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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

Street Date:
October 14th, 2008
Reviewed by:
Peter Bracke
Review Date: 1
October 8th, 2008
Movie Release Year:
1999
Studio:
Warner Home Entertainment
Length:
406 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

In May 2007, Warner released two 'Matrix' box sets to HD DVD concurrently: the super-sized 'Ultimate Matrix Collection' and the slimmed-down 'Complete Matrix Trilogy.' For Blu-ray, Warner is releasing only the 'Ultimate Matrix Collection.' Portions of this review not specific to this release also appear in our reviews of 'The Complete Matrix Trilogy' and 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

She jumped in the air and the camera swirled around her. At that one moment, everything about big-budget moviemaking changed. While many late-1990s science fiction films such as 'Dark City' and 'Strange Days' embraced a similar grim, urban aesthetic, 'The Matrix' absorbed it, internalized it, and expanded upon it. The original film would be seminal in stretching the boundaries of computer-generated imagery -- literally. Characters run along walls before delivering a kick. Bullets visibly ripple through the air, moving slowly enough for their intended targets to move out of the way. Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), wearing black trench coats and black sunglasses, shoot their way through an office lobby leaving heroic amounts of shattered concrete and dead bodies. By the time it was over, audiences had a new benchmark for what constituted cool.

It's been nearly a decade since 'The Matrix' first ripped through the pop culture consciousness, and two sequels and over a billion dollars in worldwide box office later, the dust has finally settled long enough that it's possible to look back and better assess the film's place in the sci-fi cinematic pantheon. It's clear now that the writing and directing team of Larry and Andy Wachowski were not content to just drape everyone in black and call it style. Nor did they simply rely on their extraordinary visual sense. 'The Matrix' depends on obvious religious parallels (Neo has been interpreted to be a spiritual stand-in for everyone from Jesus Christ to Buddha) to give it a familiar, universal feel and a philosophical bent.

But, like the outlet embedded in the back of Neo's head, the real power of 'The Matrix' is its ability to plug into the psyche of its target audience: young males. The idea that our world is an elaborate simulation meant to divert us from the knowledge that our bodies are being enslaved and harvested for energy by sentient computers is at once heady, ridiculous and supremely clever. As such, it played right into the hearts and minds of a generation. Much as 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' introduced mainstream American audiences to the Chinese martial arts films, 'The Matrix' introduced us to the kinetic visuals of Japanimation, John Woo-inspired violence and the Cyberpunk ethos pioneered in the novels of William Gibson.

Though the first 'Matrix' is undoubtedly a classic of its genre and a highly-influential blockbuster, its cross to bear is its two sequels. After the first film grossed over $500 million worldwide to become the sleeper sensation of 1999, it was inevitable that there would be follow-ups. And so the Wachowskis and Warner devised back-to-back sequels, shot over a period of year and to be released six months apart in the spring and fall of 2003. 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' would form a trilogy with the original 'Matrix,' and gargantuan box office seemed inevitable. Indeed, 'Reloaded' opened huge, but the sequels seemed to quickly suffer from the law of diminishing returns. It is impossible now to look back on 'The Matrix' phenomenon and not see the kinks in the armor -- namely, that 'Reloaded' and particularly 'Revolutions' disappointed not just the mainstream but also the franchise's massive legion of devoted followers. Not since the 'Star Wars' prequels has a sure-fire sci-fi franchise suffered such a steep drop-off in cultural relevance.

Unfortunately, the passage of time has done nothing to improve 'The Matrix' series. While the first film can still be appreciated for its prescient vision and trail-blazing aesthetics, 'Reloaded' and 'Revolutions' both feel like a creative treading of water, or worse, parasitic cash-ins. All that black leather and Euro-tech interior design starts to feel awfully tired by the time we get to silly, maudlin climax of 'Revolutions.' The religious allusions also feel belabored and incredibly ham-fisted. Even the once-pioneering effects begin to veer toward the campy and self-referential -- neither 'Reloaded' or 'Revolutions' introduced any new concepts that could approach the first film's "bullet time" -- instead, they only regurgitated the same old tricks.

