only be viewed from the outside as descending green code, so an actual window into the simulation could potentially do away with much of the famous falling text. It might be a long shot, but a Matrix film set in the present day certainly sets up a lot of possibilities for drastic technological updates, and the visual changes that come with them.
What Weapons And Equipment Will Be In Matrix 4?
“Guns. Lots of guns.” Neo’s famous line from the first movie also happens to be a pretty good description of the Matrix franchise as a whole. From The Matrix‘s mind-bending slow-motion bullet CGI, known as ‘bullet-time’, to the firearm-fest of a final act, The Matrix established the trilogy’s preoccupation with all-manner of weapon. Which is why it’s reasonable to assume The Matrix 4 will be similarly shootout-packed.
Modern weaponry gives the filmmakers a real opportunity to take the already-ostentatious action scenes to another level. The series previously established Sentinels – terrifying levitating machines that patrol the barren landscapes of the future – in the original movie. But what if, alongside their arsenal of automatic weapons, Neo and Trinity appear in The Matrix 4 complete with weaponised drones of their own? Is it likely? Probably not. But the franchise has already seen Miniguns, automatic shotguns, and EMPs, so Lana Wachowski is going to have to come up with something pretty impressive if she wants to take things up a notch.
Alongside updated weapons, The Matrix 4 will undoubtedly introduce some updated tech. Since the original film, the franchise has included various high-tech gadgets, from the horrifying tracking bug used by the Agents, to the slick interface used by Zion HQ to allow traffic in and out of the last human city. The trilogy thus far has consistently delivered on this most essential of sci-fi tropes. But with almost two full decades between the last film and the upcoming sequel, there’ll no doubt there will be some significant design changes when it comes to tech.
With Neo sacrificing himself at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, perhaps the real-world of The Matrix 4 will be a more pleasant environment than in previous instalments. In the original trilogy, the human resistance are living a somewhat meager existence. From eating a kind of highly nutritious gruel onboard their hovercrafts, to wearing clothes that look like they’d been continually handed down since the fall of human society, the real-world in the original movies is a fairly abject place to be.
But perhaps The Matrix 4 will introduce us to a human society in the process of rebuilding itself. As such, there could be a more vibrant world outside of the the Matrix itself when the fourth instalment arrives. Or perhaps even insight will be given into a time before the AI took over and humans and the AI machines lived alongside one another. This is a piece of Matrix history established by the short film The Second Renaissance Part I from The Animatrix anthology, where robots establish their own city named ‘Zero One’, before humans destroy it with a nuclear strike. Whether audiences gain an on-screen glimpse into this pre-dystopian, robot-filled earth or witness the rebuilding of society, it could make for a fascinating visual update to the series.
Key Release Dates
- The Matrix 4 (2021)Release date: May 21, 2021
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