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Matrix Revisited, The Print E-mail
Tuesday, 20 November 2001
Despite the (almost) unforgivable geek faux pas of referring to Japanese anime as "Japanimation," the Wachowski Brothers are the ultimate geeks. They are geeks who are so cool, they make being a geek cool.

"Matrix Revisited" illustrates in remarkable detail how the brothers from Chicago took their comic book roots, Hong Kong action movie adoration, and anime sensibilities, and didn't budge an inch when it came to bringing their incredibly smart film to the screen by using those very resources. From the world of comics, they brought in acclaimed illustrator Geof Darrow (Hardboiled) as a Conceptual Designer, and their Ecto-Kid collaborator Steve Skroce as Storyboard Artist. They insisted that, like their Hong Kong counterparts, the actors perform their own fights and undergo a rigorous four month training regimen with Master Yuen Wo Ping and his stunt team. The "impossible" shots they designed lead to the development by John Gaeta's Visual Effects Team of "bullet time."
"Matrix Revisited" is not merely a marketing ploy to keep the buzz for the film franchise going before the first of the two sequels hits movie screens in 2003. It is, for geeks like myself who are addicted to peeking behind the curtain and seeing how the magic tricks are done, a gift.

The magic tricks that interest most "Matrix" fans are, of course, the phenomenal script, the ground-breaking visual effects, and the breathtaking action scenes choreograpehd by nigh unto legendary Yuen Wo Ping. All three are given enormous attention in the lavish two hour plus documentary consisting of documentary footage and interviews conducted during the production of the first film, and new, never-before-seen interviews conducted during the production of "Matrix" 2 & 3.

While at times, the shift between archival footage and the new documentary shot specifically for the DVD can be confusing. Tenses are slightly muddled as the footage switches between then and now, overall the structure of the documentary is such that each and every aspect of the film is covered in detail--starting with the script.

As everyone from Warner Bros. President Lorenzo DiBonaventura to Director of Photography Bill Pope to co-star Carrie-Ann Moss relates tales of how many times they had to have the plot of the Wachowski Brother's sci-fi epic explained to them, Lawrence Fishburne looks straight into the camera and says "I have no idea why people who have read the script of the first Matrix found it confusing. I don't get that at all."

Lawrence Fishburn, incidentally, is my hero.

Fans of the first film will be thrilled to note that the documentary and extras feature sneak peaks into the production design, stunts and visual effects of the sequels. In addition to the feature-length documentary are featurettes including a "trailer" for Matrix 2 & 3 consisting of a montage of training and special effects footage of the sequels set to suitably cool techno music, a featurette on a series of animated "Matrix" vignettes animated by premiere anime directors to be released through the Matrix web site and then, according to producer Joel Silver, DVD to whet the public's appetite for the sequels. However, the standout star extra feature is copies of Yuen Wo Ping's blocking tapes for the showcase fights from the film, where members of Yuen's stunt team perform the choreography taught to Keanu Reeves, Lawrence Fishburn, Carrie-Ann Moss and Hugo Weaving.

There's something almost voyeuristic about seeing movie stars like Keanu Reeves and Lawrence Fishburn at the barre, stretching before they attempt to duplicate the kicks and punches Yuen's team demonstrate with an almost preternatural grace. Every aspect of the film is covered, pro-production through post-, from wardrobe to set design to the required reading list the Wachowskis gave Keanu Reeves along with his copy of the script. (Incidentally, everyone on the staff seems to have picked up a copy of Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation.")

Additional "hidden features" include the "The True Followers" featurette where a sample of fans from the whatisthematrix.com message boards are interviewed regarding the fandom and fan fiction, and a special segment on the shooting of the "bathroom/Wet Wall" sequences from the film, as well as a three minute promo of behind-the-scenes footage from the first film.

Although mixed for 5.1, since the lion's share of the disc is documentary footage, the sound is fairly straightforward. Dialogue and score music are in the center channel, with the music being spread to mains and the rear speakers. The menus are straightforward, and easy to navigate. The one major complaint about "The Matrix Revisited" is that the titles design is too cool for its own good. As each new interviewee is introduced, their name and occupation flash on screen in the form of glowing green text which twitches and appears and disappears in a variety of "cool" animation effects that is nearly illegible. It would be forgivable, however, had the same approach not been taken to the English subtitles. Action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping has some truly fascinating and insightful commentary that at times only those fluent in Cantonese may be able to understand, as the subtitles appear and disappear and are almost impossible to read. However, the "Animatrix" featurette eschews such slick post-production effects when subtitling renowned Japanese animation directors Kawajiri Yoshiaki, Koike Takeshi and Maeda Mahiro.

While "Matrix" audiences fall into two categories--those who "got it" first time through, and those who still don't quite get it but simply enjoy the film's groundbreaking special effects and Hong Kong-style fight sequences, this DVD has plenty for everyone.

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