The Ultimate Matrix Collection (HD DVD)

January 28, 2012 22 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) lives a simple life, one in which he goes to work, comes home, and sits in front of his computer. Not a grand lifestyle, but Anderson loves to hack using his computer and he has some friends, just not ones he sees often. But what has been an ordinary life is about to take an unexpected turn, when he is contacted by a mysterious man known as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). At the same time, a group of some kind of agents has taken Anderson and initiated an interrogation. His ties to the hacker world have given the agents reason to question him, as he might know some valuable information. The agents want to know about Morpheus, though Anderson supplies no such insights. When the agents implant a strange creature inside of his stomach, Anderson assumes it was all just a dream. But when he is picked up by some of Morpheus’ crew, he learns that reality isn’t at all what it seems. What he believes to be real life is just an illusion, a state of mind injected into humans. In reality, most of mankind is hooked into a massive machine, which withdraws the energy and uses the humans only as such sources. But Morpheus believes that Anderson, now known as Neo, could be the key to awaken all of mankind from this vicious slumber…

A landmark in action cinema, The Matrix was a smash hit in theaters and even now, continues to gain more and more fans. The Matrix is an awesome action movie, that is without question. The special effects are dynamic and copied in more movies than you could count. The “bullet time” phenomenon continues to turn up in movie after movie, though often on a grander scale. But when first you saw Trinity float in the air for those few seconds before she delivered that kick, even the harshest critics had to think it was cool. In fact, if you want “wow” appeal, The Matrix is loaded with rewind and watch again moments, perhaps more than any other action film up to that point. The visuals borrow in large doses from the anime realm, especially Ghost in the Shell, but all movies borrow, so no harm there. Where I think fans overstep the film’s limits is when the philosophy debate surfaces, which happens often with the movie’s fans. No, The Matrix isn’t a totally brainless popcorn picture, but this is not rocket science, not even close. We’ve seen these kind of ideas before, just never in such a mass market, polished package like this. Don’t be turned away however, as The Matrix rocks and beyond a doubt, the film deserves a place in almost all film collections.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) has defeated Agent Smith and struck a blow for the resistance, but his mind is still under attack, now from nightmares. In his dreams, he sees Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is killed in a horrific gun battle, one in which Neo is unable to save her. On the good side, thanks to Neo’s work, more and more minds are being shown the truth, which means the resistance is stronger than ever. This has captured the attention of the machines also, which means retaliation cannot be far behind. A quarter of a million sentinels are en route to Zion, the stronghold of the resistance, which gives little time to formulate a plan. If the sentinels do reach Zion, mankind’s resistance would be demolished and the machines would rule without opposition. New and improved agents are also on the prowl, though none as wicked as Agent Smith, who returns in an all new independent form, one which has more power and freedom than ever before. Neo is once more the key to survival, as he must find the keymaker and then find the source. If the source can be located, then Neo has a chance to shut down the machines and in the process, derail the incoming sentinels. But with only seventy-two hours and immense opposition, can even Neo manage to overcome the odds?

A sequel was inevitable, but could The Matrix Reloaded live up to the same standard as the original, or would this be just another inferior sequel? As a standalone movie, this is a solid popcorn action flick, but as a sequel to The Matrix, the movie is a tad lackluster. The action side of the coin is present and accounted for, but there isn’t the same kind of attempt made in the plot. What could have been an exploration of ideas found in the original turns into a mainstream blockbuster formula, in which the filmmakers push out set piece after set piece, at the expense of storyline depth. The movie looks cool, has a lot of cool action sequences, and is fun to watch, but it isn’t up to the same standard as the original. I love the chases and big ticket action scenes, no doubt, but I just expected more depth here. As a balls to the wall action picture, The Matrix Reloaded is brisk fun, which will be enough for some folks. After all, Neo battling hundreds of Agent Smiths can’t be all that bad, right? The dialogue is thin and the philosophy is trickled in via awkward vessels, leaving with a loud, fun, but not great motion picture that could have been more. But by action movie standards, the film is well made and well worth a look when you need a fix of intense action.

