|Matrix, The (The Complete Trilogy)|
|HD DVD Sci-Fi-Fantasy|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Saturday, 01 September 2007|
Other than the Star Wars Trilogy and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, there is no other film series that HDTV aficionados have been clamoring for more than the Matrix series. Warner Brothers has released two box sets of the complete Matrix Trilogy on the HD DVD format. For the super fans out there, the 10-disc Ultimate Matrix Collection is $119.95 and features not only all three films in the series with newly re-mastered picture and sound, but also includes the companion piece, The Matrix Revisited, and the best-selling animated feature, The Animatrix on five HD DVD discs. The set also has five entirely new standard definition DVDs packed with brand-new supplemental materials that encompass every aspect of the Matrix universe, including two new audio commentaries on each film, Enter the Matrix video game footage and 106 deep-delving featurettes/documentaries. If you open your box set and are disappointed to only find five discs in the box, don’t be alarmed as the discs are all actually double sided. The 10-disc claim is a little misleading but you get 10 discs worth of material.
Priced at $99.99 retail, The Complete Matrix Trilogy is no slouch in terms of bonus features either, but this set only contains three HD DVD discs. If you are a super fan, you will probably opt to pay the extra $20 to get seven discs more worth of material, but with so many previous versions of the Matrix Trilogy already released on DVD, much of, if not all of the bonus material, other than some new commentaries that appear on these two sets, has already been released. In addition, none of the bonus material is in high definition. This three-disc set is basically for the home theater enthusiasts that want all three films on HD DVD but doesn’t need to wade through endless amounts of documentaries and featurettes. That being said, there is still more bonus footage and special features on these three discs than I have ever seen with any other HD DVD to date.
I hate to compare the Matrix Trilogy to the Godfather, but I bring up the comparison only because they both feature final episodes that are not unwatchable, but pale in comparison to their first two films in the series. The original Matrix was one of the biggest surprise hits of the late 90s, and went on to gross over $500 million dollars worldwide. The film was revolutionary with its 360-degree “bullet time” camera action scenes where the characters, living inside of a computer program, could defy gravity and physics.
The second episode in the series titled “The Matrix: Reloaded” answers more questions about what the Matrix is, who created it, and what the fate of the world is if Neo, Trinity and Morpheus are not successful in their struggle to protect Zion against the evil agents and the machine race. As many questions as it answers, The Matrix: Reloaded leaves as many new questions. One thing is for certain though: this second installment of the Matrix has two of the most phenomenal video demo scenes ever to grace the HD DVD format, but more on that later.
The final installment, "The Matrix: Revolutions", starts out promising with Neo stuck in a state of limbo somewhere between the real world and the Matrix. The crew of the Nebacanezer has his nearly lifeless body, and Trinity is holding vigil over him, but they don’t know where his mind actually is. Doing a search for Neo in the Matrix shows that he is not “jacked in” to the computer program that is known as the Matrix. Unfortunately, this third film feels as if it was hurried and it quickly moves away from being about the central characters and the struggle to save Neo and more about the pending war that is coming and the fate of Zion. It too has some spectacular video demos, but none that stand out like the first two films. There is a scene toward the beginning of the film as Trinity, Seraph and company makes their way through a barrage of bodyguards with guns a blazing. It’s a great demo scene, but it’s basically a rehash of the scene from the first film where Trinity and Neo blast their way through the lobby of a high rise.
I have always loved the first half of the original Matrix and the last twenty minutes. Software designer by day and dangerous computer hacker by night Keanu Reeves' character (Anderson), goes by the online handle Neo and writes illegal software, hacks into databases and has broken essentially every law known to man when it comes to computers. With all this technical know-how, Neo not only has criminals seeking him out to help them commit white collar crimes, but he comes to find that his computer skills may be the only way to save the world, as he is needed in the Matrix to stop the world as we know it from being destroyed. It sounds a little overly dramatic on paper but I certainly always buy into the suspense as Neo receives a cell phone delivered to him from FedEx and moments later it rings. On the other end of the line is Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). He attempts to guide Neo away from the evil, unnamed agents who are after Neo. How can Morpheus see Neo? How does he know the layout of Neo’s office? This scene happens so early in the movie that the viewer doesn’t yet know how this is possible, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun to go along for the ride. And who can forget when Neo has the karate program loaded into his brain and suddenly has the ability to put Bruce Lee and Daniel-son to shame with his gravity defying flips, jump kicks, and karate-chops.
Where all three movies fall flat, is when they drift away from the human element and become all about spaceships and robots and the pending war that Neo is supposed to stop. In terms of top demo scenes however, this set cannot be beat.
For my money, the best demo scene in the entire series is when Neo goes to meet with the Oracle in the middle of a deserted courtyard, in the middle of an urban setting. Of course, the viewers by now fully understand that the Matrix and all of the people and things in it are simply computer programs interacting with each other. That being said, computer programs can be set to automatically replicate files. As Neo finishes his conversation with the Oracle, Agent Smith appears in the courtyard. Neo has taken on godlike powers now that he knows he is “the one”, and battling one Agent Smith is a piece of cake for Neo. But as the two engage in hand-to-hand combat, Agent Smith begins to replicate himself. The GCI imagery is spectacular despite the cold, grey tones of the cement buildings and ground they are battling. Neo is forced to pull out every kung fu trick he has had programmed into his brain and at one point, he rips a metal pole out of the ground and starts smashing the rapidly replicating Agent Smith’s like Barry Bonds racking up homeruns while juiced up on steroids.
Like a bad computer virus that keeps creating new files until a hard drive crashes, the duplicated agents keep filling up the screen. The overhead shots of this several-minute-long fight scene are spectacular and made me wonder, how long can Neo take all of this punishment as the deck keeps getting stacked and stacked more against him. Ultimately the onslaught of agents becomes too much for Neo to handle and with one last effort, he the agents off of him and flies off to safety. The scene will leave you exhausted and your friends and family in awe of your home theater system. It’s reason enough to have this HD DVD set in you reference library.