"Ultimate Matrix Collection" Blu-ray Review
October 29, 2008 by Zach Demeter
Ah, The Matrix. I can still remember the year it came out, with everyone excited about the new Star Wars film, it was almost passed over but with amazing reviews and the film itself being one of the most groundbreaking spectacles in recent history, it soon became a staple of every action, sci-fi and general film fans library. Although its subsequent sequels failed to live up to their expectations (how could they?), it’s hard to deny that this series didn’t at least remain entertaining throughout the entire run, even if it did become a bit weak in the knees towards the end.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection brings the motion pictures that fans have most requested in high definition to Blu-ray™ Hi-Def on October 14 from Warner Home Video (WHV) and Village Roadshow Pictures (VRP). This seven-disc collection contains the complete Matrix Trilogy in high definition video and lossless high definition 5.1 audio (Dolby TrueHD) — each with hours of special features including WHV’s ground-breaking In-Movie Experience. The Animatrix, the nine-part anime film, is also included for the first time in high definition. Three additional bonus discs include more than 35 hours of additional features and a digital copy of The Matrix (for use with Windows Media and iPod portable devices) that even further immerses consumers into the ultimate Matrix experience.
Seeing as I was twelve when the first installment came out and such violent films were a no-no in my house until much later, I ended up not seeing any of the Matrix films until after they’d passed out of the collective conscience of the mass-movie goer. Although it’d been a film I wanted to see since the early days of its release, the years not being able to see it actually hampered my desire. Of course I’d seen what was arguably the most violent and entertaining sequence in the film, the “Lobby Shooting Spree,” countless times as my brother used it to set up his home theater equipment (and to this day I still use that sequence to make sure everything sounds right—and hot damn does it sound and look great on Blu-ray), so it wasn’t as if I’d gone without seeing a single frame of it. Still, I happened upon the film years later during a late TNT (or was it TBS? I always get those two confused) airing of the film. While the full frame aspect ratio killed it and the commercial breaks ruined it, it wasn’t until I saw Neo get the sentinel sucked out of his stomach did I turn the film off. No the scene didn’t gross me out; it was that the station had dubbed over Reeve’s “Jesus Christ!” with “Jeepers Creepers!” It sounded and looked so perfect that I actually didn’t even think it was fake, so for a few months afterwards I genuinely thought that The Matrix, one of Hollywood’s most recent and greatest films, actually contained “Jeepers Creepers!” as a piece of dialogue.
Needless to say I eventually watched the film without the silly dubbing and commercial breaks and was able to enjoy it for what it was: a brilliant film. Never was there such a perfect marriage of pure-adrenaline action mixed with amazing visuals (except maybe Die Hard) and from all corners The Matrix impressed. To this day it remains one of my favorite films and is something I’ll forever have on my shelf. Between the story, the actors and the visuals, The Matrix is one to love.
So how do I feel about the sequels? Well as I said previously, I didn’t see any of these films until they’d all been released, so I ended up watching the three back-to-back-to-back (or at least semi-back-to-back-to-back, with a day in-between each) so I was able to see the entire story unfold immediately rather than wait four years for the next installment as fans of the original had to do. By that time the anticipation was enormous, but for me I just knew that I’d be watching more of Neo and Trinity, so I didn’t really care. While I do understand the dislike of the two follow-ups (they are definitely inferior), I honestly don’t believe all of the hate that they receive is warranted. The Matrix itself was so unlike anything else, yet it still retained that action-flick, throw-away tone that made the Die Hard films enjoyable. When you follow that kind of film up with a ton of philosophical plot twists and confusing as hell dialogue exchanges, you’re bound to piss people off. However as stuffy as the sequels were, they still did what the first one did in spades: shot a lot of bullets and punched a lot of people.
