Opening Sequences In Movies — Part One: ‘The Matrix’

February 27, 2021

In lieu of real news to shit on, I’ve decided to start a new series commemorating a vital segment of movies — the opening sequence, also sometimes called the title sequence, which in the best films sets the tone for the movie itself. A shitoad of recent movies don’t have opening credits anymore, they go straight to the action.

Hopefully, there will be other movies in this series to follow — and this post today starts it off with “The Matrix:”

An old intervuew (apparenty just after the movie was released) with Carrie-Anne Moss:

“My first fight in the movie was unbelievable because I was doing things I had done well a couple of times, but wasn’t terribly consistent with. Sometimes I would get it and sometimes I wouldn’t.
It was like being an athlete and hitting my peak. I hit my peak the days I shot. It was like this power that was bigger than me took over, and I felt it in such an amazing way.
I had amazing confidence, which was one of the things that Yuen Ping [the fight choreographer] and his team really worked on with me, they said it was my biggest thing and I agree with them. They would say all you need is someone to believe in you, and they’re right.

“That cartwheel was one of the hardest things. I learned that three days before I had to do it, then I had to run up a wall which made it even harder.
The weekend before I had to do it, I was in the training center in tears saying: “I can’t do it, I can’t do it!” I am very emotional. Amongst all these men I am the emotional faucet. If I don’t get something right I get tough and I want to do it again, but I also cry like a baby. I really didn’t think I would be able to do that one. Then my ankle went bad.”

And the heft of ‘The Matrix‘ in life:

“When I first met the guys [Larry and Andy] I had not read the script, but had got the vibe of it from a couple of scenes that I had auditioned for.
I got the script right after that and when I read it, it reminded me of one time at school when a teacher proposed this question to the class: ‘What if, right now, our sitting in this classroom is just a dream? What if our lives are just dreams?’
And in that moment, even though we didn’t have big discussions about it, a seed was planted in my mind: it was the first time I thought that maybe life is not the way I was told and taught, maybe things are different.
You grow up believing in evolution or religion or that the world is flat, and whatever you’ve been told is what you believe.
I thought that day it could be something different, something I’m not aware of. Sometimes I’ll be walking through life and I’ll go, “Am I dreaming? How do I know this isn’t a dream?” That’s kind of the Matrix.”

A bit heavy, but here’s a reasoned, movie-goer view — via AV Club in May 2017:

To start with, it breaks every typical sci-fi entry mode.
Usually, sci-fi movies have to add text or expository dialogue to explain the current weird worldview we’re looking at—like the long-rolling text in Star Wars.
The Matrix gives us no such info, just rows of green numbers and a man and woman talking, with dialogue like, “You like watching him.”
It’s creepy and instantly confounding.

Then we’re brought to a dark urban scene where a fleet of cops show up to take down “one little girl.”
The agents “who wear sunglasses in the middle of the night” show up, to warn the lieutenant that his “men are already dead.”
We almost immediately root for Trinity in the riveting action scene that follows, even though she’s killing a room full of cops. Part of the reason for that is that we see her face quite a bit, while the cops are shadowy, faceless figures.
As Trinity runs from the agents, the movie then draws from film genres we may already be familiar with, like 1940s film noir or Hitchcock’s rooftop chase scene in Vertigo, to insert more information into the scene.

Trinity then miraculously escapes via a phone booth, and at the end of only six minutes, we are left with a variety of questions — like who is Trinity, why does she have these powers, why are those guys chasing her, and what is the matrix anyway?
Then Neo is introduced as our point-of-view character, and we are as desperate as he is to find out what’s going in. Thanks to The Matrix’s breathtaking, bewildering intro, we are already hooked.

The experience might have been too-big-for-its britches (but loved it anyway). Apparently, the opening sequence was so good, Roger Ebert in his initial review of the movie (March 31,1999) asserted the rest of ‘The Matrix‘ (actually the whole movie) was kind of disappointing — first gragh: ‘“The Matrix” is a visually dazzling cyberadventure, full of kinetic excitement, but it retreats to formula just when it’s getting interesting. It’s kind of a letdown when a movie begins by redefining the nature of reality, and ends with a shoot-out. We want a leap of the imagination, not one of those obligatory climaxes with automatic weapons fire.
And even more that opening and another let-down: ‘Carrie-Anne Moss, as Trinity, has a sensational title sequence, before the movie recalls that she’s a woman and shuttles her into support mode.

Not long after I originally saw ‘The Matrix‘ (I’ve seen it a shitload of times), I began to doubt Trinity as a woman of an extraordinary persona, righteously kicking ass and being of only of herself. However, as I pondered deep ‘Matrix‘ thoughts, I began to see Ebert’s translation — while they prepped Neo for his transference from grown-up, baby-battery to a real person, Trinity seemed too nice, and near-cowering, and later after the rescue from the helicopter, she seemed more in awe of Neo’s greatness than from a near-death experience.

This is nickpicking, though — ‘The Matrix‘ is great! The two sequels, however, sucked-deeply through a small straw and should never had been made. And even worse, “Matrix 4″ is on the books, but what the fuck? Neo and Trinity are both dead.
I’m sure The Wachowski Brothers will figure it out.

The Matrix‘ was released in 1999, a year considered by many as one of the best in cinema history — among the flock that year: “The Sixth Sense” (“I can see dead people”); “Fight Club;” “Office Space” (it didn’t become an iconic masterpiece until it came out on DVD, but still); “Girl, Interrupted;” “Magnolia;” “Eyes Wide Shut” (Stanley Kubrick’s last film); “American Pie” (never saw it, but was seemingly way-popular as it spawned a thousand sequels, plus the great Eugene Levy); “American Beauty” (eventually won the Oscar for ‘Best Picture’); “Star Wars: Episode One — The Phantom Menace” (first in another trilogy, but shitty compared to the orginals); “The Blair Witch Project” (transformed ‘lost film’ and the horror genre); and on and on…

Maybe a quick history of the opening sequence:

And so it goes…

(Illustration: M.C Escher’s ‘Three Spheres II,’ found  here).

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