I'm a big fan of The Matrix, the 1999 sci-fi movie from the Wachowski brothers which depicts the life in a computer generated world called The Matrix. This movie showcased extreme comic-book like camera angles, strangely shifted color hues and groundbreaking special effects like Bullet Time which allowed the film makers to stop action at any point and rotate around an object, then resume full speed action. Now it seems every new sci-fi movie has copied this effect.
The latest issue of Wired magazine has an excellent 5 page article about John Gaeta, the special effects wiz behind other effects in the first Matrix film. It's very interesting because it chronicles Gaeta's path from apprentice effects man to his work as effects director for The Matrix. It also discusses the new techniques and approaches Gaeta is taking in Reloaded, like using bits of actors faces grafted onto computer generated, body-mapped digital actors to create physically impossible action scenes.
One of the problems a special effects innovators face, is the challenge of topping your last miracle. In the Matrix Reloaded, Gaeta has his hands full, since Matrix fans will expect the effects of the film to top those of the original Matrix. So the question is, can the effects of the original Matrix be topped?
I think it can and will be done, judging by Matrix Reloaded trailers, and scenes like the affectionately named "Burly Brawl" where hundreds of Agent Smith clones attack Neo (armed with only a playground sign post). When I looked critically at this scene on a 23" Apple HD Cinema Display on the weekend, there were only the smallest tidbits and artifacts that looked even slightly unreal or computer generated. Even this stylized computer-generated look works for me, since The Matrix is intended to be a computer generated environment.
So, we'll all have to wait until May 15th to see what the Wachowski brothers and John Gaeta have in store for us with Matrix Reloaded. I can't wait!