Fun with Franchises: Our Favorite Images from The Matrix
One of the recurring features that we do in Fun with Franchises (a feature within a feature) is, after we finish watching a film, we go through and pick out our favorite images from that film. These images could be anything from really famous images from the film or franchise, really beautifully composed shots, shots that are funny to us because of the facial expressions being made in them or because of what we said about them in the article in which they appeared, or simply because they have boobs in them.
How we do this is, in the same way we watch the films, Colin and I separately pick out about ten to fifteen shots that we really liked. (This typically ends up being him picking out around 30 and me having around 70.) Then we compare lists, and whichever ones we both chose automatically make our final list. Everything else we talk through. We have it down to a science by now. Within four total emails, we’re left with a final list of ten images we liked the best, along with ten honorable mentions, which were also as good, but just missed out on making the list proper. (And then more we just work in. Just cause.)
It’s not very complicated (like most things we do here at B+ Movie Blog), and is just a way for us to point out shots that we really liked in the films, especially since we tend to pick stuff that’s not always on the beaten path. (We also don’t officially rank the list of shots. We just put them in chronological order. Simply picking them is hard enough. We don’t want to make our lives any harder. Plus, we’re lazy.)
That said — here are our favorite images from The Matrix:
Oh, what? Mike and Colin are doing Matrix shots.
That’s right guys. Put your bandit hats on and let’s go.
Before we begin, Colin and I usually take a few moments to point out some things we liked about the film and the shot choices without officially making selections. Mostly it allows us to call attention to shots we really liked or shots that are really nice-looking but similar to shots we’ve used before or something of that sort. If you’ve read these articles, you know what I’m talking about.
And may I be the first to say — Welcome to our shots list.
Big fan of people standing in front of solid backgrounds, by the way.
This is a pretty iconic shot. What this means to our childhoods means we had to at least give it a mention.
And when you can get framing involved…
Sprinklers going off are the key to comedy.
They pay this off in the next movie, but you gotta love a bunch of TV monitors.
Not sure why I love this, I guess because it’s just the dude standing there, and could be anything. I’d have liked if it was in closer, but it’s worth a mention.
Who doesn’t love a good western shot?
LOVE the bullet ripples in slow motion. Great moment.
The door opening, and the water being pushed. Do you know how much water is required for that to happen?
Another iconic moment from our childhoods. Love all the water droplets.
All CGI, but love how evocative they show the bullet grazing his leg.
Gotta love this moment. Everyone frozen and the agent with the gun. The great thing is that we can put together ninety percent of this movie through iconic images in our heads.
I love a shot from just up a hallway. Automatic framing. Plus, this moment.
This I just like because it’s the only angle from this side we get during this fight, so it stands out, and because it looks like he threw him through a wall and then through the ticket booth.
I’m putting this here, because it’s impossible for one of the shots from Reloaded, which pay off this one, to not be featured. So this has to get relegated to the intro. But this does get me going on the idea that a lot of great and iconic moments in this franchise are built around intelligent shot choices that are used sparingly to create motifs. So when you see the TVs later on (if you remember), you think back to this moment. We’ll get more into that next week.
One thing Colin really liked about this film is the motif of feet. Like this shot of Smith getting out of the garbage truck at the beginning. Which sets us up nicely for the next film (a shot that may end up on our shots list, in fact). Or this shot, of Keanu’s boots walking into the building, which we see and go, “Oh yeah, shit is about to go down!”
Pretty sure Colin and I both had this one on our lists. It’s just a great long shot of him getting shot multiple times in the chest. It’s a great way to shoot it. Since the dramatic one was the first one, which is so tight that you don’t even see him get shot. You just see his reaction, the bullet falling and him looking down at the bullet hole (which… amazing editing in this movie. Really well done). And now that’s done, we get the cold, unfeeling long shot as he gets shot six more times. It’s a great use of shot scale, and honestly would have made the list if there was one extra spot open. This was alternate #1.
