The Matrix appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer consistently looked quite good.
Overall sharpness was strong. A few wider shots displayed a smidgen of softness, but nothing significant. For the most part, the movie remained well-defined. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, but I did see some light edge enhancement occasionally. Print flaws seemed absent. A little grain crept up in interiors, but otherwise I noticed no specks, debris or other distractions.
Over the years, many folks have griped about the movie's green tint. Portions of The Matrix - specifically those scenes that actually take place in the matrix - have been given a moderate green tint. Apparently this was done in an attempt to make scenes in the matrix look different from those in the "real world”, which offered a distinctly blue shade.
Whether the filmmakers succeeded in that regard, I'll leave up to the individual viewer. Overall the colors looked appropriately displayed. The matrix was green, and blue dominated the other shots. Some other hues still emerged, but those shades played the most important roles and looked very good within their stylistic constraints. Black levels were nicely deep and tight, and low-light shots came across as well developed and concise. Ultimately, The Matrix displayed a positive image.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 sound mix of The Matrix was also solid, though I must admit that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I anticipated an all-out sensory assault, and that wasn't the case. Still, it's a very effective mix. The audio created a fairly convincing sound environment, and effects panned nicely between channels. Effects popped up cleanly in the surrounds and combined to create a good sense of place. These became especially useful during fight and action sequences, during which we got almost the level of activity I expected.
Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music could have been a little more dynamic, but the score and songs were mostly well defined and bright. Effects packed a nice punch, as they sounded accurate and clean. Across the board, bass response was tight and rich. While not quite demo level, the audio of The Matrix seemed satisfying.
How did the picture and sound of this Matrix Blu-ray compare to the 2004 Special Edition DVD? The audio remained largely the same, but the visuals showed the usual improvements. I suspect that both came from the same transfer, but the added resolution of Blu-ray made things tighter and more dynamic.
All the same extras from the Special Edition release appear here along with some new ones – and a few pieces that the 1999 DVD dropped from the SE. We find a whopping four audio commentaries. The first comes from philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific track. They get into some of the ideas generated through the movie. They chat about the movie’s literary and philosophical allusions as well as its themes and concepts. In theory, this kind of track is a cool idea. In reality, it’s pretty dull. Lots of dead air occurs, and when they speak, the participants often just talk about how much they like various parts of the movie.
Occasionally they do delve into the intellectual side of the flick, but their comments rarely become intriguing or thought provoking. Some of that occurs because they essentially drop names and don’t explain much. We’ll get references to philosophical concepts and areas but we don’t hear explanations or much to put the information in context. I think it’s a little much to expect the movie’s fans to be well versed enough in philosophical concepts have a full grasp on the topics discussed.
Even if you are familiar with the various theories, I can’t imagine you’ll get much from this spotty presentation. West and Wilber don’t provide a lot of insight in this commentary. I can’t say I feel like I understand the movie any better or have a greater appreciation for it due to my screening of this track.
For the second commentary, we hear from critics Todd McCarthy, David Thomson and John Powers, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. I was under the impression that the discs would include remarks from critics who didn’t like the movies. Perhaps these guys will provide nastier notes about the sequels, but I didn’t sense a lot of antipathy toward the first film.
As with the first commentary, this one suffers from a lot of dead air and little insight. The critics occasionally discuss literary and cinematic allusions in The Matrix, and they also get into what they do and don’t like about the film. Since I expected them to attack it, I was surprised by how many positives comments they offered. Really, they seem to think it’s a good movie with only a few flaws. They mostly focus on its score, which they think is unremarkable and generic, and the smattering of action film clichés found here. Heck, they even say some nice things about the often-maligned Keanu Reeves! Commentaries from critics can be incisive and informative, but this one doesn’t tell us much of value.
Taken from the 1999 DVD, we get a track with actor Carrie-Anne Moss, editor Zach Staenberg and special effects supervisor John Gaeta, all of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific chat. This isn't a bad commentary, but it's not too hot.
The participants occasionally offer some interesting information, but this happens on a much too infrequent basis; there are very large gaps during this commentary that feature no participation from the crew. The men dominate the discussions that do occur; Moss chimes in on occasion, but the periods of time that lack her participation are so I suspect she either left the room or fell asleep at one point! She's basically not there for the middle 90 minutes of the film. The track is worth a listen if you don't have much else to do, but don't expect much from it.
Finally, we hear from composer Don Davis, as he chats in between a music-only audio track. As is usually the case with this kind of commentary, the focus is generally limited to a discussion of the music, but Davis also offers some general information about what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. It's a fairly brief commentary - this film contains a lot of music - and it's kind of a hassle to listen to, since you have to skip past the music, but I found it to be pretty interesting.
The disc also presents a written introduction from the Wachowski brothers. This piece tells us a little about the trilogy’s origins and explains why the Wachowksis won’t discuss the flicks. They state they don’t want their interpretation to become the only one out there, so they figured it’d be interesting to offer a variety of viewpoints. It’s a helpful explanation.
For something new, we get an In-Movie Experience. This offers the usual “picture-in-picture” feature. Those elements display footage from the set, and interviews with Andy and Larry Wachowski, Moss, Gaeta, Staenberg, Davis, producer Joel Silver, production designer Owen Paterson, director of photography Bill Pope, costume designer Kym Barrett, Dfilm lead animator Dominic Parker, key storyboard artist Steve Skroce, conceptual designer Geoffrey Darrow, fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, Dfilm’s Peter Doyle, and actors Hugo Weaving, Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Joe Pantoliano. We learn about the film’s development and reactions to the script, story/character areas, stunts and action, sets, costumes and cinematography, cast and performances, various effects, editing and music, and some general thoughts about the flick.
Picture-in-picture tracks tend to be hit or miss, but this one works quite well. Not only does it avoid any big gaps, but also it makes sure that we can skip any potential pauses; just use your remote to skip from one segment to another.
And the info involved offers many nice tidbits. With all the other material on this disc, I can’t claim you’ll find a tremendous number of insights, but “Experience” still covers a good variety of topics. It adds richness to the set.
Already available on its own, a 123-minute documentary called The Matrix Revisited follows a standard design. Some clips from the movie appear, as well as lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews with participants. In the latter category, we hear from writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, cinematographer Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, production designer Owen Paterson, President of Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Productions Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, producer Joel Silver, actors Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Carrie-Anne Moss, storyboard artist Steve Skroce, conceptual artist Geof Darrow, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, kung fu choreographer Yuen Wu Ping, costume designer Kym Barrett, Peter Doyle of effects house Dfilm, associate visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs, sound designer Dane Davis, composer Don Davis, and music supervisor Jason Bentley. All of them appear via interviews, most of which come from the set of the sequels. In addition, we see one 1997 clip of Di Bonaventura in which he presciently relates the impact he felt The Matrix would have.
Revisited provides a very rich and full examination of the creation of the movie. Appropriately, it starts at the beginning and relates some interesting material about how the project came to fruition. For example, I had no idea that the Wachowskis’ first film, 1996’s Bound, actually was developed after they’d already initiated work on The Matrix. Apparently they needed to prove themselves as filmmakers and Bound was the project that gave them something on their résumé.
From there we go to other pre-production elements like the incredibly rich and detailed storyboards and additional conceptual art. However, most of the program deals with the actual shoot itself, as we hear lots of great information about the production. Until we reach the point where the actors become involved in training, most of the show used film clips and “talking head” interview snippets; other than the various art, little “behind the scenes” material appeared.
However, that changes once we get to the martial arts training through which the actors had to go. From there until nearly the end of Revisited, the documentary more equally splits between the interviews, the behind the scenes shots, and the movie snippets. Happily, the latter are never used gratuitously to fill space. Instead, when we see a clip from the film, it’s there to illustrate the discussion, and even folks who know The Matrix well should like this method.