Yet we still have a lot to be thankful for in The Matrix trilogy. At its core, it embodies a delicious paradox: using state-of-the-art technology, it tells its story of mankind's near destruction brought about by our reliance on state-of-the-art technology. In the dark ages of the late 1990s, with society reaching a point of no return in its dependence upon the internet, cell phones and global positioning systems, 'The Matrix' asked moviegoers to think about the implications -- and to never underestimate the power of black leather.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' hit HD DVD in 2007 with mammoth expectations. For high-def enthusiasts hungry to feed their new machines with top-quality material, nothing less than a demo disc would do. Warner did not disappoint. The transfers for all three 'Matrix' films were terrific, and in my original review, I awarded the set five stars. I'm happy to report that the studio has not messed with perfection. 'The Matrix,' 'The Matrix Reloaded' and 'The Matrix Revolutions' are each presented once again in 1080p/VC-1-encoded transfers (framed accurately in 2.40:1 widescreen) -- identical to the HD DVD.

Warner's work on the high-def masters minted for the original HD DVD release were a clear step up from the standard-def DVD, which received mixed notices from critics at the time of its release. A direct compare with the original DVDs makes the results immediately obvious. One of the many impressive aspects of the set as a whole is its consistency -- despite the four-year gap between 'The Matrix' and its two sequels, I could scarcely tell any difference between them. Cue up any sequence of any of the flicks, and prepare to be suitably wowed.

The most immediately noticeable upgrade is detail. Though I felt the previous DVDs certainly looked good, all the black-on-black of the 'Matrix's trend-setting visual aesthetic often faded into inky mush in standard-def. Not so in high-def, where fine texture is a revelation. For example, during the scene in the first 'Matrix' when Neo and Trinity blast their way into the bank, the supple details of the clothes and the shiny black leather is so good I wanted to freeze-frame and just revel in its ultra-realism. One other compare was particularly revealing -- there is a push-in shot through a grill that the cops are ensconced behind, and on the DVD, it looks pixilated and jagged -- but on the Blu-ray, I never saw a single moment where the image broke up or looked stair-stepped. This is the kind of three-dimensional, picture-perfect image high-def is all about.

The colors of 'The Matrix' films have always been controversial. The dominant hue is clearly green. Though there are many uses of deep purple and occasional splashes of incredibly vivid reds, the transfers have been obviously skewed. Yet I was impressed with the level of detail and "naturalism" (albeit highly stylized) that remained despite the tint shift. And all things considered, fleshtones are as accurate as possible. I was also relieved that Warner did not overpump or oversaturate the transfers -- there's no bleeding or chroma noise, and again, consistency is excellent.

Finally, compression artifacts are not an issue. There isn't a moment of macroblocking or any noise, even on the many flat surfaces and static shots, which often hold on a particular image for what seems like minutes. And the source itself is beautifully maintained -- there is a bit of grain here or there, but it is clearly part of the intended effect and there are no instances of dirt or blemishes. This is really fantastic stuff -- 'The Matrix' trilogy easily earns an exemplary five-star video rating.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

As with the video, Warner isn't messing with a good thing, and the audio here again replicates the previous HD DVD release of 'The Ultimate Matrix Trilogy.' We receive identical Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround tracks (48kHz/16-bit) for each film, as well as optional 640kbps Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1 surround mixes. I was just as impressed -- these soundtracks are superlative.

All three 'Matrix' are naturals for high-resolution audio. Sure, there are plenty of long, talky bits in each installment, but there's also a long list of top-flight action sequences to choose from when you want to drive your home theater rig into the ground. My favorites are the office break-in from the first film, both the humongous car chase and extended rave scenes about mid-way through 'Reloaded,' and the sheer aural delight of the climax in the otherwise-silly 'Revolutions.' The aggressiveness of the surrounds is phenomenal throughout -- imaging is seamless between channels, and the "wall of sound" the emanates from the rears is incredibly forceful. These are the kind of sequences you go back and rewind over and over again, just to revel in their effectiveness.