Which brings us to the list proper…
Mike and Colin’s Ten Favorite Images from The Matrix
(I decided to give it a header now, just to delineate it from the intro stuff.)
1. The Code
This shit is iconic. We all had this as our backgrounds. And this is really the only choice that we should all be choosing. You almost have to choose this one, because this is everything about the franchise. This shot actually trumps every other image in the film in terms of being iconic. This is the gun barrel of the Matrix franchise.
If we’re honest, this imagery defined a decade of cyber sci-fi. I appreciate this because it gives this franchise something that a franchise like Terminator or Star Wars never really had. I guess you could say that there were the opening titles flying off into space, but those weren’t really a part of the film. Actually, how great would it have been if they’d just said, “Fuck it,” and shown some random titles flying through the back of a shot during one of the space battles? Like rogue titles just drifted through space and it was a thing everyone was familiar with? Anyway, this code brings us in with what we recognize about computers and the cyber world — its color and its script. To this day, I imagine high-level hackers typing this stuff. It’s also totally confusing.
2. The Adams Street Bridge
I love how much water is cascading down this bridge. If there was a bridge like this that existed in my city, I’d go there every time it rained just to see this. Have to fight off all the bums, though.
That is a shit ton of water. Reflections in the wet street have always been my thing (think Max von Sydow walking across the street in Three Days of the Condor), and reflections are a major part of this film’s visual theme. I don’t know if it’s intentional, or just the greenish tint washing out the color, but these reflections are shocking the screen with these flashes of red and blue. Colors mean things.
3. The Greatest Image in the History of Cinema
Because this is actually the greatest image in the history of cinema.
This needs to be doctored to be different things he’s staring at.
That shot is going to take us off on a detour from the official list. Because this is an example of something that happens an obscene amount of times in this movie, and in, I imagine, many of his movies. I give you Keanu Reeves Looking at Inanimate Objects:
Keanu looks at his computer screen.
Keanu looks at a rabbit tattoo.
Keanu looks at a squeegee.
Keanu looks at his office computer.
Keanu looks at this cell phone he was just sent in the mail.
Keanu looks at a folder supposedly containing his criminal activities.
Keanu looks at a pill that’s going to become a bug that will enter his belly button.
Keanu looks at a gun being pointed at him.
Keanu looks at a device designed to take a bug out of his belly button.
Keanu looks at a red pill.
Keanu looks at a weird mirror.
Keanu looks at a chair.
Keanu looks at the wall.
Keanu looks at the ledge of a building.
Keanu looks a sideways spoon.
Keanu looks at an upright spoon.
Keanu looks at a vase.
Keanu looks at a cookie.
Keanu looks at a ringing phone.
Keanu looks at guns. Lots of guns.
Keanu looks at new guns.
Keanu looks at a knife.
Keanu looks at a rope.
Keanu looks at a door.
Keanu looks a bullet.
Keanu looks at many bullets.
Keanu looks at a phone.
This could be a children’s book.
4. This shot
This shot speaks for itself on a thematic level, and is also just brilliant on every level.
But the other thing I wanted to talk about here, since Colin pointed it out in his shot choices and also in the articles — the Wachowskis really use a great deal of reflection shots in this movie. They pay this one off with this shot shortly afterward, which is nice because it cuts closer and really outlines the thematic nature of the shot. But they also do it a bunch later on as well. We see Neo reflected in Morpheus’s glasses during the agent training simulator, Neo and Morpheus reflected in the doorknob of the Oracle’s apartment, and, of course, the one that originally set us off and talking about them, the one on Trinity’s bike mirror as Keanu gets arrested.
Yeah, that’s basically it. The Wachowskis have their tricks, just like anyone else, only they stick to them pretty obviously. Maybe it’s because they don’t feel overdone during the first film, but I still enjoyed all the reflections and shoe shots and Keanu looking at stuff. At least the reflections represent themes at work in the film, like alternate realities, distorted mimicry, self-discovery, and viewing oneself from another’s perspective.
