The Matrix Reloaded appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the movie looked great.
If any problems with sharpness manifested themselves, they eluded me. No issues with softness arose during the movie. Instead, the image always remained nicely detailed and well defined. Jagged edges caused no concerns, and neither shimmering nor edge enhancement appeared. Print flaws remained absent. Never did I notice signs of specks, grit, or other problems in this clean transfer.
The colors of Reloaded varied dependent on the setting. Shots in Zion used earthy browns and reds, while scenes aboard the ships looked blue. As with the first flick, segments that took place inside the Matrix itself demonstrated a decided green tint. Within the world of the film, the colors always looked strong. The movie held these stylistic decisions well and presented tones that were tight and cleanly represented. Black levels also were very positive, as dark elements appeared deep and bold. Low-light shots demonstrated appropriate levels of opacity but didn’t come across as dense or thick. Ultimately, the image of Reloaded lived up to expectations.
Though it started slowly, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack of The Matrix Reloaded also eventually matched up with what I anticipated. During the film’s earlier parts, the soundfield seemed a bit less active than I thought it would. The surrounds received acceptable usage, but they didn’t become full partners until the action kicked into gear during the movie’s second half.
Forward definition always remained strong. Music showed good stereo presence, and the rears supported the score well. Effects demonstrated nice delineation and localization, and elements moved across the front smoothly. The rears really came into their own during the freeway chase. While they offered some good audio previously, it wasn’t until that scene that the surrounds became a consistently involving element. From there through the end, a great deal of unique material poured from the rear speakers, and they helped make the track engrossing and involving.
Audio quality appeared fine across the board. I discerned no problems connected to speech, as the lines demonstrated good clarity and crispness. No issues connected to edginess or intelligibility manifested themselves. Music probably could have been a little more dynamic, but the score mostly seemed bright and full. Effects presented good range, as those elements seemed distinctive and accurate. They also powered the low-end response well, with bass that appeared loud and solid. The soundtrack of Reloaded wasn’t one of the best I’ve heard, but it suited the film well and it did what it needed to do.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray version of Reloaded compare to those of the 2004 Special Edition DVD? Both seemed pretty similar, though the Blu-ray boasted the usual bump up in terms of quality. Audio was a bit more robust, and the visuals came across as tighter and more precise. Though the DVD looked and sounded good, the Blu-ray worked even better.
The Blu-ray includes all the same extras from the SE DVD plus some new ones and bits from the original 2003 DVD that failed to appear again in 2004. We get two audio commentaries. The first comes from philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, both of whom sit together for a running, screen-specific piece. For The Matrix, their chat proved to be dull and not very insightful. Matters improve for Reloaded, but not by a lot.
As with the prior piece, this one concentrates on the movie’s themes and interpretation. The pair get into the concepts behind the film’s characters and situations, and unlike the track for The Matrix, they occasionally offer some intriguing and incisive notes. Wilber does most of the heavy lifting here, as his notes come across as the most useful.
Unfortunately, the two still devote a lot of their time to simple remarks about how much they like the movie. We also continue to endure a great deal of dead air. At least this piece consists of more than just the philosophical “name-dropping” that marred the prior one. I don’t think there’s enough substance to keep us involved for more than two hours, however. I think this material would have worked better as a featurette; the full-length commentary gets tedious.
For the second commentary, we hear from critics Todd McCarthy, David Thomson and John Powers, all of whom sit together for their own running, screen-specific piece. Their Reloaded chat echoes their discussion of the first movie in that they concentrate on story elements they don’t like. They continue to look poorly on the Zion sequences and come down harder on Reloaded than the original flick. Occasionally they remark upon parts they think work well, but mostly they discuss the elements they feel flop and the reasons for those.
