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The Ultimate Matrix Collection(1999-2003)
See individual titles for their synopses.
For more about The Ultimate Matrix Collection and the The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray release, see the The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on October 14, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Carrie-Anne Moss, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, Clayton Watson, Jada Pinkett Smith
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Shinichiro Watanabe, Yoshiaki Kawajiri, Takeshi Koike, Mahiro Maeda
This Blu-ray bundle includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray Review
One of the most coveted Blu-ray releases finally makes its debut
Reviewed by Ben Williams, October 14, 2008
I'll never forget the night back in 1999 where I ventured out to the theaters to catch an opening night showing of The Matrix. My friends and I had all gone to the show as something of a lark. Sure, the trailers had looked fairly interesting and the short tease of what was later to be known as "Bullet Time" was intriguing, but none of us had any expectations for what looked to be a cheesy late-summer Keanu Reeves time waster. It didn't help that Mr. Reeves' sole line from the trailer was a overly dramatic and cheesy "whoa." Little did we know as we stood in line for popcorn and settled into our seats, that we'd be witnessing one of the finest pieces of science fiction to find its way to movie screens in decades. We left the theater that night shaken, stirred and never able to look at a battery the same way again.
Flash forward four years to 2003 and we all once again lined up at the local Cineplex to witness what was sure to be the greatest thing since individually wrapped cheese slices, The Matrix Reloaded. Whoops! Not so much this time. What followed was a dreary and convoluted mess that, at least, promised greatness for the final film. Unfortunately, once the ill fated The Matrix Revolutions arrived later that year, the promise of The Matrix had become a pretty big letdown. Don't get me wrong, there are still some great moments in the sequels, but the sheer greatness of the first film was always the standard by which the later films would be judged. Larger budgets and longer run-times don't always equal out to a better movie and The Matrix trilogy is a prime example of that. A word of warning to those who haven't seen the films: I'll be going into spoiler territory for the next several sections. Please skip ahead to the video and audio ratings if you haven't had the chance to see these films. I'd hate to spoil the wonderful surprises that lie ahead for you.
The Matrix weaves the complex tale of Neo (Keanu Reeves). He's a reclusive hacker who slaves away at his boring job and spends sleepless nights haunted by a sense of emptiness and fear. He's plagued by a burning question: "what is the Matrix?" Enter Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn) - - two fugitive hackers who hold the answers to Neo's longing questions. Neo is dogged by the sinister Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) who succeeds in scaring the hell out of him and prompting Morpheus to approach Neo with the answers to his questions. 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 created virtual reality designed to distract him from the reality of his existence. Machines have destroyed the Earth and humanity has been reduced to a crop of millions of lost souls who exist to provide power to the machines with their body heat. 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" - - the embodiment of a prophesy promising that a man will lead the surviving human race to freedom. Is Neo really The One?
The absolute brilliance of The Matrix lies in its ease at presenting fascinating and intricate science fiction in an easy to digest and understandable way. As far as high concepts go, The Matrix is about as high a concept as one could imagine. The film is filled from beginning to end with innovative action scenes featuring the filming technique now known as "Bullet Time." It's a technique where the camera seems to freeze on the action and then spin, in real time, around the frozen action. It's a great gimmick that really has relevance in the story. Of course, now that it has been parodied in a million different movies, it's not quite as stunning as it was back in 1999. Upon first viewing, however, it's about as amazing and effective as any effect I've ever seen. Despite all these amazing effects and rapid-fire action sequences, The Matrix is very much a character driven movie. The focus of The Matrix is more plot driven with plenty of extended dialogue passages and character development. Keanu is suitably monosyllabic playing a man who is still amazed by everything he's seeing and Laurence Fishburn is downright awesome as he turns Morpheus into a combination of a cult leader and philosopher. His many narrative speeches are delivered passionately and with a sense of whimsy and conviction. Carrie Ann Moss has become something of a fan favorite to the male audience as her Trinity always makes for a welcome addition to any scene given her predilection for skin-tight PVC clothing. She's also strong willed, tough and doles out more severe beatings to the sinister agents of the Matrix than any of her male counterparts. The supporting cast is also very strong. Hugo Weaving has always been my favorite character. He delivers every line in the film as though each syllable weighs a thousand pounds and has required intense thought. He's dark, creepy, funny and a truly imposing adversary. The Matrix is a science fiction classic and ranks as one of the best and most entertaining films of the past twenty years. I wholeheartedly recommend it!