Nonetheless, the other elements are the prime attraction here, and they’re almost uniformly excellent. Though some praise is doled out to participants, Revisited never resembles a happy talk festival, and the focus remains on the actions, not the subjective appraisal of the work. Pretty much every element of the production receives attention, though the show spends a surprisingly short amount of time on the visual effects. To be certain, Revisited discusses that work, but considering the effects-intensive nature of the production, I thought the show would cover them in greater detail.
Not that I mind, for too often, documentaries about effects-heavy movies become bogged down in technical jargon and we learn too little about the rest of the process. That definitely doesn’t occur during Revisited, as it touches nicely upon all the other areas. The actors weigh in with their approaches to the film and tell us about the various difficulties, prime among which was Reeves’ neck injury; interestingly, though this could have paralyzed him, he seems to shrug it off and not really view it as a big deal.
Reeves takes his lumps as an actor, but you may leave Revisited with a new appreciation for his dedication and work ethic. Throughout the show, we discover how hard he worked on the project, and his attention to detail seems strong. Of course, we hear about the other actors as well, and all offer their insights about the process.
Revisited deftly inserts comments about other subjects as well, as it covers every major aspect of the production. Possibly my favorite sub-domain was that of costume design. Kym Barrett goes beyond a simple discussion of visual motifs and gets into nice details about her choices; it’s a topic not often visited in these sorts of shows – especially for a movie like The Matrix - and the material adds a lot of depth to the piece.
The behind the scenes footage contributes an excellent layer of involvement as well. While we hear the reflections about the process, we see the film as it was shot, and these elements seem very worthwhile and interesting. Revisited largely goes through the movie in the order it was filmed, and it tends to break down the subjects into specific scenes. For instance, one area covers the dojo fight, while another goes over the government lobby sequence. This compartmentalizes the topics neatly, but it doesn’t isolate them; the program flows well from subject to subject. The show gives us a very detailed look at the various fight and action scenes.
Toward the end, we get information about the reactions to The Matrix. The participants provide their thoughts about the final product – not surprisingly, these are all positive – and they cover audience opinions as well. In addition, we get a little information about the simultaneous production of the two Matrix sequels. No substantive information about those flicks appears, but it offers a decent teaser nonetheless.
Overall, I was very impressed with The Matrix Revisited. The documentary offers an excellent summary of the production and it gives us a lot of good information. All of the facts are related in a clear and engaging manner, and the documentary consistently kept me entertained and involved.
Inside The Music Revisited, we get a jukebox feature. Found as an Easter egg on the old Revisited DVD, it includes 41 musical selections that you can screen on their own or together via the “Play All” option. I can’t say the tunes appealed to me, but for fans, it’s a good component.
Under the banner of “Behind The Matrix”, seven components appear. First found on the 1999 Matrix DVD – but not the later special edition – is a featurette called Making The Matrix. This 25-minute, 50-second program began its life as a "time filler" on HBO, but it's much better than its humble origins would let you believe. Due to its relatively brief length, it's not exactly an in-depth piece, but it manages to offer a nice overview of the creation of the film.
The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes runs five minutes and 48 seconds. It presents the preparatory video created for four scenes: “The Dojo Fight”, “The Subway Fight”, “The Government Lobby”, “The Bathroom Fight”. The first two dominated the clip, and the others took up much less time. This was a great look at the planning of these segments, and it offered a very useful experience.
Better still was The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall. This 195-second clip looked just like something from the main program, which I assume it was and just got cut for unknown reasons. It should have stayed in Revisited, for we got a good impression of this particular scene. We heard from Owen Paterson, Bill Pope, the Wachowskis, Fishburne and Weaving as they related information about how this segment was shot.
Back on the old Revisited DVD, The Code of the Red Dress offered a 45-second Easter egg. In it, costume designer Kym Barrett tells a funny anecdote about the reactions engendered by Fiona Johnson, the sexy “woman in red” actress.