With The Matrix Reloaded we were just so excited to see more Neo that we wouldn’t imagine anything could go wrong. Truth be told I actually can barely separate Reloaded and Revolutions in my head as they truly blend together as one film. Until I rewatched them on Blu-ray, I actually couldn’t even recall how Reloaded ended. That’s how different they are from the first film, as it’s quite clear they were written as one film and then halved. There is still a lot about the sequels I enjoy, whether it’s the Burly Brawl or the high way chase in Reloaded or the final showdown between Neo and Smith in Revolutions, there is still a lot to be dazzled by in those two films. Of course Revolutions becomes a bit convoluted with the deaths of our main characters. I can remember the first time watching Revolutions and Trinity dying, then cutting away to a different scene and then returning back to find that Trinity hadn’t just died, she just laid her head down and closed her eyes or something. It became almost comical how many false-deaths she had. Even with our heroes dying, it was still a satisfying ending to the series as we see the evil being eradicated, though who knows for how long. Especially with that confusing ending with the Oracle and the Architect…seriously, those two confused me more than anything else in the film, but I guess that was their job.
Of course I completely breezed by without even mentioning Zion, which still remains a bit of a mess in my head. What’s with the underground raves and wet-t-shirt contests that go on down there? Is this really how mankind, repressed by machines, spends it free time? I mean I guess it could be fun, but honestly guys…spend your time doing something a bit more productive. Of course we do have the giant sentinel showdown and the APC standoffs, so those are always fun to watch, as are the ship sequences and their various encounters with the Sentinel baddies. The Matrix and the real worlds are definitely stark contrasts for the film, which is another reason I think fans disconnected from the sequels so much, since we saw much more of the Zion home world in both.
In the end, The Matrix trilogy is what it is. I love the first film and while the sequels are a bit tedious, I can enjoy those any day of the week too. I would never consider owning anything but the complete package when it comes to these films, as they’re simply a ton of fun to watch and listen to. The series simply works together better as a package. Highly Recommended.
But the trilogy isn’t the only thing to consider when reviewing this Ultimate set. We have the entire Animatrix release which still manages to be one of the most entertaining tie-ins for a film to date. With the nine different stories taking on wildly different angles and topics, these offer up several unique glimpses into the world of The Matrix. Of course “Final Flight of the Osiris” is the one everyone remembers the most, but I actually quite enjoy “Kid’s Story” a bit more than the rest of the shorts on this disc. Maybe it’s because Moss and Reeves lend their voices to this extra, but I think more than that I enjoy how it ties into the actual films themselves. Of course they all tie-in, but this one more so than others, I think.
Up until the release of the fourteen disc Superman collection, there was nothing more intimidating on your shelf than the ten-disc Ultimate Matrix box set. Although it’s now been whittled down to seven discs (four Blu’s, two DVD’s and one digital copy), the set is still as fun to watch now as it was on DVD, but with the bump in the visual and audio department, it becomes all the better. One disappointing element is the new packaging, with the only shiny green reflective surface being a small center cut in the packaging’s front. The deluxe digi-tray packaging of the DVD edition is replaced by Blu-ray thin-paks (one disc per case, except with The Matrix, which holds a second disc with the digital copy, and The Matrix Experience which holds two DVDs) and a smaller version of the booklet. Space is conserved, sure, but the original packaging was just really awesome looking on the shelf.
But screw the packaging when you get these kinds of transfers for the films. All three films and the Animatrix shorts are presented in a 2.40:1 VC-1 encoded transfer that just pours on the detail. Although the three films maintain their green hue, everything about the films themselves just look amazing. While The Matrix does show a bit more dirt than its sequels, this film alone impressed me the most. Perhaps because I’ve seen it so many times on DVD, but the amount of detail that is shown in the film now is absolutely jaw-dropping. From the dust flying around the room in the lobby shooting spree to the water dripping off of Morpheus’s face as the sprinklers go off, everything just looks perfect. Likewise with Reloaded and Revolutions, the gritty and textured world of the underground Zion shows off detail previously unseen and hidden by elements that could never hope to be seen in a 480p transfer. On top of this we have Neo’s new coat, which looks like something you could take off of your TV and wear, it’s so clean and detailed looking. It’s actually kind of funny to drool over the films this way, as The Matrix was the DVD that really started selling the format. Sadly I don’t think that will work the same way with Blu-ray, but anyone looking for an upgrade in video is certainly going to get it here—in spades.
As I’ve said before with animated Blu-ray releases, animation is simply breathtaking on the format. There isn’t a single element or frame that doesn’t look pristine on these Animatrix transfers; Osiris especially is incredible to see with all of the facial and clothe details to take in. I’d only watched the shorts once before on DVD and to see them again in full 1080p is nothing short of amazing; I was able to pick up on small details I’d missed before and all in all this is just an astounding visual transfer.
For every bit as good as the films look, they sound even better. As I mentioned before, “Lobby Shooting Spree” was a specific chapter I used to make sure all the speakers in my setup were working right and with this new TrueHD 5.1 mix included here, I am absolutely astonished by how great these films sound. Again, with The Matrix especially since I’ve seen it so many times, the clarity and depth of the sound effects and…well, everything, just jump out of your speakers. This is a series that I find myself rewinding to hear something again, just to relive the thunderous and chest pounding experience. Everyone of the films have their own incredible sound setups and Animatrix also boasts an impressive surround mixture, with plenty of discrete noises being heard throughout the room as the sounds travel from speaker to speaker. If the films make your eyes bulge out, then they’ll make your ears scream for more. Overall these films are an exceptional visual and aural experience. For those who want to view the film in a completely different light, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0, Italian 5.1, and Portuguese 2.0 are offered, as are subtitles in English, French, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.
Well, that’s it for…wait, what is that? You say there’s thirty-five hours of extras to watch? You’re right, there are. This is what I meant when I said that this was the biggest bad-ass set to own back when it first hit DVD, as I don’t think there’s been a collection to date that is quite so exhaustive. It should be noted that all extras here are presented in standard definition, which is to be surmised as I don’t think thirty-five hours of extras would have fit on four Blu-ray’s.
Back when I bought the original DVD release of the Ultimate Matrix set for myself, I actually had to stop watching extras at about the sixth disc. I just couldn’t take anymore; the extras were so exhaustive and in-depth that I felt like I could go out and make the movies myself if I had the right equipment. Still, all of these extras are ported over from the DVD release and as a bonus we even have some more (yup) in the form of the In-Movie experiences offered up for each of the films. If you want a brief run-through of what it was like to make these films, then check on the In-Movie pieces, as they give a nice idea of what to expect from the rest of the extras on the set in a matter of seven hours, if you aren’t feeling brave enough to tackle all thirty-five.
First up for The Matrix in the extras department we have:
o Written introduction by the Wachowski brothers
o Philosophers commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber
o Critics commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson
o Cast and crew commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta
o Composer commentary by Don Davis with music-only track
• The Matrix Revisited
• Behind The Matrix
o Making The Matrix The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping's Blocking Tapes
o The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall
o The Code of the Red Dress
o The Old Exit: Wabashand Lake
o Agent Down
o But Wait- There's More
• Take the Red Pills
• Follow the White Rabbit
o The Music Revisited
o Marilyn Manson Music Video Rock is Dead
o The Matrix teaser
o The Matrix trailer
o The Matrix TV spots
One thing you’ll notice about The Matrix extras is they seem less intense than the ones on the rest of the set. Obviously when they were making the film they didn’t realize what a big hit it’d become, although anyone who remembers the DVD market in 2001-2002 will no doubt remember the “Matrix Revisited” DVD that was literally all extras. Of course that is included here as well, so if you didn’t pick up that release before, then you’re in for plenty of interesting footage and interviews on that disc.
