It’s no secret that when THE MATRIX hit theaters back in 1999, it revolutionized the way sci-fi action films were made and boggled the minds of many a moviegoer. In the process, however, it managed to become one of the most successful genre films ever, taking in nearly $171.5 million at the domestic box office. Conversely, when the film reached the home digital format, the DVD was the first to achieve sales of three million units, garnering a “DVD of the Year” award from the Video Software Dealers Association. To this day, fans continue to pound the movie’s website, anxiously awaiting the upcoming THE MATRIX sequels.
With that said, my initial reaction to THE MATRIX REVISITED – a two and a half hour companion to THE MATRIX DVD/video – can best be described as lukewarm. Why did I need to go out and spend money on yet another disc that doesn’t even have the movie on it? Because it’s amazing, that’s why. Upon watching the jam packed disc, I fell right into Warner Home Video’s trap – my interest in THE MATRIX was once again peaked. So much so, in fact, that I had to go watch the movie again just to quell the craving. And with part two of the franchise not reaching theaters until 2003, the studio looks to insure that the property stays on everyone’s mind.
THE MATRIX REVISITED is a first-of-its-kind look at the development of – not only the original film, but rather – the groundbreaking sci-fi trilogy that encompasses the entire story. The title provides never-before-seen footage from the original film, new interviews with stars and filmmakers (including, but not limited to, Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, the Wachowski brothers, producer Joel Silver and fight choreographer Master Yuen Wo Ping), background on the origins of THE MATRIX, how the Academy Award-winning special effects were developed and the actors’ grueling training regimens.
In addition, the disc provides a sneak peek at behind-the-scenes footage from THE MATRIX’s upcoming sequels and a preview of THE MATRIX anime project including a first look at sketches, storyboards, interviews and footage with the animators.
Upon “Entering” THE MATRIX REVISITED, the viewer is taken through a two and a half hour featurette that outlines how the film traveled from conception to phenomenon. Of the documentary’s 33 sections, aspects like the movie’s screenplay, sets and costumes are explored through interviews with appropriate crewmembers. While all are interesting – providing an overall picture as to what went into the making of the film – a number of sections are sure to stand out for the more hardcore genre fan. The first of which are “Origins” and “Storyboards.”
Few are aware that the Wachowski brothers actually got their start in the world of comics (anyone remember a short-lived Marvel Comic/Clive Barker book titled ECTO KID?). It was during their work in that industry that the idea for THE MATRIX originally developed. However, as the brothers fleshed out the story, they decided that the proper venue for a tale of this scope would be the big screen. Staying true to their roots, none of the story’s comic book aspects were lost in the big screen translation. On the contrary, they utilized artist Geof Darrow (HARD BOILED) as their storyboard artist. Not only were his detailed boards incredibly precise and, quite literally, exact to what was shot, but they also served as a necessity when pitching the complex story to studio executives with a narrow sense of vision.
The second most interesting aspect of THE MATRIX REVISITED featurette was the fight choreography as outlined in the “Training,” “Government Roof,” “Trinity,” “Government Lobby,” “Construct Kung Fu” and “El Fight” sections. Watching actual training footage and listening to Master Ping’s concern that four months would not be enough time to get the cast into shape was very absorbing, adding a sense of urgency and realism to this otherwise surreal production. Seeing how Ping’s crew precisely blocked each fight sequence, videotaped it and edited the footage together for the review of the cast and directors felt as if I were privy to a magician’s bag of tricks. Not only was each punch, block and kick meticulously planned out, but each of the fight’s participants practiced their moves hundreds of times until the entire sequence became second nature. However, I truly did not appreciate the intensity and danger that went into the stunt work (most of which was performed by the cast) until watching this segment of the DVD. And I’m not talking minor scrapes or bruises – I’m talking sprained ankles (Moss), neck (Reeves) and hip (Weaving) surgeries, etc.
However, it’s the tidbits of information regarding “THE MATRIX 2 and 3” that most fans will be interested in. In this self-titled section, the cast and crew sound off on their thoughts regarding the sequels currently being shot back-to-back in Australia. A number of interesting pieces are revealed: 1) the brothers have always intended the story to be told as a trilogy – the three parts make up one giant story; 2) the project is a massive undertaking which will take the franchise to the next level (both action- and filmmaking-wise); 3) once again the cast has to undergo a rigorous training regimen to get themselves into shape for the elaborate fight scenes; and 4) the film will provide more insight into how The Matrix actually works.
Disc Grade: A-
Reviewed Format: DVD
Rated: Not Rated
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Executive Producers: Joel Silver, Andy and Larry Wachowski
Director: Josh Oreck
Distributor: Warner Home Video
Original Year of Release: 2001
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Extras: sneak peek at cast training sessions for THE MATRIX sequel; additional cast/filmmaker interviews; WHAT IS ANIMATRIX? visits animators working on the upcoming MATRIX ANIME project; fans describe their view of THE MATRIX; Yuen Wo Ping’s blocking tapes; hidden features; English, French and Spanish subtitles
The companion DVD/videocassette is the perfect supplement for the do-it-yourself THE MATRIX box set
Dateline: Tuesday, December 4, 2001
By: ERIC MORO
By: Executive Editor