The Matrix Resurrections 4K Dolby Vision Blu-ray Review

‘Nothing comforts anxiety like a little nostalgia…’

by Mark Costello
SRP: £24.00

The Matrix Resurrections Review

It’s fitting that Lana Wachowski decided that the first live action shot of this fourth Matrix film would be of a familiar world reflected and then distorted via a stepped in puddle. The quote in the strap line above is a clear reference to the origins of this film – coming from the desire to seek solace after the deaths of her parents and a close friend – and squarely defines the film’s overall sense of self: a desire to retreat into the familiar, the primary need being to look back, rather than forward and to the future. And that, sadly, is its single greatest flaw.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a successful videogame creator, his games – the original Matrix Trilogy now in playable form – a touchstone for most of the known world. And yet something has been eating away inside him... it gnaws at his soul, telling him that something isn’t right (a hinted at suicide attempt is offered up as an oversimplistic manifestation of this). So when he is met by Morpheus, his own creation, in the real world of his office bathroom, he knows that once again, realities are blurring, worlds are colliding and he is faced with that simple little decision again… choose the cosy fiction of the blue pill or the truth of the red pill and see what lies beyond…

The film is strongest in its opening act – the meta elements of The Matrix now being a part of The Matrix leads to all manner of strange possibilities and culminates with the truly wonderous image of Reeves in the bath with a toy duck perched on his head. It’s heavy handed for the most part – look at all the millennial game designers talking about a need for revisiting the market research keywords of ‘originality’ and ‘freshness’ for the fourth game in a franchise – but it hints at a witty self-awareness and a sense of fun that promised to take The Matrix into interesting new grounds.

But sadly as the plot begins to be revealed, this sense of playfulness evaporates and is replaced with a crushing sense of disappointment. That this landmark trilogy, a set of films that mean so much to so many people precisely because of its ability to take hugely complex intellectual and existential themes and distil them into a genre-defining piece of spectacle cinema, had inevitably produced a generic, carbon copy reboot of itself, giving us a film that is unironically the very antithesis of its ancestors.

Much was made in the press tour for the film that it had taken a special story to get the whole band back together – Lana Wachowski, Reeves, Moss, all talked about finally having a story worth returning to this world for. And yet I see nothing of their passion for the lazy narrative here at all. Avoiding spoilers, this is simply - harking back to that opening image - a straightforward replica of the first film… with some slight alterations. Some might appropriately and charitably say ‘upgrades’, but frankly every change made renders it inferior to all of its ancestors. Even those not quite as good as the first film.

... a film that is unironically the very antithesis of its ancestors

Gone are the fluid kung-fu, anchored, brilliantly conceived big action ideas such as bullet time, replaced with telekinetic jazz hands from Reeves (I would bet my house that Reeves could still pull off those moves, the film bafflingly choosing not to let him). The clear central narrative of the machine world vs The Matrix swapped out for muddy world building and question after question about how this links back to the previous films (including new cast members playing old characters, all lost in a sea of people asking the exact same thing……’why?’) that are haughtily dismissed and outright ignored by the script. And the clear sense of the still superlative action set pieces of the first three films coming directly from and being intrinsically linked to their narratives now missing, exchanged for a laziness in the script that seems to indicate it was the visuals that came first this time, in desperate need for a story explanation for something looking ‘cool’ and ultimately failing – the film’s big new idea, ‘swarm mode’, makes no logical sense whatsoever: having hundreds of people in The Matrix just hurl themselves to their deaths may look interesting (and make some not so subtle socio-political point to boot), but surely this would just rob the machines of vital batteries in the real world? Surely?

Sadly the new cast members don’t stand much of a chance – great actors such as Jonathan Groff and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II never have time to establish themselves with their characters as written, while Jessica Henwick and Neil Patrick Harris just about manage to stamp their personality within this world, even if again they fail to really register as anything other slightly different versions of what has gone before.

And yet, for all of this, those first films are so ingrained into my cinematic history that I can’t deny seeing Reeves and Moss back together again (they are still great as these characters and together) and in THIS world (for all its flaws, it’s still recognisably the same world as the previous films) was something of a rush. And there’s enough big screen spectacle, suitably staged by Wachowski, to at least entertain on a base level… but therein lies the conundrum: The Matrix was and should never be ‘base’. It should be held on a higher plane than other ‘big screen spectacles’. And while some may argue that this film is being treated unfairly in comparison to others, that’s because it is… this film should ONLY be compared to the previous Matrix films and on every level, it does so unfavourably.

While I can accept that so much of the first film was lightning in a bottle – its own themes were not original, but its distillation of them was – and therefore expecting said lightning to strike twice is somewhat illegitimate, the fact that its plot is a simple balls-out replication of the first film’s and its lazy script ignores so many bigger and more interesting notions (the machines are now Gods?) in favour of just wanting to get Neo and Trinity back together again for a welcome shot of easy nostalgia isn’t.

And it’s that that disappoints the most.

The Matrix Resurrections 4K Video

The Matrix Resurrections
The included images are not sourced from the 4K disc.

