More to Satisfy 'Matrix' Mania
by Peter M. Nichols
Joel Silver, producer of "The Matrix" and two new "Matrix" movies now being filmed simultaneously in Australia, has some time on his hands.
"We have two and a half years between now and the sequels, and we want to make sure people don't forget us," he said.
Not that anybody is about to forget the original (and original it was) any time soon, but there will be a lot to turn our heads between now and 2003 when the first of the sequels - "Matrix Reloaded" is the working title - is to arrive in theaters.
So Mr. Silver has helped conceive a special DVD to occupy fans in the meantime. Released on disc in 1999, Andy and Larry Wachowski's "Matrix" is now a best-selling DVD. On Nov. 20, Warner will release "The Matrix Revisited," which picks up where the first disc left off and paves the way for a third disc to further while away the wait for "Matrix Reloaded."
At the core of the new disc is fresh material from the 1,500 hours of film shot behind the scenes during the making of "The Matrix" in 1997. None of it appears on the first "Matrix" DVD. Promotion for the new disc mentions going behind the scenes of the sequels, but that is a bit of a stretch. Actors in major roles in the old and the new films - Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie- Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving - talk vaguely about the new films and are shown training for kung fu battles and otherwise cavorting about a giant hangarlike space allotted to the new movies. But in the main, the new disc dwells on the making of the old "Matrix."
Back then, it was a decidedly iffy project by two iconoclastic, relatively untried filmmakers. "The Matrix" warranted no house trailers for the cast and, Ms. Moss says, only one bathroom.
What's more, few associated with the movie had a firm idea of what the Wachowskis' script was about, beyond the idea that earth's inhabitants were under the control of a huge computer program managed by anthropods.
The cast and crew talk about a comic-book influence and an Eastern influence squashed into Western philosophy. Mr. Fishburne says that what he doesn't fathom is why anybody couldn't understand the screenplay. Mr. Reeves lists the books he was assigned to read for the film, including Jean Baudrillard's "Simulacra and Simulation" and Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems and the Economic World."
The Wachowskis, a relaxed pair in baseball caps turned backward, explain themselves more than they did on the first DVD. Then the disc moves on to describe an innovative notion indeed. To stir new interest in the franchise, 10 short anime films by the "gods of Japanese animation," as Mr. Silver describes them, and supervised by the Wachowskis, are being developed to serve as prequels to the original "Matrix" and precursors of what is to come. The plan is to put them on the Web, where "Matrix" fans still swarm hungrily, and release them on another DVD, perhaps next year.
All that is missing on "The Matrix Revisited" is a movie to go with the extras, an omission that is perhaps a first. The basic disc is $19.98 (it's also available on VHS for $14.95), but a two-disc set with "The Matrix" included is $39.98. Everybody should have plenty to do.