Despite a record-setting opening weekend, it's no secret The Matrix Reloaded hasn't exactly been embraced by moviegoers and reviewers. For all its technical razzle-dazzle, critics lament, the sequel ultimately raises more questions than it answers about The Matrix's machine-constructed "reality." Hopefully, the November release of The Matrix Revolutions the third and final movie will bring some closure, but until then, fans can content themselves with the IMAX version of Reloaded (opening on select IMAX screens this Friday) and a new DVD, The Animatrix, which hits stores today.
A collection of animated short films, Animatrix fleshes out stuff the Matrix movies aren't able to address. Four of the nine shorts are written by the minds behind the franchise, the Wachowski brothers. And the DVD's list of directors reads like a who's who of popular Japanese anime filmmakers, from Cowboy Bebop's Sinchiro Watanabe to Peter Chung, best known for his '90s cult 'toon, Aeon Flux. Here, TV Guide Online quizzes Chung about The Animatrix, the state of sci-fi cinema and those elusive Wachowskis.
TVGO: How did you come to be involved with The Animatrix?
Chung: I had heard about the project and made a call to someone at Warner Brothers. Eventually, I had a meeting with the Wachowskis, and it turns out that they had wanted to contact me, they just didn't know where I was located!
TVGO: What ideas did you originally pitch them?
Chung: One of them explored the idea of bullet time, which was kind of touched on in the first Matrix movie. I thought, "If you could really manipulate time in the Matrix if you had mastery over time, as well as space what would that imply?" The story involved somebody who could jump around in time, and it was told in non-chronological order. The other idea was set in the construct the staging area where people prepare themselves before going into the Matrix. It was kind of like a psychodrama between two people who were in the construct. The idea was that you'd never really know who the other person is, because what you're looking at is a virtual representation of somebody else. It was a story about suspicion and trust.
TVGO: Your film that made the DVD, Matriculated, is about a robot who's captured by humans and introduced to a virtual world that they've designed a sort of man-made Matrix. Where'd that idea come from?
Chung: Several aspects to the story intrigued me. One was the idea of creating a virtual world that's imagined by the human mind, instead of one created by computer. What would that look like? The idea is that it would flow more like a dream and be less linear and rational then the Matrix, [which] the machines have created for the humans. I was interested in sticking up for the human mind, which is a pretty powerful thing.
TVGO: How do you think The Animatrix compliments Matrix and Reloaded?
Chung: Each episode is very different. I think Final Flight of the Osiris is pretty crucial in understanding Reloaded. Some of them give information that is only suggested in the movies like The Second Renaissance, which deals with the mythology of the Matrix, and Kid's Story, which gives you the background on one of the characters in Reloaded. As for the others, I think Andy and Larry [Wachowski] had a lot of ideas that the concept of the Matrix implied, which they had no way of fitting into [the feature films]. The Animatrix is an outlet for some of those ideas.
TVGO: What's next for you?
Chung: I've been developing an independent feature project. It'll be science fiction again, but much more far out. I'm hoping that movies like The Matrix prepare a general audience for those kinds of stories. Sci-fi movies are way, way behind sci-fi literature, like 20 or 30 years behind. Hollywood is just now doing all these Philip K. Dick adaptations.
TVGO: Finally we have to ask, what are the Wachowski brothers like?
Chung: Basically, they were very nice guys, very down to Earth. Larry talked 90 percent of the time; Andy said very little. What I liked about talking to them is that they got all my ideas right away, which isn't always the case. And they commented very astutely on the conceptual aspects of my stories. They're very generous; I was very pleased, and very surprised and very appreciative that they gave me so much creative freedom.