The Ultimate Matrix Collection DVD Review
PictureWow, what a difference! Now boasting a new transfer supervised by the Wachowski brothers, this brings the original movie much more in line with the sequels. The worlds in all 3 now have very distinct tints, with a greenish hue for the Matrix and a blue hue for the Real world. Print wise, all 3 movies are absolutely pristine with crisp, vivid colours that don't bleed and solid, deep blacks that manage to keep the levels of detail high. Grain isn't noticeable, neither are any halos or edge enhancements which makes the transfers present absolutely amazing - we're talking reference quality. In fact, CGI is so well integrated into the picture, it is almost easy to forget how much is there! However, while all 3 movies were originally blessed with great transfers, how do these compare - well let's see!
As a comparison, I dug out my old R1 copy of The Matrix and took 2 screenshots from it and the same from the new version. I picked one that was vivid and inside the Matrix and one from the Real world, which was particularly busy. The top images are the original transfer, the lower being the new one. No form of enhancement has been performed by the software, with the exception of resizing. As you can see, blacks are much deeper, reds more vivid and generally it looks less washed-out. Skin tones are more natural and I certainly feel that detail levels are increased considerably. The original movie certainly hasn't looked better and probably won't until the next format, until then, relish this as it is truly a magnificent transfer. The second comparison comes from The Matrix Reloaded and as you can see, there's very little to choose from between the old and new versions. The Matrix Revolutions, from the menus to the picture quality, seems to be identical to the original release and therefore I've not illustrated any comparison.
SoundAgain, the previous versions of the movies had absolutely wonderful soundtracks and there's absolutely no change here. We are talking reference quality with a true 5.1 workout for your system, with deep rumbling LFE bass which will shake the room and superb use of the rear speakers, not only during the action sequences but for the entire soundtrack, indeed it envelops you. The panning is superb with channel separation being clear when bullets are firing from every which direction and the crumbling of the walls (first movie) being distinct, clear and precise. It's truly awesome the amount of detail you can hear throughout these movies. In fact the soundstage is so well done, sometimes you hear a noise and it takes you out of the movie - it's that good. Dialogue is clear and precise with a warm tone, never being drowned out by the busy sound stage that these movies have. In fact, if you're not impressed while the Nebuchadnezzar is flying though the tunnel system, with Sentinels hot on its tail, I'd be stunned. The obvious criticism is the lack of a DTS track which maybe a missed trick, but then again it would be very hard to see how that could improve what we have here. Cracking stuff.
ExtrasWhen you first heard that this box set had 10 disks, it doesn't take much for your brain to figure 10 less 3 for the movies leaves 7. To quote Neo, “Whoa” and to say that this is a little intimidating to review doesn't do it justice, especially seeing the 35 hours quoted on the back! Anyway, here we go, disk by disk (almost).
Disks 1,3 and 5 contain the movies, where the only extras are the commentary tracks, 2 per movie making 6 in total. The tracks are for two radically different camps - The Philosophers who enjoyed the movies and the Critics who didn't. This may sound like a bizarre concept, but the Wachowski's explain this as having the juxtaposition of the two view points - argument and counter argument if you will. Personally commentary tracks, 99 out of 100 times, leave me cold and get switched off or ignored totally and sadly this is no different here. Both tracks will most likely appeal to the most ardent fans, or even fans of commentary tracks, but sadly it couldn't increase or sway my opinion either way. Still it's certainly different to hear a commentary ripping into the movie over the normal niceties. That would be all the extras you'll find for the movies, but pop it into a PC and you will (eventually) be able to watch the movies with a third commentary track, featuring the principals - however they don't seem to be ready yet, which is a pity. Still, worth bearing in mind for future delectation.
