On March 31, 1999, the first part of the sci-fi movie “The Matrix” was released in North America. The “Matrix” series consists of three live-action movies and nine animated short films, which together describe a dark world in which human civilization and robotic civilization coexist. At the end of March 2019, sci-fi fans around the world celebrated their 20th anniversary.
“The Matrix” has epoch-making significance in the history of science fiction, the history of film technology, and the history of culture. It has opened the curtain of cyberpunk (a branch of science fiction) at the end of the 20th century, and it has smashed the dawn of virtual reality and human-computer interaction in the 21st century. As crazy as the audience, from the 0 and 1 pouring out of the screen, as if to see the true meaning of “existence.”
In 1992, the script “Carnivore” appeared in the mailbox of Lawrence Matisse. Matisse has just given up the bright future of the legal profession, founded a company called “Chaos of Chaos”, want to sign a few big writers.
Carnivore is a horror story. The background is set in a charity. The body of the rich is used to make soup porridge and feed the poor. The author is the Wachowski brothers. In the days to come, many admirers added “s” directly to their surnames and called them “Wachowskis.”
At that time, the Wachowski brothers had been working together for many years. In their childhood, they created radio dramas, comic books, and a variety of role-playing games. They live in a middle-class community in southern Chicago, with mothers being nurses and fathers being businessmen. Parents encourage them to understand art, especially movies. The Wachowski brothers love classic movies from the 1950s, such as Sunset Boulevard, Train Monsters, and the thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the 1982 landmark Silverwing Killer.
The Wachowski brothers have all dropped out of school. They founded a construction company and are still writing scripts and comics. Their early film knowledge comes from the memoirs of the famous independent filmmaker Roger Coleman. The latter, the king of the Hollywood B-class film, can use a day and two nights to produce a 60-year-old cult classic (a film that is highly regarded in a small circle) “Terrorist Shop”, or Francis Branch The leaders of Paula, Martin Scorsese, Jonathan Demi, Ron Howard, and James Cameron.
When the Wachowski brothers found Matisse, they were catching up with the big bang of the movie idea. A lot of screenwriters have become a hot Hollywood star. In 1990, Joe Esterhas’s “Instinct” sold for $3 million; in the same year, Shane Black, the creator of Deadly Weapons, sold $2 million for the script of “The Ultimate Soldier.”
Shortly after Matisse watched Carnivores, he signed the Wachowski brothers. Although this fast-moving script may not be photographed, it gives the Wachowski brothers a strong confidence. Soon, they left the construction industry.
“Cogito ergo sum”
For most of the early 1990s, the Wachowski brothers had been planning to create a comic magazine so that they could plug in the hodgepodge of their interest, such as mythology, robotics, quantum physics, Zen… they had no day Studying martial arts films overnight, Kubrick’s 2001 Space Roaming, Godard’s Alpha City, and Homer’s Odyssey.
They prepared several notebooks for “The Matrix” and smeared everything. When they were brainstorming, the conference room was filled with the records of the Crusade Orchestra and the sacred missions—the deafening heavy metal rock, which was used as a white noise to convey inspiration. In the end, they gave up the comic book and decided to put years of concept and planning in the screenplay.
This hacker is actually an office worker with a plain appearance, called Neo. Suddenly, he met Murphys, a mysterious saint who revealed to him the truth about human beings living in an evil computer simulation matrix. Neo swallowed the red pill, chose to wrestle with the computer matrix, and gradually acquired new power, unveiling the identity of his “savior.”
Matisse is a philosophical one. I can see at a glance that this script is very similar to Descartes’s point of view, “I think so I am.” He was pleasantly surprised and began to look for opportunities to promote the script. At that time, in 1995, academic hackers and hackers created a new Internet community, giving them new names, new genders, and new hometowns. In short, a group of elites in the United States have become accustomed to entering a new virtual world every day. The hacker scripts of the Wachowski brothers raised a question: Since we can create the reality we want, how can we know which “reality” is true?
The script’s movements are full: chasing, gun battles, helicopters hit the building… However, no movie company can understand. The only thing that showed interest was Warner, who bought the script but remained idle. Producers Di Bonaventura and Joel Silver were early supporters, and they all said that everyone was confused at first. “I am sitting in a house, actually I live in a machine? What the hell are we doing?”
