Why Marvel Should Hire the Wachowskis
Making the case for bringing the makers of The Matrix to the MCU
Originally, this was going to be about how Marvel should hire Lana and Lilly Wachowski to be the directors of Captain Marvel, scheduled for 2019 and starring Academy Award-winner Brie Larson. I figured with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 now out, and no director named for the movie, the subject seemed topical and fun.
Then, of course, Marvel had to go and name a directing pair (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck) for the film about a week or two before GotG 2, so… scrapped that idea a bit. But I did too much research and feel too strongly about bringing the Wachowskis into the MCU to completely toss out this post, so I’m going to pitch the inevitable Captain Marvel sequel we all know will happen. But even if it isn’t Marvel’s Captain Marvel 2: Marvelous Marvels, the Wachowskis should still be in the MCU. As well as reasons why they maybe wouldn’t/shouldn’t. But let’s start with the positives.
The Wachowskis have probably been the most influential writing/directing duo of the 1990s and beyond not named Coen. Their filmography, while relatively small, is powerful. They have worked in science fiction, superhuman films, comic book films, character-driven films, and female-leading movies. For those unaware, here are their major credits as a writing/directing combo:
The Matrix Reloaded
The Matrix Revolutions
Cloud Atlas (Specifically, the 1849, 2144, and 2321 stories.)
Additionally, they did uncredited 2nd unit directing for fight scenes for V for Vendetta, which they also wrote. (Remember the bullet-time blades? Yeah.)
But that’s it. Excluding V for Vendetta, that’s 7 feature films and an ongoing television series. But how many writers/directors have found such influence, in the world of science-fiction or any other genre, in such a brief time? Their second film is still an incredibly influential piece of Hollywood, and that’s despite two follow-up films that largely disappointed fans.
So we have a mastery of science-fiction, which comic book films can certainly lean toward, especially with the source material for Captain Marvel or Guardians of the Galaxy leaning toward space tales. And if that’s not enough, they do have experience with comic book material, via Speed Racer and V for Vendetta, and superheroes/superhumans in their series Sense8.
Why Captain Marvel specifically? The Wachowskis treat female characters much better and more competently than many in Hollywood. They’re balancing several female-driven stories in Sense8, including a transgender female character. Their first film Bound is a female-focused crime thriller (most of the film’s well-known lesbian eroticism, as heavy and blatant as it is, is over in the first 15–20 minutes). And Jupiter Ascending tackled a science-fiction epic from the point of view of a woman, something that has not often been done, if at all. And if we want to get slightly political and cynical, the Wachowskis would be Marvel’s first female (other than the currently announce Captain Marvel co-director Anna Boden) and trans directors. Cynical because it feeds into that stupid PR war with DC (First black director! First female director!), but representation behind the camera does matter a lot. Thought that’s a subject for a different time.
Clearly, they have the experience and mindset necessary to tackle a female-driven superhero film, or any other such MCU movie. But more than that, the Wachowskis would bring a gorgeous, colorful, stylistic world to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While The Matrix is largely known for its green color scheme, it was overall a dark film. With Speed Racer and Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis showed an incredibly bright, vivid, beautiful palette that would fit in the MCU while bringing something distinctly different to their catalog. Which is exactly what the MCU wants.
Consider Guardians of the Galaxy. Wacky, colorful worlds and visuals abound in both of the films, standing out among the rest of the films. The Thor films have a bright, polished look (which may be leaning more toward GotG in its third installation). Doctor Strange gave us the bizarrely dark and twisted world of Dormammu and the Inception-esque Kaleidoscope world of the Mirror Dimension. And the most visually memorable and stunning part of Ant-Man was the quantum realm. Marvel excels visually in its distinct, non-earth locations. Jupiter Ascending gave some striking non-earth visuals filled with color. Meanwhile, Sense8 shows that they’re capable of filming some gorgeous earth scenery, too. So what could there be to dislike about this choice?
So, it’s impossible to skirt past the fact that their movies haven’t always been great. I already mentioned how disappointed people were in The Matrix trilogy’s later entries. (I, for one, stopped about halfway through The Matrix Reloaded and have never had the desire to return.) But the real wrinkles in my pitch are how I keep talking up Jupiter Ascending. After all, it’s not a great film. It’s a bit of a mess. I personally will defend both Cloud Atlas (a good film) and Jupiter Ascending far more than most would bother to, but I recognize that they weren’t popular. Nor was Speed Racer (another I thought good film). In fact, out of their 7 films, only their first 2 have been terribly well received.
Well, if M. Night Shyamalan can be given a 14th chance after some films that are definitively far worse than the Wachowskis’ last 3 movies, I think they can be given another shot. But there would be some caveats that might not go over great with the duo.
As I mentioned before, they work as a writing and directing team. It’s rare that they don’t do both on a movie… and they never worked as a solely directing pair. If they have to drop one job, it tends to be directing. And their writing has a bit of an issue.
Anyone who has seen Cloud Atlas (based on a complex novel of the same name by David Mitchell) or Jupiter Ascending and wants to critique the films would probably point to the story first and foremost. Cloud Atlas was complex out of necessity. For Jupiter Ascending, however… its complexity was some of its undoing. Its story was too nuanced and built with necessary detail for the final product. When I saw the movie in theaters, I remember thinking there were distinct moments where it felt like huge 10–15 minute chunks of film had been left on the cutting room floor. The Wachowskis have a tendency to tackle complex themes and plotlines that interweave philosophy and character. They create world-building epics and try to stuff them into 2–3 hours. Imagine the entirety of the original Star Wars trilogy attempted to be jammed into a single movie.
Simply put, I don’t think the Wachowskis should write an MCU film. If they do, they need someone to help reign in their ideas, maybe pace their concepts across multiple films. Which I think can be done. After all, the Wachowskis would not need to build a world from scratch, as with basically all of their works after their first. They can piggyback off the MCU in many ways and ground things into that shared universe, the way the first Guardians of the Galaxy did. If they can co-write the movie with someone from Marvel’s rank and file, this might be overcome.
Also, they’ll need to not have all the sex stuff.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Wachowskis love putting sex, fairly explicit sex, into their works. Bound, The Matrix Reloaded (which is about where I turned off the film), Cloud Atlas’ 2144 story, and Sense8 (there’s a crazy mind orgy at one point… hard to explain without you watching) all have sex scenes. Clearly, the Wachowskis are capable of not including such explicit material in their works, but I’m not sure what limitations would disappoint them.
And speaking of limitations, there’s the budget. Jupiter Ascending rather famously underwent heavy reshoots and special effects additions that ballooned the budget to $176+ million. And the most recent season of Sense8 has a budget of around $9 million per episode. Now, that isn’t necessarily a dealbreaker for Marvel. After all, GotG 2 has a budget of around $200 million. But it is something to consider with their need to reign in the script. And it’s another potential limitation on their creativity.
Ultimately, I highly doubt Marvel will approach the Wachowskis, or even that the Wachowskis would accept an offer with the limitations I mentioned. Marvel has seen one director (Edgar Wright) walk before. But who knows? No one thought a movie featuring the chubby dork from Parks and Recreation, never-acted-before wrestler Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel saying 5 words, and a raccoon all directed by the man who gave the world Slither would be remotely successful, and here we are today, blasting “Brandy” in our cars and yelling “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all!” after our second viewing of the sequel to Guardians.
Marvel, take a chance and give the Wachowskis a ring.