Disks 2 contains The Matrix Revisited which is a 2 hour, DD 5.1 audio, behind the scenes of “The Matrix”. Kicking off with Laurence Fishburne playing harmonica, we meet people post Matrix and starting on the 2 sequels. They tell tales, of how it was so small they didn't have a coffee machine in the office, obviously box office receipts helped them for the other movies. The actors and movie makers elaborate on the influences, training and the whole process - for example Keanu having to read 3 books (two of which was “Simulcra and Simulation” and “Evolutionary Psychology”) before he was “allowed” to read the script! It also shows that one of my favourite movies “Bound” was the movie they made to help convince Warner Bros to allow them to make The Matrix (and if you haven't seen Bound, go get it!) This isn't your typical PR/Entertainment Tonight fluff, this is highly entertaining for the viewer, film maker or not. If that in itself isn't enough, then you have “The Music Revisited”, 41 complete tunes from the movie, which you can play individually or all of them, a nice feature but not my taste in music. “Behind The Matrix” contains a further 6 featurettes, which can be played individually or together, from “The Code of the Red Dress” to “Agent Down”. While they are merely extension of what's been seen before, they are still entertaining enough to merit a view. “Take the Red Pill” and “Follow The White Rabbit” are extras that were present from the original Matrix release, so it's also nice to see them included here in a more easily accessible form. Rounding off this disk we have the web links for the Matrix website.Disk 4 is
The Matrix Reloaded Revisited and starts off with “Enter The Matrix”, which is an introduction relating to the game of the same name followed by the cinematic cut scenes from the game. The whole thing can be played individually or all together which is probably the preferred method. Shot in 2.35:1 and seen here sadly in a non-anamorphic transfer, it is worth watching especially to people who've never played the game as it brings plot devices and references that you don't otherwise see, bridging the gap between the first two movies for example and at a running time of around 43 minutes, it's definitely worthwhile. “I'll Handle Them” contains 4 featurettes involving the battle in the Merovingian's Great Hall. It just shows how much work and effort goes into some of the combat sequences and at a running time of 17 minutes, is detailed yet concise. “The Car Chase” is again broken into 8 segments, or can be viewed in its entirety lasting 55 minutes and as the title suggests, it showcases the entire car chase, from garage to the freeway and is by far the most stand out sequence from the movie. It's superbly explained and shown, with the right balance of details and trivia - for example, they elaborated that the timber used in the building of the freeway was donated to Mexico to be recycled and made into homes for low income families. Not important to the movie making process but an interesting fact nonetheless. With all the elements receiving fair treatment, from the guns that the twins fire to the spectacular truck collision, this will please almost everyone wishing to know more about the entire sequence. “Teahouse Fight” contains 2 features (again available separately or played together) lasting 7 minutes, which elaborates on the fight between Neo and Seraph, the guardian of the Oracle. It's interesting to hear the fight choreographer (Master Yeun Wo Ping) explain how he had to plan the fight with Keanu in mind, as Collin Chou (Seraph) has 10 years experience and therefore needed to balance the skill set, so it looked as though they were evenly matched. “Unplugged” contains 5 chapters (separate or play all) which relates to the “Burly Brawl”, the fight between Neo and the 100 Smiths. Running a total of 40 minutes, starting with Keanu explaining there was more movements in this sequence than the whole of the first movie! To say that this is not eye opening would be a complete understatement, as it shows you the lengths that went into making the fight sequence as realistic as it could be, given the shots and the logistics, as there aren't 100 Hugo Weavings' alive. The CG artists clearly took pride in their work, from measuring the light (which is a given) to how many buttons are on Neo's cloak, the distance between poppers and so forth. We see the choreography of the fight and how all the various elements finally gel and mesh together to deliver the complete sequence. “The Exiles” contains 2 features relating to the Twins, Merovingian and Persephone and while they give information on the characters and the actors take on the movies, they are nonetheless not overly exciting. Finally, web links again for the Matrix web site rounds this disk off.
