There are few films that had the same cultural, technological and cinematic impact as the original Matrix film from sisters Lana and Lilly Wachowski, a trilogy of films that have forever changed how blockbuster cinema is made and consumed. Led by the loveable charm of Keanu Reeves, the film carried an effortless sense of style that helped it be elevated above merely ‘another action movie’.
Part heist film, dystopian horror, film-noir and high-stakes western, The Matrix is an eccentric science fiction enigma that was in itself defined by its own technological innovations. With no limit to their own cinematic ambition, the Wachowski sisters pushed the boundaries of the medium, reflecting the very physical and psychological breakthrough that The Matrix itself portrays.
One of the most influential technological innovations the film made was to coin the term and concept of ‘bullet time’, a process that involves the 360-degree photography of a particular subject, before stitching each of these photos together to create a baffling sequence. Such a method wasn’t new, rather, it was an ingenious take on one of the oldest forms of filmmaking, harking back to the efforts of Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion from 1878 that utilised essentially the very same process.
Such innovative techniques allowed the main cast of actors including Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne to navigate the screen like delicate ballet dancers, taking part in high-flying wire work that made for exhilarating action sequences. Whilst it is these well-known special effect processes that have made The Matrix so iconic, there was so much more happening behind the scenes that make each of the three films in the trilogy so extraordinary.
Just one of these innovations was demonstrated in The Matrix: Revolutions, the final film in the trilogy that is often seen as the weakest of the franchise thanks to its rather sprawling story. Though, whilst the screenwriting may have weakened as the series went on, the attention to detail remained consistent and The Matrix: Revolutions boasts some incredible technological feats.
Often seen as the silliest aspect of the final film in the trilogy is the moment when Keanu Reeves’ Neo fights his nemesis Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving whilst being surrounded by an army of duplicated Smiths donning a suit, tie and ominous glasses. In a fascinating behind-the-scenes video from the making of the film, the special effects team reveals how this moment was captured on film, showing the process of how they created hundreds of rubber Smith’s and used models to make it seem as though the character had been replicated a multitude of times.
As always with the Wachowski sisters, the cinematic feat of special effects in The Matrix: Revolutions looks remarkably simple and obvious when seen in practice, making the impossible seem like a walk in the park. Take a look at the remarkable behind-the-scenes video, below.