Given some of the sillier elements that crept into the later movies in the Matrix trilogy; given the semi-disaster that was their adaptation of beloved cartoon Speed Racer; given the lurid way the media portrayed Lana Wachowski’s gender transition in the press; given the way the Wachowskis were treated for trying to make a hard-R love story that would have depicted a gay American soldier and an Iraqi man (I’d be curious how the trade press would have treated someone else trying to get a similar project into production); given that The Matrix itself is thirteen years old, it’s easy to forget how amazing it was to see that movie for the first time, how visionary the Wachowskis seemed all the way back in 1999. And maybe The Matrix will never register to a generation the same way it did to mine, those of us who grew up without the Internet and then had it open up before us. But if anything, we’re still living in the world they laid out for us, and grappling with the questions they posed before us. There may be less black leather and fewer mechanical nasties, but we still haven’t figured out how closely we can be tied to our technology and still stay healthy, and hackers still have cachet and the power to poke hard at our government and businesses.
All of which is a long way of saying that whatever has happened to them creatively and personally in the years since The Matrix was released, I want the Wachowskis to have a hit again, and I’m willing to give them a lot of credit and leeway as they try. I’m glad they got a shot at adapting Cloud Atlas. And I’m pretty excited to hear that they’ve signed up Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum to star in their next original movie, a science fiction project about which little is known called Jupiter Ascending. They did a nice job of working with Keanu Reeves’ blankness in the Matrix trilogy, and while I think Tatum’s proved that he’s more than a slab of beef, this might be an opportunity for him to convince those who are unmoved by A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints or 21 Jump Street.
The news of Jupiter Ascending also makes me feel like, despite my grumbling about the SyFy network yesterday, we might be entering a nice little moment for original sci-fi. Prometheus looks downright incredible, visually gorgeous and scary, and a reminder of the risks of our drive for exploration. I hadn’t even realized that Guy Pearce’s latest, Lockout, was a science fiction thriller until I saw a trailer for it in front of The Hunger Games this weekend. But I’m always down for a nasty, industrial view of space, where instead of the final frontier, it’s a place of exile and danger, in this case, for criminals and a few innocents. The Wachowskis found transcendence in metal, and wire, and castoff clothes once. I have such hopes for them taking us somewhere new, and frightening, and beautiful again.