The Art of the Matrix

A huge and stylish compendium of archival material from Larry and Andy Wachowski's 1999 cyberpunk blockbuster, this unusual gift book provides a rare glimpse inside the painstaking process of producing a major special effects extravaganza. As Lamm notes in the foreword, "The Matrix" was storyboarded even before it was greenlit. The Wachowskis came to Hollywood from the comics world, enlisting leading illustrators Steve Skroce and Geof Darrow to help walk Warner Bros. execs through the story. Those early comic strips, with additional art by Tani Kunitake, Warren Manser, Collin Grant and the brothers, then became a road map for the production and extensive digital effects. As a consequence, a remarkable portion of the ideas from the original storyboard art -- all of which is reproduced here -- was preserved in the finished film.

A huge and stylish compendium of archival material from Larry and Andy Wachowski’s 1999 cyberpunk blockbuster, this unusual gift book provides a rare glimpse inside the painstaking process of producing a major special effects extravaganza.

As Lamm notes in the foreword, “The Matrix” was storyboarded even before it was greenlit. The Wachowskis came to Hollywood from the comics world, enlisting leading illustrators Steve Skroce and Geof Darrow to help walk Warner Bros. execs through the story.

Those early comic strips, with additional art by Tani Kunitake, Warren Manser, Collin Grant and the brothers, then became a road map for the production and extensive digital effects. As a consequence, a remarkable portion of the ideas from the original storyboard art — all of which is reproduced here — was preserved in the finished film.

The artists’ commentary, threaded through more than 1,000 illustrations, reveals the freewheeling spirit of experimentation that governed the Wachowskis’ approach to the filmmaking process, as they tested the limits of what the studio would allow and what could be rendered on film. Often working with action figures, they discarded some scenes — like an image of the characters Neo and Trinity standing victorious in a battlefield littered with bodies — and tweaked others — like a chase sequence on an elevated train, and the assault on a government building, which was initially meant to be set in a hotel.

The illustrations collected here, more than 300 of which are in color, are bold and dramatic enough to capture some of the visceral intensity of the film.

In a brief afterword, “Neuromancer” author William Gibson praises “The Matrix” as “a big muscular special-effect movie that’s wildly generous with visual thrills (and that) manages never to quit making sense.”

Maybe to some. But even “Matrix” fans still puzzled by some of its more farfetched concepts will welcome this volume, which also includes the original Wachowski script and a collection of stills and posters, as another chance to make sense of this bizarre and visually dazzling world.

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