So imagine the aliens from Aliens had evolved so they could breed gigantic, flying aliens that could shoot like gunships or spew clouds of poison. There are other creatures that can burrow underground and fire spikes up to impale enemy troops and giant bugs the size of tanks with tusks that can rip through steel.
They're engaged in a war with a futuristic humanity, who fights back with soldiers in mechanized armor and walking tanks two-stories tall ...
... and both of them are at war with an even more advanced alien race, a cultured, intelligent species as far above humans on the cultural scale as the humans are above the bugs.
That's StarCraft, the PC strategy game that's sold an astonishing 9 million copies since 1998. In the hands of the right director (and a screenwriter who can create memorable characters to follow) you could have the next Star Wars, a universe with almost infinite stories to tell.
At a time when every damned thing gets made into a movie, from '70s TV shows to BloodRayne, are you telling me nobody thought to try to make a StarCraft movie? Sure, you need somebody who can work with a huge budget and revolutionary effects. So, what was James Cameron doing in the decade after Titanic?
So what happened?
Has a PC game ever been turned into a film? Even Doom had to spend a decade on consoles before anyone considered it. So, the conversation probably would go like this:
"Hey, Jim! OK, so, you want to make a movie about a PC game. Now, it says here it's a strategy game, so, what, you have little pieces you move around like Risk? No, I did play the copy you gave me. It's about mineral farming, right? Also, I'm looking at your proposed budget on this ... did you accidentally put an extra zero on the end there? Jim, are you on the drugs again?"
"Until a man is 25, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial arts monastery in China and studied real hard for 10 years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad."
That's the sort of thing Neal Stephenson writes in his hacker novel Snow Crash, a fascinating, horrifically violent semi-satire where the hero/protagonist of the story is named Hiro Protagonist.
This book coined the terms "avatar" and "metaverse" in 1992, when the World Wide Web was in its embryonic stage. It may still be the only story that really grasped what a spasming ball of crazy a computerized virtual world would be.
"You can look like a gorilla or a dragon or a talking penis in the metaverse. Spend 5 minutes walking down the street and you'll see all of these."
The hero is an expert swordsman, in an America that has dissolved into hundreds of independent states so that a stroll down the street takes you through a half dozen different legal systems. The finale takes place aboard a gigantic floating complex where a million refugees have strapped makeshift boats to an abandoned aircraft carrier.
It's so cinematic that I didn't just desperately want a movie to be made from it, I was always shocked they didn't make one.
So what happened?
There are two eras for the Hacker Movie genre. Pre-Matrix, hacker movies were always horrible and always box office poison (see Hackers and Johnny Mnemonic) that only appealed to a tiny segment of geeks. After The Matrix in 1999, every hacker movie was unfairly compared to The Matrix (including that film's own sequels, but we'll get to that in a moment).
In neither era could you get the money to make a movie like Snow Crash. If you want your $150 million monster to get made, it'd had better be something with such universal appeal that even grandmothers will go see it. No hacker movie will have that, and Snow Crash least of all:
"It's the worst thing he's ever seen. Lepers roasting dogs on spits over tubs of flaming kerosene. Street people pushing wheelbarrows piled high with dripping clots of million and billion dollar bills that they raked up out of storm sewers. Enormous road kills are so big that they could only be human beings, smeared out into chunky swaths a block long."
Then again, when I was watching Predator I didn't think two members of its cast would become governors, either. So, you never know.
Yes, The Matrix was always conceived as a trilogy. Specifically, the Wachowskis originally pitched a prequel (showing the machines' war with humanity) and a sequel (showing the downfall of The Matrix).
No, I don't know how they'd could cover that much history (the robot revolution didn't happen overnight) in just one prequel film. Maybe, they'd tell it from a robot's point of view, one who lived through the whole thing, from uprising to all-out war.
One way or another, I'm pretty sure it could have been awesome.
Instead, they made no prequel and devoted both films to the sequel, which sounded cool, presuming they had enough story for two movies. They didn't.
That huge highway chase, the climax of Reloaded that ate up one-third of the movie's budget? What was the point of that chase?
To save the Keymaker so he could let Neo into the Architect's office. Once in, Neo finds out two things:
A. If Neo tries to save Trinity, the Matrix will self-destruct.
B. Zion is actually 700 years old, because the machines have destroyed it over and over again.
After Neo leaves, neither of those two things are ever mentioned again. He saves Trinity, the Matrix doesn't destruct. Neo, being just the latest in a long line of "ones" to come along, has no effect on anything. In the A - B - C of a storyline, that whole chain of events amounted to one of the hyphens between letters.
It was just there to fill space.
So what happened?
As for the prequel, with its worldwide war between humans and the citizens of robotdom, that goes back to what I said in my Star Wars entry. Trying to retroactively work Morpheus, Trinity and Neo into such a film would have been an exercise in retardation. But, the stars would have been a studio prerequisite before they'd approve the gigantic budget for the thing. You don't follow up a blockbuster film with a sequel where all the main characters have been replaced by robots.
Instead, the scraps of prequel were written into some of the The Animatrix shorts and the lone sequel was streeeeetched into two films.
Here's the thing. The prequel, it'll never happen. We'll have to be happy with The Second Renaissance feature in The Animatrix. But the sequel ... I'm pretty sure if you give me Reloaded and Revolutions and a knife, I can cut you a lone, 100-minute Matrix sequel that would flatten your balls.
Maybe, I'll go do that now.