At times this becomes a reasonably spirited chat, but as with the first commentary, this one often drags due to a surfeit of dead air. In addition, I get the impression the critics didn’t pay much attention to the movies. They never seem to understand why the scenes inside the Matrix look like modern day, and Thomson seems to believe Zion is in outer space. They also don’t get why the machines need humans to exist, though the first movie explains this quite well. I don’t expect the critics to know every little detail about the flicks, but they should at least be up on elements that were clearly explained in the stories. The commentary has some decent moments, but overall it doesn’t give us much useful information.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, we come upon In-Movie Experience. It provides a picture-in-picture component that mixes footage from the set with interviews. We hear from West, producer Joel Silver, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, production designer Owen Paterson, first AD James McTeigue, ESC Entertainment digital matte painter Roger Gibbon, conceptual designer Geoffrey Darrow, previsualization artist Rpin Suwannath, director of photography Bill Pope, costume designer Kym Barrett, compositor John Hackman, visual FX supervisor Mike Schmitt, virtual background technical director Andres Martinez, visual effects producer Kim Libreri, editor Zach Staenberg, martial arts stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, hair tool research and development Christina Tempelaar-Lietz, assistant art director Cindy Naptha, supervising stunt coordinator RA Rondell, art director Catherine Mansill, visual FX supervisor Lynne Cartwright, special effects coordinator Clay Pinney, stunt player Debbie Evans, visual effects supervisor John Thum, animator Kody Sabourin, visual effects sequence lead Greg Juby, visual FX supervisors Dan Glass and George Murphy, animation supervisor Lyndon Barrois, screen graphics design supervisor Tim Richter, assistant art director Damien Drew, and actors Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Harold Perrineau, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith, Roy Jones, Jr., Hugo Weaving, David Kilde, Matt McColm, Harry Lennix, Nona Gaye, Anthony Zerbe, Ian Bliss, Collin Chou, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Malcom Kennard, Helmut Bakaitis, Adrian and Neil Rayment, Daniel Bernhardt, and Randal Duk Kim. The program covers the development of the sequel, effects, stunts and action, story/character areas, set design and cinematography, cast and performances, and a mix of other technical topics.
The “In-Movie Experience” for the first flick was good, and this one continues that trend. Actually, I prefer the Reloaded “Experience” simply because the sequel doesn’t receive the same level of exploration elsewhere, so it offers more fresh information than its predecessor. It covers technical and creative areas well and suffers slightly only due to the wholly expected absence of its writers/directors; the Wachowskis don’t participate in features like this, which is too bad but not the end of the world. The “Experience” still manages to delve into the movie in a satisfying manner.
With that we go to Enter the Matrix. This 42-minute and 29-second collection compiles the cut scenes from the videogame of the same name. It starts with a quick introduction that includes some comments from producer Joel Silver and actors Jada Pinkett-Smith and Anthony Wong. Their characters Niobe and Ghost are the focus of the snippets. Most of these bits present footage created specifically for the game, though a couple of movie snippets also appear. Note that you’ll see some of the same scenes twice; in those cases, one will show the segment if you played as Niobe, while the other would show the perspective of Ghost.
While Smith and Wong appear the most frequently, we also get cameos from other actors; Hugo Weaving and Carrie-Anne Moss are the most prominent. Without the actual game components to flesh out the action, the story doesn’t make a lot of sense. Nonetheless, it’s kind of cool to be able to see these segments, and I appreciate their inclusion.
Making Enter the Matrix: The Game 28 minutes and seven seconds to examine its topic. It uses the same format as the other programs. Here we hear from Pinkett-Smith, Silver, Paterson, Gaeta, Yuen Wo Ping, Rosanna Sun, Shiny Entertainment’s President and Lead Designer David Perry, actors Lachy Hulme, Roy Jones, Monica Bellucci, and Anthony Wong, motion capture supervisor Demian Gordon, lead programmer Michael Persson, programmer Soren Hannibal, sound designer Dane Davis, and 3-D character artist Sean Ekanyake. The program goes over various aspects of the game’s creation. We learn about how it fits into the Matrix universe, different parts of its creation, and a lot about the story and execution of the product. Unsurprisingly, this piece presents a lot more puffiness and promotion, as it often tells us how amazing the game will be. (Many disagree; I’ve not played it, but every review I read panned it.) Still, it’s interesting to learn parts of how they created the game and tried to meld it with the movies, so it’s worth a watch despite all the advertising elements.
