Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hit Me With Your Best (Bullet Time) Shot

"What is the Matrix?"

15 years after it debuted, 2 sequels later, an animated companion piece called the Animatrix, and more exposition than Christopher Nolan ever dreamed of putting into Inception, the only answer I have is...I'm still not entirely sure. But then again, I'm not convinced the Wachowski siblings are completely aware themselves. But they seem to take their sci-fi tale about machines taking over humanity and their not-so-subtle Christianity tinged "One" savior ideal (although, frankly, I'd be a little worried if the fate of humans relied on Keanu Reeves) all so seriously, that it's kinda hard not to follow along on their trippy ride. And even if you don't necessarily buy the philosophical mumbo jumbo ("There is no spoon."), there's no denying that the first Matrix film from 1999 has had a huge visual influence on the action films that followed it. Which makes it such a great choice as the Season Finale of this year's Hit Me With Your Best Shot from Nathaniel at The Film Experience.

Watching this movie again this past weekend, I was actually surprised how well the special effects and CGI from the film held up. 15 years is a long time when it comes to technology and it was remarkable how it hardly looked dated at all. Things that have not held up as well: the late 90's X-treme Prodigy-like Industrial Goth Rock soundtrack (get out the glow sticks, cause we're going to a rave!), the Hot Topic "edgy" head-to-toe black latex ensembles, and Joe Pantoliano's acting (I mean, no one was gonna win an Oscar for any of this, but I'm not sure what the hell he was going for).

But what about the famous "Bullet Time" with its trademarked slow-motion? The special effect that would launch a thousand imitators, thus setting up the way most action movies have been shot for the subsequent 15 years? Does it still have the power to impress all these years, I can hear you ask. In a word: Whoa. Surprisingly, it still does. And at the risk of choosing such an obvious choice, I felt like I could really only go with one of the Bullet Time shots. But instead of the most well-known shot with Keanu's Neo doing a slo-mo backbend in his trench coat and sunglasses. I chose this shot after his Christ-like rise from the dead:

After being left for dead having battled the relentless Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving in the role that would launch his career to the next level), Neo fulfills the prophecy and takes his place as the One. Mixing mythology, religion, and fairy tales together, Neo's awakening is more Sleeping Beauty than Jesus as a kiss from Trinity - who was destined to fall in love with the One (how convenient!) - brings him back to life. 

What I love about this shot is the ripple of the bullets as Neo stretches out his hand. It's almost as if he's pulling them toward him and it becomes a metaphor for the influence this film would have, pulling other directors and special effects creators into its orbit and the ripple effect it would have on filmmaking. 

But seriously, what is the damn Matrix?


  1. Great choice. (But I think Weaving's career was launched by his role and performance in Priscilla.)

  2. you know, i've never actually seen PRISCILLA! i know! it's terrible, i really should...so, i completely forgot that weaving was in that. so, let's say that movie actually launched his career, but this is the film that took him to the next level. PRISCILLA is his MYSTIC PIZZA but THE MATRIX is his PRETTY WOMAN. and, yes, i compared hugo weaving to julia roberts - probably the only time that's ever happened...