Ever since The Matrix’s debut in 1999, it’s been an action film that audiences can’t stop talking about; even though the acclaimed action franchise is full of original ideas, it also owes a lot to the action films that came before it, particularly the works of one visionary Chinese director.
1999 marked a very formative year for the action genre when the Wachowskis’ The Matrix knocked down doors and showed moviegoers everywhere what can be possible in a mind-bending, science fiction/action hybrid movie. The stark visual style, unreal fight scenes, and tantalizing philosophies that The Matrix teased were an instant hit. The film helped redefine cinema and had audiences asking each other if they would take the red pill or blue pill in life. The Matrix proved to be a lot more than just a new action movie.
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The sequels to The Matrix pushed the franchise to new places, for both better and worse, but the movies are still full of genuinely exciting and ambitious ideas. The franchise has continued to go on to amass a wide line of ancillary material and side stories that help flesh out the expansive Matrix universe. The demand for these films and the growing love for Keanu Reeves has reached such peaks that a Matrix 4 is in production 20 years after the release of The Matrix. These films have built a strong legacy, but even the Wachowskis were looking to the genre’s past for inspiration.
The Matrix: The Fight Scenes Reference An Iconic Chinese Director
The Wachowskis new that The Matrix needed to have a distinct look to its fight scenes since the movie deals with Keanu Reeves’ Neo slowly understanding and mastering the rules of this new world. The directors were big fans of the complex Jet Li action film, Fist of Legend, so they actually hired the film’s fight choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping to conceptualize the big action sequences within The Matrix.
In addition to Woo-ping’s work on Fist of Legend, he’s also the fight choreographer who’s responsible for the incredible combat sequences in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill. Yuen Woo-ping has also been an instrumental choreographer for helping martial arts legends like Jet Li and Donnie Yen perfect their styles. He’s an incredible asset to have on board for The Matrix and his cooperation is a major factor in why the film’s fight scenes feel so different from the rest of American action cinema of the time.
The films of John Woo were also a big influence on the Wachowskis. One element that’s prevalent throughout his movies (practically to the point of being parodied) is his passion for including dramatic shots of doves in flight in slow motion during the apex of a fight scene. It’s a very stylized gesture, but it’s a move from out of Woo’s playbook that the Wachowskis fit into The Matrix films. It’s just more proof of the heavy influence of Asian action cinema on their movie. Some of the references in The Matrix are subtler, but the doves in flight feel like a pretty obvious nod to a legend who made his mark on the same genre.
Next: The Matrix Inspired A Real-Life Religion: Matrixism Explained
Key Release Dates
- The Matrix 4 (2021)Release date: May 21, 2021
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