Starburst #305 (UK), December 2003
End of the Revolutions
As the final chapter of The Matrix trilogy breaks box office records with Revoultions, Judy Sloane looks at the making of this visionary Sci-fi saga.
On November 5 the final chapter of the Matrix trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions, premiered on 18,000 screens at 10,013 theatres in 109 markets. It was the biggest opening for a motion picture in movie history. It's been four years since screenwriters/directors/brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski unveiled their visionary Science Fiction saga, The Matrix, which told the impressive tale of the war between man and Machines, and presented ground breaking special effects that changed movies forever. "The Wachowskis have created an epic story, told it in a visionary way that revolutionized entertainement," says the films' producer, Joel Silver. "They created a thinking person's action trilogy. You can enjoy the films on a purely visceral level, and if you wnat to go deeper, there are some very profound ideas to consider."
As the story comes to an explosive end, Neo [Keanu Reeves] and Trinity [Carrie-Anne Moss] must travel to Machine City in an ateempt to end the war, as Morpheus [Laurence Fishburne] makes his way back to Zion to face the legions of Machines that are about to annihilate all the remainig Human beings.
"Evolution is an important theme of the trilogy," says Reeves. "In the first films, it's Machines versus Humans, who are trying to free themselves from the world of the Matrix where the Machines has enslaved them. In Reloaded and Revolutions, you see the perspective of Machine-created programs trying to hide in the Matrix when they face deletion in the Machine world, while Humans face extenction by the Mahcines that are trying to destroy Zion. Ultimately, the Machines' survival is threatened as well, as the Humans, programs and Machines have to find a way to co-operate to ensue their survival."
A danger to both Machines and Humans in the third instalment is Agent Smith [Hugo Weaving], who has become increasingly powerful. "In The Matrix, Smith starts off as a very rigid character with a very strong, defined mission that he has to accomplish," remarks Weaving. "During that journey, he starts to feel Human feelings. He starts to feel anger and jealousy. He starts to smell things and he starts to have a hint of what it's like to have humanity inside him. And he hates that. He sees it as a weakness. In Reloaded, he's accepted these powerful feelings more and more and he starts to relish them. His ego has expaned and he's quite literally been liberated. In Revolutions, his ego runs rapant - he has evolved from wanting to be free of the Matrix to trying to take over the world. He's a very dark character, but I've always thought he was funny. There were humorous elements to Smith in the first Matrix which seemed to come straight out of Larry and Andy's character and I loved that they expanded those elements in Reloaded and Revolutions. I enjoyed the experience of playing Smith immensely."
Before they began shooting Reloaded and Revolutions, the cast assembled at a hangar in Santa Monica Airport in Los Angeles, where they reunited with fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, for five months of physical training. "Training for these two films was probably three times harder than preparing for the first," acknowledges Reeves. "Neo's kung fu elements and wire work are much more sopisticated. "The more I could do, the more [Wo Ping] pushed me. So when I could do one thing well, that was the day they'd ask me if I would do two things. Then when we were shooting, the Brothers would ask me if I could do seven things! It was all very good fun, but very hard work as well. And painful - ice is your friend." Wo Ping has nothing but praise for his student. "Keanu is exceptional. He is a super perfectionist, always dissatisfied with his own performance, even when I think it's very good! I tried my best to match the level that he was looking for."
Both Reeves and Weaving worked diligently to perfect their Super Brawl fight that takes place in the Matrix, in a torrential rainstorm,at the end of the movie. "The Brothers wanted the fight to convey Neo and Smith's invincibility," says Wo Ping. "I tried to create an energy behind this sequence of these two very different fighters clashing in a battle where both must win but neither can be defeated. Thanks once again to Keanu and Hugo's perseverance, we were able to achieve that energy in the fight." The sequence took eight weeks to shoot and required months of preparations for the special effects department to produce extra large raindrops that could be lit and seen better than typical movie rain. "Shooting the first section of the Super Brawl, where Neo and Smith confront each other in the street in the pouring rain was fantastic," Weaving recalls. "I really love the sensation of being in the rain and I felt very invigorated and energized by it. Then when we got into the crater we were fighting in the mud as well, so it became more difficult."
The biggest problem for both actors, as Weaving recalls, was the fact that "the rain was so heavy that it was hard to speak without starting to have bubbles and streams of water running out of your mouth. You couldn't hear yourself speak, so finding the right tone in that scene was really difficult because I had no notion of what I sounded like."
The experience was trying for Reeves too, who explains, "On the first take when Hugo and I are fighting, the rain came down and we realized that we couldn't see. But we've fought so much together we found we didn't have to see, which was kind of a cool thing. And Hugo and I couldn't hear each other, and we couldn't hear ourselves, because the big, fat juicy raindrops that they took two months to design were loud. But it was dramatic; it was fun."
"Keanu beats himself up on set," acknowledges Weaving. "He has very high expectations of what the standard of work should be, but he never pressures me or the other actors. He's a great listener - I really love working with him."
Reeves began his journey with The Matrix in the winter of 1997, when he first started training for his role as Neo. Reflecting on the experience of making the trilogy, the actor comments, "I love working with Larry and Andy, I respect the opportunities they gave me and I respect the ideas and the imagination in this beautiful story. Everyone involved with these films was asked to do their very best, and it was challenging, but that's what makes it really good - rolling up your sleeves and trying to realize this dream. How can you not be excited by the opportunity to hopefully do the best work that you might ever get the chance to do in your creative life?"
"The Matrix trilogy closes a chapter in film-making for me," confesses Joel Silver. "It's been an incredible adventure. The monumental undertaking of making these pictures was as full of dramas, thrills and excitement as the movies themselves. Like everyone involved, I devoted a big part of my life to thissaga, and I'll miss it.
At the end of The Matrix Reloaded Trinty is brought back to life by Neo; In Revolutions she once again puts her fate in his hands when she accompanies him to Machine City. "Trinity is very protective, as we know," laughs Carrie-Anne Moss. "She isn't going to be told that she can't do anything, and she's not going to sit around and wiat to see what happens to Neo. So she finds a way to help him."
The actress, who broke her leg while training for Reloaded and Revolutions, recalls shooting the Club Hell fight in the latter. "When I walked onto the set, it reminded me of when Keanu and I shot the Lobby sequence in The Matrix. The pressure to get every move right and be in sync with all the squibs and the explosions was immense. I was nervous about getting back on the wire again after breaking my leg, but the wire team really helped me out. I would up nailing a couple of big moves in one take, and got a 'Hurrah!' from the Brothers, which is really rare. Completing the Club Hell sequence was one of the highlights of this project for me.
"For me, the experience of making these films has been transforming," says Moss. "I've learned so much about myself, about life and work. It's wonderful to be so committed to a project, and to be in a trilogy of films about conviction, having faith and fighting for what you believe."
THIS IS MY DESTINY
In the Matrix Reloaded, Morpheus becomes disillusioned when he discovers the Oracle is simply another system of the Machines' control. "In Revolutions, even more of Morpheus's humanity comes tothe surface," says Fishburne. "Morpheus is still the guy that you will follow because you believe in him and feel safe with him, but he's not the same formidable figure we met in the first film, who seems to know everything. His belief system has been shaken, and in his struggle to come to terms, he becomes more Human."
However, Morpheus's admiration for Neo never wavers, and neither does Fishburne's for Reeves. "Keanu is unlike anyone I have ever met; he's a deeply sensitive, keenly intelligent guy. He completely dedicated his life to Neo during the making of these films, and it's been a real joy to walk through this whole amazing experience with him."
In the final chapter, Morpheus is paired with Niobe [Jada Pinkett Smith], as they return to Zion to help battle against the Machines. "The way the Brothers wrote the third act of Revolutions, where Neo and Trinity are ascending while Morpheus and Niobe are descending, and the world is coming to a catastrophic end, is truly beautiful ad romantic."
As the actor considers his role in making the trilogy, Fishburne acknowledges, "I don't think it's an accident that I'm part of this; I think it was perhaps a part of my destiny. I love Morpheus. He's probably the character I will be most remembered for. And everyone that I spent time with making these films will be part of who I am for the rest of my life."