That low rumble you can feel in your chest cavity can only mean one thing constant reader, the Omnibus is pulling back into Manifesto station to take you on another guided exploration of a single building theme. In the past you’ve enjoyed tours devoted to board games, Captain America, Owls and an exhaustive (some say torturous) look at float-planes and the men who love them. In this latest edition we’ll be gawking appreciatively at models inspired by the 1999 ground breaking sci-fi extravaganza, The Matrix and it’s two unfortunate sequels, “Reloaded” and Revolutions“. It’s the movie that brought us bullet-time, a soundtrack for the ages and Laurence Fishburne in tiny legless sunglasses. So call for an operator, it’s time to see what the Matrix has to offer.
Just like the opening scenes of the film, I’d like to get things started with a bang. Let’s begin our examination of Neo’s Lego journey with my favorite offering in this rogues gallery of great Matrix models. “…See your enemy…” is the single most impactful mosaic I’ve encountered to date and that includes a slew of more technically complex lenticular examples that are out there. As with most great Lego creations, seeing the mosaic in person adds a whole new level of appreciation, the trans orange has the power to draw spectators from across a convention floor. Simply put the mosaic is stunning and I’d be willing to wager that builder Brandon Griffith has been offered some serious cash for the piece since it’s posting in 2009. On more than one occasion I’ve been tempted to copy it for my Legoratory wall, since my multiple efforts to abscond with it have not gone as planned.
Perhaps the most obvious and popular choice for the Lego treatment is the tunnel-running hover-ships that populate all three movies. Although it is my assertion that we have not yet seen the definitive Lego-built Nebuchadnezzar, some might argue that Adrian Drake got the closest way back in 2002. While his version was certainly very popular at the time of release and featured a full interior, it hasn’t aged well, the available photos are tiny and The Drake such an overbearing lurch in person that I don’t want to promote his stuff beyond a link for historical value.
The Nebuchadnezzar-inspired hover-ship on the left is called “Novalis”, and it was designed by the criminally underrated Paul Meissner along with the “Cerberus” on the right. For my money “Novalis” is the best model in this very specific hover-ship sub-category. The angles are just right, the hover-pads are plentiful and it looks ready to fight off a swarm of robotic Sentinels. I even dig the blunt nose, it looks both mean purposeful. The “Cerberus” is a strong effort as well, but I don’t particularly care for the trans-yellow bits and the lines feel more choppy and almost pixellated to me. I’m also not a fan of the tiled-over dorsal section, I think there was a missed opportunity for more shaping or texture. Both vehicles are fine examples though and it would be interesting to see Paul revisit the form.
Chris White took a shot at the Nebuchadnezzar and while I don’t particularly like the undersized hover-pads, I do like the decision to go with trans blue and I think he nailed the challenging shape of the fuselage better than most. If imitation is a form of success, Chris was successfully selling reproductions for several years, at a time when such an endeavor wasn’t as common as it is today with everyone and their mother pitching designs for Lego Ideas and selling models on Bricklink or Ebay.
Friend of the blog and long time crony Andrew Lee also had the Matrix fever back in the day and his “Ganesha” definitely makes the cut for the Omnibus. I like how he changed up the color scheme and the nose holds up quite well in the intervening 9 years. It’s also got a bitchin’ ramp right under the cockpit and a detailed (if sort of stunted) interior. As with everything Lee builds, it somehow looks infused with heavy metal, booze and a hard to quantify “fuck it” attitude.
The once and future “Porn King of Utah”, Ryan Wood tried his hand at a hover-ship with pretty good results considering it is 13 years old. Ryan pioneered this particularly effective style of hover-pad which elicited more than a few exclamations of “NPU!” back in the day. It’s kind of a chibi-version of the Nebuchadnezzar called “The Nacon“, with distorted proportions, but it is important because it inspired quite a few builders to take a shot at their own hovership and that minifig visor technique was widely copied in a number of sci-fi applications. Unfortunately we’ve pretty much lost Ryan Wood the builder to the Merlin entertainment group, where he presides over the construction of massive projects for the many Lego theme parks around the world and that’s a shame because I miss his creativity and boundless enthusiasm for the action. He’s is one more example of how that job basically kills a person’s desire to build for fun.
Unfortunately only a tiny photo remains of the “Logos” hover-ship from former wunderkind Bruce Lowell but you can still make out the enticing curves and unique shape. I’m pretty sure this a microscale creation but I can’t tell for certain.
This 2012 microscale version of the Neb is easy on the eyes, and greatly enhanced by the minimalist background diorama and typically impeccable photography. It was constructed 5 years ago by the always reliable SPARKART! and it almost seems to float with a View-Master quality to the image. It’s no mean trick to make a dark gray model pop against a dark gray background but the builder manages the task in style.
