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In the near future, a computer hacker named Neo discovers that all life on Earth may be nothing more than an elaborate facade created by a malevolent cyber-intelligence, for the purpose of placating us while our life essence is "farmed" to fuel the Matrix's campaign of domination in the "real" world. He joins like-minded Rebel warriors Morpheus and Trinity in their struggle to overthrow the Matrix.
For more about The Matrix and The Matrix Blu-ray release, see The Matrix Blu-ray Review
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
» See full cast & crew
The Matrix Blu-ray Review
The Wachowski brothers' cyber-sci-fi powerhouse packs a mean punch in the digibook release.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, May 4, 2009
Warner Home Video knows how to sell discs. When it came time to release on Blu-ray one of its hottest titles, The Matrix, the studio bundled it with the much less popular sequels in a boxed set. This approach allowed Warner to charge a premium and a single box moved two titles with poor sales in addition to its perennial blockbuster. The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released last October to great critical acclaim. Blu-ray.com's review of the set championed it as a "remarkable entry to the Blu-ray catalog" and "one of the most comprehensive video releases in history." But with many fans of the first film unwilling to pay a premium for a box containing the two sequels, it was just a matter of time before Warner allowed more finicky Blu-ray collectors to scratch their itch. That time came with the 10th anniversary digibook release of The Matrix, featuring a color booklet and many of the pertinent extras included in The Ultimate Matrix Collection. The audio and video performance, as well as many of the extras remain the same. Just the packaging has changed.
Aside from the killer action sequences, special effects and awesome audio (earning Academy Awards for best film editing, sound, sound effects editing and visual effects), the brilliance of The Matrix lies in an uncommon vision of common experiences, beliefs, paranoias and fantasies. Most of us eek out a mundane existence doing routine work, sensing forces beyond our control. At its core, The Matrix is a narcissistic fantasy wherein a man learns to see through the day-to-day illusion of life and discovers he is "the one" to transcend this existence. It is also a tale of biblical proportions about the enslavement of the human race and the exodus of a small group of resistance fighters aspiring to emancipate humankind. The Wachowski brothers--Andy and Larry, who co-wrote and -directed the film--do a brilliant job of tying this story into the digital revolution of the '90s, stylizing it toward goth fashions and fleshing out just enough plot and character detail to propel the story into suspense, violence and unchartered territory without bogging it down or spotlighting holes in the script.
For those who have been avoiding movies for the past 10 years, The Matrix is the messianic tale of Neo (Keanu Reeves). At the beginning, he's a reclusive hacker who slaves away at his boring job by day and is haunted at night by a sense of emptiness and fear. He's plagued by a question: "what is the Matrix?" Enter Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn)--two fugitive hackers who hold the answer. But first Neo is dogged by the sinister Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The truth that Neo finds through Morpheus is the horrifying reality that nothing is real and that his entire life has been an intricate farce. Neo has been living inside the Matrix--an elaborate, computer-generated virtual reality designed to distract him from existence. Machines have destroyed the Earth and humanity has been reduced to a crop of millions who are each harvested, imprisoned in a vat and kept alive so their body heat can provide power to the machines. Humans are jacked into the Matrix to keep them calm and to distract their minds from the reality of their imprisonment. Morpheus offers Neo his freedom as well as the promise that he is destined to be "The One"--tying into a prophesy that a man will lead the surviving human race to freedom.
The Wachowski brothers cleverly tie in names like Zion with the prophecy, as well as weave references to "Alice in Wonderland" into the story. The script works in philosophical and simple exclamations that Reeves delivers with mellow mimbo (male bimbo) affectation: "there is no spoon", "I know kung fu" and of course "whoa". As usual, Reeves is monosyllabic, but it works because Neo is still amazed by everything he's seeing--it's all so new to him and it makes the audience relate to his predicament. His weak acting works as a positive because the main reason Neo believes in himself is that the other characters believe in him. Fishburn's Morpheus is a combination of cult leader and philosopher. His many narrative speeches are delivered passionately and with a sense of whimsy and conviction. Moss portrays the strong willed, tough chick with elegance. The rest of the cast is also very strong. Joe Pantoliano is brilliant as Cyber. Seeing him here reminds me why he worked so well in The Sopranos.
The Matrix is loaded with innovative action scenes featuring the cinematic technique now known as "Bullet Time", in which the camera seems to freeze on the action and then spin, in real time, around the frozen actors. It's a great action gimmick that the Wachowski brothers fully pay off in the narrative, with real relevance in the story. Now that it has been parodied and used time and again, it has lost some of its novelty and is not quite as stunning as it was back in 1999. Despite the amazing effects and rapid-fire action sequences, The Matrix is very much a character driven movie, with extended dialogue passages and character development. The bottom line: The Matrix is a science fiction classic and ranks as one of the best and most entertaining films of the past twenty years.
The Matrix Blu-ray, Video Quality
The digibook release includes exactly the same 1080p transfer and 2.40:1 picture using the VC-1 codec as in The Ultimate Matrix Collection. The most immediately noticeable feature of the video is the noirish feel with deep, inky blacks. Highly stylized, The Matrix shows a palette somewhat muted of the primary colors, but weighted toward green in the Matrix world and toward blue in the real world. Cinematographer Bill Pope strikes a great balance between composition and style. The excessive CGI effects greatly add to the action eye-candy, but they also hold back the videophile merits of the picture a bit. By manipulating the colors and adding post-produced content, the video dynamics are slightly squashed and that--more than any other reason--holds back the picture from the highest definition reference quality Blu-rays. Still, the drab tones, solid detail, vibrant textures and deep blacks are nothing to sneeze at. Watch the scene after the truth of the Matrix is revealed to Neo, and Morpheus' ship goes to find his body in the sea of human vats. The level of detail and depth is thoroughly convincing with good shadow detail and no sign of digital anomalies. Even the rare red lights and blue-tinted lightning that play in the scene are rendered with excellent clarity and vibrance.