Under “Behind The Matrix”, we find four pieces from the original DVD. These open with a documentary called Preload. This 21-minute and 58-second piece offers the standard mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. We hear from producer Joel Silver, director of photography Bill Pope, production designer Owen Paterson, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, first assistant director James McTiegue, fight coordinator Yuen Wo Ping, conceptual artist Geof Darrow, storyboard artist Steve Scroce, costume designer Kym Barrett, previs supervisor Colin Green, visual effects supervisor Kim Libreri, stunt coordinator RA Rondell, and actors Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Harold Perrineau, Monica Bellucci, Adrian and Neil Rayment, Hugo Weaving, Lambert Wilson, and Cornel West.
Fairly general in nature, “Preload” provides a mediocre look at the flick. It covers basics like story and character elements, actor training, effects and visual components, and stunts. Much of it feels quite puffy, as all involved try to convince us what an amazing movie it is. We see some good behind the scenes footage, but overall this program seems average at best.
After this comes a short featurette entitled The Matrix Unfolds. The five-minute and 19-second clip covers the connections between the animated Animatrix, the videogame Enter the Matrix, and the two sequel movies. We find examples of these, some behind the scenes material, and interviews with Silver, Moss, Pinkett-Smith, Reeves, Fishburne, Pope, and Interactive Producer Rosanna Sun. Basically just a promo reel, “Unfolds” tells us little of value other than how terrific all these things will be.
Another fairly brief featurette shows up after this. Get Me An Exit fills nine minutes, 40 seconds as it examines some Matrix-related ads. We get clips from these, footage from their shoots, and comments from McTiegue, Silver, and Paterson. They cover items like the Powerade commercial that ran theatrically and the Samsung Matrix phone. Despite all the promotional material that inevitably appears, it’s interesting to learn more about the creation of these ads and how they were integrated with the Matrix universe.
We find Matrix-related excerpts from the 2003 MTV Movie Awards. This segment lasts nine minutes and 38 seconds as we see hosts Seann William Scott and Justin Timberlake act in this introduction to the program. It integrates them into movie scenes and also features quick turns from Wanda Sykes, Andy Dick, and Will Ferrell. It’s not a laughfest, but it includes some funny moments and at least it bests the somewhat lame Lord of the Rings parody from the prior year.
In the area called I’ll Handle Them, we find four featurettes. These include “The Great Hall” (five minutes, 18 seconds), “Building the Merovingian’s Lair” (5:05), “Tiger Style: A Day in the Life of Chen Hu” (3:37) and “Heavy Metal: Weapons of the Great Hall” (3:08). These segments present remarks from first assistant director James McTeigue, supervising stunt coordinator RA Rondell, assistant art director Cindy Naptha, art director Catherine Mansill, actor Lambert Wilson, martial arts stunt coordinator Chad Stahelski, wire team Chen Hu, stunt player David Leitch, standby props Jaime Howe, set decorator Brian Dusting, and special effects supervisor Steve Courtley. We learn about the various elements of the “Great Hall” fight sequence. We see the costumes and choreography, the set design, various props and some weapons. We also get to know Hu a little better in his segment.
The one that focuses on Hu is the least interesting of the bunch, as it really doesn’t tell us much about the stunt performer. “Hall” is also mediocre, as it doesn’t give us enough depth about shooting the fight. The other two featurettes work better. I especially like “Lair”, which presents lots of good details about all the background elements.
A similar structure comes with the eight featurettes of The Car Chase. These include “Oakland Streets and Freeway” (10 minutes, six seconds), “Tour of the Merovingian’s Car Garage” (2:08), “Queen of the Road” (3:16), “Arteries of the Mega-City: The Visual Effects of the Freeway Chase” (11:52), “Foresight: Preplanning the Mayhem” (6:29), “Freeway Truck Crash: Anatomy of a Shot” (5:33), “Fate of the Freeway” (1:26), and “Freeway Action Match” (14:22). These pieces feature remarks from McTeigue, Silver, Rondell, Moss, Pinkett-Smith, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, production designer Owen Paterson, actors Laurence Fishburne, Adrian and Neil Rayment, director of photography Bill Pope, weapons coordinator Robert Galotti, special effects coordinator Clay Pinney, visual effects supervisor John Thum, visual effects sequence lead Greg Juby, picture vehicle coordinator Anthony McNeal, stunt player Debbie Evans, pre-vis artist Ben Proctor, pre-vis lead artist Kyle Robinson, digital matte painter Roger Gibbon, animator Kody Sabourin, visual effects supervisor Lynne Cartwright, visual effects producer Sarah Dowland, chief science officer Dan Piponi, animator Michael Clausen, visual effects producer Kim Libreri, effects technical director Tristan Ikuta, editor Zach Staenberg, pre-vis supervisor Colin Green, pre-vis lead artist Laurent Lavigne, pre-vis artist Rpin Suwannath, locations manager Peter Novak, and pre-vis artist John Hewitt.
