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The Ultimate Matrix

The Ultimate Matrix Collection

Warner Bros. new 10-disc Ultimate Matrix Collection is possibly the most extensive boxed set ever released on DVD. It features pretty much every piece of footage ever recorded relating to the Matrix trilogy. Rather than waste space reprinting reviews of the films, click here, here, or here to read the individual reviews. Otherwise, read on for a walk-through of this huge set.

Disc 1 – The Matrix in all its glory, featuring a brand-new high definition transfer and 2 new audio commentaries, neither of which involve anybody related to the Matrix in any way. The new transfer is similar to the original, but the detail is a wee bit sharper, particularly involving the darker scenes.

The audio track is pretty much the same, but a little more bass-heavy this time around. The first of the commentaries is by “philosophers” Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber; the second is by critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson. The Wachowski Brothers include a written introduction explaining why they chose the people they did for the commentaries, and while we can’t really fault them for being intensely shy, it would have been nice to have someone involved in the film giving their thoughts.

Disc 2 – A repackage of The Matrix Revisited, a two-hour documentary chronicling the making of the first film, from conception to phenomenon. It’s very extensive, including interviews with more people than you knew existed, combined with massive amounts of behind-the-scenes footage. It’s actually a pretty interesting doc, spending time not only on making the film, but also on the effect of the film on the movie-going public and on subsequent Hollywood films.

The Music Revisited is a selection of 41 audio tracks that were used in the film, but this will probably only appeal to the hippest of the hip. The average person (ourselves included) have probably never heard of more than one or two of the bands, but you can’t deny that many of the tunes have a pretty good groove. Also on disc two is a series of short featurettes taken from the original Matrix DVD. They include the “Take the Red Pill,” “Follow the White Rabbit,” and “Behind the Matrix.”

Disc 3The Matrix Reloaded, with the same audio and video transfers as the DVD that came out in 2003. It, too, includes a written intro by the Wachowskis and two audio commentaries by the same dudes as on The Matrix. By now we’ve gotten used to these guys and are over the fact they had nothing to do with the movie. With an open mind, we can listen intently as they peel apart the layers of the film. All seem like pretty smart chaps, although judging from their comments, it’s hard to imagine them ever really liking a single movie in their entire lives. It’s nice that the critics were nice enough to point out how the movie could not possibly have lived up to the four-year expectations of fans (especially since it’s probably the best film in the trilogy).

Disc 4 – The Matrix Reloaded Revisited, on which we get 21 featurettes about the making of the film. While they’re not organized into one handy little documentary ala The Matrix Revisited, there’s just as much information to be had, and just as many insights from the cast and crew. There are different sections, each focusing on a single aspect or scene, such as “Unplugged” (the 1 Neo/100 Agent Smith fight), “Car Chase,” “I’ll Handle Them,” and “Teahouse Fight.” There’s also a very in-depth look at Enter the Matrix, the popular video game for which 23 live-action scenes were shot using existing sets and costumes. This is a pretty interesting piece, regardless of whether or not you care about the video game (‘cause we don’t).

Disc 5The Matrix Revolutions, and yes, it includes a written Wachowski introduction and two separate audio commentaries by the same participants. By this time, their attention is dwindling about as much as our own. There are gaps in their comments and their comments are less interesting. However, they do manage to talk about the Christ-like overtones in the third film and the massive special effects used in the Sentinel attack scene. Neither track is as good as either of the tracks on either of the first films, but there’s still some good stuff.

Disc 6 – The Matrix Revolutions Revisited, which is organized very similarly to the Reloaded Revisited disc. 28 featurettes take us through everything we ever wanted to know about the making of the third and final Matrix film. Everything from the “Crew,” to the “Aftermath,” all the way into Club “Hel.” Some sections are much longer and more extensive than others, but in the end nobody will be able to say there isn’t a sufficient amount of behind-the-scenes footage and cast & crew interviews for all three films.

Disc 7 – The Animatrix, repackaged with all nine short films, audio commentaries and making-of featurettes. The Wachowski Brothers wrote the first four shorts, including Final Flight of the Osiris, The Second Renaissance Parts 1 & 2, and Kid’s Story. Final Flight leads us into The Matrix Reloaded, while the Renaissances give us some background on how the state of the world in the Matrix came to be.

The remaining short films are just that: short films. They’re all related to the Matrix universe in some way or another, even though it must be said that some of them don’t really make a lot of sense. They all feature fun anime-tion and are directed by some big names in the genre. The computer animation used on Final Flight of the Osiris rivals that of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and may actually be even better. Each short is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1.

Disc 8 – Roots of the Matrix, which is a series of documentaries examining the historical, philosophical and technological inspirations of the trilogy. Kicking it off is the hour-long Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix, which gives a whole bunch of well-educated stuffed shirts the chance to discuss the religious and spiritual undertones of the film. We hear from numerous sources that all make comparisons or mentions of everything from the Bible to Socrates. It’s an interesting and informative documentary that’s only problem is not being all that entertaining.

The other hour-long documentary is called “The Hard Problem,” and focuses more on the technological. More well-educated folks talk about how the technology in the Matrix is either a potential glimpse into the future, or merely pure, fun science fiction. It’s produced just as well as Return to Source, but has the advantage of being filled with more interesting subject matter (we’ll take science fiction over religion any day).

Disc 9 – The Burly Man Chronicles, a 90-minute documentary that takes us from pre-production, all the way to the end of shooting, and covers not only the two Matrix sequels, but also the videogame. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and behind-the-scenes goings on; this is just as much a “the story of the making of the Matrix” as it is a plain and simple making-of documentary. Everything from the death of pop star Aaliyah to the effects of 9/11 on the shoot is touched upon.

And just in case a 90-minute documentary isn’t enough, there’s also a “Follow the White Rabbit” feature that allows you to go behind the behind-the-scenes for an additional 23 featurettes any time a white rabbit appears on screen. Just hit Enter on your DVD remote for more fun and excitement.

Disc 10 – While this final disc may seem essentially like filler, once you realize just how much production art, photo galleries, and promo material is one here, you’re willing to forgive the whole thing. There are sketches galore: storyboards for thirty scenes, immense amounts of photos, trailers and TV spots for all three films, and music videos for the first two.

You have to give the studio a major kudos for unloading all this stuff in one convenient, surprisingly affordable boxed set. If you’re a major fan of the films, it’ll be really hard to say no. However, if you already own the movies and don’t care about all that bonus crap, there’s little more here than a new transfer for the first film and a repackage of The Animatrix.

But either way, this is an incredibly extensive, very well put together set that will surely please fans.

The Matrix Ultimate Collection, from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
301 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Produced by Joel Silver
Written and directed by The Wachowski Brothers


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