The Matrix Revolutions was shot digitally at 6K and 8K source resolutions using the Red Komodo, Monstro and Ranger cameras and Panavision Panaspeed lenses. This 4K disc uses the film’s original 4K digital intermediate and creates a beautiful native 3840 x 2160p resolution image with the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 faithfully preserved using a 10-bit video depth, both High Dynamic Range flavours (HDR10 and Dolby Vision) and encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec.

We reviewed this Region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release on a JVC-DLA N5 Ultra HD 4K projector (for main HDR10 viewing), a Philips 50PUS6754/12 Ultra HD 4K TV (for a DV/HDR10 comparison) and a Panasonic DP-UB9000 Dolby Vision/HDR10 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player (for HDR10 viewing) and a Sony UBPX700 Dolby Vision/HDR10 Ultra HD Blu-ray player (for DV/HDR10 comparisons).

... the picture quality is astounding

The first film was as much a poster child for the then new-fangled DVD as it was for the Wachowskis and action/sci-fi cinema – everyone of a certain age had the first film as their go to demo disc (chapter 27 The Lobby anyone?) and for many it was actually their very first digital disc purchase. And with a history and a pedigree like that, there are high hopes for the quality of the transfer on this 4K disc… hopes that are squarely met with some aplomb.

The picture quality is astounding. Simple as that. Detail is insane, with that digital clarity in as close to that source resolution as is currently possible on physical media capturing every single contour, every line, every strand of hair, clothing and anything else that is put in screen. All of this means there is dimensionality to the image that almost lulls you into false sense that you’re actually watching a 3D version of the film. Combine this with a brilliantly high contrast image, beautifully supported by both HDR flavours – check out the searingly bright and crisply delineated backlit water droplets flying through the air as ‘Trinity’ dusts up with the agents in deep darkness at the 4 min mark – and you have what is possibly one of the most detailed images ever committed to disc.

The use of HDR matches perfectly the bright, sunshine-y world of this new Matrix and gives us both deep inky blacks that just flirt with crush but never veers over into it and blinding bright skies that brilliantly frame the characters – at the 1-hour 31-min mark, as Reeves returns from his basement dust up with Smith, he strides across a pool of water that dances with beautiful highlights from the sun backlighting the cast, a perfect unison of bright highlights and dark shadows and shows what HDR can really do. And in yet another superb example of HDR (and bear in mind, I’m watching on a projector that ‘can’t do HDR’ remember…), as we hurtle towards our finale, Trinity stares into the bright morning sun at the 2-hour 9-minute mark and sees bright flecks of machine code in it: the picture easily gives us a wonderful ‘bright on bright’ image that never blooms or hides the underlying detail within the intensely bright areas of the picture.

The only real negative of the image is around how, on occasion, these searing highlights on the edges of faces occasionally take on an odd colouration – shades of teal and bright pink are noticeable in some of these (not all, just some) that feel out of place. And while it's not a negative as such, the overall style of the image is smooth. Very smooth. Not waxy or looking like DNR has been liberally applied, just incredibly clear – which combined with the digital source means the image itself has no texture to it all. Some may therefore simply miss that organic feel to their image, this being such an overtly digital one (but obviously perfectly in keeping with the themes of the film itself).

And finally, as if it needs saying, the purely digitally captured images are rock-solid in terms of its stability and its compression is suitably impressive, with bitrates averaging between 75 and 85 mbps across the film (with the exception of chapters four through to seven – the initial ‘real-world’ scenes - where these drop to an average of approximately 45mbps assumingly due to there being less grunt work needed with these scenes), with highs of around a massive 108 mbps noted at various points.

Overall, the image from this new Matrix on this new disc is every bit the picture demo that the DVD of the first film was. Nigh on perfect.

Note: moving away from the projector to the Philips to compare HDR10 and Dolby Vision layers, there was little difference noted at all. As expected, the colour saturation of the DV layer is slightly richer and more intense – the sunrise over the San Francisco skyline at the 2-hour 13-minute 20-second mark demonstrates slightly more intensity on its shades of orange – but outside of this there’s little significant difference to note between the two. The key notion of brightness differences between the two was put to bed with the shot immediately after this of Trinity arriving at The Architect’s house with a burning sun over her left shoulder – both showed the same levels of brightness and without resorting to actually measuring it, looked for all intents and purposes identical. Projector owners are in for an absolute treat with this one!

The Matrix Resurrections 4K Audio

The Matrix Resurrections

The 4K disc has a single audio soundtrack – English Atmos - with a single set of subtitle options joining it (English traditional and SDH). The accompanying 1080p blu-ray has a wider variety of both – the same Atmos track is joined by lossy English DD5.1, English Descriptive audio, Italian, Spanish, Mandarin and Czech soundtracks, with English HoH, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Romanian, Swedish and several Chinese language subtitle tracks.

We reviewed this region free UK Ultra HD Blu-ray release of The Matrix Resurrections on a Denon AVR4300 and a 7.2.4 array of Kef speakers (including the Q range and ci in-walls/in-ceilings).

