Monday, February 20, 2023

The magnificent 'dodging bullet' scene in The Matrix with Keanu Reeves was shot with over 100 cameras: 'It was incredible...'


This week's Scene Stealer column takes you back in time to The Matrix with Keanu Reeves, the internet's most enduring crush.

The iconic bullet-time scene is one of many things that The Matrix (1999), directed by the Wachowskis, did well. You know, the one in which Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, bends over backwards to avoid being hit by a villainous agent's bullets? The sequence had such an impact that it made it all the way to India, where it inspired then-new director Farah Khan to make Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan do something similar in Main Hoon Na (2004), which is best described as a silly parody of the scene.

The Matrix pushed the envelope significantly by marrying comic book-style action with martial arts scenes that were only seen in pulpy Hong Kong films. It also demonstrated that it was possible to crash the box office by making entertaining yet intelligent cinema. Even now, 24 years after its release, you don't see that very often.

The bullet-time effect, also known as flow-motion and time slice, was used to create the dodging bullet scene in The Matrix. In this effect, the subject appears to be moving at a normal rate while the camera appears to be moving at a slower rate. Other than The Matrix, this is done well in Shrek, The Simpsons, and Charlie's Angels: Sherlock, Full Throttle, and Kung Fu Panda, among others However, these movies and television shows came out after The Matrix was shown in theaters. So, how did the team pull off the seemingly impossible feat? Naturally, CGI and multiple cameras are the obvious responses. However, in an interview with Vanity Fair, Keanu Reeves, the star of The Matrix, discussed how everything came to be.

The actor told the publication, "When it came to shooting Neo dodging the bullets, it was on a stage with a green screen and more than 100 cameras. It was shot with the help of over 100 cameras." Being the human piece of "bullet time" and accomplishing something physically impossible while on a wire was extraordinary. Everyone was ecstatic when they heard the shutters of the cameras as I threw myself back and performed the choreography. Naturally, in Wachowski fashion, we repeated the process numerous times in search of perfection. The Wachowskis became a part of our visual language as "bullet time" became more mainstream in commercials. During football games, you now see them moving a camera in that manner. Although nothing comes close to the original, it is always cool.

That without a doubt is extremely cool, and something portrayed in the screenplay as 'Entering the fluid space of projectile time.' a clear and concise way to convey what was actually going through my mind as I took in the scene. The segment felt fluid and smooth, just as its creators had intended. The scene is significant not only because of how it was shot or how it influenced the visual grammar of movies, but also because Neo, our hero, discovers his physical abilities at precisely that moment. He had been training for this time with blood, sweat, and tears, and it has paid off for Neo and for us.

The Matrix made 467 million dollars out of its 63 million dollars, which was a jaw-dropping amount at the time. In addition, the Keanu Reeves film won four Oscars for sound, editing, and visual effects.

The Matrix can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and Apple TV. It also features Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Laurence Fishburne in important roles.

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