A quiet revolution began back in 2003 with the release of The Animatrix, a collection of animated short films that explore the history of The Matrix universe. And in the case of shorts “Final Flight of the Osiris” and “Kid’s Story,” the collection dared to fill in key information that would impact the ongoing series, including the back-to-back sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
The “Osiris” short sneaked in theaters, serving as a “preview” during the initial run of The Matrix Reloaded. The plot focuses on the crew of the Osiris, one of the sister-ships of Morpheus’ Nebuchadnezzar in the real world fleet, and their discovery of the machine army’s plan to drill straight through the core to Zion, which sets the stage for the epic battle of the final two installments of the series.
“Final Flight of the Osiris” documented the passing along of vital information, and “Kid’s Story” introduced a new player in The Matrix world, a young man (Clayton Watson), aka “The Kid,” who figured out a way to unplug himself from the Matrix without assistance from humans in the real world. His role in the battle against the machines plays out along the typical bumbling-kid-to-hero mode, but his backstory sets up intriguing possibilities for further exploration of the human potential in an ever-expanding dynamic between humans and machines.
I’ve found myself thinking of The Kid as I’ve watched the evolution of Marvel Studios’ plan to phase their stories across a variety of distribution formats.
All eyes have been focused on the two-picture-a-year release schedule that has given each of the founding members of The Avengers — Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor and Captain America — a chance to shine in their own slightly adapted origin stories.
It’s been a bumpy ride , especially for everyone’s favorite not-so-jolly green monster, who has suffered through two films and an appearance in The Avengers with a different actor portraying the Hulk’s alter-ego (although the consensus pick would be Mark Ruffalo over Eric Bana and Edward Norton). Hulk and The Avengers smashed the competition at the box office, paving the way for sequels for all of the main team members — except the Hulk — and a slow rollout of new titles from what amounts to the B-team: Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man definitely have greenlights, while Doctor Strange and a host of others are hanging around in the wings.
In the meantime Joss Whedon, Marvel’s movie overlord, settled on the idea of following the ongoing adventures of a S.H.I.E.L.D. team, headed up by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), in ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Coulson was instrumental, along with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), in gathering The Avengers and inspiring them to save the world from a pesky alien invasion under the misguided direction of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the film The Avengers. The only problem was the curious fact that Coulson died at the hands of Loki, but has somehow been resurrected without a full explanation. Coulson, much like The Kid, serves as a narrative bridge between the multiplex and the small screen, but thus far the execution has come with decidedly mixed results.
But Marvel Studios apparently has no intention of stopping here. A recent announcement signals a new formatting horizon waiting to be conquered by the marauding Marvel creative crew. Teaming up with Netflix, the studio has plans to kick off four new serials featuring a crew of more Earth-bound heroes, the Hell’s Kitchen comrades-in-arms — Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist and Daredevil — who, after their individual 10-episode arcs, will join forces for a mini-series event as The Defenders.
Since the appearance of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on television, fans have been wondering if any of these heroes would pop up as guests on the show or make cameos in the feature films. This deal speaks to a new distribution frontier, a means of finally taking advantage of the potential of the Internet. Netflix has shown, with its original programming model, that audiences are eager to consume stories whole, rather than waiting for the weekly episodic trickle of the network television model or the annual-basis of the feature film schedule. Frankly, the Marvel/Netflix partnership offers the truest reflection of the weekly release schedule of the comic book system in the digital age.
Marvel seems poised now to reign supreme in this brave new world, and one would assume the company will likely be a major player in whatever emerges next. It’s a comic book world and we’re all about to be captured in these new frames.
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