There’s really only one set of sequels that has got me as geeked about movie going as The Lord Of The Rings has made me and those would be the sequels to The Matrix. The original movie was everything that a long-time Anime/Sci-Fi/Hong Kong Action nut like myself could have ever wanted in a movie and to say it has influenced similar films since then is an understatement.
Now according to an article called The Matrix Makers over at MSNBC.com the two sequels look to once again blow everything else out of the water.
The climax of “Reloaded” is a lengthy freeway chase that, like the original “Matrix” in 1999, will redefine action filmmaking and visual effects for years. Two familiar heroes, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), have captured a critical pawn in mankind’s struggle against the Machines: the Keymaker, a tiny Asian man who has access to all the doors into the Machine world. Now they must safely get the Keymaker out of the Matrix and back into the real world, and the only way to do that is through a hard telephone line. The closest one is a few miles down a nearby freeway. The trouble is, in the Matrix, a freeway is the last place you want to be. There are people everywhere, meaning the bad-guy Agents have an unlimited supply of bodies to jump into—each behind the wheel of a guided missile. “You always said never get on the freeway,” Trinity reminds Morpheus as they race up the entrance ramp. “You said it was suicide.” Morpheus grins. “Let us hope,” the rebellion’s Zen-calm leader says, “that I was wrong.”
The ensuing sequence may be the most audaciously conceived, thrillingly executed car chase ever filmed. Sounds like hype, yeah. But you’ve gotta see this thing. The scene features two kung fu battles in speeding vehicles—one in the back seat of a Cadillac, the other on the roof of an 18-wheeler truck. There’s also a heart-stopping motorcycle chase through oncoming traffic and enough wrecked cars to keep a junkyard in business for years. Fans will go particularly bonkers over one shot of an agent leaping from atop a moving car onto the hood of another and, with his feet, crushing the entire thing into a pretzel. Says cinematographer Bill Pope: “It’s going to make ‘The Fast and the Furious’ look like ‘The Slow and the Dimwitted’.”
That’s a lot to pull off, but not so unusual by today’s movie-as-global-product launch standards. What is unusual is the Wachowskis’ level of involvement. They wrote three of the nine animes that make up “The Animatrix,” then personally approved the screenplays and designs for the other six. Rather than have their game Enter the Matrix slavishly duplicate the events of “The Matrix: Reloaded,” they wrote a 244-page script specifically for the game. And instead of repurposing movie footage for the game’s live-action interludes, as Electronic Arts has done on The Lord of the Rings, the brothers shot an hour of brand-new footage, using the same cast, crew and sets as for their Hollywood blockbuster. “This isn’t just merchandising or advertising,” says producer Joel Silver. “The animes, the Web site, the game and the movie work together to tell the story.” The rabbit hole, in other words, goes even deeper than you thought.
NEWSWEEK got an exclusive look at five of the animes. Our verdict? Triple whoa. The one that will probably get the most attention is the CGI flick “The Final Flight of the Osiris” because of its near-photorealistic images. But the one that rocked us like a hurricane was the two-part “Second Renaissance,” which told the story of how the machines took over the world. A bleak parable about man’s inability to recognize the soul of his new machines, director Mahiro Maeda’s furious rush of images deftly evoked the horrors of the past 400 years—slavery, lynchings, world wars, concentration camps, Nazi experiments, the cold war, race riots and nuclear war, to name a few—and left us shaken. Don’t believe us? In February, you’ll be able to download four of the animes free of charge, including both parts of “Second Renaissance.”