"The Ultimate Matrix Collection" 7-Disc Blu-ray Review
October 14, 2008 by James Harvey
The first movie was groundbreaking. The second one was an exercise in over-indulgence. The third tried to recoup some of the magic from the original but fell short. It's an uneven trilogy overall, with fans divided between loving all three or ignoring the second two. Which ever way you slice it, The Matrix Collection is one of those movie series' that still has people talking. Whether it's the revolutionary special effects, the deep plot, or the philosophical aspect to it, this series will remain one of the most talked about series of all time. And now, Warner Home Video has unveiled the series on Blu-ray with The Ultimate Matrix Collection!
The Ultimate Matrix Collection presents the complete adventures of the machine-battling truth-seekers Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) in all three of the ground-breaking Wachowski brothers' post-modern epic films. All Matrix films were written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, who spent years nurturing and refining the movie's breakthrough concerts, and were produced by Joel Silver. The Matrix film franchise is one of Warner Bros' largest and most prestigious franchises with multi-billion dollar sales generated worldwide across a variety of media formats including theatrical, home video, broadcast, video games, and publishing. All three films are in the top ten best-selling sci-films of all time and have been nominated for and won numerous awards. And now, everything is here in one exciting collection!
Now, I won't spend much time with my thoughts on the films. There's a great chance that the only reason you're checking out this review is to know if it's worth picking up on Blu-ray, and I don't blame you. Considering the great The Matrix Collection DVD release and the very nice-looking The Matrix Collection HD-DVD release, I don't blame you for wanting to avoid a triple-dip (or double-dip for those who waited-out the format war). So, there's a good chance you've already made up your mind on the movies, and that's just fine. However, I'll just briefly cover the movie before moving to the more technical part of the review.
So, how are these movies? Well, it goes without saying that The Matrix is one hell of a great movie. No question. The action scenes are amazing, the plot itself is well thought-out and executed and, for the most part, the acting is pretty great across the board. Keanu Reeves found arguably the best role of his career in Neo, a role that we expanded upon for the next two installments. What made The Matrix pop at the time was how fresh and different it seemed. It flew in under the radar to become a huge hit, a bigger hit than expected by Warner Bros, and it resonated. It was a solid movie from start to finish, one that was totally enjoyable, completely rewatchable, and an overall feast for the eyes. The creators behind this movie, The Wachowski Brothers, took a risk and it paid off in spades.
And that risk got them two back-to-back sequels. The first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, met with mixed reactions. Some called a stretched-out excuse in overindulgence, and I can't say I blame them. Then again, with the whole world of The Matrix created in the first movie, and the relatively quick running time, there was a lot to squeeze in for the first movie. Here? Nope. They can stretch everything out that they need to, making sure it has air to breathe. Of course, since this movie actually felt like one half of two movies, the other being the third movie The Matrix Revolutions, we essentially got two acts to a long three-act story stretched over two movies. The cliffhanger at the end of The Matrix Reloaded makes that apparent. Now, for me, while I don't think it's a bad movie, it's far from the perfect follow-up to the first. There's too much pointless confusion and attempts to make this franchise more complex than it really is. Did we really need the Architect? Personally, I don't think so, since while what he says has an impact on the movie, it seems artificial. It's a fine follow-up to The Matrix, but one that could have been better. And don't get me started on the overuse of CGI in this flick. There's one fight scene in particular that has the potential to be so awesome, but then immediately falls flat when it completely switches over to CGI. You know which one I'm talking about.
Thankfully, things started looking up in the final installment, The Matrix Revolutions. A lot of the excess philosophical jargon is stripped away for a bare-knuckle action film. Neo and Agent Smith duke it out in the rain while the last human survivors do battle with the machines for dominance of the real world. That's the movie in a nutshell and, since it's the final installment of the The Matrix movie franchise, I'll avoid the spoilers. Suffice it to say, this movie had a pile of surprises. Well, a pile of surprises for those who stuck around to watch it. After the lukewarm reception to The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, which premiered about seven months after the second installment, didn't perform well at the box-office (although managed to recoup its losses on the home video market). It's a solid wrap-up to a trilogy in my books. It corrects most of the mistakes made in the first movie and tightens the pace, making for a fast-paced (after a sort-of slow start) wrap-up for the franchise. It's well done and really ends the only way it could. A satisfying wrap-up, in my opinion, to a flawed trilogy.
Now, many cite that there shouldn't have been any sequels, that it was unnecessary, and I'd agree with that. The two sequels don't really add on to the first film in any required way, but instead add on additional story. As a movie series on a whole, it's a bit lop-sided, and it's a bit obvious that things get a bit excessive in the second installment of the franchise in terms of budget and effects. Still, it's a satisfying movie-going experience and an interesting story. It's probably one of the most influential movies of the past ten years and, if you're a movie buff, these are required viewing. It's a flawed trilogy, no question, but it's still revolutionary. Stimulating both your mind and your eyes, The Matrix Collection contains the somewhat controversial movie series that, even today, keeps people talking. And, if you're going to experience all three movies, this is the way to go about it. The Ultimate Matrix Collection comes Highly Recommended, especially on Blu-ray.