The Wachowski brothers found the satirical artist Geof Darrow. The latter’s comic book “Hard Boiled” won the 1991 Eisner Best Writer/Artist Award, which also won the trust of the Wachowski brothers. Darrow is called “concept designer” in all three movies. One of the most prominent scenes of its visual style is: Neo woke up from a nightmare. Attacking Neo’s insect-based robots (composed of tubes, viewing screens and riveted joints) and power plants that use humans as batteries are also his works.
The budget for the first part of “The Matrix” is about $60 million, and I still hear a lot. However, this figure is much lower than Warner’s investment in Batman and Robin. Warner has gradually found that moviegoers have become more and more tired of remake and sizzling, they want new stories, new adventures. Di Bonaventura believes that they need to do something different.
The boss agreed.
In the fall of 1997, the Matrix team spent an unforgettable few months in a large warehouse. Mainly film actors, they started daily training courses under the supervision of martial arts director Yuan Heping. Yuan Heping is a legendary figure in Hong Kong’s film industry. He is known as “Yuan Baye.” He used martial arts in his early years and also worked as a martial arts substitute. After the death of Bruce Lee, the kung fu film urgently needs the successor, Yuan Heping and Jackie Chan teamed up, a “snake-shaped hand”, a “drunken boxing”, popular in Hong Kong, to the world. Naturally, the Wachowski brothers are his fanatics.
Compared with Liu Jialiang’s traditional martial arts hard-bridge hard horse’s action design, Yuan Heping likes to use WIA. Therefore, Keanu Reeves, Hugo Weiwen and others are often tied up on ropes and squatting in the air. Hugo Weiwen broke his bones in a few days and had to walk on crutches. Reeves had just completed cervical surgery and wore a neck brace. Yuan Heping tried to show him the movements of his hands.
However, for various reasons, the first fight was still very modest. After waiting for the latter two, Yuan Heping was even more aggressive.
The two fights in “Matrix Revolution” are classics. One called “The Hell Club’s Life and Death Duel”, Trinity, Murphys and the Guardian Angel entered the underground club in the matrix, facing the reward and catching their Merovinga. In order to shoot this paragraph, the team installed a track system on the ceiling to guide the actors on the wire.
Another game called “Battle, or Death” is a fight between Neo and Agent Smith. This is a super hundred battle. It took a full eight weeks to shoot this scene, and the previous preparations lasted for several months. In order to achieve the “explosive visual effects” that the Wachowski brothers said, the script required the fight to occur in the pouring rain.
Start with a street full of Smith, then shake to the 2,500-foot thunderous sky, then fall into a ruined skyscraper. In order to create “extra large raindrops”, the team used special instruments. Rows of Smithsmith wonders are done with stuntmen and dolls. The stuntman stood in the back row and helped to manipulate the head movements of the front puppets so that each Smith’s head followed the two in the fight.
The fight was carried out in the cyberspace, so the film had to create a sense of gravity in the air. The team invented a rigging equipment called a “tuning fork” that allowed actors and avatars to simulate a gravity-free state. Originally, they wanted to experience the feeling of zero gravity on NASA’s plane, and finally found it unrealistic and gave up. The lens that shows gravity in the fight is shot in the “egg”, where there is a closed space with a blue curtain. After the fight, the post-production staff can combine the action with the VFX background.
There is a rigging equipment called “Twisted Belt”, which was invented by the martial arts coaching group and Reeves’s substitute. It allows actors to do very fluent multi-angle rotations in the air, such as backflips. There is also a kind of “Yi Niu Suo”, many actors use it to simulate the free fall movement, they want to vomit.
“The Matrix” left a great keyword for the history of film technology: bullet time.
Neo was attacked on the roof of a skyscraper, and Agent Jones fired bullets at him from close range. However, Neo is already familiar with the rules in the matrix, and he begins to learn to manipulate the rules. In August 1998, the filming script wrote: Jones’s gun rang, and we entered the flow space behind the bullet time. When Neo was high and low between bullets, the air creaked like an angry fly. Neo was reclining back incredulously, with one hand on the ground.
This description is short and confusing. For a long time, no one knows how to shoot this paragraph.
“Bullet time” is earlier than the movie. Edwald Maibridge used a camera placed on the track to take pictures of the Mercedes horse. Each camera is controlled by a rope that traverses the track, and when the horse runs, the shutter is triggered. Originally, the idea was to solve a big argument: whether the four legs of the animal are running off the ground at the same time. Maibridge put the photos on a glass plate that was rotated in front of the light source and synthesized a set of original animations—probably giving Edison the inspiration to invent the film.
