The Matrix. Those two words today bring up a host of emotions and associations: Love, hate, adoration, pessimism, contemplation, excitement, and many more. There aren't too many people anymore without some kind of idea and opinion about the series. Some love it, others hate it. Some love parts, while despising specific developments in the films. It's not something that lends itself well to fence sitting. It also helped launch DVD as a viable home entertainment format. Now Warner attempts to do it again with HD DVD, releasing all three Matrix films on the format months before the competing Blu-ray format. Let's take a look and see how it shapes up.
Note: There are many places where you can find a summary of the plot of The Matrix trilogy, and many more where you can find interpretations of the various symbols, names, and influences found in the pictures. This review is not going to go over that territory again. I will discuss aspects of filmmaking and storytelling as they relate to the overall effectiveness of each film, but will not go into details of plot or speculation. I recommend seeing at least the first film before reading this review, as I expect anyone who would be interested in a set as massive and expensive as The Ultimate Matrix Collection have already seen one and hopefully all of the films. If you haven't, go rent The Complete Matrix Trilogy before diving into this one.
It's hard to imagine now life without The Matrix. The little film that could came out in 1999 in almost virtual obscurity. It had minimal marketing that did little to explain the concepts the film introduced. Its popularity spread through word of mouth, and it became a buzzword for all that was cool and daring. "Bullet time" started showing up everywhere, in ads and video games, and would-be philosophers came out of the woodwork to try and explain the concepts inherent in the film. It was, simply put, a phenomenon.
Watching it now, it can't help but feel a little dated. As mentioned, a lot of the techniques that The Matrix pioneered have been used to death throughout popular culture, making them far less impressive today. However, the faded aspects just make the film's other strengths stand out more. The film is constructed in a very archetypal way, with mythic underpinnings. On a filmmaking level, it's a wonderful mishmash of John Woo Hong Kong action, old kung fu movies, sci fi, Leone westerns, and more. The story arc is emotionally satisfying, and the action is utterly seamless. Watching it again, I realized that at no time could I detect the presence of stuntmen. Is it perfect? No, some of the dialogue is silly and Keanu Reeves is not up to the level of Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving, but it's a strong film that has secured its place in film history. 4 Stars.
The Matrix Reloaded:
The Matrix was clearly conceived of as a single picture. At the end, Neo is The One. According to Morpheus, that means he can "reshape The Matrix in his image." In other words, he's become God (or, at the very least, the Messiah). So for two sequels to exist smacks of revisionism, and that's evident right from the beginning of the picture. Despite the insistence by the filmmakers that this series was always intended as a trilogy, you can tell that the second two films are not from the same creative pool as the first. The moment Neo cannot simply obliterate agents or change The Matrix with a wave of his hand, you know you're in for something that has to rewrite its own rules, never a good thing for a story.
However, once you've accepted this, The Matrix Reloaded is not so bad. It definitely gets a worse rap than it deserves. The story still generally focuses on Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity, and this film has some of the best, if not the best action in the entire trilogy. This includes the freeway sequence, easily the most visually stunning set of scenes you will find in the series. The script seems confusing initially, but it does introduce many intriguing characters and subplots. This is also the entry in the series that shows some of the lazier and more pretentious sides of the Wachowskis. Fight sequences like The Burly Brawl suffers from sloppy editing (it's very easy to spot Keanu's stunt double), and extremely poor CGI that makes the characters look worse than some recent video games. Also, every single scene that takes place in Zion is either downright embarrassing (the dance orgy) at worst, to utterly useless (Neo's conversation with the Counselor) at best. Morpheus has turned from a visionary to a dogmatic street preacher, making hollow statements that do nothing but display the Wachowski's pretensions. The saving grace of this picture is the impressive collection of action sequences. 3 Stars.
The Matrix Revolutions:
Here is where the Wachowski's house of cards comes tumbling down. The Matrix Revolutions abandons all the best impulses of the series to wallow in all of its worst excesses. The action is bland, not topping The Matrix, let alone the show stoppers in Reloaded. The script dismisses important characters such as The Merovingian out of hand while it takes useless detours into new characters (The Last Exile) and pointless subplots (Neo trapped by the train man). The film also suffers from its wider scope. The Zion scenes in Reloaded were insufferable, and a sizable portion of Revolutions takes place there. Worse, those scenes are completely absent of characters we care about, making them feel like an obstacle instead of an essential part of the story. There are some good moments scattered about. Niobe and Morpheus in an impossible race back to Zion while being chased by thousands of sentinels is edge of your seat stuff, and Neo and Trinity's journey to the Machine City is equally breathtaking. But the climax suffers from too much reliance on poor CGI, as well as trying to tie up too much too quickly.
It's clear that Revolutions draws the most in the series from Eastern philosophies of death, rebirth, the dichotomy of opposites, and passive resistance. However, as intellectually stimulating as these concepts may be, they have no emotional resonance when introduced so late into the trilogy. While all the films owe a debt to Asian cinema, the story up to this point has been very Western. To pull a bait and switch the way Revolutions does just engenders anger in the audience. However, Hugo Weaving is at the top of his game in this film, and if you want to see the resolution to the series, well, this is it. 2 Stars.