5. The Dojo
Love this wide shot. The Wachowskis really know when to go wide in this movie. This is one of those images in the movie that makes you excited whenever you see it. Because you know what’s coming next.
It’s a bigass dojo. First, there’s the massive scale of it and how wide they chose to make this shot. Then there’s the religious or symbolic significance; “dojo,” or 道場, is a combination of the characters for “the way” or “the path” and “place.” Just as he is the One, he is learning the Way. Japanese philosophy treats learning and discovery as a path — the terms are one and the same. So a dojo is the perfect place for Morpheus to be trying to open Neo’s mind for the first time, especially since he’s always making metaphors about knowing the path and walking the path and all that. It’s probably unintentional, but rather than setting up the fight lengthwise down the mats, they’re fighting across mats, which suggests the breaking of rules or boundaries. But again, probably unintentional.
6. Hugo Weaving
Mostly we’re just appreciating how badass he is. From the fact that he points and other people just listen, to the great pauses and facial expressions he has (that twitch when he talks about the landlady is priceless), to his smugness at dealing with everyone, to plain and simple crazy faces.
This franchise isn’t nearly as good without him in it. And I think they realized that when they made the sequels, because they brought him back for them. They realized he was the arch nemesis, and that him being that mortal enemy character could really bring the Smith and Neo battles to epic and mythic proportions, which it does. We want these fights to happen. And when they do, they’re awesome. (Even if they do get too CGI at the end. The one at the end is John Williams level big. Down to the music.)
Could anyone else have done what Hugo did here? No. I’m in awe of this man and everything I’ve seen him do in a franchise. We’ve never had another actor like him. I talked about how great he was during the Lord of the Rings articles, but this was the role that he really owned. Smith is the most enjoyable part of the franchise, the character who makes watching these movies worthwhile when you just want to give up on Neo and Trinity and all the other meatsacs. I think what fascinates me most about this character is that he has the most pronounced expressions and emotive face of any of the franchises characters. Why is it that all the humans look like they’re mainlining Valium while Smith is making the crazy eyes and facial twitches, speaking with such relish and emotion, and experiencing the full spectrum of human experiences, from arrogance, anger, exultation, denial, hatred and defeat? A lot of that is the writing, but Hugo Weaving played it perfectly. He’s the whole package, and frankly, he makes every other character in the franchise look sorry in comparison.
7. In the Walls
One of my single favorite moments in the film. I love the idea of people climbing down the walls from the inside. I also love the moment they have to “go” and we see the opposite angle, of all the shingles sliding down the wall.
This made me think of Prisoners, which is the movie that I remember from recent years that prominently featured shots that were mostly black. Inside the wall cage thing, with only the little, teeny hole for light. That shit was terrifying. This is also how I imagine Wes Anderson would have filmed the scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where she’s punching her way out of the coffin — a full-on side view like an ant farm, with most of the screen just dark soil and her in the center as a cutaway. This is how I think of shots.
After having seen Fantastic Mr. Fox, I feel like I know exactly how Wes Anderson would have shot that.
8. This Shot (or: Reaction Shots Are the Key to Comedy)
Perhaps the one shot from the movie that everyone knows. Because this feels like it wasn’t scripted. It feels like they shot this scene and the set just fell apart. So they kept it. It’s great. We just saw them tear up this lobby, and then it ends with a whimper and a piece of plaster falling to the ground. The perfect final note to this symphony of action.
This is the mother lode of reaction shots are the key to comedy in this movie. It’s not even like it was planned, most likely. They spend like five minutes trashing everyone in this room and the room itself, and you’re left with this silence for a second until it crumbles. We all love those visual gags in Looney Tunes cartoons, like with Daffy or Wile E. Coyote. Wile E. Coyote’s just been blown up by his own Acme exploding boomerang or whatever, and he’s sitting there all toasted for like 2 seconds and then his tail disintegrates. It’s that same gag that makes you laugh anywhere. This is the essence of visual comedy.
