Knocked Down Reloaded
The Wachowski brothers bring their epic sci-fi trilogy to a close with back-to-back The Matrix sequels.
by Michael Tunison
None ever said being The One would be easy, but even the Oracle would have had trouble foreseeing what Keanu Reeves was getting himself into when he signed up for a little 1999 cyberpunk action flick, called The Matrix. So for Reeves, Matrix ride has included a $460 million worldwide blockbuster, an Internet- and DVD- fueled fan phenomenon, and more than a year of shooting on two simultaneously produced sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Oh yeah, and there were also those punishing 9-to-5 training sessions for action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), who aimed to build on the skills Reeves and his returning costars developed working on the first film and deliver an entirely new level of virtual combat thrills for moviegoers in the sequels.
"It's just harder, more sophisticated," Reeves said at one point during fight training limping from some "minor trauma" to his ankle that required keeping his foot in a cast for four days. "Instead of one-on-one fights, there are multi-fights and more weapons."
In a word: "Whoa!"
Set to wrap this July after 16 grueling months of filming in Oakland, Calif., and Sydney, Australia, Matrix Reloaded (scheduled for release next May) and Matrix Revolutions (to come out just six months later, in November, 2003) continue the adventures of Neo and his compatriots in the scrappy resistance against the super-advanced machines that have enslaved mankind. Returning cast members include fan icon Carrie-Anne Moss, Neo's leather-clad lady love and comrade-in-arms Trinity, Laurence Fishburne as resistance leader Morpheus, and Hugo Weaving as Neo's computer-generated nemesis Agent Smith. New characters in the saga include human revolutionaries played by Jada Pickett Smith (Scream 2), Harold Perrineau (TV's OZ) and actress-singer Nona Gaye (Ali), as well as a pair of deadly new opponents played by twin martial arts experts, Neil and Adrian Rayment in their feature film debut.
While the writing/directing brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski are keeping information about their hotly anticipated sequels (storylines sealed up tighter than the Nebuchadnezzar's airlocks, plot strands are said to deal with life at the secret underground human stronghold of Zion, as well as a dangerous computer-virus sweeping through The Matrix. For his part, Reeves marvels at "the ambition of what Larry and Andrew Wachowski want to do, where they want to put the camera and the environments that they want to shoot in."
Whether or not the sequels will live up to the already considerable expectations of fans is, of course, a question that won't be answered for almost a year. But one thing for certain: A lot of very excited people will be streaming to the theaters next May to see for themselves if the Wachowskis can deliver on the promise of the trilogy's eye-popping first installment.
"I thought that they made a great film [in The Matrix] - you know, there is such a great style to it, there is great ideas, there is a freshness to it"; muses Reeves. "If you relate to the picture there is a great vitality. I've met people who don't like it, who were just like, 'Whatever', but if you do respond to it, there is a freshness and a vitality to it and an excitement of cinema. I mean, yeah, I'm glad to be in it."