The HD DVD Set:
Alright, people, stop chomping at the bit. Yes, The Matrix is here in high definition. No, it's not the best looking disc I've ever seen. This series has suffered from enough hype without me adding to it. Is it a high quality transfer? Absolutely. This is easily the best The Matrix has looked on home video. There's a significant amount of grain, which is to be expected on what was a relatively small studio film. Probably the biggest problem is with the re-tinting of the scenes that take place in the Matrix. Originally, they de-emphasized blues and used more green hues, but they were redone to look even more green to bring them in line with the look of the sequels. The tinting seems to sap the image of vitality, and it's especially annoying because a few shots here and there slipped through the process, showing you how good it could look. Good, but not great work. 4 Stars.
The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions:
I'm lumping these two together because they were shot at the same time, and all comments about image apply to both. These are more of what I expect from an HD transfer. These films have excellent color reproduction and very high levels of detail. In fact, they're so good that it's easy to spot all the flaws in the filmmaking (which, to be fair, the Wachowski's didn't try very hard to hide). The CGI looks intensely fake, although that's not a fault of the transfer. These are very impressive transfers, on par with many of the best HD DVDs available today. 5 Stars.
The audio is where these discs really shine. All three feature lossless Dolby True HD 5.1 tracks, and these films are perfectly suited for such treatment. The Matrix films are first and foremost action movies, and sound is the most important part of selling action. These True HD tracks are stunning. Channel separation, sound detail, range, and activity are all fantastic. You feel truly enveloped while listening to all three. If these discs aren't the absolute best looking HD DVDs, they certainly are the best sounding. 5 Stars
Here we go, folks. The big difference between the two Matrix sets is the level of extras available. If you're just interested in the movies, everything I've written above this paragraph applies, and should tell you enough to know whether or not to buy that particular set. For ease of navigation, I will list all of the special features available on The Ultimate Matrix Collection by disc and side. Each disc in the set (five in all) is double sided, with side one of discs 1-3 being an HD DVD with the movie and some supplements, and side two being the remainder of the supplemental material. Discs 4 and 5 are double-sided DVDs. None of the extras are in HD. For those interested in The Complete Matrix Trilogy, read the extras available on side 1 of discs 1-3 and ignore the rest. For those interested in The Ultimate Matrix Collection, skip nothing. Onwards!
In-Movie Experience: By now, the In-Movie Experience has become a welcome standard for popular new releases on HD DVD. In some ways, the IME's on The Matrix are the most accomplished yet. Constant commentary by virtually every member of the cast and crew makes this endlessly engaging. The IME intercuts the comments with on the set footage of the scene in question. Annoyingly, all of the clips in the IME are taken from pre-existing supplemental footage. Considering how often and how in depth everyone involved with the series has discussed every aspect of every film, I can understand their unwillingness to record yet another commentary. Still, it bugs me to see something in the IME and then see the exact same thing in a subsequent extra.
Written Introduction by The Wachowski Bros.: A slightly pretentious but also humorous and insightful justification for the contrasting philosophers/critics commentaries. Worth a quick read.
Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: The first of the "philosophers commentaries," this is one of the most unintentionally funny tracks I've ever heard. The purpose of putting these guys on was ostensibly to discuss the layers of meaning that the Wachowskis have woven into The Matrix. Instead, we get two guys acting like frat boys at a party, hooting and hollering at the action. The rest of the time, they're name-dropping more philosopher's names than you could find in a college course, while constantly interrupting themselves to whoop it up whenever action erupts on the screen. I could see myself listening to this over and over.
Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson: The first of three "critics commentaries," this track has the biggest sense of tension. The tension comes from the critics themselves, who are torn between praising the movie while also wanting to tear it down. They acknowledge that the Wachowskis are talented craftsmen, but often deride the dialogue. In the end, the commentary is far more positive than negative, and it's pretty clear the three are holding back their vitriol for the sequels.
Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg, and John Gaeta: As I mentioned earlier, The Matrix helped the DVD format succeed. Thus, it's one of the first DVDs, and this commentary comes from that original release. Back then, many commentaries were dry and mostly described technical details, and this is one of those. Carrie-Anne Moss spices things up a little, but her comments in the other extras are more illuminating than those found here.
Composer Don Davis with Music-Only Track: The critics on their commentary point out that the symphonic score for The Matrix is rather pedestrian, and for the most part they're right. So, as you can imagine, this music-only track with commentary by the composer is the weakest of the bunch.
Behind The Matrix: The original set of extra features, these 7 featurettes, adding up to about 40 minutes of material, seem woefully inadequate in the wake of all the behind-the-scenes footage unearthed in anticipation of the sequels. It also doesn't help that many of the featurettes have been integrated into the IME.
The Music Revisited: An oppressively large collection of music tracks from the movie. Not to be confused with the music-only track, as this is all pre-existing music.
"Rock Is Dead" Marilyn Manson Music Video: A generic music video with scenes from the movie intercut throughout.
Trailers and TV Spots.
