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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Cast:
Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Helmut Bakaitis, Gloria Foster, Jada Pinkett Smith, Harold Perrineau, Hugo Weaving
Writing Credits:
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski

Tagline:
Free your mind.

Synopsis:
The definitive ten-disc DVD set, The Ultimate Matrix Collection features all three films in the trilogy together for the first time ever with a newly remastered picture and sound for The Matrix.

Also included is the companion piece The Matrix Revisited and the best-selling The Animatrix, plus five entirely new DVDs packed solid 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, 106 deep-delving featurettes / documentaries and much more!

The Matrix Reloaded: In the second chapter of The Matrix Trilogy, freedom fighters Neo (Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army, unleashing their arsenal of extraordinary skills and weaponry against the systematic forces of repression and exploitation. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s pivotal role in the fate of mankind.

Box Office:
Budget
$127 million.
Opening Weekend
$91.774 million on 3603 screens.
Domestic Gross
$280.872 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 138 min.
Price: $79.92
Release Date: 12/7/2004

Available Only as Part of the Ultimate Matrix Collection.

Bonus:
Disc Three
• Audio Commentary with Philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
• Audio Commentary with Critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
• Written Introduction from Writers/Directors Larry and Andy Wachowski
Disc Four
• “Enter the Matrix” Videogame Cutscenes
• “I’ll Handle Them” Featurettes
• “The Car Chase” Featurettes
• “Teahouse Fight” Featurettes
• “Unplugged” Featurettes
• “The Exiles” Featurettes


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Matrix Reloaded: Special Edition (The Ultimate Matrix Collection) (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 30, 2004)

With 1999’s The Matrix, directors Andy and Larry Wachowski came in under the radar. Without too much hype – all of which was reserved for The Phantom Menace that year - The Matrix crept in and snagged an impressive $171 million at the box office. That figure allowed it to rank fifth among the year’s biggest hits, just ahead of Disney’s Tarzan.

However, the film’s influence went way beyond its financial success. Imitators abounded, a factor that made it tougher for the Wachowskis to dazzle new audiences with the flick’s sequels. Their innovative use of “bullet time” photography went from something fresh and cool to a tired technique that got lampooned after a while.

It seemed inevitable that 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the trilogy, would have a lot to prove. Did the Wachowskis live up to the hype? Maybe. Sort of. Could be. Ask me again later.

Reloaded opens with an extended action sequence that turns out to be a dream in the head of Neo (Keanu Reeves). However, given his potential status as “The One”, this may not be simple fantasy, and he worries that his recurring vision of the death of his fellow freedom fighter and paramour Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) may be a precognitive glimpse of the future.

We’re then quickly reintroduced to Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), their partner and the guy who most heavily espouses the concept of Neo as The One. It turns out that not everyone feels the same way, and the film uses Commander Lock (Harry Lennix) as the mouthpiece for the opposing point of view. He and Morpheus butt heads over their differing beliefs, especially because it appears that the nasty robotic Sentinels will soon attack Zion, the last remaining human city. Lock wants all ships to remain in Zion to ward off an assault, but Morpheus feels one should stay out because he expects a contact from the Oracle (Gloria Foster), the entity who acts as Neo’s spiritual guidance.

Councillor Hamann (Anthony Zerbe) grants Morpheus’ request, and Neo soon meets with the Oracle again. She sends him into the Machine Mainframe to confront his destiny and deal with the Prophecy. He needs to find the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim), a figure being held prisoner by the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), a dangerous old program. From there Neo and the others will progress toward some revelations about the Matrix and their place within it. We’ll also see lots of explosions and general butt kicking.

When I went to see The Matrix, I expected it to suck because I thought the trailer made it look terrible. (Apparently I was alone in that regard, as it seems that the rest of the universe regards the ad as being brilliant.) However, the actual film was pretty exciting and terrific.

When I went to see Reloaded, I expected it to suck because I didn’t think the filmmakers could make lightning strike twice. The first film’s style put them in a tight spot. On one hand, the then-innovative approach remained crucial to the new flicks. Without “bullet time”, it wouldn’t feel like a Matrix movie; that technique’s absence would be extremely notable.

However, as I mentioned earlier, bullet time got used up the wazoo over the four years between films. That made it very difficult – if not impossible - for Reloaded to pack the same visceral punch as the first movie. The Matrix took us by surprise and presented something that felt very new. It seemed tough to imagine that Reloaded could create the same aura of freshness.

And it doesn’t. It also fails to live up to the high standards established by The Matrix, especially during its first third to half. Those scenes really felt like slow going most of the time. The segments in Zion seem interesting in theory, but in reality they bog down the story badly. On one hand, I like the concept that we see folks who live outside of the Matrix other than Neo, Morpheus and the rest. The first film concentrated solely on Morpheus’ little gang, so I appreciate the glimpse at the world beyond those characters.

I also understand that the exposition offered in these sequences is important. However, I don’t think the film needs to dally in Zion quite as long as it does, as we get the point much more quickly than the filmmakers seem to believe. Maybe tomorrow I’ll figure out why the film needed the extended tribal dance ritual/rave/love-making sequence, but it won’t happen today; instead, the bit feels gratuitous and overly elongated.