The Matrix Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Even on DVD with lossy Dolby Digital, The Matrix was considered demo material for evaluating HT systems. Now you can chuck that DVD out the window to make room for the new reference demo sound. The Blu-ray version fully pays off the source material and shows why The Matrix won Academy Awards for best sound and best sound effects editing in 1999. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track has good treble extension, midrange detail and bass slam. Especially bass slam. The squeals of delight that left my mouth during the more bombastic scenes I would be embarrassed to repeat, but the sound attack was that good.
Watch the scene where Neo and Trinity storm the police station building to rescue Morpheus and engage in the lobby shootout. The sound of automatic weapon fire and exploding bits of wall and structural columns achieves a level of definition, speed, clarity and outright articulation rarely heard. The more you crank it, the better it sounds. The surround engineering is equally involving, with small arms fire emanating from the rear and front speakers, revealing good spacial separation. Every spent shell drops to the floor with a delicate, palpable ringing from the tweeters with a crispness and clarity that is conveys presence and realism, even in the midst of the midrange and bass. And after the heavy attack of the weapons fire, the scene closes on a light note, as Neo and Trinity leave the area with a blasted piece of a column clanking to the floor, perfectly represented in the treble. Classic.
The Matrix has never sounded better and will live on as the ultimate demo material for home theater enthusiasts. Mostly the bass attack is what does it. The helicopter crashing into the side of the building is an HT sound enthusiast's delight. Just be sure your sub isn't turned up too high or you will rock the neighborhood. Other demo-worthy scenes come during the many "Bullet Time" sequences, which show the emphasis on sound design. As the action stops and the camera pans around the actors, aural imaging spins in relation to the camera throughout the soundstage. It was an amazing effect in the theater and on DVD, but the Blu-ray performance is the best of all. The Matrix was made for lossless audio and this Blu-ray presentation is flawless, powerful and amazing.
The Matrix Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Digibooks have become a sore spot for some collectors who claim they don't fit on the shelf or don't protect the disc, but I happen to enjoy the packaging. It works for me, and I like the color booklet included with The Matrix 10th Anniversary. I wish other releases would include booklets, even if they're shorter and stuck in opposite the disc rather than set into a cardboard spine. It offers something to thumb through while the credits are rolling and a nice keepsake, too. Of course, the supplementary content included on the disc takes precedent, and this content has been described elsewhere. The following is a cursory list:
Audio Commentaries--Featuring effects artists Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta, actress Carrie-Anne Moss, and a music only track featuring composer Don Davis.
The Matrix Revisited--An in-depth two hour documentary on the making of the original film. This was also included on the original DVD release of The Matrix.
Behind the Matrix--Documentary gallery that includes seven featurettes.
Take the Red Pills--Documentary gallery that includes two featurettes.
Follow the White Rabbit--Both of these features were early examples of DVD interactivity that are included for posterity.
Philosopher's Commentary--Featuring Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber who discuss the "bending spoon" and "brain in a vat" concepts of the film.
The Music Revisited--An impressive collection of every single audio cue from the film.
Rounding out the supplementary content is the Marilyn Manson "Rock Is Dead" music video and theatrical trailers as well as TV spots.
The Matrix Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Cyber-thriller, philosophy lesson, action extravaganza, sci-fi geekfest, martial arts showcase, goth subculture, anti-establishment call to arms--The Matrix encapsulates it all with visual flair and production values unlike any that came before. Sure, there are holes in the story and the lead actor is the worst of the cast, but the Wachowski brothers manage to turn these negatives into positives, or at least render them neutral. Besides, with the brilliant pacing and action keeping you on the edge of your seat, there isn't much time to question what you're seeing or hearing. It's a great thrill ride, and Warner delivers a package that works much better for me than a box set featuring two sequels I have no desire to watch. The 38-page booklet is a nice touch, featuring actor, producer and director bios, trivia, glossy color photos and more. Overall, this 10th anniversary package is The Matrix release we've been waiting for, with high definition video and audio that shows off the movie and my HT system at its best. Highest recommendation.
The Matrix: Other Editions
Blu-ray bundles with The Matrix (1 bundle)
The Matrix Blu-ray, News and Updates
• BD Sales Information: June 22-28 (Update) - July 2, 2009
The hugely successful theatrical release of 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen' further boosted 'Transformers', which was the top-selling Blu-ray for the week ended June 28 (up from number 4 the week before), according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. 'Gran ...
• Today on Blu-ray - March 31st - March 31, 2009
When 'Slumdog Millionaire' was released theatrically, it was pegged as the "feel-good film of the year" by many who reviewed it, but most probably didn't realize how true that assessment actually was. Originally financed by Warner Independent Pictures, the ...
• The Matrix Digibook Delayed One Week - January 9, 2009
Warner Home Video has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming digibook Blu-ray release of 'The Matrix: 10th Anniversary', which is now due to hit store shelves on March 31st. Originally scheduled for a March 24th street, this release ...
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