Now, before I go any further, I want to mention something. If you're not a fan of the second and third installment of the The Matrix franchise, then don't worry. Warner Home Video plans to release a The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release next year.
So, the big question is whether or not this collection includes everything that was on the original DVD release of The Ultimate Matrix Collection, and it does. It also includes everything from the HD-DVD release, including the In-Movie Experience for each film. All of this is packaged in a very sturdy hard cardboard slipcase, housing five separate slimcases (four Blu-ray discs and two DVD discs). As you can guess, it's a very attractive looking package, and it's hard to believe that this little box, which must be about half the size of the original The Matrix Ultimate Collection contains over 35 hours of bonus materials. Each movie, and its respective bonus features, gets its own Blu-ray disc, while the remaining bonus features are spread over two additional DVDs. Remember how, on the The Ultimate Matrix Collection, how each movie had two discs dedicated to it? Well, those two DVD discs are now mushed onto one Blu-ray disc. That's how each movie is handled here, so that means that The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, and The Matrix Revolutions, and The Animatrix all have their own respective Blu-ray disc, with three discs of additional bonus features.
Of course, we all expected all the previous extras to be ported over successfully, and they are. So, for a moment, let's divert over to the audio and video presentation for just a moment, shall we? It goes without saying that the films all look and sound terrific. The detail level is great and the color, even with the intentional green tint, looks really incredible. Thankfully, there's little to no digital artifiacting visible. In fact, the video is nearly flawless, with The Matrix looking only a thin shade (and I mean thin!) weaker than The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions, but that is likely due to the age between the movies. The audio is just as stellar, especially with the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix. It's immersive, booming, and all around crystal clear. It goes without saying that you won't be disappointed when you crank these films up on your home theater system. The Animatrix, presented here for the first time in HD, looks absolutely fantastic. The video and audio mix are easily on par with the feature films, resulting an experience that feels all new when revisiting these great shorts.
Now, except for the In-Movie Experience content, the bonus features are all in standard definition. For those who picked up the previous collection, you know what to expect in terms of extras. However, for those looking to dive into this collection for the first time, below is a listing of the bonus features for this collection.
-Written introduction by the Wachowski Brothers
-Commentaries by philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson, cast/crew Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta for The Matrix, composer Don Davis with music-only track for The Matrix
-Feature-length documentary The Matrix Revisited
-Behind The Matrix documentary gallery: 83 featurettes with The MTV Movie Awards Reloaded and 3-D Evolutions stills gallery
-The Music Revisited: 41-track audio selection of nearly three hours of music
-Music Videos: Marilyn Manson's "Rock is Dead" and P.O.D.'s "Sleeping Awake"
-Enter The Matrix: The Game documentary
-Enter The Matrix: View 23 live-action scenes shot for the video game that plug into the action of The Matrix Reloaded
-Four director commentaries and eight documentaries on The Animatrix, including Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime
-The Burly Man Chronicles: Probe the Society of Actors, Craftspeople and Filmmakers who shaped the movie trilogy and the Enter The Matrix console game in 21 featurettes and a feature-length documentary
-The Roots of The Matrix: Historical, philosophical and technological inspirations are explored in insightful documentaries
-The Zion Archive: Production assets developed for The Matrix Universe, including concept art, storyboards, drawings, music videos, music rave reel, and The Matrix Online
-Theatrical trailers and TV spots
The above list shouldn't look new to those whop have bought the previous releases of The Ultimate Matrix Collection, but, personally, with the addition of The Animatrix in HD, this is probably the most definitive release to date for this collection. As you can see, the extras are all included. For those who have yet to pick up this collection, this is really as must own for your Blu-ray system. While it's somewhat disappointing that the majority of the bonus features are in standard definition, having all the movies in high-definition is truly worth it, making this collection a must for die-hard The Matrix enthusiasts. There's just so much to explore with the bonus materials, as seemingly everything is covered from top to bottom. With 35 hours worth of content, there is plenty to explore for casual and hard-core fans alike.
It goes without saying that The Ultimate Matrix Collection is a spectacular release, especially now that it has found its way to Blu-ray. While the trilogy itself may be a bit lop-sided, the bonus features more than make up for , giving us a look into this universe of both the movie and the production of this revolutionary trilogy. Again, I want to remind the readers that Warner Home Video will be release The Matrix: 10th Anniversary Edition on Blu-ray next year, so, if you happen to only enjoy the first feature, then you're likely better off waiting for a few more months. But, for everyone else, this set is definitely worth adding to any shelf and, really, should be a Must Own for all movie enthusiasts. With a spectacular high-definition transfer, over 35 hours of bonus features, all bundled together in a nice little package, The Ultimate Matrix Collection is the perfect addition to any Blu-ray collection.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection is now available on Blu-ray. The Ultimate Matrix Collection was also previously released on DVD and HD-DVD.