Even fans of the genre will admit that sci-fi films are a dime a dozen. Out of the many space, future, and tech odysseys that are released every year, a select few stand the test of time. Ironically, one of the biggest factors in a sci-fi film becoming dated (and kind of ridiculous) is technology1. But in a landscape riddled with so many films that are laughably obsolete, The Matrix has managed to hold its own due to the fact that many of the film’s effects were practical, not CGI.
The following behind the scenes video, originally found on The Matrix DVD, proves why this movie has stood the test of time in a genre that tends to get chewed up and spit out by the ravages of technology and innovation.
Additionally, it could have been a very different, and likely less successful outing if they’d gone with a different Neo:
Will Smith, Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Leonardo DiCaprio were all offered the part of Neo in The Matrix before Keanu Reeves.
— Fact (@Fact) December 6, 2016
On paper, The Matrix didn’t promise to be the transcendent film it became. It’s plot, while sharply written, wasn’t anything terribly new, and Keanu Reeves was (and continues to be) a hit-or-miss box office proposition. But the production offered some very cool design, memorably-written characters, and effects that still hold up.
The big takeaway everyone had from the film was the “bullet-time” approach that saw the camera circling around characters at a moment in time, then returning to the action in a more traditional shot. It could have been a disaster, but The Matrix was able to use it with a heavy hand to great success.
See for yourself how the film holds up in this scene:
And this one:
One way to think of the Wachowskis’ approach is that they used bullet-time as a spice in a dish rather than the main course. In both of these scenes, the meat-and-potatoes are the wonderfully choreographed fights, with bullet-time accenting rather than dominating them.
Without all that technology and tasteful implementation, we never would have gotten this: