That moment in “The Matrix” when Neo declares “I know Kung-Fu” proved to be an auspicious scene in the sci-fi blockbuster where cyberpunk meets Hong Kong wuxia style action. Fans awaited with bated breath to see if Keanu Reeves’s reported training regimen under the legendary Yuen Woo-ping did justice to this great man’s legacy. There was some trepidation since Reeve’s last foray into cyberpunk, “Johnny Mnemonic” bombed critically at the box office whilst his action credentials were moderate (“Point Break” and “Speed”). Critics also wondered if he would finally shake his “Bill and Ted” persona that dogged his career.
To everyone’s delight Reeves proved the naysayers wrong and “The Matrix” became a box office smash and a critical success with praise going to Yuen Woo-ping’s stunning action sequences and the physical efforts of its cast, especially Reeves, who all underwent rigorous training to perform their own fight scenes.
It also wowed audiences blending the action with some wonderfully awe inspiring CGI, and a storyline steeped in esoteric zen-like lore. It also gave birth to “bullet time” effects, a visual impression of detaching the time and space of a camera (or viewer) from that of its visible subject, variations of which have since appeared in wuxia films such as “House of Flying Daggers” and “The Lady Assassin”.
As promised, action producer Joel Silver (“Lethal Weapon”, “Die Hard”), The Wachowski Brothers, and Yuen Woo-ping returned with the cast to deliver even more spectacular martial arts action, and jaw-dropping CGI. “The Matrix Reloaded” followed in 2003 with “The Matrix Revolutions” completing the trilogy, along with the video game “Enter the Matrix” and a collection of anime shorts “The Animatrix” allowing us to explore the Matrix universe further. Time to take that red pill and follow us down the rabbit hole as we countdown the Top 10 Matrix Fight Scenes! (in descending order)…
- The Matrix – Trinity’s Opening Fight Scene
- Enter the Matrix – Ballard vs Seraph
- Matrix Reloaded – Morpheus and Trinity vs Twins
- Matrix Reloaded – Neo vs Multiple Agent Smiths (Playground Fight)
- Matrix Reloaded – Chateau Fight
- The Animatrix – Final Flight of the Osiris (Training Scene)
- Matrix Reloaded – Seraph vs Neo
- Matrix Reloaded – Morpheus vs Agent Upgrade
- The Matrix – Neo vs Smith (Subway Fight)
Kicking off (literally) our top 10 is the opening scene from the first Matrix film, featuring Carrie-Anne Moss as super hacker and digital warrior, Trinity. Here, viewers get a taste of all the tension and excitement not to mention innovative CGI the film not only promised in all the hype but delivered. Moss’ martial arts training clearly paid off as Trinity sees off unsuspecting police officers. This scene brings together the best of Hong Kong cinema – fast and furious fight action with some elegant wire fu. Add some John Woo-esque gun play and a taste of the jaw-dropping “bullet time” CGI, and this makes for a kick-ass opener to an epic trilogy.
The video game “Enter the Matrix”, developed by Shiny Entertainment, continues the story charting the adventures of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) Captain of the Logos and her crew in the search for vital information about the machine attack on Zion. In this introductory scene, crew member Ballard (American professional boxer Roy Jones Jr.) is sent to a meeting with the Oracle but has to put up his guard as he clashed with her bodyguard Seraph (Collin Chou), in one of his painful ‘getting to know you’ tests. A truly entertaining mix of Chinese Kung-Fu vs boxing match-up with a little humour sprinkled on top makes this a fun and memorable Matrix moment.
Remember those ghostly twins all dressed in white sporting dreadlocks and a pasty complexion? They were played by Neil and Adrian Rayment who were spotted on the TV decorating show “Better Homes”. A strange casting choice to be sure, yet after three months of training they turned up in “The Matrix Reloaded” as the most memorable villainous henchmen, two ghostly programs whose penchant for dry one liners is matched by their impressive fighting skill. As foes for our heroic trio of Neo, Morpheus and Trinity, the twins prove to be as formidable as the agents, in this scene blending kung-fu action with spooky machinations, reminiscent of some of Hong Kong cinema’s earlier supernatural films.