9. THIS SHOT
This is my absolute favorite shot in the film. They don’t get any better than this.
Also my favorite shot in the film. The rotor blades spinning as the shells fall. You also get the clinking sound of the shells to go along with it, which is nice. Another great part of the shot is how all the water from the sprinklers is now pouring out of the window that they’ve opened with the minigun. Dramatic angles are dramatic.
10. Seeing the Code
I love this. I love seeing real Matrix code in 3D. The stuff at the beginning is cute, but this is actually seeing shit through code. I love it. If they made a movie that looked exactly like this, or like a video game or something, I’d be down.
For me, this was more thought-provoking than anything else. I was almost upset that he now saw them all in code, cause that seemed like a loss. Wouldn’t you rather see something than see a mere representation of what it is? But then, you have to remember that this IS really what the Matrix is, and the images we’ve seen so far are the representation that our brain interprets. Whatever, it’s bizarre that we see the code this way and that he’s going to spend the rest of his Matrix life seeing like this. One thing that I do enjoy is that powerful beings and programs seem to have higher code density — that is, they shine brighter because of all the code.
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RANDOM HARP SHOT OUT OF NOWHERE.
Which will bring us to the honorable mentions:
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- Shot/Reverse Shot
These are just amazing. The first one is super menacing, and has the high angle to it, along with the lighting to make it a terrific shot.
And then we cut to the reverse shot, of Smith looking up at her, which is also amazing. This is one of those movies where they seemingly did everything right. You don’t get those too often.
Come on. At this point, I appreciate just about any shot that has an interesting angle and isn’t done with a shaky GoPro. Is it any wonder that we’ve lost our collective eye for shot composition when most movies now are afraid of setting up a goddamn tripod and doing something good.
And honorable mention to this shot as well. Because this looks like an album cover.
- Hand on the glass
Cause you bout to get garbage trucked and that hand is your answer. Isn’t it interesting how often we put up our hands to protect us from stuff that hands will do nothing against? I’ve got a theory that a lot of people who show up in morgues as a result of gunshot wounds probably have holes in their hands, cause they go, “NO!” and put up a hand to stop a bullet at close range.
- The “oh fuck!” moments
Colin and I both had these shots on this list, and they were centered around the same idea. When they happen you go, “Oh fuck.”
It’s the old suspense and surprise. His is all about suspense. “They’re after you” and he looks up, there they are, and now they’re looking right at him. Mine is more surprise. They edit the end sequence to the point where, when you see this for the first time, and Smith is in that room, after everything we just went through, you just go, “Oh fuck” because you know he’s about to get shot.
(Shout out to this shot as well, which is simple, but is a huge deal in the context of the movie.)
So I thought we should combine the two and talk about how well the Wachowski’s directed this to get maximum emotional impact out of their shots.
We’re actually going to be getting into something similar in a bit.
We all love those “oh fuck” moments that change the dynamic. The one I saw recently was in Whiplash when Simmons tells Miles Teller that he knew who had snitched on him, right before the big performance. And you know from that second that the finale is going to be a shitshow. A movie that effectively changes the circumstances of a scene will win you over. Both of these instances were less effective than Whiplash, if only because we’re already expecting enemies and bad stuff, whereas Simmons blindsided us.
- The hand
There’s always one shot in every film that we discover upon doing these articles. It’s not that we never noticed it before, it’s just that we never considered it until we slowed everything down and considered every shot as an image. There’s always something we discover that we never really looked at before that makes us go, “Wow, look at that.”