Moving onto The Matrix Reloaded we have:
o Written introduction by the Wachowski brothers
o Philosophers commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber
o Critics commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson
•Behind The Matrix
o The Matrix Unfolds
o Get Me an Exit
o The MTV Movie Awards Reloaded
• Car chases
o The Freeway Chase
o Oakland Streets and Freeway: Unseen Material
o Tour of the Merovingian's Garage
o Queen of the Road
o Arteries of the Mega-City: The Visual Effects of the Freeway Chase
o Foresight: Pre-planning the Mayhem
o Freeway Truck Crash: Anatomy of a Shot
o Fate of the Freeway
o Freeway Action Match
• Teahouse Fight
• I’ll Handle Them
• The Exiles
• Additional footage
o Enter the Matrix: The Game
• Enter the Matrix
• Music video – P.O.D. Music Video Sleeping Awake
For The Matrix Revolutions we have:
o Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers - The Wachowski brothers give you an introduction to their groundbreaking film
o Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber - Dr. West and Ken Wilber discuss their thoughts and opinions of the film
o Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson - Film Critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thompson express their thoughts on the film
• Behind The Matrix
o Revolutions Recalibrated - Explore the story before the revolution
o Neo Realism: The Evolution of Bullet Time – See how the Bullet Time technique has evolved since the first film
o CG Revolution – Go inside Zion and see how VFX were used in “The Siege” sequence
o Super Big Mini Models – Take a look at how miniatures were used in the film
o Double Agent Smith – Join the crew as they show you how they created multiple Agent Smiths for the final fight
o Mind Over Matter: The Physicality of The Matrix - Going into training and learn what the actors physical demands were for the film
o Future Gamer: The Matrix Online – See how the Matrix story continues in the video game
o Before the Revolution - Explore the story before the revolution
o 3-D Evolution - Scroll through Concept Art, Storyboards and more in this interactive feature
o Owen's Army: The Australian Art Dept. - Take a look at how these amazing sets were constructed
o 2nd Unit: A World of Their Own - Spend some time with the 2nd Unit Crew
o Bill Pope: Cinematographer of The Matrix - Bill Pope offers insights to the filming of the Trilogy
o Masters of Light and Shadow – Meet the folks that light up the sets
o Coat Check - Take a look at how this virtually stunning fight sequence was achieved
o Upside-down Under- Join the stunt coordinators as they explain in detail what had to be done for this film
o Fast Break - Go behind the scenes and look at how the Special Effects for the film was created
o Exploding Man - Follow Leo Henry as he shows you some of his craft
o Gun Club - Enter the armory and take a look at the guns that were used
o The Extras of Club Hel - Meet the extras from Club Hel
• New Blue World
o Geography of Zion – Take a look at all the different parts that make up Zion
o The Ships - Learn how the ships got their looks
o Tour of the Neb - Join Owen Paterson taking a tour of the Nebuchadnezzar
o Matrix TV - Meet the crew behind all the screen graphics
o Logos Fight Expansion - Take a behind the scenes look at the only fight that does not take place in the Matrix
o Dig This
o The Siege Action Match
o Anatomy of a Shot: Mifune's Last Stand
o Building an APU
o Product of Zion - Sit down with the cast as they discuss their characters and how they got their roles
o Revolutionary Composition
o The Glue - Meet the editing team and see how the film comes together
o Dane Tracks - Hear from Sound Designer Dane Davis as he discusses his contribution to the film
o Cause and Effects - Meet the VFX team and see what it took to complete all the shots in the film
o The Matrix Revolutions Trailer --HD trailer
o The Matrix Revolutions TV Spots
o Give Anything
For The Animatrix:
Behind the Story
o The Second Renaissance Part I Commentary by Mahiro Maeda
o The Second Renaissance Part II Commentary by Mahiro Maeda
o Program Commentary by Yoshiaki Kawajiri
o World Record Commentary by Takeshi Koike
• Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime
o Making Final Flight of the Osiris
o Making The Second Renaissance Parts I & II
o Making Kid's Story & A Detective Story
o Making Program
o Making World Record
o Making Beyond
o Making Matriculated
For the final discs in the set we have:
Side A: Roots of the Matrix
• Return to Source: Philosophy & the Matrix (AKA. Brainiac’s Revenge)
• The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction
Side B: Burly Man Chronicles
• The Burly Man Chronicles
• Alameda Shoot
• Australia Shoot
• The Zion Archive – Photo galleries
• The Rave Reel
• The Matrix Online
• 2 Music Videos, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots
So as you can see…yeah, there’s a lot of behind the scenes content. You’ll be hard pressed find a deeper or more in-depth selection than what is offered on The Ultimate Matrix collection. From the array of trailers and TV spots all the way to the in-depth “Burly-Man Chronicles”, The Ultimate Matrix collection is one to own and truly is the ultimate edition of the trilogy to own. Ladies and gentleman, you can once again show off your entertainment set up proudly with The Matrix having now arrived on Blu-ray. Must Own.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection is now available on Blu-ray.