In addition, the first half or so of the movie suffers from too many gimmicks. We see the multiple Smiths and get one fairly butt-kicking fight that involves them. However, right now the Smiths don’t seem to serve much of a purpose. They make little sense within the framework of the story, and they come across like an invention just to spice up the slower parts of the movie.

A lot of the action in the first half feels that way. I get the impression the Wachowskis really just want to involve us in the intellectual and expository concepts, but they also want to make sure they keep us interested. After all, most people see Matrix movies to get some serious action, and the prospect of an hour’s worth of babble without some fighting appeals to few in the target audience. That means that while the battles provide some excitement, they don’t meld with the story in a terribly natural way. The sequences seem tacked on to a certain degree and they don’t connect as well as I’d like.

One major problem with Reloaded stems from its existence as the second in a trilogy. Storylines that seem awkward and unproductive now may become clear when the third flick hits screens. For example, perhaps the multiple Smiths will prove more essential there.

Despite the moderately tedious aspects of Reloaded, I’m willing to give the Wachowskis the benefit of the doubt, which they fully earn in the movie’s second half. I can’t claim that Reloaded totally recovers during that part, but it comes darned close.

As much as I love movies, I must admit that I don’t often react in a strong way to them. Largely that occurs because I watch so many of the things; if you check out hundreds of DVDs a year, it becomes much harder to feel impressed. Often I might think “that’s exciting” as I observe an action sequence, but I don’t usually feel that rush that I used to get more readily.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay to Reloaded is that it restored that feeling in me during its third act. Though nothing in that segment seems truly original or mind-bending, it all comes together in a terrific way. The whole appears to be more than the sum of its parts.

I can’t really explain why the third act floored me like it did, but the effect remains the same. Usually when I see a movie theatrically, I’m ready to split as the end credits roll. However, with Reloaded, I remained in my seat for a few minutes. I didn’t care to read the credits, but I needed a little while to regroup, as I felt stunned and overwhelmed with what I’d seen.

Only a few films have had that effect on me; Se7en comes to mind, though there are others. Would I call The Matrix Reloaded a masterpiece on the same level as that? No, and it doesn’t live up to the standards of its own predecessor. However, it does a lot more right than it does wrong, and it creates the crucial sense of anticipation needed for the middle component in a trilogy. Although it ends very abruptly, unlike the cruelly anti-climactic Back to the Future Part II, Reloaded left me dying for more. Despite all its flaws, Reloaded succeeds as a whole.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A-

The Matrix Reloaded appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. It seemed unlikely that Warner Bros. would botch the reproduction of a major flick like Reloaded, and indeed, this DVD delivered an impressive visual presentation.

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. I saw a smidgen of shimmering due to some truck grilles, but otherwise the movie seemed free of moiré effects. Jagged edges caused no concerns, and I also detected no evidence of intrusive edge enhancement. Print flaws remained absent. Never did I notice signs of specks, grit, or other problems in this clean transfer.

The colors of Reloaded vary 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 Digital 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 new Ultimate Collection version of Reloaded compare to those of the original DVD? They seemed identical. While The Matrix got a new transfer, Reloaded used the same picture and sound for both releases.

The new Reloaded differs from the old one in regard to its extras. Virtually all of these don’t appear in the prior release. By the way, I call the discs “DVDs Three and Four” for continuity; that’s how they’re referred to in the 10-platter package.

On DVD Three, 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.

When we head to DVD Four, we open with 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.

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.

Folks with DVD-ROM drives can access a few additional elements. The main attraction comes from a “bonus commentary”. This sends you online. As I write this about 10 days before street date, the link doesn’t work; it just displays some Warner Bros. ads. I’ll update the review when the content actually appears.

In addition, some other links pop up here. We get connections to “The Matrix Online Game”, but it doesn’t launch for a couple of months. Another portal to the Enter the Matrix game just heads to more WB ads. At least we can actually visit the Matrix website; that connection works.

What does this set lose that appeared on the original two-disc release? That one included a 22-minute documentary called “Preload” plus “The Matrix Unfolds”, an exploration of connections among the videogame, The Animatrix, and the two sequel films. Both of these features were promotional in nature, and I won’t miss them. The old set’s “Freeway Chase” documentary was good, but this one’s “Car Chase” supplants it. A look at “Making Enter the Matrix” vanishes, which is a minor loss; it had some good moments but mostly existed to promote the game.

The only unfortunate cuts come from “Get Me an Exit”, a collection of Matrix-related ads that was cool to see. We also lose moderately amusing excerpts from the 2003 MTV Movie Awards.

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 DVD presents very good picture and sound plus a fairly informative collection of extras.

Normally recommendations for reissued DVDs aren’t difficult, but since this version of The Matrix Reloaded can be found only in a 10-disc boxed set called The Ultimate Matrix Collection, matters become more complicated. At the risk of sounding like a coward, I’ll defer my recommendation until I get to the final review of the set; that one will cover DVDs Eight through Ten and summarize the whole package. For now, suffice it to say that this new Reloaded DVD improves upon the old one, at least in regard to supplements.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE MATRIX RELOADED