For me (for both of us, since we both had it on our lists), it’s this one. This is gonna be the shot where, if you’re skimming through this article, you’re gonna stop and go, “What’s that?” That’s why I wanted it on here so badly. You don’t really remember this shot from the movie. If you take a second and think about it, sure, you can think of what scene it’s in and what it means in context. But on it’s own, it’s a striking image, right?
That’s why I wanted it here. Because on its own, this is a terrifying image. You can put this on other movies and it’s scary as shit. I like having shots on our lists that no one would ever consider from these movies, rather than the obvious choices everyone would go with.
I love shots like these, because you only realize that they exist and where they’re from when you do something like this project, where we’re looking at thousands of screenshots. How many awesome shots have been discovered because Mike’s good with the spacebar? I cite Kristen Stewart spitting in pain after breaking her spine. Or Kristen Stewart throwing up from morning sickness. Or Kristen Stewart hitting her head on a rock. Okay, a lot of stuff from those movies clearly sticks out.
- The Desert of the Real
I love this. That mountain set looks like Sam’s cape when they’re outside of the Black Gate. Plus this is just a great image that we all remember. Also, Laurence Fishburne is like, “Welcome to my fuck pad.”
How obvious can you be about being on a sound stage? That’s styrofoam rock and a narrow shot. I imagine them doing this scene, and as Keanu spins around in disbelief, he sees someone’s agent eating a doughnut at the craft services table. Stay away from copious CGI, filmmakers.
- “We’re in”
This whole shot was brilliantly designed. It’s a rotating camera shot. Two, in fact. One rotating camera in an empty room, close on a ringing phone. And a second rotating camera on the Nebuchadnezzar (still can spell that right without thinking about it), as everyone is plugged in. We pan around in a circle to the entire crew. And at the end of the shot, this is what we see. And then Morpheus walks forward and answers the phone, saying, “We’re in.” It’s badass as shit.
I like this as an introduction to how they enter the Matrix. They’re all in the chairs, loading up in the loading program, and then all of a sudden they’re there. Especially because they look like shit in the real world and when they land in the Matrix, they all look pimp. Neo’s the only one without sunglasses, which is interesting.
Also, I want to point out two things I thought of while typing that paragraph up there. First — how were they all plugged in at the same time and not already in the room when the camera started rotating? Seems weird. And second — that’s 7 people plugged into the Matrix. Seven chairs in a circle. (Actually, more on that in a second.) In the second movie, there are only three people left on the ship that can enter the Matrix: Morpheus, Neo and Trinity. Did they get rid of all the extra chairs? Were they destroyed at the end of this movie? Did they decide not to replace them? Or do they now have empty chairs that they look at somberly every time they plug in? How does that work? You have to have extra chairs, right? Because what if someone’s staying on the ship and wants to plug in? You have to be a gracious host.
Sometimes our best questions come in these articles and we always forget about them.
Which reminds me — the seven chairs in a circle thing brought me back to the Fellowship analogy I made in one of the articles. I thought seven chairs and thought two things at once. “Nine companions,” as well as, “Tank and Dozer can’t enter the Matrix. They must be the Merry and Pippin of that group.” Which now means I have to figure out who’s who of that bunch.
Neo is clearly Frodo.
And we’ll say Tank and Dozer are Merry and Pippin.
Morpheus has to be Gandalf.
I was gonna say Trinity has to be Aragorn, given her role, but since she’s so gay for Neo, she has to be Samwise.
Pantoliano is clearly Sean Bean. You can tell he is, because we don’t even use their character names when we talk about them.
The analogy kind of falls apart there, since the only three left are Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli, and that leaves Switch, Apoc and Mouse.
Maybe Colin can figure out who’s who in that bunch.
I don’t really get those three. I’ll say that Switch is blonde and feminine, so that’s Legolas. She pals around with the hairy guy, so Apoc is Gimli. And that leaves Mouse as Aragorn, which…no. He does go out fighting like 100 dudes, so there’s that.