Next up, is The Matrix Reloaded. This sequel was easily the most anticipated film of 2003 and fans lined up by the millions to see the further adventures of Neo, Morpheus and their band of rebels. The film begins in the oft mentioned, but previously unseen, human city of Zion. All the humans of the "real world" are having a massive rave while the powers that be debate Morpheus' belief that Neo is "The One" as well as their strategies against an attack on Zion by the machines. Frankly, the beginning is just plain boring and the movie drags for its first half hour. Morpheus and crew eventually travel back to the Matrix in order to meet with wayward programs Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) and The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). This turns into what feels like a two hour action scene that never quits. People float around on a stairwell, Neo flies around, various characters have the ever-living crap kicked out of them and then there's a huge car chase on a freeway. And that's pretty much it. Loads of interesting ideas are brought up along the way, but they hardly require mentioning because by the time the third flick comes around, they'll have all been dropped.
To me, The Matrix Reloaded feels like a 90 minute movie that somehow ballooned to over two hours. There are definitely enjoyable things in the film: the car chase is fantastic, the special effects are flawless and the action is beautifully choreographed. Perhaps it's the way the third film turned out that colors my perception of Reloaded. Ideas that could have really spawned something interesting in the series are all here and there's a ton of potential greatness, it just never really materializes. The final action set-piece for the film where Neo is attacked by a thousand Agent Smiths also just ends up being over long and tiring. Was this really necessary? Sure, it was probably a technical triumph to make the scene work, but that technical prowess translates to a bored audience and a wish that Morpheus would give another speech. I guess the old saying of "just because you can doesn't mean you should" comes into play here. Despite all these flaws, the film still is enjoyable and whets the appetite for the third film with its cliffhanger ending. Reloaded and Revolutions were filmed simultaneously and the production values are completely consistent between the two films. On that note…
The Matrix Revolutions begins right where Reloaded leaves off with a quick resolution to the cliffhanger quandary of the previous film. As I mentioned before, most of the subplots from Reloaded are immediately dropped in favor of hurrying the climax to the series along. The Merovingian shows up again, Persephone (Monica Bellucci) makes a limited appearance and most of the action of the second film is missing in action. The Matrix Revolutions really exists as a template for the attack on Zion. The attack seems to go on forever, with machines battling it out with humans in a battle on a massive scale. All the while, the story cuts back and forth between the seldom seen Neo and this huge battle. Of course, there is an inevitable showdown between Neo and Smith and Neo's prophetic visions are brought into focus. The final twenty minutes of the movie are quite breathtaking and feature some truly amazing special effects as well as an ambiguous ending that certainly doesn't close the door on the franchise.
If The Matrix Reloaded was a different film, I think The Matrix Revolutions would have been a more satisfying ending to the series. As it stands, the two movies really don't connect up very well and many of the fascinating ideas presented in the second movie are never heard from again. For a series that previously took pride in philosophy and big ideas, Revolutions is surprisingly flat and devoid of anything more than action and big explosions and special effects. I always had the feeling that the Wachowski brothers just ran out of ideas and this was what they were able to come up with. Of course, it's been hinted that their planned ending to the series wasn't very popular with the studio brass and their involvement influenced the direction of the third film. Regardless, The Matrix Revolutions is what it is. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see the world of The Matrix explored again in a future film.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray, Video Quality
Warner brings The Matrix trilogy home on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer utilizing the VC-1 compression codec. All three films are framed at their original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1. While this is a port of the previously released HD DVD version, these transfers are pretty fantastic and all feature near-reference grade video. The look of The Matrix films has been discussed in detail before, but for those new to the series, Cinematographer Bill Pope has given each environment in the film a distinct look. Scenes taking place within the Matrix are given a distinct green tint while those in the real world locations are decidedly blue hued. The human home of Zion offers yet another striking change in palette and generally comes across in warmer yellow tones. All of this adds to the visual uniqueness of the film and gives each location an easy to discern visual flair.
Although these Blu-ray presentations look fantastic, the weakest of the three films is the original. Perhaps the higher budget of the two sequels allowed for more time and attention to be placed on the visual look of the film. Regardless, all three look great and the second and third films in the series just have a slight amount of polish to them that isn't present in the grittier original. Black levels are excellent throughout the three films and detail is exceptional. I noticed a slight amount of what appeared to be macroblocking in a single scene in The Matrix, but it was so slight that it was pure luck that I managed to even notice it. Edge enhancement is also non-existent throughout the three films and color reproduction is vivid and well saturated. I can't imagine any fans of the series being even the slightest bit disappointed in the visual presentation on the Blu-ray discs and The Matrix trilogy is very highly recommended.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Exploding onto Blu-ray in fabulous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound, The Matrix has never sounded better. This fantastic sound experience should prove to be a real treat to home theater aficionados everywhere as The Matrix has always been top-flight demo material for the home theater. The sound design for these films is about as active and exciting as anything ever recorded, so be prepared for your subwoofer to practically leap off the floor and for your surround channels to light up with explosions an automatic weapons fire.
