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Matrix, The (Trilogy) - The Ultimate Collection Print E-mail
Monday, 13 October 2008
ImageOther 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 released two box sets of the Matrix Trilogy on the HD DVD format, The Complete and Ultimate Matrix Collections.  For the super fans out there, this is the 7-disc Ultimate Matrix Collection, featuring 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. The set also has three entirely new standard definition DVDs packed with supplemental materials that encompass every aspect of the Matrix universe, including two audio commentaries on each film, Enter the Matrix video game footage and 35 hours of deep-delving featurettes/documentaries.

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 CGI 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 Blu-ray set in you reference library.

The video quality is outstanding, as expected.  This set is by far the best demo material available on Blu-ray to date.  The video presentation is identical to the HD DVD release.  It is presented in 1080p/VC-1.  Each movie is presented on its own dual-layered disc.  The three films are very consistent.  The quality is identical from one film to the next.  Not to mention, it is an enormous upgrade from the standard DVD releases.  The detail is exquisite, even with the massive amounts of CGI material.  The black levels are excellent, with shadow delineation very dynamic.  All the black on black sequences are easily distinguishable.  The hues are very consistent with the original films, with a large push toward green.  There is very little is any grain to speak of.  Compression artifacts are nonexistent.  Motion blur, edge enhancement, and generic noises are also not a problem.  There is virtually nothing wrong with the video presentation of these films.  Fans will be extremely impressive.  I know I was.

The audio quality is just a stupendous as the video quality.  Giving the audio five stars makes this the first film I have given five stars ratings to both video and audio.  That is how good this presentation is.  The movies are perfect candidates for high-resolution audio.  The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, which were also present on the HD DVD releases, are terrific.  The dynamics are wide.  Dialogue is well balanced with music and the plethora of sound effects.  The bass frequencies are perfectly tight, guaranteed to give your subwoofer an enormous workout.  The surround channels are constantly engaged.  As with bullet time, the sounds naturally pan around the speakers in a 360-degree fashion.  You will not be disappointed with the audio quality of any of the three films.

The Ultimate Matrix Collection comes with a total of seven discs.  There are four Blu-ray discs, two standard DVDs, and a Digital Copy.  The bonus materials are spread across the first six discs.  On discs one through three (the feature film discs), there are two audio commentaries, dubbed "Philosopher's" and "Critics."  There is an incredible amount of material presented here.  The other two audio commentaries, one with cast/crew, and the other with Composer Don Davis (music-only track) are attached to the first Matrix film.  Written introductions are accompanied on each of the first three discs.

The first film contains the audio commentaries along with other bonus materials.  "The Music Revisited" is a cool feature.   There is also a host of mini-featurettes and a gallery of trailers and TV spots.  Lastly, the disc contains the feature-length documentary, "The Matrix Revisited."

Disc two contains the second film and a few documentaries.  "Enter the Matrix" contains footage shot for the video game of the Matrix.  "Car Chase" covers the action-packed freeway chase.  "Unplugged" is a great featurette on the creation of Neo taking on the courtyard of agents.  "Teahouse Fight" and "I'll Handle Them" are also interesting featurettes.  A hodgepodge of extras is included in "Exiles."  Lastly, there is a section of trailers and TV spots.

Disc three contains the third film and even more featurettes.  "Behind the Matrix," "Siege," "Aftermath," "Crew," "Hel," "Super Burly Brawl" are all informative featurettes.  "New Blue World" is disc three's round-up of random information.  Once again, there is also a section of trailers and TV spots.

Disc four contains "The Animatrix."  Warner Bros. has listened to the people and given us an upgraded version.  The HD DVD contained only a 480p version.  The Blu-ray release now contains a full 1080p version.  "The Animatrix" disc also contains extras.  There are four short audio commentaries, a featurette, "Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime," and a documentary, "Execution."

Even more materials is presented on two standard DVDs.  Disc five contains two documentaries, "Return to Source: Philosophy and The Matrix" and "The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction."  Disc six contains a long documentary, "The Burly Man Chronicles."  It also has a still gallery, "Zion Archive," along with a montage reel, Matrix Online Preview, and another gallery of trailers and TV spots.

The seventh disc contains the digital copy of the film for your computer or iPod.

Once again, Warner has included a picture-in-picture feature, which believe it or not, is still informative, even after the more than 35 hours of footage.

There is not much more to say about the Ultimate Matrix Collection.  It is simply incredible.  The sequels of the Matrix may not be the most definitive in trilogy history, but the films are entertaining.  Fans out there have no choice but to pick up this Blu-ray edition of the now infamous trilogy.  The video and audio quality will rock your system.  In the words of Keanu Reeves (in oh so many movies), "Whoa!"

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