Dynamics are also top-notch. Just as "bullet time" revolutionized modern special effects, the sound design here is also pioneering. In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the original 'Matrix' swept most of the 1999 Oscars given for tech categories over 'Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.' The use of extended low bass, and the way the mingling of natural and mechanical effects and tones to create a chilling, suspended-animation-like aural effect is fantastic.

The Dolby TrueHD easily handles such a complex presentation, with airtight low bass extension all the way down to the lowest frequencies. Mid- and high-range is also wonderfully clear and free from irritating harshness. As loud as this soundtrack gets, I never felt bombarded with treble, which is can be a problem with high-impact soundtracks, where it often seems like the sound mixers simply crank everything up to eleven. Dialogue also is accurately balanced in the mix -- Keanu Reeves' now-famous utterance of "Whoa!" is (for better or for worse) perfectly intelligible. For that reason alone, 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' earns yet another five-stars for audio.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

When Warner first released the gargantuan 'The Matrix' trilogy box set on DVD a few years back, it set the bar for sheer volume of supplemental material. It's simply information overload, with so many audio commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and short films that it's possible to imagine even the most diehard 'Matrix' fan feeling a little overwhelmed.

This embarrassment of riches continued with last year's HD DVD release, which ported over all of the same materials, plus threw in a few exclusive picture-in-picture commentaries. Warner has not given Blu-ray short thrift, for now we have 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' which again compiles over 35 hours of material in one mammoth seven disc set. A bit more compact than the seven discs found in the HD DVD edition, for Blu-ray Warner spreads out the extras across three BD-50 dual-layer movie discs, another BD-50 for 'The Animatrix,' and two more standard DVD platters with additional extras (one double-sided).

Unfortunately, like the HD DVD, the Blu-ray finds much of this bonus material presented in 480p/i/MPEG-2 only. To the studio's credit, they have headed high-def fan outcry, and this time we get upgraded 1080p/VC-1 video and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround audio (48kHz/16-bit) on 'The Animatrix,' which on the HD DVD was standard-def only. No, this entire box is still not in full HD, but it's still a jump up from the HD DVD.

Discs 1-3: Shared Extras

Note that there are a couple of shared features across the first three 'Matrix' movie discs. Each film gets:

  • Introductions - "Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers is included for all three features. It's fine enough, and is repeated in the 16-page booklet included with the set.
  • Audio Commentaries - The fun really begins with a suite of audio commentaries. Each of the three films share a common set of commentary tracks -- a "Philosopher's Commentary" featuring Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, and a "Critics Commentary" with noted cinema journalists Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson. I sampled about thirty minutes of each (on all three installments), and found both groups of participants fascinating and often humorous. Granted, the "Philosophers" at times seem to stretch the significance of the later installments in the series a bit, but it only serves to make the "Critics" commentaries that much more hilarious by comparison -- Warner allowed them free reign to totally rip on the sequels, and their often pointed criticisms on the apparent self-indulgence of the Wachowski Brothers and the ever-more-ludicrous plot contrivances is highly entertaining. God, how I wish George Lucas would allow something similar to be put on the DVDs of his 'Star Wars' prequels!

Disc 1: 'The Matrix'

