The Matrix

The Matrix - 10th Anniversary Blu-ray Book

Warner Bros. new "Book" of the Matrix is a good choice if you've seen all three of the Matrix films and, like so many others, only want to keep the first one in your collection.

After all, The (first) Matrix has achieved nearly classic status in the decade since its release - while the sequels were money makers that weren't though of nearly as highly as the inventive first flick was.

"The Matrix" is a sci-fi action adventure film that's much more than skin deep. It's exciting and great looking, with terrific special effects - and a thought-provoking concept that's a real brain teaser. It's also a terrific example of the Blu-ray medium, with reference-quality audio and video and plenty of extras.

It's pretty well a straightforward re-rlease of the version in the Ultimate Collection, but that's okay.

Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano, "The Matrix" turns one's conceptions about the earth and our life upon it upside down with its vision of a planet in which we are not who we think we are - or even when we think we are.

The film was directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski, and features Reeves as Neo, a computer programmer recruited by an underground figure-cum-Messiah called Morpheus (Fishburne) who's being hunted down by a group of ruthless "Men in Black-types".

Once recruited, however, he discovers the shock of his life (and we're not going to spoil the movie for those who haven't yet seen it) and is forced to decide whether to return to his previous existence of blissful unawareness or take his destiny into his hands and fight for the future of the human race. Morpheus believes Neo is the real Messiah (kind of), and trains him in a virtual world to fight with all manners of weapons and tactics after which he joins the war to free his fellow Man.

The situation's a bit reminiscent of the "Terminator" movies, with some "13th Floor" and martial arts extravaganza thrown in for good measure, but in the end, it's unique and succeeds on its own terms.

Superficially, "The Matrix" looks like it's just another blast 'em up action yarn, and there's enough blast 'em up action to please fans of that genre - but it's also an intelligent movie that's well conceived, well written - and with acting and production values that does the movie justice.

As mentioned, "The Matrix" is also a terrific Blu-ray, offering lots of the extras that make the format so great. Besides the film itself, which is presented in 1080p widescreen and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround, and it looks and sound fabulous. The picture is clean (and quite green, which is intentional), and offers excellent contrast and good depth. The soundtrack makes very good use of all the 5.1 channels and, as you'd expect from a modern movie in which lots of ordnance is expended, it envelops you beautifully, with excellent fidelity and good, deep bass.

Extras include an "In-Movie Experience" that's a kind of commentary track in which cast and crew members reminisce about their experience in making the film. There's also a written introduction to the disc/film by the creators, and a total of four (count 'em!) commentary tracks.

The Matrix Revisited is a full length documentary on the genesis of the film, abundant behind the scenes featurettes, a 41 track audio selection of music, a music video from Marilyn Manson, trailers and TV spots.

And since this is the "Book" version of the movie, the package itself comes with an interesting essay and photo collection that's quite well done.

In all, it's a great package.

Some think "The Matrix" is a science fiction masterpiece that'll live forever in Hollywood history. Only time will tell, but the Blu-ray version is definitely an outstanding example of the species.

The Matrix, from Warner Home Entertainment
136 minutes, 1080p widescreen, Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano
Produced by Joel Silver,
Written and Directed by The Wachowski Brothers

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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