Edited by Dan Rider
So terrified of seeing Matrix sequel spoilers that you'd sooner gouge out your eyes with a (non-existent) spoon than read any? Better turn the page sharpish.
The excitement is already tangible, and yet the inevitable PR juggernaut has only just pricked the surface of what's to come.
Be it Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Superman or even Buzz Lightyear, producers and directors alike are watching with a mix of awe and dread. Whatever's coming, it's uo to them to compete ans surpass it, and they've all heard the rumours - this time, they can't. Joel Silver's boys are back in town and they're armed with a double download that'll cause a revolution.
Logistically and technologically, the continuation of The Matrix saga has produced one of the biggest projects ever made. It's a sprawling epic edging towards the four-and-a-half hour mark that's simply been split into two films, at a suitable cliffhanger moment, to make the whole operation economically viable. What studio could justify a single $300 million+ feature, with that figure easily doubling with marketing and distribution costs?
Fourteen months of scripting produced the directory-size framework that the Wachowski brothers wanted to film, and from the outset it was clear that specific sequences would need huge amounts of cash, purely to kick-start the evolution of the computer programming that could make them real. Vast investments need triple returns, so a staggered release of two films based on the wallet-bursting $460 million cash cow that the first film proved to be, became o more enticing proposition for Warner Brothers and the cheque books started to flutter...
But how to top the original?
Three people, two agianst one, six swords - 'multi-sabres', armed with rotating blades at their hilt, clashing and sparking faster than anything yet seen, with impossible wire-assisted moves as the camera dances around them in a bullet-time waltz. The gruelling , boot camp-like training spanned six months from October 2000, with pricesly choreographed shots all meticulously planned... But it would be impossible to guarantee the actors' safety, even with the presence of stunt blades.
The ground-breaking solution? All of the sweeping handarcs and stop-points for the impacts are shot with just sword handles; computer imagery provides the missing steel and sparks.
Multiple agents in a motorway pursuit of Morpheus and Trinity, leaping out of cars as they're blown apart, diving into other speeding vehicles and gaining all the time, with a now-mobile bullet-time technique allowing the camera to circle the chase, swinging low and spiralling through exploding car and window doors. An entire mile of roadway, dressed and redressed in a naval basein Oakland, California to span some 20 minutes of screen time, was used for a month or so from February 2001 onwards.
Lower and faster than before, swooping and cornering through narrow streets, with some 18 months of clearance and local politics being overcome to make Sydney's night skies lined with gleaming skyscrapers, the backdrop. Sixteen solid months of filming, with eight months of prep and set construction, have injected enough jobs into the local economy to make the authorities more co-operative.
What about the ultimate battle? The finale? The pay-off where the audience will see that new ground hasn't so much been broken but obliterated? To taste a hint of the resolution, place the trilogy in context. The Matrix is about birth, Reloaded is about life and Revolutions about.... death. The abilities Neo's gained so far are not enough, the machines closing in on Zion are stronger and the scale af sacrifice to overcome them potentially counts lost lives in billions. How can mankind be freed and survive?
Reloaded is lined with palatial apartments, ornate buildings and hard technology, whereas Revolutions moves into the sorched remains of Earth, littered with crumbling cathedrals amongst the general decay, all leading to Neo's realisation of his true destiny.
25 July, 2002 - the last handful of live-action pick-up shots have been completed, some four years after work on the sequels began. A select few have reportedly seen the near-complete car chase sequences from the initial stages of filming and have been left amazing at the scale of invention on screen. So many shots of The Matrix have been copied and reworked that there is almost an air of defiance radiating from the Wachowskis, that the benchmark they established initially has now been lifted way beyond anybody else's reach.
Multiple imaging of the same actor on screen hasn't been seen like this. The riggging for wirework has been deconstructed and practically re-invented to make the height of real-time jumps ten times more adaptable. Special lenses have been used to capture explosions on a vast scale that are normally impossible to film and cameras have been adapted to manoeuvre in ways that many would deride as being impossile.
The Matrix revolutionised the way films can be made. Now it's going to happen all over again... twice.