PictureAs a landmark movie, it is only right that The Matrix should receive a benchmark video presentation, and on Blu-ray we finally get that with an as-good-as-perfect High Definition rendition of the film in the movie's original aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Detail is fantastic, from the beads of sweat pooling on Morpheus' anguished face to the smoking bullet casings cascading to the floor during the shootouts. There is simply no softness, no unintentional grain, no digital artefacting or evidence of image manipulation and this is just about the best presentation the movie has ever (and likely will ever) received. The colour palette - a distinguishing mark about the movie in and of itself - is significantly skewed towards greens, the whole film bathed in green light to give it a slightly surreal, other-worldly look without pushing the film too far into the realm of fantasy. Although this means that the colours are never wholly realistic, everything still looks superb, and totally as the filmmakers intended it to look. Black levels are solid, which makes for some solid shadowing and reflective shots as well as fantastic dark and night sequences. Check out the red/blue pill reflection in Morpheus' sunglasses to see just what this tremendous presentation has to offer. This is easily one of the best examples I have come across of what High Definition is truly capable of.
SoundSimilarly the sound package for this release is right up there with the best of the best. Dialogue, from Morpheus' philosophical posturing to the slightly disturbing enunciation exhibited by Agent Smith, is constantly presented at the forefront, taking centre stage wherever appropriate. The effects are big in this movie - as you might expect - with one of the most memorable shootouts of all time. Every gunshot is lovingly rendered, the bullets whizzing across your living room, the dynamics of your array simply coming alive. The crashing through windows, powerful hand-to-hand combat body blows, surging pulses of EMPs and Matrix-shaking explosions all thunder at you, making full use of the LFE and capabilities of the TrueHD track on offer. The score itself is perfectly chosen as well, with pumping tracks throughout the action sequences, and a purposeful sense to all the more thematic moments. Overall it is one of the best tracks with which to show off your equipment.
ExtrasSporting an IME Picture-in-Picture track, The Matrix has the benefit of having plenty of material that could be used to truly give you a comprehensive In Movie Experience. If you don't have the time to delve through the (literally) hours worth of extra material here then this is easily the best option for you, giving you the highlights of all the subsequent stuff in one, condensed and easily-manageable track.
In terms of standard extras, basically there is nothing new here - the relevant bits have simply been culled from the previous Ultimate Matrix Collection. But that's not much of a criticism really when you consider that even the original single-disc release of The Matrix way back when as one of the first big SD-DVD releases sported some extensive - and pretty conclusive - extras. After a slightly strange (in that it's written) introduction from the Wachowski Brothers we get no less than 4 Commentaries. Although this means that one of these is totally superfluous to any but those specifically interested in the score (the composer commentary runs alongside a score-only track), one is largely pointless as it divulges little that cannot be gleamed from the later, better-produced documentaries (the cast and crew track which features Carrie-Anne Moss) and the remaining two are beneficial only in small samples, offering up an interesting comparison of pompous, self-indulgent musings (as proffered by the pseudo-philosophers who comment on the supposed philosophical importance of the Matrix) versus the very down-to-earth opinions of the critics in the alternate critic commentary. Far more realistic, the critics clearly have a very low opinion of the latter sequels and the pointless, vapid ramblings of the script, which works as a nice antidote to the ludicrous views of the philosophers the Wachowski's paid to offer up.
The Matrix Revisited is the mammoth two-hour Documentary that was so comprehensive and, frankly, long, that it was even released as a separate disc after the original Matrix hit the shelves. There really is little on this disc that adds to what is offered by this Documentary which covers everything from the inception of the project in its conceptual stages of pre-production all the way through release and success and planning for the future sequels. It looks at the whole process and offers quite an interesting and revelatory behind-the-scenes look at the production of this landmark movie. Although few will be able to sit through it in one stint, it almost plays like a movie in and of itself (in a video-diary style of course) and comes highly recommended to those who want to learn pretty-much all there is to know about the making of this movie.
The Behind the Matrix Documentary Gallery showcases no less than 7 Featurettes, including The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping's Blocking Tapes, The Bathroom Fight And Wet Wall, The Code of the Red Dress, The Old Exit: Wabash and Lake, Agent Down and some bonus behind the scenes Footage, all with very brief runtime apart from the fluffy HBO Making the Matrix. Take the Red Pill - an interactive feature from the original DVD release(groundbreaking at the time!) - is now available in pure documentary form, with the two relevant Featurettes (on Bullet-time and the concept of The Matrix) available from the menu. So too is Follow the White Rabbit, which gives us nine also short Featurettes on key scenes: Trinity Escapes, The Pod, King Fu, Wall, Bathroom Fight, Government Lobby, Government Roof, Helicopter and Subway. Listed as a 41-track 3-hours-plus selection of music, The Music Revisited is quite a cool extra for those who want to hear more from the superb score. We also get the Rock Is Dead music video by Marilyn Manson, and the original trailer and tv spots.
VerdictThe Matrix was a milestone in movie-making, cutting-edge in terms of effects and action, and perhaps even scope (although it borrowed heavily in ideas from the earlier Dark City, as well as plenty of Japanese Manga, like Akira). With outstanding action performances from all those involved, some breathtaking set-pieces that still have amazing re-watch value, a thumping score and an engaging plot, were it not for the lacklustre, pretentious and ultimately anticlimactic sequels this would have perhaps held its significance for longer. Still, now finally available on Blu-ray in its stand-alone form, perhaps viewers can more happily add this to their collection without having to consider whether or not to pick up the others in a box set. With near-perfect video and audio, as well as pretty-much all the extras you could ever want this is surely the definitive edition to pick up. Highly recommended for a rightful place in everyone's collection.
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