The Matrix Revisited
December 23, 2003
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski,
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishbourne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda McClory, Anthony Ray Parker, Paul Goddard, Robert Taylor, David Aston, Marc Gray,
In an attempt to satiate fans of The Matrix until the sequels arrive in theatres, the powers that be assembled a two-hour documentary and released it on DVD. The Matrix Revisited is much more than one long commercial for The Matrix movies. It is a fascinating, in-depth look at one of the most groundbreaking science fiction films in recent years.
The Matrix Revisited traces the film’s humble origins from an idea that the Wachowski brothers had for a comic book to the screenplay that they ended up writing to the film that they made to the legacy that now exists. The documentary covers the various aspects of the moviemaking process: from the writing of the screenplay to the creation of the sets to how specific scenes were shot. There is a good mix of interviews conducted with the main cast (although Joe Pantoliano is conspicuously absent) during the filming of The Matrix and more recent ones that look like they were done just as production was beginning on The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Even the camera-shy Wachowski brothers are interviewed, as are many of the unsung heroes that worked behind the scenes (like comic book artist Geof Darrow) and are rarely discussed in articles about the movie.
The documentary dispels the notion that The Matrix is merely a mix of John Woo films, Japanese anime and Philip K. Dick novels. Keanu Reeves talks about how the Wachowski brothers made him read Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard, Out of Control by Kevin Kelly and Introducing Evolutionary Psychology. The actor had to absorb all these heavy-duty theoretical and philosophical texts before even touching the screenplay. Clearly, there is a lot of substance and subtext lurking under the stylish fashion and décor and flashy action sequences. The Matrix explores Baudrillard’s notions of what is real and what is a simulation.
One of the documentary’s many highlights examines the rigorous physical training that the actors had to endure. The Wachowskis wanted their actors to do most of their own stunts and so the cast had to learn martial arts and wire work from the master, Yuen Wo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and his crew. At first, Keanu and company couldn’ t do much but after four months of extensive training Ping says at one point, “I thought two months would be more than enough, but then, when I saw the actors could not punch or kick properly. . .I got dizzy. I was afraid that four months would not be enough.” It was a tough, grueling process for the actors. Keanu started his training in a neck brace from a previous injury and didn’t know if he would be able to learn all the stunts and kicks required for the film. However, the final product amply demonstrates that all the hard work and long hours the actors put in paid off in a big, big way.
The Matrix Revisited is a solid mix of talking head interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the movie itself. It’s quite a revealing look at how a big budget, high concept film is put together. With the exception of the truly exhaustive making-of supplemental material found on the Terminator 2: Judgement Day DVDs, The Matrix Revisited is about as detailed a look at the studio filmmaking process that has ever been chronicled.
As if that weren’t enough, there is also a nice collection of supplemental material included on the DVD. It is made up of promotional material for upcoming Matrix related products and left over footage that didn’t make it into the documentary.
First up, is “What is to Come?”, a two and a half minute montage of martial arts training, costume tests, car chase footage and the creation of a video game for the new Matrix films.
“What is the Animatrix?” is a five minute featurette on a series of Japanese animated short films set in the world of The Matrix that are written by the Wachowski brothers and interpreted by several cutting edge anime artists (like Yoshiaki Kawajiri who created Vampire Hunter D).
For fans of Yuen Wo Ping, there is “The Dance of the Master,” a lengthy collection of blocking tapes featuring the man and his team rehearsing many of the fight scenes seen in the movie. This featurette demonstrates how every aspect of the movie was plotted and thought out – especially the intricate fight sequences.
On the lighter side there is “True Followers,” a kind of funny, kind of spooky look at some of the more hardcore fans of The Matrix. One woman even attributes her acquiring a high-paying job to The Matrix. Uh-huh.
A three minute behind-the-scenes look at the bathroom escape down the piping and the subsequent fight between Agent Smith and Morpheus was dangerous enough to cause actor Hugo Weaving to get injured. It’s a rather candid moment that would normally have been omitted.
The Matrix Revisited is essential viewing for both the casual and dedicated fan of The Matrix movies. The documentary shows how much hard work, dedication and creativity went into making this movie and this makes one really appreciate the final result even more than before. Students of filmmaking should also take a look at this DVD because it examines so many aspects of the process and in such great detail. The Matrix Revisited could have so easily fallen into the trap of shameless self-promotion and crass marketing but proves to be so much more.