After ‘The Matrix,’ the Wachowski’s Championed a Cult Classic Superhero Movie

Lilly and Lana Wachowski have had successful careers in the entertainment industry, directing some of the top blockbusters. Following the release of their debut movie – Bound – in 1996, the writing and directing duo broke to fame with their second film, The Matrix, in 1999, followed by two other sequels in 2003 – The Matrix Reloaded (May) and The Matrix Revolutions (October).

The Matrix is synonymous with Keanu Reeves, who plays Neo in the film. Since he starred in the movie, Reeves has enjoyed superhero status. His success in the film almost earned him the starring role in the Wachowskis’ follow-up project known as Speed Racer, but he was unavailable at the moment. Besides directing, the Wachowskis – two trans women – also support active anti-capitalism campaigns and transgender advocacy. Here’s a look at their work over the years.

A brief description of ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Speed Racer’

Christina Ricci at the 'Speed Racer' premiere, directed by the Wachowskis, in Los Angeles, California
Christina Ricci at the ‘Speed Racer’ premiere | Barry King/WireImage via Getty Images

When The Matrix debuted on screens, the Wachowskis hadn’t publicly declared their transgender status but creatively used the movie to deliver a strong transgender allegory. The film was also visionary, depicting the predatory, oppressive, and capitalistic internet era that rapidly evolved after the film’s release.

Slash Film describes Neo (Keanu Reeves) as a superhero who can fly and self-heal. The essence of his existence is controlled by a mysterious figure called the Oracle, and there’s debate if he’s “The One” – the messiah expected to free humanity from the shackles of technology and machines. While he might have played roles in box office films since the late 1980s, Reeves rightfully earned a spot among A-list actors after his role in the movie. 

In 2008, the Wachowskis released Speed Racer, an adaptation of Japanese manga and anime series. The movie follows the story of Speed Racer, an 18-year-old race driver with incredible driving abilities. It’s a colorful film that unveils the corruption and crime that plague the world racing industry. Speed Racer might have bombed when it rolled out but is now a cult classic with a massive following.

What other projects are the Wachowski sisters known for?

The Matrix and Speed Racer are only two of the Wachowskis’ film projects. Lilly and Lana are the most prominent trans women in the Hollywood filming industry, having started their careers with the release of Bound. After the commercial success of The Matrix, the two wrote and produced V for Vendetta in 2005 before releasing Speed Racer. 

In 2012, they released Cloud Atlas. The film features a sprawling combination of characters and styles that are sublimely blended to depict the various themes, from dystopian sci-fi to historical romance and comedy. The Wachowskis took a more mosaic perspective to tell the different narratives in the film and leveraged extensive make-up and effects to allow familiar stars to play different roles. 

Three years later, the directing duo produced Jupiter Ascending. This was one of Wachowskis’ peak movies as it’s one of those paradoxical disasters that are as terrible as they are brilliant. It’s the kind of film that will either delight or disappoint you. The last project the two worked on together was the Netflix series called Sense8, which ended in 2018. 

The Wachowski’s penchant for transgender and anti-capitalism advocacy

When movie critics talk about films by the Wachowski sisters, they usually highlight the duo’s inventiveness, creativity, and stand-alone style. One aspect they fail to comment on is the complexity of various themes within the movies. There is more to The Matrix than simply the coding of race. It also has two hidden themes that affect today’s society: anti-capitalism and transgender advocacy.

In a report on BBC, Lilly Wachowski – who officially revealed their trans status in 2010 – confirmed that The Matrix was a transgender metaphor. The idea to capture the issue in the movie was because the corporate sector wasn’t ready for such an allegory. However, she said the film had impacted trans people, with many saying that the movie saved their lives. 

There’s a common underlying theme of anti-capitalism from The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending to Speed Racer and Bound. In The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo, “The people you see are a part of the system we are fighting,” with the camera pointed at a police officer. In Jupiter Ascending, Vladie says, “That’s capitalism baby! Shit rolls downward and profits flow up,” trying to justify taking a higher cut of the money from his employee.

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