  • Audio Commentaries - The original 'The Matrix' also includes two additional commentaries of its own. Carried over from the very first DVD release of the film is a track with effects personnel Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta, plus actress Carrie-Anne Moss, as well as a music-only track (in Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1) featuring comments from composer Don Davis (which are inserted in the silent passages, in between cues). The cast and crew track was certainly informative back before Warner re-issued the film so many times, but now it is easily eclipsed by the copious video material. As such, best to leave this one off your checklist. The isolated score, however, is great to have, and it's also wonderful to hear from the composer as they're so often overlooked, even on box sets as expansive as this.
  • "The Music Revisited" - A very cool feature. This is an exhaustive catalog of no less than forty-one(!) audio-only music cues from the film. This was originally included as an easter egg on the original DVD set, but is now very easy to access right from the Extras menu.
  • Documentary: "The Matrix Revisited" - 'The Matrix Revisited' was first released as a stand-alone DVD, but has been integrated here in its original, complete form. It runs 122 minutes, and is quite exhaustive. Chronicling the entire production from November 1997 (the beginning of pre-production) to April 2000 (as preparation for the first sequel commenced), this is a thorough, exciting video diary that alone would have been enough coverage for me on the making of 'The Matrix.' What's great about taking this return trip is recognizing how few people involved even understood the movie the Wachowskis were making. Yet all took a leap of faith, from the cast (all interviewed here) to the effects crew, all endeavoring to create something never before seen, no matter how seemingly incomprehensible. 'The Matrix Revisited' is excellent, and for me is easily the highlight of all of the 'Matrix' extras.
  • Vignettes - Also included are the now-famous "Take the Red Pill" and "Follow the White Rabbit" vignettes that were presented as branching segments on the original DVD release. The material runs about 40 minutes, and each vignette is a narration-free, you-are-there look at a specific action sequence or other key scene. "Take the Red Pill" includes: "What is Bullet Time?" (6 min.) and "What is the Concept" (11 min.); "Follow the White Rabbit" includes: "Trinity Escapes" (1 min.), "Pod" (2 min.), "Kung Fu" (4 min.), "Wall" (2 min.), "Bathroom Fight" (2 min.), "Government Lobby" (4 min.), "Government Roof" (1 min.), "Helicopter" (1 min.) and "Subway" (4 min.).
  • Promotional Gallery - The disc ends with 'The Matrix' original Theatrical Teaser and Trailer, eight TV spots, and a music video for Marilyn Manson's "Rock is Dead."

Disc 2: 'Matrix Reloaded'

  • Documentary: "Enter the Matrix" - 42 minutes long, this compiles all of the footage shot by the Wachowski brothers specifically for the videogame. Story points and characters are introduced that built upon the 'Matrix' milieu, and for some, the game was preferable to the two sequels. There are 22 segments total, along with a 1-minute introduction by producer Joel Silver and actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. (Note that the audio for "Enter the Matrix" is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo only.)
  • Documentary: "Car Chase " - This runs 55 minutes total and compiles nine segments, each dissecting one particular aspect of 'Reloaded's action piece de resistance: "Oakland Streets and Freeway" (10 min.), "Tour of Meroinigian's Garage" (2 min.), "Queen of the Road" (3 min.), "Arteries of the Mega-City" (12 min.), "Foresight: Preplanning the Mayhem" (6 min.), "Freeway Truck Crash: Anatomy of a Shot" (5 min.), "Fate of the Freeway" (2 min.) and "Freeway Action Match" (14 min.)
  • Documentary: "Unplugged" - Next is "Unplugged" (40 minutes total) which is probably the best of these sections. The Neo versus "a zillion Agent Smiths" is still an over-the-top, amazing sequence, and is broken down here in ridiculous detail: "Creating the Burly Brawl" (17 min.), "A Conversation with Master Wo Ping" (10 min.), "Chad Stahelski: The Other Neo" (2 min.), "Burly Brawl Action Match" (6 min.) and "Spiraling Virtual Shot: Anatomy of a Shot" (5 min.).
  • Featurette: "Teahouse Fight" - This follows in a similar fashion to the above, with narration-free video that goes into uber-specific detail on the tabletop fight between Neo and Seraph: "Two Equals Clash" (4 min.) and "Guardian of the Oracle: Collin Chou" (3 min.)
  • Featurette: "I'll Handle Them" - "I'll Handle Them" (17 minutes total) highlights the Merovingian Chateau sequence: "The Great Hall" (5 min.), "Building the Merovingian's Lair" (5 min.), "Tiger Style: A Day in the Life of Chen Hu" (4 min.) and "Heavy Metal: Weapons of the Great Hall" (3 min.).
  • Archive: "Exiles" - Concluding the main extras of disc 2 is the very amusing "Exiles" assemblage (18 minutes total). Here all the assorted "exile" characters get their due, sort of like the Island of Misfit Toys of the 'Matrix Reloaded' universe. "Big Brother is Watching: The Architect's Office" (8 min.) is more effects discussion of filming the sequence, which was done almost entirely against green screen. "The Exiles" (9 min.) features the exile cast members, sorta-in character, offering background information on who they play. This is actually one of the more unique and refreshing extras on the set, especially since most of the other supplemental material is so heavy on effects breakdowns.
  • Promotional Gallery - 'Reloaded' gets the original Theatrical Teaser and Trailer, plus eight more TV spots, and a music video for P.O.D.'s "Sleeping Awake."