Wu Yusen’s slow motion effect is also famous. For example, his film “The True Color of Heroes” and “Spicy Hands”. This also affects the Wachowski brothers, because they are also fans of John Woo.
However, the bullet time was still carried forward by the Wachowski brothers. It is characterized by extreme changes in time. For example, the audience can even see bullets flying over the top of the head; it is also extremely variable in space. At the same time as the lens is full, the viewer’s perspective also rotates around the scene. Only a virtual camera can capture the effect of bullet time in a computer-generated environment.
In the history of technology, bullet time has developed different applications: time division, perspective transformation, super slow motion, temporary death, virtual photography.
For decades, the field of visual effects has been dominated by San Francisco’s Industrial Light and Magic. This is a special effects company founded by Star Wars director George Lucas in the mid-1970s, originally used to make the first Star Wars movie. However, with the rise of CGI technology in the 1990s, Manex’s visual effects have also emerged. Senior visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, met with the Wachowski brothers in 1996. He noticed that they wanted to evoke “the feeling of virtual reality.”
In an all-green venue in Sydney, Reeves hangs Wia and puts it in a semi-circle of 120 cameras. Wia pulled Reeves back, causing him to lean back nearly 90 degrees, and the still camera flashed its shutters around him. All elements are finalized with the background of the digital insertion, the countless virtual bullets in the air.
The filming of “The Matrix” took two years and is estimated to cost $750,000. It quickly proved to be worthwhile. Once, when Trinity jumped, the bullet time began, and then the slow motion ended. After she kicked the camera of a policeman, the producer Joel Silver turned out and shouted: “That’s it! This is where everyone will stand up and scream!”
In the end, the Manex team created more than 400 digital shots for The Matrix.
Before the release of “The Matrix”, Warner had a big worry: “Star Wars Prequel 1: The Ghost Threat” will be released in the summer. At this time, it has been 15 years since the release of the last Star Wars movie. Fans all over the world are struggling to make a box office for it. Compared to the ultra-luxury production of Star Wars, “The Matrix” is just a R-rated film. Therefore, Warner asked the Wachowski brothers to speed up post-production, release in the spring, and avoid the raging summer file.
Warner has no confidence in the “Matrix”, so far there have been different opinions. Some people say that the boss is optimistic and confident that he will make a lot of money. But others say that Warner treated the Wachowski brothers in a way that treated Kubrick: give them money and then keep a distance.
On March 31, “The Matrix” was released. In the first five days, the film earned a $37 million box office and opened up a long-standing discussion in the Internet age: some people think this is a dazzling action movie, Revis is wearing cool Black coats flew through the sky to the audience; others found that “the Matrix” was a warning to the people, and began to understand the chaos and uneasiness of the late 1990s.
“The Matrix” prompted viewers to enter their “bullet time”: slow down and observe the world around them. Who controlled my life? Is my happiness the happiness caused by the program input? This existential thinking also existed in the early 1990s, but after ten years of political turmoil and ten years of rapid technological development, this idea has become more deeply rooted in the hearts of the people.
When the Wachowski brothers began writing scripts, the mainstream Internet was still the era of modems. By the time the film is released, more than a quarter of American households have joined the broadband Internet. Today, 20 years later, the Wachowski brothers experienced the stage of Wachowski’s brother and sister, and finally became the Wachowski sister.
Tom Tikwe, director of the film “Lola Run”, said “The Matrix” was ten years ahead of its time. He sees this film as a guide to truly understand that “the online world is our second home.”
Immersed in the digital paradise, there are also disturbing side effects. Emerging diseases of Internet addiction are also spreading. By the end of the 20th century, people began to believe that machines would transcend humanity. Although from 2001 Space Roaming to Terminator, this is the truth, but the reality is not optimistic. In 1997, chess master Kasparov lost to IBM’s supercomputer “Deep Blue” and he said “I am afraid.”
The Matrix has provided a way to resist: eating red pills and fighting for truth and liberation. However, the truth is still unknown in the first few layers of Plato’s cave.
There is a “matrix” everywhere in the world. People accept the way of thinking imposed on them, rather than thinking about the truth. Those who truly have freedom are those who question all matrices, systems, or beliefs, even if they question what they bring, sometimes beyond the limits of human understanding.