... a fully immersive and hugely aggressive sound field

It’s a constant barrage of sound from the off, the film’s sound designer and mixer unapologetically using every speaker at their disposal to create a fully immersive and hugely aggressive sound field.

Surround steering is utterly seamless, with a near-perfect marriage of sound and vision moving through our viewing rooms – the explosion at Anderson’s games office at the 33-min 30-second mark a wonderful example of sound moving through and around the speaker array in perfect synch with the unfurling fireball. Overheads are used almost constantly for both atmosphere and spot effects, their use clearly a fully integrated element of the overall sound mix rather than some tacked on appeasement for the home cinema nerds.

The soundtrack is equally adept going full throttle during one of the myriad of action scenes as it is in its subtler moments, the dynamic range huge yet incredibly fast. The music is rich and full, with plenty of low-end hum adding body to the pieces, while the higher frequencies feel sparkling and crystalline in their detail. And the dialogue is always suitably prioritised and crystal clear, even if you don’t always understand what on earth any of it actually means.

It's only slight weakness is that it’s never the all-out LFE love-in that the film’s soundtrack was. It goes deep for sure, but it never hits you in the chest in the way the gunshots and explosions did in the previous trilogy. Utterly precise, enveloping, subtle, BIG, fun, it’s all of these things….but powerful? Not quite so much.

As with the visuals, it’s a case of very near to perfect for its all-encompassing Atmos soundtrack.

The Matrix Resurrections 4K Extras

The Matrix Resurrections

The 4K UHD blu-ray has no extras at all to speak of. The accompanying 1080p disc however has the following included within its menus:

  • No-one can be told what The Matrix is – featurette, 9 mins
  • Resurrecting The Matrix – featurette, 30 mins
  • The San Fran Jump – featurette, 8 mins
  • Neo x Trinity: Return to The Matrix – featurette, 8 mins
  • Allies and Adversaries – featurette, 8 mins
  • Matrix 4 Life – featurette, 6 mins
  • I still know kung fu – featurette, 5 mins
  • The Matrix Reactions – ten short featurettes breaking down specific scenes/themes/characters of the film, 48 mins total

... there’s nothing here as innovative as ‘follow the white rabbit’ mode on that first film’s DVD

Honestly, jump straight to The Matrix Reactions section – specific discussions on key elements of the film (such as explaining what a Modal Programme is, etc) help shed light on the key ideas and notions the film didn’t do a very good job of explaining.

The rest are mostly EPK filler about how great the first set of films were and on how great everyone is with nuggets of solid info sprinkled throughout. Although don’t be fooled by the authoring error that has two of these featurettes in the menu twice (once on the front page and again on the second page). Lazy. And finally and very sadly, there’s nothing here as innovative as ‘follow the white rabbit’ mode on that first film’s DVD…

Conclusion

The Matrix Resurrections 4K Dolby Vision Blu-ray Review

The Matrix Resurrections

Of all the things I wanted from this next Matrix instalment, an interesting and innovative narrative was top of the list. While everything else was taken care of in one way or another – Reeves and Moss bringing Neo and Trinity back to life, big-budget sci-fi visuals and A/V porn – this sadly wasn’t. And I’ll make no bones about this being the source of both my frustration and disappointment with The Matrix Resurrections. A dull rehash of the first film with no new tweaks surrounding it to at least try and pretend it’s not and a host of unanswered questions as to why fan favourites have returned in very different guises and how the machines now have the power of ultimate life, this is the very worst possible version of this film that for me, I could have gotten.

Admirable in some of its reasoning behind coming back now – as a tribute to Lana’s parents and as a tribute to who Lana is now – this doesn’t and frankly shouldn’t give the film a pass. Some may find there are things to enjoy here – it IS a return to The Matrix after all – and on a second viewing, with the weight of expectations firmly readjusted, it did improve. But only slightly. And not by enough. Still a significant disappointment.

... the 4K disc is a thing of beauty, aurally and visually

The 4K disc however is a thing of beauty, aurally and visually. A hair’s breadth away from perfection on both counts, those with full fat home cinema systems will no doubt enjoy certain scenes as their new favourite A/V demoes for a while to come.

The Matrix Resurrections comes to 4K Ultra HD with Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos in Standard and Steelbook Packages, from Warner Bros. UK on 21st April 2022.

Scores

Movie

.
.
.
.
.
5

Picture Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Extras

.
.
.
.
.
5

Overall

.
.
.
.
.
5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges.

To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.

Related Content

Heat 4K Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Event Horizon 4K Blu-ray Review
  • By Mark Costello
  • Published
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 4K Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Get Carter 4K Blu-ray Review
  • By Simon Crust
  • Published
Out of Sight 4K Blu-ray Review
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published

Latest Headlines

Disney+ confirms price increases coming in December
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Movies Podcast: 8th August 2022
  • By Casimir Harlow
  • Published
Warner Bros Discovery set to combine Discovery+ and HBO Max
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
What's new on Sky, NOW and Paramount+ UK for September 2022
  • By Andy Bassett
  • Published
Freeview Play unveils latest Explore TV update
  • By Ian Collen
  • Published
Top Bottom