The fate of mankind still hangs in the balance, as the machines continue to charge toward Zion, with total annihilation the lone goal. The potential savior, Neo (Keanu Reeves) has been taken prisoner and is unable to free himself, which means Zion is still in mortal danger. As the sentinels drill closer each passing minute, mankind has mere hours before extinction. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) make a desperate attempt to free Neo from his current bonds, but at the same time, another force continues to gain power and pose a more lethal menace. Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) has continued to replicate within the program, which adds to his own strength, but damages The Matrix. His total power grows with second that ticks past, which means he will soon hold more power than even the sum total of the machines. While Neo is freed, this happens too late, as the machines have reached Zion. But thanks to Smith’s immense power and the threat he poses, even the machines wish to have him destroyed. In order to ensure the survival of either race, Smith must be stopped and of course, only Neo has a chance. But Smith’s power is greater than ever, so can even Neo fend him off or is this the final hour for mankind?

This is where all roads lead, the conclusion of this expensive franchise. Is this last chapter a suitable end to such an explosive series, or is The Matrix Revolutions a limp finale? After almost a three hundred million box dollar box office for The Matrix Reloaded, this final installment seemed poised to take in serious bank, but that wasn’t the case. The film pulled in about one hundred and thirty million, on a budget over one hundred million, so this wasn’t a blockbuster success. I blame the word of mouth on The Matrix Reloaded, which was seen as a mild disappointment to many fans of the original. The fans still flocked to that first sequel, but not all returned, fearful of another lackluster sequel. The hardest act is always the third act, as audiences want the final segment to the best, but that isn’t often the case. The Matrix Revolutions is not the epic finale fans wanted, but it isn’t that bad and in truth, has some great moments. As with The Matrix Reloaded, the story is pushed aside at times and always seems rushed, as the focus is on special effects and action. So the visuals shine and you’ll see some awesome battles, but the plot isn’t up to snuff. I can’t imagine how this franchise could have ended in a way to please even a majority fans, so we can’t be too harsh. The action is well crafted and on the action movie curve, this is a more than solid motion picture. You’ve seen the other two and so you have to see how it all ends, so while it isn’t a classic, The Matrix Revolutions is worth a look.

Video: How does it look?

Visually, all of “The Matrix” films have a very unique look and feel to them. They all have somewhat of a green tint to them, with a very surreal feel to them as well. Flesh tones are almost constantly very washed out and have an almost sterile look to them. All three of the feature films feature brand new HD transfers and all three look amazing. “The Matrix”, being the oldest of the three looks as good or better than I’ve ever seen it on a home video format. There’s no artifacting to be seen, edge enhancement is not an issue and the detail level has been bumped up giving it a true 3-D effect. “Revolutions” and “Reloaded” look just as good as the original. Warner isn’t going to drop the ball on this one, all three of these HD transfers are reference quality and for anyone who’s yet to see something in HD DVD, this would be a good starting point.

Audio: How does it sound?

Warner’s also gone back and given all three of these films a nice Dolby TrueHD track that, quite simply, rock. One of the benefits of HD DVD is the ability to change your audio track on the fly – come to think of it, that was an option with standard DVD as well. By simply switching back and forth between the TrueHD track and the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track, you can tell the depth that the TrueHD track has over the more compressed Dolby Digital Plus. That said, the Dolby Digital Plus isn’t bad by any means, but if you have the means then the Dolby TrueHD is certainly the way to go. All three feature explosive tracks, ambient sound effects and suffice it to say that your speakers will get a workout with these discs in the player. What sounded good on standard DVD sounds exponentially better on HD DVD.

Supplements: What are the extras?

For those of you out there that already own “The Ultimate Matrix Collection” on standard DVD, you may want to save a bit of money and just get “The Matrix Trilogy” on HD DVD. By doing this, you’ll be getting superior audio and visual quality for the three feature films as the rest of the supplements are not only not in HD, they appear to be the exact same thing as the standard DVD offering. All three of “The Matrix” movies feature the In-Movie Experience which has some commentary and the “evolution” of the film as we watch the feature. There are a variety of comments and clips that you’ll see throughout the rest of the robust supplements on this set. There’s nothing new here, Keanu or any of the cast wasn’t called back to do anything specific for the IME, but for those that kind of want the Cliffs Notes version of the entire set, this is a good way to get a good sampling of material without delving through 35 hours of supplements. These IME are also present on “Revolutions” and “Reloaded”, both of which offer a very good insight into the massive undertaking that the films had to overcome. Individual movies each have their own supplements as well…

