Inside The Matrix
by Chris Betros
Six months of Matrix fever begins this weekend with The Matrix Reloaded. Chris Betros hears what the stars have to say about it.
Keanu Reeves has some advice for movie fans before they go to see "The Matrix Reloaded" ; don't come with any preconceived ideas, be open and just enjoy yourself.
That may be easier said than done since the long-awaited sequel to the surprise 1999 hit has been preceded by a massive publicity machine all around the world ; and will culminate with the third and final part of the trilogy, "The Matrix Revolutions" on Nov 5.
Japan rolled out the green carpet for the 37-year-old Reeves and co-stars Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Jada Pinkett Smith, producer Joel Silver and conceptual designer Geoffrey Darrow during their visit this week. Since the trilogy's writer-director brothers, Larry and Andy Wachowski, are notoriously shy, it has been left up to Reeves & Co to jet around the world plugging the movie, a video game "Enter the Matrix" and nine animated shorts that make up "The Animatrix."
Reeves is not a talkative character at the best of times, but he was in a chirpy mood during this visit to Japan, attending the MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2003 in Saitama, a special premiere at Roppongi Hills Arena and giving 10-minute interviews to a procession of media.
"The Matrix has been a big part of my life since 1998," he said. "We filmed parts two and three back to back over 22 months and it has had a positive impact on my life both as an artist and person."
Born in Lebanon to an English mother, and Chinese-Hawaiian father, Reeves, whose name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian, credited the worldwide success and cult status of the "Matrix" to the Wachowskis.
"Their vision is accessible to ordinary people. They know how to tell a story that has universal elements and themes and synthesize it all together. You come away from this movie experiencing something on many different levels."
Packed with special effects, "The Matrix Reloaded" was made on a budget of $300 million, five times the budget of the original. When they are not engaged in kickfights in the air, slow motion gun battles, car and motorbike chases, the characters look cool in long black trench coats, dark glasses and skin-tight leather.
"Reloaded" picks up where the original ended: a computer hacker named Neo (Reeves) learns that his whole existence is a computer-generated reality in which humans basically serve as batteries for the master machines. Neo and his allies Morpheus (Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Niobe (Pinkett Smith) must go back into the matrix to save the last surviving stronghold of humans deep inside the Earth's core from being wiped out by a horde of attacking machines.
"It has become a personal quest for Neo," Reeves said of his character, also known as The One. "He has matured in his matrix being, accepted the mantle of The One, even though he doesn't understand what he has to do and now has the courage to go forward."
The shoot was long and grueling ; Moss broke a leg in the first week of training, Weaving injured a disc in his neck and Fishburne sprained his wrist. Some fight scenes required up to 90 takes. Everything was shrouded in secrecy: the scripts were written with black ink on purple paper to prevent photocopying.
For Australian actor Weaving, this has been a big year as he is also starring in another blockbuster trilogy ; "Lord of the Rings." But he is quite down to earth about it.
"For me they are just like any other films," he said. "You choose a film based on the material, the story and then the directors. The scope of the films has nothing to do with it. The success of the trilogies is a testament to the directors Peter Jackson and the Wachowskis. They are three brilliant men. What can I say about them? Jackson is a bit like a hobbit, while Larry and Andy have extraordinary minds."
The brothers will try something really extraordinary on Nov 5 when they plan to open "The Matrix Revolutions" in every major market of the world on the same day at the same time.