Unbiased Coverage Of All Things HD: HD-DVD, Blu-Ray and Beyond
Clash Of The Titans - HD Style
The month of May was very important to HD aficionados, with two studios releasing some major system-selling software. The studios in question were Warner Bros. and Disney, and the movies were The Matrix Trilogy and Pirates of the Caribbean, respectively. I happened to be lucky enough (or, considering the way some people feel about these movies, unlucky enough) to have recently reviewed both the Ultimate Matrix Collection on HD DVD, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and Dead Man's Chest on Blu-ray. And while both reviews are easily accessible on the site, I thought it might be useful to do a head-to-head comparison for people who want to see how these flagship titles stand up against each other.
Round 1: The Movies
The Matrix was a groundbreaking, jaw dropping movie when it was first released in 1999. The combination of dark sci-fi, mind-blowing wire work, and the germs of a new cinematic mythology immediately grabbed the attention of audiences and critics alike. The Matrix became a buzzword for all that was unique and cool in cinema. It was such a phenomenon that Warner green-lit two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The hype leading up to Reloaded was some of the most intense I have ever seen for a movie without the words "Star" and "Wars" in the title. Unfortunately, neither sequel lived up to the impossible hype Warner and the fans set up, nor did they live up to the high quality set by the first film. And considering you cannot yet purchase The Matrix in HD in anything less than a 3-disc set containing the two sequels, you had better make sure you like the whole trilogy if you're going to get it.
Now Pirates, on the other hand, was a movie everyone expected to be nothing but a lame cash-in on a Disney ride. When it turned out to be a fantastically wild ride, it surprised everyone and turned out to be a huge hit. Just like with The Matrix, Disney approved two sequels for simultaneous production the moment the movie left the theaters. The second go around, Dead Man's Chest, broke all kinds of box office records. And while it wasn't going to win any Oscars (actually, that's a lie, it won a well deserved Oscar for visual effects), it had nowhere near the dip in quality that the Matrix sequels did. The third film, At World's End, is proving itself an equally big hit, and ends the trilogy on a satisfying note. While none of the Pirates movies reached the level of impact and influence that the first Matrix did, the series didn't hit nearly the kind of lows that the other series' sequels did, either.
Round 2: Image Quality
Pirates actually has pushed the HD envelope. As I mentioned in my reviews, the two Pirates Blu-rays contain the absolutely best HD image quality I have ever seen in my life. The level of detail, clarity, and depth is absolutely astonishing. While it doesn't put every other single transfer out there to shame, exactly, it does raise the bar to a whole new level. This is the new gold standard for high def entertainment, and should be recognized as such.
Round 3: The Audio
Round 4: The Supplements
The Ultimate Matrix Collection has that beat, however, with five two-sided discs. That's 10 discs worth of material. 10 discs. And what HD-exclusive extras does the set contain? It's got In-Movie Experiences for each of the three films. The In-Movie Experience is a picture-in-picture commentary. As the movie plays, you can see the commentators, as well as behind the scenes footage. However, in this case, none of the material is original. It's all taken from extras that appear elsewhere in the set. In other words, it's superfluous. Still, it's nice to see comments about specific scenes as you watch the scenes. The rest of the discs feature more extras than you can shake a stick at, including The Animatrix -- but not in HD. That is a serious drawback. Still, the sheer volume of the set makes it recommendable.
Point: The Matrix.
Despite the overwhelming amount of extras available in the Matrix set, the unbeatable image quality and more consistent level of movie quality of Pirates of the Caribbean makes them the winner in my eyes. Of course, I'm sure plenty of people will disagree with me, but there are my reasons and these are my conclusions.
Winner: Pirates of the Caribbean.
Read DVD Talk's Review of Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest Blu-Ray Edition, Pirates of the Caribbean - Curse of the Black Pearl Blu-Ray Edition, and The Ultimate Matrix Collection HD DVD Edition.
In HD player news, the Sony Playstation 3 recently got a massive firmware upgrade that improved both its DVD and Blu-ray playback capabilities. Upon its original release, the PS3 could not upscale DVDs beyond 480p, something that many people with HDTVs require. Now it has the capability to upscale all the way to 1080p through HDMI. Per DVD Forum standards, the PS3 will not upscale regular DVDs via component. Some owners contend that the upscaling on the PS3 is on par with more expensive upscaling players by companies such as Denon.
Even more exciting is that the PS3 is now capable of outputting 1080p 24hz. 1080p/24 has been something a lot of HD aficionados have been clamoring for. On top of that, the player also supports RGB, BTB, and WTW. This allows for a much wider range of color and overall better image reproduction. Also, for people who actually use the PS3 to play games (suckers, I know), the PS3 can now upscale and smooth the image quality of PS2 games. For many, these additions have made the PS3 the premiere Blu-ray player on the market.
Of course, Pirates and The Matrix aren't the only HD discs that came out in May. Let's take a look at some of the other releases we've seen this month:
Index of All Blu-ray Reviews
Want to discuss this column with others? Join the conversation in the HD Talk Forum.
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