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It’s been nearly two decades since Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s The Matrix—inspired loosely by the Japanese cult hit Ghost in the Shell and emergent sci-fi themes found in late 20th century literature and philosophy—bullet-timed its way into theaters, changing the landscape of modern cinema and the minds of so many table-pounding empiricists: our reality may not be what we see. Now, after three progressively complicated films, we’re ready to dive back in with The Matrix 4, or, The Matrix Resurrections.
Unliked those first three films, however, there will be only one Wachowski sibling at the helm. Lana Wachowski will direct the film without Lilly, who decided to step away from the camera early on in production.
Both Lana’s desire to return to the franchise and Lilly’s decision to depart stem from the death of their parents.
During an interview, Lana explained that her return to the franchise was a means of comfort; it helped her cope with grief.
“My dad died, then this friend died, then my mom died. I didn’t really know how to process that kind of grief. I hadn’t experienced it that closely. . . You know their lives are going to end and yet it was still really hard. My brain has always reached into my imagination and one night, I was crying and I couldn’t sleep, and my brain exploded this whole story. And I couldn’t have my mom and dad, yet suddenly I had Neo and Trinity, arguably the two most important characters in my life.”
Ultimately, Lana explained, art exists to console us. “It was immediately comforting to have these two characters alive again, and it’s super simple. You can look at it and say: ‘OK, these two people die and OK, bring these two people back to life and oh, doesn’t that feel good.’
Her sister, however, had a different reaction to the loss.
Why Isn’t Lilly Wachowski Doing ‘The Matrix 4’?
During an interview for a panel on her series Work in Progress, Lilly Wachowski explained that returning to the Matrix franchise struck a different note for her; rather than offering comfort, revisiting the storyline would actually feel like emotional labor.
“[Lana] had come up with this idea for another Matrix movie, and we had this talk, and it was actually — we started talking about it in between [our] dad dying and [our] mom dying, which was like five weeks apart. And there was something about the idea of going backward and being a part of something that I had done before that was expressly unappealing. And, like, I didn't want to have gone through my transition and gone through this massive upheaval in my life, the sense of loss from my mom and dad, to want to go back to something that I had done before, and sort of [walk] over old paths that I had walked in, felt emotionally unfulfilling, and really the opposite — like I was going to go back and live in these old shoes, in a way. And I didn't want to do that."
She also said their previous films—Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, and the first season of Sense8—had been draining. “I needed this time away from this industry. I needed to reconnect with myself as an artist and I did that by going back to school and painting and stuff.”
Lilly’s series Work in Progress, a dramedy about a queer woman undergoing personal crisis, proved to be the creative antidote to the kind of stress The Matrix 4 seemed to illicit. In an interview with them. Lilly explained, “Being able to focus on myself as an individual, as a queer individual, as a trans individual, on Work in Progress has been super fulfilling.”
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