One of the hallmarks of the sound of The Matrix comes during the many "Bullet Time" sequences. As time stops and the camera pans around the action, sound spins in relation to the camera throughout the surround field. It was an amazing effect in the theater, on DVD and it has never been more effective than it is on Blu-ray. Be sure to crank the volume as loud as you can take it when Neo and Trinity launch their assault on the lobby of the building where Morpheus is being held captive in the first movie. Every spent shell that drops to the floor absolutely rings in the speakers with a crispness and clarity that is completely hair raising. The Matrix was made for lossless audio and this Blu-ray presentation is simply flawless, powerful and amazing.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Matrix arrives on Blu-ray with so many supplements, I can barely even figure out where to start. Needless to say, if there's something you've wanted to know about these movies, it's probably included. Each of the first three discs which contain the three films includes a standard array of features. All three films are graced with a "Critic's Commentary" featuring critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thompson. In addition, we are given a "Philosopher's Commentary" on each disc as well featuring Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber. To complete this first section of supplements, each feature disc includes the trailers made for that particular film in HD as well as a written introduction to each film by the Wachowski Brothers.
Here's what's also included:
-Audio Commentaries - Featuring effects artists Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta, actress Carrie Anne Moss, and a music only track featuring composer Don Davis.
-"The Music Revisited" - A collection of every single audio cue from the film. Awesome.
-"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 .
-"Take the Red Pill"
-"Follow the White Rabbit"- Both of these features were early examples of DVD interactivity that are included for posterity.
-"Enter the Matrix" - A 42 minute documentary focused on a video game version of the film. -"Car Chase" - This is a 55 minute feature on the filming of the legendary freeway chase from the movie. Interesting if a bit long.
-"Unplugged" - An in depth documentary on the various special effects and fight choreography used in the film.
-"Teahouse Fight" - More behind the scenes fight choreography...
-"I'll Handle Them" - And yet more fight and special effects info is presented here.
-Archive: "Exiles" - You guessed it! More behind the scenes features on secondary characters!
-"Behind the Matrix" -Believe it or not, here is yet another behind the scenes featurette - - this time focusing on the the third film in the series.
-"Siege" - An in-depth review of the processes behind the large-scale machine attack.
-"Aftermath" - A 40 minute post production featurette...
-"Crew" - The titles says it all.
-"Hel" - a 28 minute documentary on the goth club scene.
- "Super Burly Brawl" - More behind the scenes fight info!
-Archive: "New Blue World" - A pretty succinct (for this set, anyway) wrap up.
Perhaps the greatest extra of them all on this massive set is the inclusions of The Animatrix in full 1080p adn Dolby TrueHD sound. This series of animated stories relate directly to the final two films of the Matrix series. The Japanese animation houses used for these shorts have turned in some remarkable work. Frankly, I like The Animatrix better than the last two films of the series.
Here's what's included: "Final Flight of the Osiris"
"The Second Renaissance Part 1"
"The Second Renaissance Part 2."
Also included with The Animatrix are a good number of extra features including several scene specific commentaries, the outstanding "Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime" featurette and the "Execution" behind the scenes documentary.
The absolute overkill of this set continues with another complete disc of features.
-"Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix" - An hour long documentary featuring opinion and commentary on the philosophy of The Matrix from scholars and philosophers. We are now entering the overkill zone.
- "The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction" - This is very much a full-fledged documentary on the pitfalls of man's eventual and current reliance on technology. Interesting stuff!
-"The Burly Man Chronicles" - This extensive extra is a feature length documentary on the entire production process on Reloaded and Revolutions. If the previous thirty hours of extras didn't get it done for you, let's hope this feature does.
-"Zion Archive" - Welcome to the gallery feature of this endless set. There are, literally, thousands of images here for your viewing pleasure.
-"Rave Reel" - As though anyone was requesting more dancing and boogie time from these films - - here you go.
For those intrepid souls that manage to make it thought all 35 hours of extras, I bid you congratulations. You are all champions in my book.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Matrix films, despite their flaws represent an endless amount of imagination on display. The first film will remain a true classic of modern cinema with its rich, groundbreaking and completely original story. The film is also a testament to the power of what, on the outside, seems to be an action flick, but is, in reality, a character piece. The second and third films, try as they might, never quite live up to the massive expectations the first flick created. Regardless, the series still stands as a singular vision and the true artistic expression of the Wachowski Brothers. I find that I end up liking the sequels a little more with each viewing. Perhaps a day will come when they are able to be enjoyed as much as the original film.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection is just that. It's a remarkable entry to the Blu-ray catalog and ranks as one of the most comprehensive video releases in history. Every aspect of the production of these movies is here for the world to experience. I was floored by the endless extras and it's clear that no stone was left unturned in the search for making this set as complete as humanly possible. On the Audio and Video front, The Ultimate Matrix Collection is a remarkable presentation with ear-splitting, reference-grade audio and picture quality that is truly spectacular. This is a Blu-ray set that belongs in every collection and I am proud to give it my highest recommendation.
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