If the dojo fight in The Matrix was a kung fu sonata, the Burly Brawl is a symphony. Neo tears the sign from the ground and wields it as a kendo sword, vaulting pole, and battering ram. A woman walking by can’t believe what she’s seeing; suddenly her body is hijacked, she drops her grocery bag, and another Smith charges into the fray. Whole battalions of Smiths arrive, mount assaults, attack in waves, scatter, regroup, and head back for more. (At ESC, one massive pile-on was dubbed the “Did someone drop a quarter?” shot.) In the thick of it, Neo is dancing, chucking black-tied bodies skyward, pivoting around the signpost, and using shoulders as stepping-stones over the raging river of whup-ass.
Fans will wear out their remotes replaying the scene on DVD, but what they won’t see, even riding the Pause button, is a transition that happens early on. When Neo and Agent Smith walk into the courtyard, they are the real Reeves and Weaving. But by the time the melee is in full effect, everyone and everything on the screen is computer-generated – including the perspective of the camera itself, steering at 2,000 miles per hour and screaming through arcs that would tear any physical camera apart.