|YAHYA ABDUL-MATEEN IIMATRIX 4MORPHEUSMATRIX|
Hundreds of film crew members in Germany contracted to work on “The Matrix 4” are threatening legal action against Germany's Studio Babelsberg after their work on the Warner Bros. tentpole was terminated due to the coronavirus outbreak shutting down production. According to Variety, terminated crew members from “The Matrix 4” and the video game adaptation “Uncharted” have formed a working group to demand financial aid from the studio. Both films were in preproduction but never started filming in Germany. “The Matrix 4” was gearing up for a Berlin shoot when production was shut down by Warner Bros.
Studio Babelsberg CEO Charlie Woebcken said to Variety in a statement that it was impossible to say “when, if or to what extent” the production of “The Matrix 4” and “Uncharted” would begin. The production shutdown forced the studio to terminate all of its employment agreements with independent crew members. The terminated employees are now hoping to reach an agreement with the studio and are also appealing to Germany's federal government for help.
Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media BKM announced March 27 a financial aid rescue package for productions shut down by the coronavirus pandemic, but the “Matrix” and “Uncharted” crew members are unlikely to be eligible for that money since neither projects made it to the filming stage. BMK said to Variety that other financial aid funds might be able to help these crew members, including a $55 billion aid package “aimed at self-employed workers and small businesses.”
“We are in constant discussions with the affected film crew members and our longstanding U.S. partners and are making every effort to find solutions,” Woebcken said to Variety. “Like all companies in the film industry worldwide, Studio Babelsberg is also affected by the current crisis and the associated delays and cancellations.”
“The Matrix 4” shut down production after wrapping filming in San Francisco. Lana Wachowski is returning to the franchise as writer and director, while actors Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are reprising their roles as Neo and Trinity, respectively. Warner Bros. has already set a May 21, 2021 release date for the tentpole, although that date is now in question given the production stop.
Easter weekend is always a holiday, with kids home from school eager to enjoy movies: last year saw three family films open in the top nine, as well as wide-appeal “Captain Marvel” and “Shazam!” This year, folks are watching movies from home.
But 21 years ago, Easter weekend broke box office rules. First, it was a ballsy move for Warner Bros. to greenlight the Wachowskis’ original and complex science-fiction actioner “The Matrix” in the first place, much less release the R-rated movie opened on that family holiday.
But the risk paid off. The eye-popping movie starring Keanu Reeves ended up blowing away all previous grosses for the holiday weekend without counting Wednesday opening results. All told, “The Matrix” took in nearly $68 million for its first five days in adjusted gross. Even the three-day result was among the ten-best in box office history.
And it wasn’t the only film that had a lasting impact that weekend. Disney’s “10 Things I Hate About You,” a high-school romantic comedy loosely based on Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew,” scored some $21 million for its first five days.
Both “Matrix” and “10 Things” still have passionate followings decades later. What sets them apart from many similar titles with cult reputations is that they were successes from the start — on Easter. Memories can be fleeting: I knew “Matrix” was a success, and “10 Things” did OK, but it’s fun to review old records.
Today, “The Matrix” would be next to impossible to produce, unless an A-lister like Christopher Nolan or James Cameron demanded it. But Warners production executive Lorenzo Di Bonaventura banked on the Wachowski siblings, giving them a high-end budget, based on their script for Sylvester Stallone hit-man film ”Assassins,” and their directing debut with kinky indie heist thriller ”Bound,” which was a modest success for Gramercy $7 million.
While the Wachowskis were the geniuses behind “The Matrix,” Warners entrusted the production to their reliable nuts-and-bolts action producer Joel Silver “Lethal Weapon”. Rooted in multiple influences, “The Matrix” drew from evolving theories on machine/human interaction as the internet was entering daily life, Hong Kong genre films martial artist choreographer Yuen Woo-ping was a crucial collaborator, and Japanese Manga plots and characters.
Key to its success was casting Keanu Reeves to play computer programmer Neo. Coming off a five-year stretch of underperforming films, Reeves was not the studio’s first choice. But even his less successful films revealed an athletic edge that enhanced his credibility to audiences, which he has maintained with...