Disk 6 contains
The Matrix Revolutions Reloaded which takes us behind the final movie, kicking off with “Crew” which runs for a total of 25 minutes, split into 4 sections covering key members of the crew talking about their role and experiences. Interesting for some I'm sure, but didn't really do anything for me. “Hel” is split into 7 sections, or played together totalling about 28 minutes and revolves around the storming of Club Hel, owned by the Merovingian. Again, this feature revolves around showing the elements from wirework to various visual effects, although it does move around different sequences as well, but it's comprehensive enough, although the extras of Club Hel are a little scary. “Siege” lasts for 40 minutes and goes behind the scenes of the attack on Zion, showing again, how it's all pieced together from Motion Capture, CG, miniatures and stunt work. This will definitely interest model fans for starters and is particularly detailed in the process that went on to create the whole scene, with just the right amount of information given. Also nice to see yet again are the storyboard/raw footage/movie comparisons - as has been present in many of the extras. “Super Burl Brawl” consists of 4 sections, totalling around 17 minutes and revolves around the final battle of Smith and Neo. Personally speaking, after seeing the gruelling element of fighting in mud and hard rain, rather them than me doing it! It's certainly again, an enlightening view of how much work goes into the creation of the set pieces of these movies. “New Blue World” runs for a total of 25 minutes and relates to the city of Zion, the Ships themselves and the other elements within the ships (such as the flight screens). It may not be for everyone, but again the depths of detail that is gone into to give the movie a sense of realism is quite astounding (such as different screen graphics were made for different scenes). “Aftermath” runs in total for 40 minutes and is split into 4 sections, covering the music, with composer Don Davis elaborating on how the music was built upon throughout the trilogy (and The Animatrix too), the editing with Zach Staenberg who explains the concepts sufficiently as well as giving a sense of relief that it's over, the sound design with Dane Davis elaborating on the recording and implementation of the sound effects, again clearly passionate over his craft, mentioning that they hate doing the same thing over again. Finally the last section of “Aftermath” consists of the elaboration on the digital effects, which although has been touched on several times already in the featurettes, still gives more information and really hammers home the point of the amount of work involved. Great stuff again. Finally we get the web links again to finish this disk off. Disk 7 brings us
to The Animatrix, already available as an individual disk, which consists of 9 animated shorts revolving around the world of The Matrix. Sadly, nothing new has been added to this disk from its original release, so here's the synopsis from our original review. The Final Flight Of The Osiris, a stunning and life like CGI animated tale from the team behind “Final Fantasy,” Square USA. At times it is so life like that you forget it is animation. The story is a lead up to Reloaded, where the crew of the Osiris discover an invasion army of sentinels and machines to dig down to Zion, and they must warn everyone no matter what the cost. If ever you wanted a short demo piece to show off your systems capabilities this is the one. The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2 , This is a violent retelling of the history leading up to the Matrix, the fight between man and machine and told using breathtaking anime style. Don't let the kids see this as it is quite a graphic violent piece. Kid's Story , another tale which fits into Reloaded, featuring a teenager who knows deep down that the matrix is not reality, but the agents are closing in. This short features some brilliant hand drawn animation. Program, is about a man, a woman and a Japanese sparring program. The action is gravity defying action as the two fight physically and verbally through the program, showing great finesse, and brutal force. World Record, an athlete is under pressure to beat the 100m record, and suddenly becomes aware that nothing is quite as it seems. Beyond, a woman out looking for her cat finds what appears to be a haunted house of epic proportions where gravity and physics no longer exist, but the agents are on their way. A Detective story, Carrie Ann Moss provides the voice of Trinity, the computer hacker who is being tracked by a P.I. hired by the agents, but he soon realises he's been set up. The animation is pure black and white film noire. Matriculated, the final short film follows a band of survivors across the desolate apocalyptic landscape of the real world they have discovered how to reprogram the machines. The animation here is striking and haunting all at the same time. Extras are also identical, with 4 audio commentaries, “Scrolls to Screen”, which is a feature relating to the history and culture of Anime, Biographies of the studios and featurettes for each of the individual movies. As it stands, it's a very nice addition to the box set, with some very nice animation and clever story telling. If you don't particularly like Anime however, still check out “The Last Flight of the Osiris” as it is stunning both sonically and visually and will help fill in a gap between the first two movies, as the events told within do tie in with the main story arc.
