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The Matrix 4 Shoot Caused Property Damage

The Matrix 4 has only been filming for a few weeks, but it's already proving to be an explosive new chapter in the science-fiction action saga. 

A recent weekend of filming in San Francisco for the upcoming fourth installment in the Wachowskis' industry-shifting blockbuster movie series involved some low-flying helicopters and flipped cars. NBC Bay Area reported that it also involved a number of controlled explosions, which caused the set to get a little hot between takes. While various onlookers have been catching these stunts on camera since filming started on February 9, this past weekend's takes were enough to knock — or melt — your socks off. 

NBC reported that despite taking necessary precautions, the heat from those explosions was too much to contain, with temperatures reaching such intense highs that the covers of several building lamps were melted off, as was the plastic cover of an advertising street sign. Staff at local businesses were at first confused by what had caused the damage. 

"We just saw the plastic that was all melted, so we didn't know what was going on," said JCDecaux Street Furniture employee Encar Orozco. "We called our manager and we found out that it was some explosion for the movie."

According to the affiliate, workers who were charged with repairing the damage put the cost of the repair at around $2,000 — although some of the building-rattling explosions had those working in the area worried that it might end up being more. "When I looked out the window and realized the helicopter was that close, I thought, 'Oh, I hope we don't have a Die Hard situation here where it hits the building,'" said Carol Dickerson, a local woman who could see several scenes being filmed from her office. "But, no, they were really safe."

The Matrix 4 shoot has kept Bay Area residents on their toes

For those who happened to miss the Matrix mania of the late '90s and early '00s, the film is partially set in virtual reality, a digital world into which humans have been plugged while a race of artificially intelligent beings uses their bodies for energy. With that premise, naturally, digital VFX is an expected part of the production process — but practical stunts and action are also deeply embedded in the the DNA of The Matrix and its sequels. In January, around a week and a half before filming began, the San Francisco Film Commission gave fans a pretty clear idea of what to expect when it came to the more practical part of the film's shoot.

To help prepare those potentially affected by filming (which is slated to end on Sunday, March 1), the commission posted a list of things residents should expect. Hoodline reported that among the noisy and visually disruptive activities would be helicopters flying less than 500 feet from the ground, pyrotechnics, and smoke. The latter two are most likely responsible for the explosions onlookers have caught during night shoots. But the posting also promised simulated gunfire, precision driving, crash stunts, and unmanned aerial cameras that would be flying around to capture it all. 

Much of the Matrix 4 shoot took place in the Financial District, and featured street closures scheduled as early as noon on one day until around 5-7 in the morning on the next. That would explain why people were capturing set activity late at night and in broad daylight — and based on what the SF Film Commission revealed about the shoot, it seems fans can expect much of the same type of bone-crunching, destructive action offered by the original trilogy.

The practical effects of The Matrix trilogy changed Hollywood

While Hollywood has seen a number of technological advancements since the original Matrix trilogy came out, there's no denying that the Wachowskis' work on the first three films was groundbreaking. In an interview with Vulture, Keanu Reeves' Matrix stunt double and John Wick franchise director Chad Stahelski spoke to how the film "literally transformed the industry." 

"Back in the day, fight scenes were secondary to car chases and horse chases and helicopter chases and motorboat chases," Stahelski said. "Most of the fights at the time were single-gun battle stuff or Arnold Schwarzenegger pummeling you to death with his hands."

The movie popularized the use of martial arts in big-budget Hollywood films, taking a meticulous approach to translating the hundreds of pages the Wachowskis had storyboarded for the big screen. Many of the film's greatest moments were thanks to practical stunt work, with some sequences — like the infamous lobby scene — requiring a full day of set-up between each take. The success of that practical work within the trilogy turned martial-arts choreographers and fight coordinators into more prevalent and powerful players than stunt coordinators, according to Stahleski.  

"Now, action movies want their big sequences designed around the fights," he explained. "Think of any action movie in the past decade or so that doesn't have a bitchin' fight scene. The Matrix said, 'Look what you can do with your heroes.'"

Not much is known about what to expect out of the genuinely unexpected fourth chapter in the Matrix saga. But considering the high bar set by the first three films, that explode-y Bay Area shoot looks like a harbinger of what could be another game-changing sci-fi adventure.

The as-yet untitled Matrix 4 is slated for release on May 21, 2021.