For The Old Exit - Wabash and Lake, we get a two-minute and 38-second clip that also showed up as an Easter egg on the DVD. It includes comments from Reeves, Fishburne, Weaving, and the Wachowskis. It lacks a strong focus, as it tells us a little about Reeves’ concentration on physical movements and the character development of Agent Smith.
Another repeated egg, in Agent Down you’ll learn about Hugo Weaving’s on-set physical problems. We hear from Weaving, Reeves, and Fishburne as they briefly discuss the issue in this 90-second piece.
But Wait – There’s More finished this area with a montage. This 190-second piece showed a mix of behind the scenes shots, effects footage and other elements, all of which was backed by the standard techno score. It offered enough interesting shots to merit a look.
A hidden extra from the original Matrix movie DVD, “Take the Red Pill” consists of two components. The first is called What is Bullet Time?. This segment runs for six minutes and 15 seconds, and it details how the "stop motion" effects in the film were produced. We see behind the scenes shots and hear from Gaeta. It's a pretty interesting piece that lets you better understand how they did some of the movie's most provocative effects.
The next one's called What is the Concept? and it lasts for 11 minutes and 20 seconds. It's a little more abstract than "What is Bullet Time?" as it consists of a video montage of storyboards, rough effects, production drawings, and finished film clips. I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed "Bullet Time", but it's nonetheless another fun behind the scenes segment.
Another repeat from the original 1999 DVD, Follow the White Rabbit is more user-friendly here than it was there. On the old disc, a white rabbit icon would periodically appear in the lower right hand corner of your TV screen. At that time, you can press the "enter" button on your remote to activate the featurettes. This was a nuisance and also didn’t work well on some players.
Here we get the nine segments without all the muss and fuss. These include “Trinity Escapes” (65 seconds), “Pod” (2:23), “Kung Fu” (3:58), “The Wall” (2:03), “Bathroom Fight” (2:05), “Government Lobby” (4:07), “Government Roof” (2:34), “Helicopter” (1:01) and “Subway” (3:30). These offer video montages that intersperse raw footage from the set with some of the finished product. They're really quite interesting; it's a lot of fun to see the "behind the scenes" machinations for the film. I also definitely appreciate the simplicity with which we can access these clips; I really hated that “white rabbit” nonsense.
Not found on prior Matrix DVDs, we get a music video for Marilyn Manson’s “Rock Is Dead”. Remember back when people cared about Manson? I do, and I still like this song, even though I’ve lost interest in Manson’s shtick over the last decade. Mechanical Animals was a pretty great album, and the tune holds up well. The video’s a bore, though, as it’s just a combination of movie clips and lip-synch performances.
Finally, we discover various Trailers. We get both teaser and theatrical trailers for The Matrix and also eight TV spots. This becomes a good collection of promos.
One of the most influential films of recent years, The Matrix holds up well after more than 10 years and two sequels. No, it doesn’t pack the same punch as it did in 1999; too many imitators have made some of its work too commonplace. Nonetheless, it remains a rich thrill ride. This Blu-ray offers very strong picture and audio along with a nearly exhaustive roster of supplements.
Given what a cash cow the movie is, I expect WB will eventually produce an even more super-duper deluxe release of The Matrix. As of 2010, though, this Blu-ray stands as the best of the bunch. It improves the picture and audio of the 2004 DVD, and it also includes all the extras from both the 1999 and 2004 releases; the SE dropped some of the 1999 release’s components, so fans will welcome the chance to have everything in one place. Matrix fans need to upgrade yet again and snag this solid Blu-ray.
Note that you can get this movie either as part of this single-disc release or as part of a massive package called “The Ultimate Matrix Collection”. It provides a Blu-ray edition of the 2004 DVD set that also includes the two sequels, The Animatrix, and hours of supplements. As of September 2010, this remains the only way to get Matrix Revolutions and Animatrix on Blu-ray.
To rate this film, visit the original review of THE MATRIX