- Unique Shot Choices
Just to explain this — the idea is that the Wachowskis chose really interesting angles from which to shoot scenes, and it made for much more memorable shots throughout the film, rather than if they chose conventional angles. A lot of times (like in this first shot), they really only go there once or twice. But you remember the shots, and if they do go back to them twice (like they did with this first shot), it’s to pay it off from earlier. And it just makes for a more rewarding viewing experience.
What if Dobby had been played by Laurence Fishbourne?
I’m using this one specifically because — they shoot this from a single angle. It’s a helicopter crashing into a building across the street and exploding, and Trinity swinging away from it on a rope held by Neo who is on the roof. And I love that they shot it not just from the building across the street, but from inside the building. And the fact that they showed the glass breaking is just really incredible. It’s that little detail that makes you remember the shot. And it’s the little things like that which are missing from modern action movies and are why everything today seems sterile and boring in big budget action movies.
How do you get the explosion AND get her hitting the building? Shoot from inside. I think what appeals to me the most about this shot is that there’s glass between the camera and the action, and you’re not aware of it until she hits it. You become more aware of the shot’s placement and dimensions as a direct result of the unfolding action.
I’m also gonna shoehorn these shots in here, because Colin and I both included them on our lists, and they do stand out among the other shots in this film. And they all basically fit under one classification: extreme angle shots.
The Wachowski’s make glorious use of the extreme angle shots in this movie (look at shot choice #9 for a perfect example).
These shots become way more memorable because of that. The most important one in the group is probably the middle one. Because of the way they shot this movie, you see those stairs and immediately know what movie you’re in and remember two separate moments of when you saw that shot.
Angles like this give the movie a surreal aesthetic, which is exactly what we’re going for. There are few opportunities to shoot this way in the real world scenes, and whatever opportunities there may be are ignored. These are great shot choices because they feel like video game shots. It feels like a cut scene or a cinematic in a game.
Oh, and they also use an extreme angle to show police brutality against minorities:
- Dodge This
There’s something really great about this shot choice. It stuck out to me more than any other shot in this sequence (the one on the roof, that is).
Once again, we have a shot that reveals the geometry of the interaction. It’s from the point of view of the agent all of a sudden, which makes her look scarier, and then when the shot changes, you see her blowing his brains out.
- Random Reactions
We’re basically going to end the article with a bunch of really funny facial expressions that happen over the course of the movie.
There’s just something amusing and unsettling about this smirk.
I didn’t need to see that as a still image.
“What is this fuck doing?”
What else would he be thinking?
“Not to brag or nothin’, but I just whooped the shit out of you.”
I can’t lie. I relish in these moments when I get them. You’ve just been a badass in some way, whether it’s in nailing a comeback or correctly predicting something, or by kicking someone through a load-bearing support beam. And as you stand there basking in your awesomeness, you notice an eyelash or something on your thumb and take a second to brush it away like whatever you just did wasn’t a big deal, even though it’s totally a big deal. “So this is why — hm, this hangnail just will not heal…uh, this is why you’ll be dead in a week without constant vigilance.”
Lookin’ at that onion booty.
Look at that dome shine, though!
I think this pretty much speaks for itself.
I know. A white t-shirt with a double breasted jacket? Yeah, right.
He gone? BOOZE.
Pinky finger out while drinking moonshine.
“Who farted? Am I right, guys? Hah!”
Sniffin’ bitches and talking to unconscious people.
This makes me wish that he’d done something better, like let them sweat it out in the Matrix while he tattooed a dick on her forehead or something.
His face is hilarious. But I also like this because it looks like he’s actually standing in front of a green screen. And yet, it works.
Remember when miniguns were still cool?
“Yeah… I told you he was the One.”
Completely forgot he’d been shot in the ankle like 2 minutes previously.
I think that about does it.
What, you thought we were gonna feature the obvious shots of dodging bullets?
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Did you really think we were gonna end the article without that?
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(See the rest of the Fun with Franchises articles here.)