The Matrix– You’ll find two audio commentary tracks here, one with two philosophers and the other with three film critics. These same groups return for each of the films, to offer insight and comments on the films what they represent. The philosophers have a positive take on the movies, while the critics are negative, so there is a nice balance. The philosophers delve deep into some subjects touched upon the films, though I think they put way too much stock in the movies. Even small issues are dissected at length, but in the end, there is some great information to be had. The critics are more brisk and given the negative spin, can be quite hilarious, even if you love the flicks. The critics tee off more with the sequels, which get hammered to no end, while the original only takes a moderate level of abuse. The Matrix Revisited is the same two hour documentary found on the previous release of the same name, but that’s not bad news. This is a wonderful, in depth piece that sheds light on all facets of the production. You’ll also find a host of musical tracks from the film, eight behind the scenes featurettes, and nine very brief production featurettes.

The Matrix Reloaded– The critics return for round two, while the philosophers go even deeper into myth and religion. The philosophers are very defensive about this sequel, while the critics pull no punches in their all out assault on the flaws. So the critics track is much more fun than before, but the other one comes up as lame and overly defensive. The Matrix Reloaded Revisited provides the live action cut scenes from Enter the Matrix, shot with the cast to be used in the video game. So even if you don’t own the game, you can view these pieces of plot here. An hour of behind the scenes featurettes focus on the car chases, while fight between Neo and the replicant Smiths is covered with forty minutes of featurettes. A special look at the exile characters is next, followed by more than a handful of other assorted featurettes. I do wish an in depth documentary were present, but this is still a nice selection of supplements.

The Matrix Revolutions– If you need a laugh, just listen to the philosophers on this movie, as they come off as almost insane at times. The two claim this sequel is a landmark in world culture, then saying that those were disagreeing are just stupid. Well, not in those exact words, but pretty damn close. The critics come out swinging too, tearing the movie to shreds right from the start. Its hard to argue with the critics, who seems to have this one locked in their crosshairs. The Matrix Revolution Revisited offers more featurettes, such as half an hour of crew profiles, which let us see the craftsmen behind the scenes. Another thirty minutes of featurettes spotlight the Club Hel sequence, followed by forty minutes about the machine assault and yes, an in depth look at the final battle between Neo and Smith. A host of other featurettes can also be viewed, including numerous pieces on how the post production process unfolded.

*Note: Only the three feature films are presented in 1080p HD, the remainder of the supplements are presented in 480p video.

The Animatrix– This is the same basic presentation as the previous disc, but the promotional elements for the Enter the Matrix game have been removed. A full review of The Animatrix can be found on the site, so if you want more information, search for those comments. No new elements have been provided here, so the review is still competent. Editor’s Note: You can find a more detailed review of “The Animatrix”, here.

The Matrix Experience– This section is covered by three discs, each of which has a specific focus. The Roots of The Matrix contains two documentaries, each of which is excellent and each of which runs one hour and one minute in length. Return to Source chronicles the various philosophical and religious undertones found the movies, in exhaustive fashion. Even the smallest of ideas is explored in depth, so if you want direction on how the series came to be, this is your destination. You’ll hear from several college professors, philosophers, and even sci/fi writers who discuss the various issues touched upon in the series. The second piece is The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction, in which the relationship between man and machine is explored, with passable results. You can also find some cool hidden features on The Roots of the Matrix disc, ones well worth seeking out. The lone supplement on The Burly Man Chronicles is a feature length documentary that covers the production of the sequels, which were shot back-to-back. The piece takes us right into the middle of the shoot, so we have a glimpse of what the production was like. This is a terrific documentary, one that lets us be voyeurs and see what happened behind the scenes for ourselves. You can also enable a Follow the White Rabbit mode as you watch which highlights specific crew members involved. The final disc is The Zion Archive, which includes a reel of visual effects shots and a massive vault of production artwork. I’ve never seen this much artwork in one place on DVD, so fans will be quite thrilled. In The Media of The Matrix section, you’ll find numerous television spots and theatrical trailers for all three pictures.

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