I’ve started work on this edit while Scott Pilgrim is pending Academy approval, so as to have a proof-of-concept ready to début alongside that edit. It will involve far more advanced FX and colour-grading work than Scott Pilgrim did, although not perhaps as demanding as The Hobbit is going to end up requiring, because I’m going for a stylised look for this one. Although I’ll only be working in HD, I waited for the new 4K transfer of the film to be available to work from, and I’m glad I did, because the new transfer is beautiful (and omits the retconned later colour grading most versions have).
Editing-wise, it’s intended to be fairly conservative, bringing the parables of self-discovery and self-actualisation in the original to the fore, and backgrounding the man-versus-machine angle. I’m guided in part by Marcy Cook’s excellent analysis here.
I do plan to include a change, based on what was apparently the Wachowskis’ original intention, to depict the plugged-in humans as having their brains used for computing power rather than their body heat used for electrical power. To this end, the second half of the “Desert of the Real” sequence will need to be more or less replaced wholesale. Most of the trimming I’m going to do, though, will be from the “real-world” scenes around the middle of the film.
I would also like, if I possibly can, to hint that the Machines did not have their origin in a robot rebellion (although the characters still believe so), but that a cabal of humans built both the Matrix and the Machines, and may still be around and running the show for their own benefit. If I decide this idea is tenable, whether it ends up making the cut in this one or not, I have some further ideas for assembling a much more radical (single-film) sequel edit to explore it, in which, for example, the Merovingian isn’t a program but one of these rulers.
The main focus of the edit, though, as suggested by the name, is stylistic. The original film is heavily noir-influenced, of course, among many other things, and many scenes set inside the Matrix are virtually monochrome already; anything brightly coloured (the woman in red, the coloured pills) deliberately stands out. So I intend to render the scenes set inside the simulated world in high-contrast black and white, and regrade “real-world” scenes to contrast with this — removing the (thankfully already dialled-down in the new transfer) blue tint and emulating the classic Technicolor look. A handful of plot-important objects which exist specifically to alter the Matrix itself (the aforementioned pills, the red dress, the green phosphor of Neo’s computer monitor) will remain coloured.
However, it isn’t as simple as dropping the saturation and upping the contrast, or even dropping in a LUT and tweaking a few settings, as (inspired in part by the original Tron) many light sources within the simulated world — computer screens, neon signs, traffic lights — will be coloured, and will colour their otherwise black-and-white surrounds accordingly. I’ve also found, in doing the proof-of-concept, that outdoor and indoor scenes require a very different grading approach to look “right” in B&W.
The other element I’ll be having some stylistic fun with is the music. The Matrix is blessed with a mostly clean centre channel, and to go with the Tronesque aesthetic I’m planning to replace several music cues. Thus far, I have in mind a couple of tracks from Muse’s latest album, Simulation Theory, which explicitly deals with the same themes as the movie:
- “Algorithm” (Alternate Reality Version), for the opening titles, if I can get hold of an instrumental version.
- “The Dark Side” as a theme for Trinity, first playing in the fetish club and then (in its alternate reality version) replacing the score at a couple of points near the end of the movie.
A few other retro electronic/synthy pieces I’ve considered:
- “On the Run”, Pink Floyd’s pioneering electronic piece, for the rooftop chase in the prologue (as heard in the proof-of-concept).
- “Afterlife”, a microtonal piece by Wendy Carlos, for Neo’s awakening and rescue.
- “Speedboat Night Sweat”, by the delightfully retro synthwave group Swimware, probably to replace “Prime Audio Soup”.
There are several other spots where I want to replace the music, but don’t have any particular piece in mind yet, and am open to suggestions. They’re all good pieces, and their use in the original movie was iconic, but for this alternative version I want to feature a different type of music — think more synthwave than industrial EDM. These are the pieces I’d primarily be looking to replace:
- “Dissolved Girl” (playing on Neo’s headphones when we first see him)
- “Clubbed to Death” (the Woman in Red scene)
- “Prime Audio Soup” (going to see the Oracle)
- “Spybreak!” (the lobby shootout)
- “Rock is Dead” (end credits)
I feel that the use of Rage Against the Machine is too awesome to delete, although if I come across something that fits the end of the movie as well as “Wake Up” does, I’m not completely averse to replacing it. I’m undecided about keeping the BGM in the dojo sparring scene, but I’m probably similarly happy to keep it unless something even more appropriate shows up.
So that’ll be fun. I’ll be working on this and The Hobbit in tandem for the next little while, but at this rate, this one will probably come out first. Proof of concept is ready to go and will come out alongside Scott Pilgrim.