Staying small for the moment, enjoy this 2009 microscale Neb from Frankus!. The proportions might be a little wonky and the tail section seems a little thick, but some people like big butst, and they cannot lie. It’s too bad Frankus! (I love any screen name with an exclamation mark) stopped building after a short but promising run, he was just hitting his stride when he wandered off.
It’s time for some palate cleansing minimalism from Sydag (on the left), who asks the eternal question of which colored pill to take? Rod Gilles (on the right) offered up perhaps the tiniest of takes on the familiar Sentinel design, along with a subtle background that provides just enough detail to make the whole image work. While it may not be a dead-on copy of the movie prop (more on Sentinels later), it still manages to be instantly recognizable even with the rather obvious use of an Iron Builder seed-part.
I’m not a huge fan of the “Reloaded” sequel, but I do acknowledge that the directors were faced with the almost impossible task of following up one of the greatest sci-fi films in history. David Lipton captures a key moment of the famous highway chase with this clean microscale build that hits all the right notes in economical fashion. The sparks under the cab of each truck is a great addition and a much-needed splash of color that really sells the scene.
There are a few good versions of what is in my opinion the crappiest design of the trilogy, the lumbering and frightfully vulnerable A.P.U. This hulking number by Niki Dregant certainly captures the mech with a high level of fidelity. The only thing missing are the ridiculous, sweaty, adolescent reload personnel with their wheelbarrows full of ammo. Although I question the utility of a combat vehicle that would leave the fleshy operator so perilously exposed, I can’t question the considerable effort put into making this model look good, with it’s excellent belt-fed guns and complicated mechanics.
Paul Meissner also has a pretty good take on the subject, if a little rougher around the edges than Niki’s version. The chains don’t work nearly as well as the track-links, but the proportions are good and it’s instantly recognizable. Paul’s the only one who shows up in this Omnibus three times, his dedication to the theme and his results are beyond question. He’s another guy who seems to have fallen off the map in the last couple of years, it happens to the best of us but I do hope he finds his way back and brings some new Matrix models with him. I think the time could be right for a resurgence, but hopefully not a reboot, I think we’ve had quite enough of that.
And here’s one final version of the A.P.U by Adam Kemp from 2010. In my opinion this one is probably the most accurate and attractive of the lot. A bit larger than minifig scale, the attention to detail is really impressive from an underrated and largely forgotten builder. A quick trip through Adam’s relatively small sampling of models was a fun distraction from writing this article, guys like him slip quietly into the cracks of time and that’s a shame.Long time crony Chris Maddison brings you a finely crafted Keanu mosaic in all his spoon-bending glory, also constructed for an excellent Iron Builder battle. The shape of the face is perfect and I think he’d be recognizable even without the iconic green tumbling code in the background. One thing is for sure, the seed-part sunglasses are on point, even if he is missing eyebrows.
New-age singing duo Sean and Steph Mayo (formerly Siercon and Coral) produced what I consider to be the most compelling diorama inspired by the film trilogy. Once again we can thank the much criticized Iron Builder for this creation, the Matrix seems to be a go-to subject matter for many of the combatants. The Mayos do a wonderful job of texturing the walls with black greebles and the special effects are effective without being overwhelming or distracting. The use of the Technic-fig was an interesting choice and certainly makes the scale a little closer to accurate than a minifig would have allowed. If you follow the link you’ll find a closer look at this perhaps definitive Sentinel design, but the diorama is deserving of it’s own spot on the Omnibus. This is my kind of action and after Brandon’s Agent Smith mosaic, this creation is my favorite offering in the group.
Now let’s switch it up from hover-ships to their natural predator, the multi-armed, squid-like Sentinels. Because of it’s smaller size it might be the most frequently attempted design from the movies. There are a multitude of Sentinels out there, but most range from mediocre to utter crap. Mateusz Mikołajczyk produced a pretty solid interpretation of the Sentinel, the limbs flail around effectively but the real strength of the model are the binocular-eyes and the cluster of droid arms underneath.
SweStar swaps out click-hinges for flex-hoses and the results are just as compelling, with the added bonus of enough strength to lift a hapless minifig off the ground. The bare-bones diorama strewn with mechanical body parts helps to give some context and show the Sentinel in action. I can’t quite decide which color is more accurate, but I think the choice of black makes the death machines a little more sinister.
Nathan Proudlove gave us one of the earliest takes on the Sentinel, very similar in style to SweStar’s and both came out in 2012 so it seemed unfair to mention one without the other. Nathan’s contribution is a little more smoothed out, but no less effective and it is also important because it helped inspire Tyler Clites to produce one of the most impressive Matrix-dioramas that we will look at further down the list.