As one might expect, “Chase” covers all elements of that sequence. We see parts of the shoot, preparation methods, the cars and the stunt performers, and the visual effects. “Anatomy” offers narration from Gaeta as he focuses on the execution of the truck crash. “Match” gives us a comparison feature; it shows the final footage on the bottom while we see relevant behind the scenes bits on the top. The latter include storyboards, video footage from the set, pre-vis pieces, and computer art. While together these don’t focus on the subject in a chronological and unified method, they do provide a complex examination of the scene.
Two more featurettes appear under the banner Teahouse Fight. We get “Two Equals Clash” (four minutes, four seconds) and “Guardian of the Oracle: Collin Chou” (2:59). These present information from McTeigue, actor Chou, “A” camera operator David Williamson, camera operator Andrew Rowlands, fight choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, The programs look at the creation and choreography of the fight scene as well as details about Chou. The shows don’t last long, but some good info pops up, such as when Ping explains how he had to work to make a fight between Keanu Reeves and the more skilled Chou look good.
Within Unplugged, we find five additional featurettes. These include “Creating the Burly Brawl” (17:21), “A Conversation with Master Wo Ping” (9:59), “Chad Stahelski: The Other Neo” (2:23), “Burly Brawl Action Match” (6:07) and “Spiraling Virtual Shot: Anatomy of a Shot” (4:29). These include statements from Silver, Ikuta, Gaeta, Libreri, Staenberg, Paterson, Ping, Rondell, Stahelski, actors Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving, technology supervisor George Borshukov, virtual background technical director Andres Martinez, hair tool research and development Christina Templaar-Lietz, animation supervisor Michael F. Gay, image based lighting research and development Haarm-Pieter Duiker, stunt player Brad Martin, and additional fight choreographer Dion Lam.
This area goes into a mix of topics, though the “Burly Brawl” dominates, as one might expect since three of the featurettes focus on its creation and execution. Ping’s interview looks at the various challenges the choreographer faced, while “Other Neo” looks at the stunt coordinator’s efforts. Both “Action Match” and “Anatomy” echo the featurettes that accompany “Chase”. With the exception of the brief “Other Neo”, all offer useful looks at their subjects.
For the final area, we get The Exiles. It presents two featurettes: “The Exiles” (9:26) and “Big Brother Is Watching: The Architect’s Office” (8:25). They include material with Gaeta, McTeigue, and actors Keanu Reeves, Cornel West, Lambert Wilson, Monica Bellucci, Randal Duk Kim, Tanveer K. Atwal, Bruce Spence, Helmut Bakaitis, and Neil and Adrian Rayment. “Exiles” focuses on some character discussions for secondary roles, while “Office” looks at the Architect role as well as elements of the movie’s climactic conversation. Both are fairly general and only moderately interesting. The best parts come from the raw footage in “Office”, as we see Reeves spaz out for the Neo video clips shown on the wall monitors.
Next we get a music video for POD’s “Sleeping Awake”. Though the clip uses a lip-synch format, it does manage to reflect the Matrix sensibility, so it’s a little more interesting than most. The song itself is pretty awful, though.
Some ads finish the set. We get two trailers: one is a teaser for Reloaded and Revolutions, while the other presents a theatrical clip for Reloaded. We also locate eight TV spots.
It may not pack the innovative punch of its predecessor, but The Matrix Reloaded creates a powerful flick on its own. Inconsistent but ultimately satisfying, it leaves me wanting more and anxious for the final chapter in the trilogy. The Blu-ray presents very good picture and sound plus a broad, informative set of supplements. It’s unquestionably the best home video version of the film and a good upgrade for fans who already own the DVD.
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 first and third flicks, 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 RELOADED