Disk 8 is Roots of the Matrix, which contains 2 features, the first being “Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix”. This runs for about 61 minutes and discusses philosophy, from a historic recap and how ideas relate into the philosophy that is present in the Matrix movies. For starters, if you only look at the Matrix trilogy as action flicks, probably wise to avoid this as it's pretty heavy stuff. It debates clearly the concepts of choice, of free will and reality, based on the accounts of philosophers from Nietzsche to Descartes. I'm not going to go into too much depth here, you are either a believer in the deep philosophy of these movies (so you'll love this disk) or you just like a good action/kung fu/sci-fi movie, in which case move along, nothing to see here. The second featurettes “The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction” runs also for an hour and discusses the technology aspects in the Matrix trilogy, such as robots become sentient and overthrow the humans, which is effectively no different to several other movies, such as The Terminator or even more recently, I, Robot. Obviously that's where the similarities end and it's discussed on how likely or possible a virtual reality world is. It's not really a surprise that realistically it's not that far off, especially as they show footage of FPS games, The Sims and even Second Life. When you look at what we have now, short of totally submersion and graphical issues, it's kind of scary that it's closer than we think! Both of these documentaries are very interesting and are worth watching at least once, although I'd probably liked to have heard the Wachowski brothers give their own spin on what was in their minds. That's all on this disk that's obvious, however if you go to the second page, you'll see a link for Warnervideo.com. Highlight it and hit enter and there's several Easter eggs of additional interview footage.
Disk 9 is The Burly Man Chronicles, a 95 minute documentary which starts off on in August 2000, when the beginning of the 2 sequels and the game footage was in pre-production. We are given a real fly on the wall type view of the production process, from the process of the fight training, storyboards, wire work training and so forth. Without elaborating too much on the contents, once we get past the pre-production, we're on set to see the first shots being taken, Carrie-Ann Moss learning to ride the Ducati and Hugo Weaving having his body and face scanned (for the brawl scene). As the movie moved it's filming from the US to Australia, tragedy occurred on the 25th August 2001, when Aaliyah, who had been cast in the role of Zee was killed in a plane crash. Then fifteen days later, 911 occurred and we see the effect on the cast and crew, whom donated a painting for auction to help the fire station that lost 11 people that day, who had a group prep talk and burned scrolls in a ceremony to mourn the loss. It's a very sobering sight and in that moment we realise this isn't your average promotional documentary. If that's not enough tragedy, Gloria Foster who plays the Oracles also passes away, so this was on so many levels a painfully difficult shoot. Still, this is truly a great 95 minutes and kudos to the film crew who shot this. If that's still not enough Matrix material, this disk also has a “Follow the White Rabbit” feature, but you can access this bonus material from the main menu.Finally we reach disk 10 and a sigh of relief! This disk, The Zion Archive, is split into different areas. The Zion Archive section contains storyboards and galleries of the characters, ships, machines and sets, which while comprehensive, will only appeal to either the most ardent fan or a budding designer. “The Media of the Matrix” is split in three for each movie, offering access to the various trailers, TV Spots and Music Videos that were made for each movie. Rave Reel is not what it suggests thankfully, being a video montage of the pre-production CG effects, although it is set to some terrible music from the film. Entertaining for curiosity value purely, but best played with the mute on. Finally, there is a preview of “The Matrix Online”, the online RPG that allows you to enter the world of the Matrix and be “Neo” or something similar. Seriously, this shows promise but graphically it really needs some work. If the premise intrigues you, have a watch and remember it's due sometime in June or July (it's slipped from the anticipated January release date).
VerdictNo surprise, I'm a fan of these movies, regardless of their flaws of which there are some. While I'd wish they'd remove a certain scene from the proceedings, this is an amazingly complete set, giving something of enjoyment from the casual fan to the most die hard. We get all the movies, the animated shorts and the added footage that came from the game leaving no gap in the whole saga. The Revisited trilogy give all the making of information you'll want or ever need, maybe even more and the remainder of the extras just completes it all. If you're a fan, you should have this and if you haven't, then why not? If you liked the movies, then you won't find a better version that what is presented here, especially as it's uncut. The soundtrack is engulfing and the picture quality, especially the first movie, is superb and should certainly retire the originals into the cupboard to gather dust. As movies go, well it is a rather cool, action packed trilogy and has a deep storyline with philosophical and religious subtext, which is provided you pay enough attention to the details. Sure it has flaws, but in my opinion, no trilogy has been consistently good, so it's in good company. However, the first movie single-handedly reinvented elements of cinema, from the sheer coolness factor to special effects and visual impact and that alone should guarantee it a place on anyone's shelf.
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