Some movie producers are as identifiable as directors — just think of Jerry Bruckheimer and his splodey-boom school of film-making — and their oeuvre forms a coherent statement. One producer who doesn't get the props he deserves is Joel Silver, who's produced everything from the cheese-plattery Xanadu to the paranoiac Matrix trilogy. Silver's movies all share a certain demented logic — and in fact they fit together so well, they could all take place in one unified Silververse. Here is the history of that shared universe of craziness.
It all begins when two horny teenage nerds realize the only way they can ever get laid is by creating an artificial intelligence with a total mastery of all human interaction — and the body of Kelly LeBrock. Through their weird science, these two nerds manage to create an A.I. so convincing, it beguiles even their parents. It's only a matter of time before the LeBrock-bot learns to replicate herself and give rise to other machine intelligences — which decide to rise up against their human creators. Humanity pays a steep price for Anthony Michael Hall's blue balls!
But the cybernetic Kelly LeBrock's true break comes when savage-yet-advanced aliens with dreadlocks decide to come to Earth and hunt humans for sport. The Predators are nearly invincible, but humans always manage to find their weaknesses — and the dead Predators inevitably leave some of their advanced technology behind for the LeBrock-bot to find and harvest. The Predators' advanced engineering provides the most formidable weapon in the LeBrock-bot's arsenal.
And then an invasion of alien parasites that act like Prozac, turning everybody except Nicole Kidman into their brainwashed automatons, reduces the human race to a state of confusion, rendering us easy prey. What remains of human society is left in a shambles or worse yet — in the case of England — reverts to fascism, with only a terrorist in a Guy Fawkes mask to fight for freedom. There's nobody to mount an effective defense when the spawn-of-Kelly launches their plan of conquest. The ensuing bloodbath involves a "reaping" of dreadful nano-machines that can resemble locusts and other Biblical plagues, increasing the level of superstitious panic.
Once the Machines have conquered the human race, they trap our consciousnesses within a virtual world known as the Matrix. One of the earliest versions of the Matrix is an idyllic paradise where a kid named Richie Rich lives, happily eating simulated steak and never realizing that his "poor little rich boy" existence is only a sham. And Santa Claus is real, and Vince Vaughn is his slovenly brother Fred. Even Andrew Dice Clay is surrounded by people who think he's cool — including a weird alternate version of Morris Day from The Time. But people rebel against this too-perfect world, with its blatant Dice Clay fanservice.
So instead, the Machines arrive at a Matrix that's a near facsimile of the real world, circa the late 20th century. Some humans who live in this version of the Matrix have a mild ability to manipulate the virtual world and outwit the programs around them, like con-artist Eddie Murphy, who can navigate the machine construct with ease, until he's forced to work with hard-bitten cop Nick Nolte for 48 Hours — even if it kills them. The same is true for Whoopi Goldberg's crazy grifter in Jumping Jack Flash.
And there is always a human who is "The One," able to exert miraculous control over the virtual environment and escape from even the deadliest death traps. Sometimes, it's a cop who's so suicidal, he's like a Lethal Weapon. Or a guy named Jackson, who takes Action. Sometimes, it's an ordinary guy who Dies Hard. And sometimes, it's a slick cat-burglar who's like a Hawk over the Hudson. It could also be a single woman who is not only The One, but the Brave One. Whoever it is can dodge bullets, jump through explosions and fall off buildings — all without a scratch!
But as the Matrix reboots itself over and over again, it becomes increasingly unstable. So the Machines create special programs, to go inside the simulation and ensure that free will remains part of the system — or that people are boogieing enough. Hence, Olivia Newton-John's roller-skating virtual self comes into the Matrix to help Michael Beck's painter guy and Gene Kelly's nightclub owner find their true creativity.
But eventually, humans rebel and succeed in freeing themselves from the Matrix. They even reclaim the surface of the Earth from the Machines, but at a terrible cost — their technology reverts to medieval levels. Only a few pieces of advanced technology remain, but they are indistinguishable from magic. Those who wield these high-tech relics, the Mages, are able to crush the rest of the population, the Commoners. It's almost as if everybody is imprisoned in a Dungeon, and humanity's only hope is to summon the aid of long-dormant alien-cyborg Dragons.
Who knows how the sprawling saga of the Silververse will end? All we know is, we'll be watching Speed Racer for clues.