Disc 3: 'Matrix Revolutions'

  • Documentary: "Behind the Matrix" - Yet another "Behind the Matrix" primer on the third film in the series (24 minutes total). "Revolutions Recalibrated" (6 min.), "Neo Realism: The Evolution of Bullet Time" (4 min.), "CG Revolution" (2 min.), "Super Big Mini Models" (1 min.), "Super Burly Brawl" (2 min.), "Double Agent Smith" (3 min.), "Mind over Matter: The Physicality of The Matrix" (3 min.) and "Future Gamer: The Matrix Online" (2 min.) "Before the Revolution" (4 min.) make up this collection. Like all of the material on 'Revolutions,' this footage and behind-the-scenes interviews were obviously shot back-to-back with 'Reloaded.'
  • Documentary: "Siege" - For fans of 'Revolutions' bombastic "machine attack" extended sequence, "Siege" (40 minutes total) is for you, comprised of: "Dig This" (10 minutes, and filled with some very cool miniature footage), "Siege Action Match" (10 min.), "Mifune's Last Stand: Anatomy of a Shot" (5 min.), "Building an APU" (5 min.) and "Product of Zion" (10 min., and note that this segment is particularly interesting, as the late R&B singer/actress Aaliyah had to be recast after her sudden death in an airplane tragedy.)
  • Documentary: "Aftermath" - Running 40 minutes total, this is all about post-production and the additional wizardry needed to fully polish and complete 'Revolutions': "Revolutionary Composition" (9 min.), "The Glue" (7 min.), "Dane Tracks" (7 min., and a particularly noteworthy look at sound designer Dane Davis and the often arcane sources used to create realistic sound effects) and "Cause and Effects" (16 min.)
  • Featurette: "Crew" - What a very considerate ode to the many unsung crew members that are essential in creating these big-budget action extravaganzas: "Owen's Army: The Australian Art Department" (4 min.), "2nd Unit: A World of Their Own" (6 min.), "Bill Pope: Cinematographer of The Matrix" (8 min.) and 'Masters of Light and Shadow" (7 min.) each give a much-valued artist their due.
  • Featurette: "Hel" - 28 minutes total, this examines the much derided Club Hel sequence. Unfortunately, all that is discussed here is more endless technical and effects aspects, and admittedly I'd grown pretty tired of it all by the time we got to 'Revolutions.' Anyway, the subsections here are: "Coat Check" (5 min.), "Upsidedown Under" (5 min.), "Fast Break" (6 min.), "Exploding Man" (5 min.), "Gun Club" (2 min.) and "The Extras of Club Hel" (5 min.).
  • Featurette: "Super Burly Brawl" - Yet another fight sequence between Neo and Agent Smith is dissected: "Sky Barn" (5 min.), "Crater" (5 min.), "The Egg" (3 min.) and "Anatomy of the Superpunch" (4 min.). The latter is the best segment here, with a fascinating look at how the faces of Reeves and Hugo Weaving were insanely distorted via CGI to achieve the final effect).
  • Archive: "New Blue World" - Finally, "New Blue World" (26 minutes total) is a catch-all, rounding up various featurettes and segments that apparently didn't quite fit in anywhere else: "Geography of Zion" (9 min., an interesting look at the multi-cultural denizens and their parallels to our current cultural landscape), "The Ships" (6 min.), "Tour of the Neb" (3 min.), "Logos Fight Expansion" (3 min.) and "Matrix TV" (5 min., yes, they really did create a featurette on the monitors of 'The Matrix!')
  • Promotional Gallery - Closing out this disc are the original trailer for 'The Matrix Revolutions' and six TV spots.