And now for a little comic relief from the brief but memorable Meat-Space phenomenon, by Lonnon Foster. If you blinked and missed the bandwagon back in the day, Meat-Space had only one definitive design criteria, the signature use of the DUPLO steak. I think it works especially well within the context of The Matrix when you recall Cypher’s often quoted thoughts on the whole red-pill vs. blue-pill decision:
You know…I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize?…Ignorance is bliss.
Here are two dioramas of the famous Chateaux fight scene from “Reloaded“. I’m not really satisfied with either version because of both accuracy issues, but they both enjoy impressive statistical popularity and the setting is often cited as one of the best of the sequels. The one on the left is by friend of the blog Absurde and the one on the right is by Stormbringer . I really like the overall shape that Absurde achieves, there is a certain elegance to it, but Stormbringer’s offering seems a little closer to the source material. Between the two distinct takes you see below, there is something for everyone. Much like the Nebuchadnezzar, I don’t think we’ve yet seen the definitive version of the bloodbath at the Chateaux.
Let’s stay in the realm of the diorama, this time the subject is the training program squence from The Matrix, where Morpheus and Neo engage in some excellent bullet-time sparring action. There are a few small-scale vignette versions of this scene floating around out there in the digital aether, but they are all somehow lacking with a focus on aftermarket minifig arms that I don’t care to promote. The builder is Doug Hughes and he captures the scene quite nicely without getting too fancy or taking too many creative liberties, with nice depth and lighting. If you’re interested in the building process and some decidedly odd features not shown here, head over to Doug’s MOCpage and take a deeper look.
8 years ago the master of disaster, Tyler Clites built his first large-scale effort, the simply titled “Zion Dock Defense” that knocked em’ dead at BrickWorld Chicago. You can see all of Tyler’s considerable skill on display from one end to the other and the way he positioned and posed the elements really add some dynamic tension to the proceedings. You don’t need me to explain the greatness on view here so I’ll leave you to dive into the details. Unfortunately it comes off a little flat in the photos, but I can assure you it was very impressive in person.
If you need an exit, or “guns…lots of guns” call Peter Reid, he’s got you covered. Pete is one of the few builders that I’ll forgive the non-Lego graphic insertions. Pete is the man.
The black 1961 Lincoln Continental with suicide doors made quite an impact in the first film with a relatively small amount of screen time. Peter Blackert gives it the digital treatment and the results are pretty impressive. I’m even willing to overlook the cornucopia of studs on the roof because Peter really nails the lines of the iconic sedan and he’s the only one I know of to tackle this unusual subject matter. On the Omnibus, variety is indeed the spice of life….or is it the Matrix, I’m never quite sure.
Against my better judgment, and in the interest of variety I’m going to include this final image by noted dick-measurer Lee Jones. It’s a decidedly mundane take on the standout scene from the “Revolutions” sequel and lacking in visual interest or accuracy. It takes the majestic skyscraper background and trades it for a low-rez, monochromatic tenament building. I feel compelled to point out that the diorma was inexplicably popular at the time of posting, with an appearance on TBB to prove it. Lee Jones’ big claim to fame is his willingness to spend insane amounts of money on identical minifigs, so it’s easy to see why he was attracted to this scene. Reluctantly I do like the road-effect so that’s something positive I can say.
Ok, I can’t end on such a downer, so instead we’ll conclude the proceedings with a Matrix inspired model from Nooroyd. The giant vertical mechanoids recall the body-harvesters that are only briefly glimpsed in the first film. The texture and style are very impressive and impart that sense of dread that is the hallmark of the trilogy.
The hiss of the Omnibus’s air-bakes means your free ride is over, constant reader, see you next time. If you notice any egregious omissions from this non-comprehensive collection, feel free to drop me a link in the comments and remedy the situation.
Friend of the blog Christopher Hoffman pointed out what is in retrospect the rather glaring omission of the great Chairman Zhang from our list of Matrix inspired shenanigans. Nannan created a popular and often imitated series of “Black Fantasy” models that took their cue from the macabre writings of H.P. Lovecraft with a healthy dash of Sentinel-style thrown in for good measure. My apologies for the oversight Chairman, you deserve the catbird seat on the Omnibus.
Mr. Hoffman also pointed me towards this brilliant creation by Red, entitled “Sensum_Rift“, that surely checks every box for inclusion in this greatest hits package. It brings to mind those hellish looking amniotic fluid filled pods that turned humans into batteries to fuel the big machine. Some really interesting and creative choices went into this model, especially the pink Clickits thread that connects the cranium to the machine.