A seminal work of science fiction, the 1999 film The Matrix, has left an indelible mark on popular culture with its thrilling exploration of simulation theory through high-octane stunts, a lot of VFX and a dashing of Keanu Reeves. The sequels, however, were uninspired and failed to live up to the monumental expectations that were created by the first effort. With The Matrix 4 scheduled to be released sometime in 2022, cinematographer Bill Pope shed some light on why he turned down the chance to work in the new film.
In a recent interview with Roger Deakins, Pope called the sequels “mind-numbing” and “soul-numbing”. According to Pope, the Wachowski sisters became obsessed with the idea of redoing takes over and over again. Pope blamed Stanley Kubrick, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, for this development.
“Everything that was good about the first experience was not good about the last two,” Pope explained. “We weren’t free anymore. People were looking at you. There was a lot of pressure. In my heart, I didn’t like them. I felt we should be going in another direction. There was a lot of friction and a lot of personal problems, and it showed up on screen to be honest with you. It was not my most elevated moment, nor was it anyone else’s. The Wachowskis had read this damn book by Stanley Kubrick that said, ‘Actors don’t do natural performances until you wear them out.’ So let’s go to take 90! I want to dig Stanley Kubrick up and kill him.”
Stanley Kubrick is famous for his perfectionism in his directorial technique. He was a tough filmmaker to work with because of his tendency of forcing actors to do multiple takes of very minor scenes. It obviously worked for Kubrick because his technique produced multiple masterpieces like 1968 effort 2001: A Space Odyssey and, five years prior in 1957, Paths of Glory. However, the Wachowski sisters failed to deliver anything even close to that.
“There is something about making a shoot that long, 276 shoot days, that is mind numbing and soul numbing and it numbs the movie,” Pope complained. “You think about ‘The Hobbit,’ where they [shot] one, two, and three, and the movies are just numbing. In the books you don’t feel that because you pick it up and put it down. In a movie shoot it’s too long. There’s a limit from what you can take in.”
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