Disc 4: 'The Animatrix'

Spurred by the success of the original 'Matrix,' the Wachowski Brothers and Warner enlisted seven top Japanimation artists to create a series of nine short films, with the intention of utilizing different animation forms and styles to expand and deepen the 'Matrix' mythology as preparation began on the two sequels.

The nine shorts are: "Final Flight of the Osiris," "Kid's Story," "Program," "World Record," "Beyond," "Detective Story," "Matriculated," "The Second Renaissance Part 1" and "The Second Renaissance Part 2."

The result is largely a success. The nine shorts, collectively, are all over the place, but are often wildly exciting and visually stimulating. 'The Animatrix' was first released as a stand-alone disc in 2001, and that set is repurposed here, though with the shorts themselves at last upgraded to full 1080p/VC-1 video and English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround audio (48kHz/16-bit).

But wait, 'The Animatrix' gets its own set of extras:

  • Audio Commentaries: "Voices" - This is actually four separate subtitled audio commentaries for individual shorts. Filmmaker Mahiro Maeda provides tracks for both parts of 'The Second Renaissance," while Yoshiaki Kawajiri chats up "Program," and Takeshi Koike offers thoughts on "World Record.'
  • Featurette: "Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime" - A much-needed 22-minute featurette that pays appropriate tribute to the influence anime had on 'The Matrix.' It is also a very valuable educational tool, at least for an anime ignoramus like me -- the origins and shared techniques of the form are explained, and even if I'm still not really into the genre, at least now I can appreciate its origins and its significance.
  • Documentary: "Execution" - A seven-part documentary on the making of 'The Animatrix,' short-by-short. The piece runs 55 minutes and includes interviews with all of the filmmakers as well as additional crew, plus behind-the-scenes snippets. The shorts dissected are: 'Final Flight of the Osiris,' 'Kid's Story/Detective Story,' 'Program,' 'World Record,' 'Beyond,' 'Matriculated' and both parts of 'Renaissance.'

Disc 5

But wait (again!), there's more. 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' also includes 'The Matrix Experience," two more discs with a ton of additional content. Quite frankly, at this point it was overkill for me. But hey, it's my job to review this stuff, so here goes...

  • Documentary: "Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix" - This hour-long piece trots out a legion of professors, historians and other science-fiction literary types to make the case for the significance of the World According to Neo. Some of the connections these guys pull out are pretty incredible, as they cite everyone from Descartes to Nietzsche to Plato, as well as compare sections of the films to both the Old and New Testament, the Koran and the Book of Revelations. Your tolerance for "Return to Source" will likely vary based on your beliefs, and though I admit I snickered more than once, it's fascinating how passionate the supporters of the Matrix are in their beliefs.
  • Documentary: "The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction" - One of the key thematic devices of the Matrix technology is the fusion -- and fight -- of man and machine. Another army of experts and pundits are brought out to analyze the history of emo-tech, though the 60-minute "The Hard Problem" doesn't really use 'The Matrix' as a jumping off point for these ideas. Instead, it's more of a History Channel-esque scientific journey of man's growing reliance on machines and where the future of artificial intelligence may lead us. This is certainly the most cursory documentary on the entire 'Ultimate Matrix Collection,' but a nice respite from all the more technical making-of material.

Disc 6

  • Multi-Part Documentary: "The Burly Man Chronicles" - Much as 'The Matrix Revisited' was to 'The Matrix,' this 95-minute production diary of the four-year shoot of the two sequels is quite exhaustive. Yet, amazingly, there is nary any repetition with the other material on the set. Technical nitty-gritty is largely jettisoned in favor of the arduous task of conceiving and conceptualizing back-to-back sequels, the rigors of the cast in trying to comprehend and articulate the vision of the Wachowskis, and of course the huge commercial expectations that bore heavily on the minds of the filmmakers and the studio. I personally preferred this single, comprehensive documentary over all the little bits and pieces on the stand-alone discs.

