Bullet time, augmented reality: the powerful effects of “The Matrix”


Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix” (1999). Image: Moviestore / Shutterstock via AFP

Bullets that defy gravity and time, code falling like rain on the screen – the visual effects of the original film “The Matrix” quickly became iconic when it was released in 1999.

As the fourth installment “The Matrix Resurrections” hits theaters next week, millions of people are anxious to return to Keanu Reeves’ Neo story as he tries to unravel what’s real and what’s wrong. computer generated simulation.

Coming 19 years after the last film, it was reminiscent of the original trilogy’s dramatic impact on Hollywood.

Its most visual influence was “bullet time” – the super slow motion effect that saw Neo duck and dance around the balls as they passed him – which later became a staple in video games and movies. ‘action.

Its roots are partly French – a simpler version was deployed by Parisian effects company Buf and director Michel Gondry on a music video for “Like a Rolling Stone” by the Rolling Stones in 1995. Gondry is said to be the director of a another science fiction classic. a few years later, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, with Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet.

Buf ended up working on three of the four Matrix films, after the directors, the Wachowskis, came up with the idea of ​​applying the nascent technique to fight scenes.

Essentially, he takes photographs from dozens of individual cameras and stitch them together to create the impression of “a moving camera in a frozen world,” explained Dominique Vidala de Buf.

The other memorable motif of the early films was the rain of code green on a black screen.

Obsessive fans have argued for years about the secret messages hidden in the code, but Vidala reveals it all: “It was basically a menu of ramen (Japanese noodles) mixed in with a multitude of inverted numbers.”

Perfectionist Wachowskis commissioned 20 different ideas on how to create a visual representation of the Matrix.

“We did a huge amount of research to decide how to show people created from digital code,” Vidala said. “We had plans going up to version 150!

Augmented reality

“The Matrix” marked a major breakthrough in Hollywood, after which blockbusters entered the era of “green screen” cinema in which special effects became ubiquitous.

But his mix of pop culture tropes and millennial worries also had a big influence.

“The matrix said a lot about what was going to happen. Reality has caught up with science fiction with the advent of 3D, augmented reality and virtual reality, ”said Lloyd Chery, host of a science fiction podcast.

This remains relevant today. References to “The Matrix” are never far from discussions of Facebook’s plans to create a virtual world, the Metaverse.

And last year, Lilly Wachowski, who, like her sister, has changed genders since the first film, said she sees the series as a “trans” metaphor, ahead of its time to raise questions about the fluid nature of identity.

The famous scene in which Neo has to decide whether to take the blue or red pill – one sending him back to blissful ignorance and the other showing him the harsh reality of The Matrix – has entered the lexicon and not always in a positive way.

“Redpill” became an online right-wing meme in the 2010s, used by men who claimed to have their eyes open to the dangers of feminism.

But deep down, the original movies were a hit because they crystallized geek culture with their mix of martial arts, Hong Kong movies, new-age spiritualism, and cyberpunk.

However, they never had much success with critics, and the new installment also elicits mixed reactions from the first screenings.

One Variety one reviewer described him as “a terrific, awe-inspiring and awesome meta-mind” while another felt he was “too self-aware … with little jaw-dropping action”.

Either way, many moviegoers are likely to take the red pill and see how far the rabbit hole goes. JB


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