Hugo Weaving returned much to everyone’s delight proving to be the baddie we all love to hate matching his sneering evil persona with a vicious fighting style. Of course now, Smith is even more dangerous, unplugged from the matrix and on his own personal mission, the former agent goes about replicating himself in huge numbers so that he can defeat his nemeses. Neo calls on a multitude of CGI, wire-fu and his extensive training to beat this hoard of Smiths, including ripping a metal pole from the ground which he uses as a bo staff. Fast, tense and exhilarating, it holds its own as a scene that captures the essence of Yuen Woo-ping’s body of work updated for the modern age, and leaving you a little breathless by the end.
Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity find themselves trapped in the Chateau of the malignant and pompous program, the Merovingian. As Trinity and Morpheus make their getaway with the Keymaker, Neo faces down the malevolent program’s hoard of henchmen. Gun-fu, and lots of leaping wire-fu aplenty see Keanu wield an arsenal of some of the finest bladed weapons from the sai to spear and sword. The action comes flying thick and fast with lots of skill on show especially from The One himself.
“The Animatrix” is a collection of manga style anime adventures set in the Matrix universe. This first story, a CGI animated short, is of the ship Osiris’ mission to deliver reports of the impending attack on Zion. This stunning opening scene features what surely must be every martial artist’s and gamer’s dream; the training construct. Osiris’ captain Thadeus (Kevin Michael Richardson) and Jue (Pamela Adlon) engage in a little sword practice blind folded with Thaddeus armed with a Katana and Jue with a Jian (tai chi sword). The action is smooth and quick-paced with a cool contrast between Japanese vs Chinese weapons fighting style and some flirtatious slicing and dicing blending harmless ‘adult’ tension with some thrilling action.
We’ve already seen Collin Chou as Seraph in “Enter the Matrix”, for cinema audiences though this would’ve been their first introduction to the skill and screen presence of this veteran of Hong Kong cinema. Stoic and enigmatic Chou bursts into action against our messianic hero with some spectacular aerial kicks and superb kung-fu striking skills. Keanu holds his own against the seasoned screen pro with almost equal agility, but like much of the film this encounter proves to be more than meets the eye.
The last time Morpheus battled Agent (“The Matrix”) he didn’t fare too well so it’s time for the ultimate re-match between our deadpan hero (Fishburne looking suitably mean and moody) and the newly upgraded Agent played by Daniel Bernhardt (“Bloodsport II”). The two duke it out on top of a moving truck speeding along the notorious highway in one of the film’s highly charged stunt-packed moments. The casting of Bernhardt, an exceptional martial artist, brought some seasoned skill to the role making Morpheus’ battle even more of a challenge. Some hard and fast strikes, and wire-fu make this a genuine crowd pleaser but none more so than when Morpheus turns to the Agent and beckons him on in true Bruce Lee fashion.
This is the pinnacle climactic moment in “The Matrix” which by this point had already wowed audiences with its breathtaking action, surreal esoteric Zen-like plot points and of course the impressive dropping bullet time CGI. It all comes together for the epic showdown of these digital warriors. Both Reeves and Weaving demonstrate a great deal of skill and genuine intensity, and once again there are some great kung-fu and wire-fu action sequences. The added dramatic gravitas as Neo finally accepts his destiny make this a truly excitement Matrix moment.
…and in at #1 is…
Neo vs Morpheus – The Construct (Kung Fu Dojo Fight)
Whilst the film and trilogy just get bigger and grander this scene in which Morpheus and Neo duke out in a digital dojo is a martial arts film fan’s delight. We get to see lots of different styles on show as Neo pulls out every style from his cerebral arsenal but more importantly to judge how Reeve’s and Fishburne’s reported training paid off. Both actors do not disappoint with their phenomenal martial and wire-fu abilities, exuding all the intensity and skill of seasoned pros. This also tops the chart as it is in essence a classic training sequence echoing the best of martial arts entertainment from Shaw Brothers’ “36th Chamber of Shaolin” right up to “The Karate Kid”.
So there we have it folks, 10 ‘fantaskick’ fight scenes from the Matrix. Which ones impacted you the most and what ‘matrix manoeuvres’ have you always wanted to be able to do? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Why not extend yourself and check out our other Top 10’s for more hyperreal, kinetic kung-fu?)