    Note that because 'The Matrix Experience' discs are just standard DVDs, they include the same navigation and additional "branching" content as the previously-released DVD version of 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection.' Thus, "The Burly Man Chronicles" again has a "Follow the White Rabbit" option. There are three branching segments (82 minutes total) you can access at specific points during the program, by clicking the "Enter" button on your remote when the white rabbit icon appears on the screen. The three bonus segments are: "Pre-Production" (32 min.), "Alameda Shoot" (16 min.) and "Australia Shoot" (34 min.
  • Still Gallery: "Zion Archive" - An absolutely massive still gallery that has to be seen to be believed. Simply put, it the most extensive such assemblage I've ever seen on any DVD or high-def release, hands down. There are over a thousand stills -- yes, a thousand -- enough that fans could go pour through this stuff for days. Unfortunately, the navigation is frequently annoying. Though the material broken down into five obvious categories -- "Storyboards," "Characters," "Ships," "Machines" and "Sets" -- the menu text is often convoluted and weirdly inaccessible. By this point, after spending days wading through this set, I'd long since tired of all the arcane 'Matrix'-speak. And again, it's a disappointment that none of these many, many gorgeous pieces of conceptual and storyboard art have been upgraded to high-def resolution.
  • Montage: "Rave Reel" - This is a 9-minute montage of clips from all three 'Matrix' movies, but since the rave scene in 'Reloaded' is considered by many fans to be the low point of the series, perhaps putting the words "rave" and "Matrix" together one more time really seems like a bad idea.
  • Matrix Online Preview - This is dated -- a 10-minute sneak peek at an online gaming version of the "Enter the Matrix" game that has probably long since been forgotten.
  • Promotional Gallery - Finally, 'The Matrix Experience' concludes with a collection of all the same theatrical teasers, trailers, TV spots and music videos that have already been included on the stand-alone discs for each film.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

After wading through the 30-plus hours of standard-def supplements, did we really need more? Actually, yes...

  • Picture-in-Picture - By the time I got around to watching the picture-in-picture video commentaries exclusive to the Blu-ray (and previously the HD DVD), I really thought I'd had it with 'The Matrix.' Yet, these three tracks (one per film, for 'The Matrix,' 'Reloaded' and 'Revolutions') are a godsend for fans like myself who are intrigued by the 'Matrix' mythology, but looking for a more concise, general overview of their making.

    It is worth noting that there is no new material here, per se. Neither the Wachowski brothers, nor any other of the cast and crew have been reassembled to record new intros or other content. Instead, these video commentaries simply compile the best bits from all of the existing documentary material, organizing it around the framework of each film. For me, that's what is so welcome -- it's like the perfect highlight reel of the 35 hours of extras on 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection,' without the need to wade through endless menus across multiple discs (not to mention the white rabbits!). Another plus is that the lack of 1080p upconversion of all the recycled video-based material is not a problem here, because the small picture-in-picture boxes don't lend themselves to high-res video anyway.

Final Thoughts

'The Ultimate Matrix Collection' came to HD DVD with huge expectations, and managed to live up to the hype. It does it again on Blu-ray. Granted, the trilogy as a whole suffers from the law of diminishing returns, but it's impossible to argue with the series' lasting impact and influence on pop moviemaking. And in sheer technical terms, Warner has certainly done this landmark sci-fi franchise proud on Blu-ray. The video and audio are five-star stunners, and the long list of supplemental materials simply boggles the mind, even if much of it is in standard-def.

So, should you fork over yet more 'Matrix' money for this Blu-ray? If you already own the HD DVD, I'd say not (unless getting 'The Animatrix' in full HD is important to you). But if you didn't take the plunge the last time around -- and can stand the two, inferior sequels -- then by all means, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better high-def deal for the money than 'The Ultimate Matrix Collection.'

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray/DVD
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs/DVD-9 Dual-Layer Discs
  • Six-Disc Set
  • Bonus View (Profile 1.1)

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1
  • 1080i/480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround (48kHz/16-bit)
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
  • Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (640kbps)
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (192kbps)
  • Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (192kbps)

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles
  • Italian Subtitles
  • Dutch Subtitles
  • Portuguese Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Storyboards
  • Animatics
  • Music Videos
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Digital Copy

Exclusive HD Content

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List Price
$64.99
Amazon
$35.50 (45%)
3rd Party
$35.00
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