Follow The White Rabbit: On the original DVD, there was a feature where, whenever a white rabbit appeared on the bottom right of the screen, you could click it to see behind the scenes footage of the scene in question. Once the clip ended, you were brought right back to the moment where you left the film. It was considered revolutionary for the time, and is a predecessor of the IME that appears on these discs. Now the clips are relegated to Side B, where you can play them all in order, or choose which one you want to see.
Take The Red Pill: There are two featurettes here. The first is a concise but extremely informative seminar on the tech behind Bullet Time. The second is an annoying montage of special effects sequences from the film in various stages of completion, set to a techno song.
The Matrix Revisited: A feature-length documentary shot on the set of the sequels, this is a look back at the first film from the perspective of everyone involved. A good portion of the IME was taken from here, making portions of this superfluous, but at the same time, there are still a good many interviews that are unique and not repeated. This is probably the easiest way to get a strong overview of the making of The Matrix, as this never bothers with promotional fluff, always getting to the heart of each aspect of the film.
The Matrix Reloaded:
In-Movie Experience: Even more in-depth than the IME for the first film, the IME for Reloaded focuses most heavily on Carrie-Anne Moss on Laurence Fishburne, with notable comments by Keanu Reeves, Joel Silver, and Jada Pinkett-Smith. The biggest omission are the Wachowskis themselves, who have publicly stated their distaste with discussing the series, lest they offer up an interpretation that is considered "final" and people stop thinking about them. Reloaded's critical reception probably helped push them towards complete silence.
Enter The Matrix - The Game: A half-hour look at the making of the video game Enter The Matrix, which was released at the same time as Reloaded. The game follows Niobe and her first mate Ghost through the their part in the Reloaded story. If the movie is the story of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus, then the game is what happens to Niobe and Ghost at the same time. The documentary is somewhat overshadowed by the fact that the game was absolutely wretched, and the extra footage added nothing to the story.
Enter The Matrix: Luckily, someone at Warner must have known that playing through the game was sheer torture, so they have included all of the original footage shot for the game in one handy dandy supplement. This is like the ultimate deleted scenes montage.
Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: Unlike the high spirited comedy of their last commentary, this go around is a lot more sober and far less interesting. They both theorize about all sorts of wild things, almost as if they're trying to cover up the lesser quality of the movie by piling on as many layers as possible.
Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson: By contrast, these guys have a lot more to say, and are more than ready to point out the film's numerous flaws. There's almost a sense of giddiness as they pinpoint everything the Wachowskis did wrong, especially the orgy scene (which is described as "An urban beer commercial that shows that white people are down with black people"). Still, they are more than willing to discuss the merits of the picture as it stands, and when it does something right, they acknowledge it.
Behind The Matrix: A collection of four featurettes that feels far more like generic fluff due to the fact that less of it is about the making of the movie and more about how amazing the movies are and how brilliant the Wachowski Bros. are. There's even a featurette about the freakin' orgy sequence, the sequence that I think everyone on earth would like to forget. And again, the whole cast and crew are just gushing about how great it is. The praise is more justified when in reference to the fight scenes. Things get more interesting in the last featurette, featuring a look at all the advertising for ancillary products such as Powerade and such, many of which were genuinely humorous or interesting.
The MTV Movie Awards Reloaded: An intermittently funny lampoon of The Matrix Reloaded, mixing clips of the actual film with comedy skits starring Seann William Scott, Justin Timberlake, Andy Dick, Wanda Sykes, and Will Ferrell. The Ferrell portion is still hilarious.
P.O.D. Music Video: Lame band. Lame video.
Trailers and TV Spots.
I'll Handle Them: A detailed look at the major fight in the Merovingian's hall. This is more from the perspective of the people behind the scenes rather than the big stars. One of the best supplements in the whole set.
Car Chase: Another grade A supplement, this one about the freeway sequence, my favorite in the entire trilogy. While this one does feature more interviews with many of the big names (Joel Silver, Carrie-Anne Moss, etc.), it's such an in-depth look that it easily sets itself apart from the behind the scenes features on the other side of the disc, for example. This piece looks at everything from the construction of the script to the stunt drivers to on the set footage and the effects added in post. You get behind the scenes footage, storyboard comparisons, the works. In all, there is just shy of an hour and half of material on the car chase alone. This one gets my vote as maybe one of the best extra features available on home video.
Unplugged: The Burly Brawl gets similar treatment, this time with forty minutes of footage. This one suffers from the fact that The Burly Brawl is one of the least interesting fights in the series due to its poor editing and over-reliance on fake looking CGI. There's a whole sequence on Keanu's stunt double, but it feels superfluous because we see him so often during the fight in the actual film.
Teahouse Fight: A far less in-depth look at the fight between Neo and Seraph in the Chinese teahouse. In the films, this fight is an early example of "action for action's sake," where the fight has no narrative use. Despite that, it wasn't a bad fight and it's neat to watch them make it. The best is an interview with Yuen Wo Ping, the master fight choreographer, discussing how he had to create the fight specifically with Keanu in mind, because the actor who played Seraph was so much more skilled that if Ping had designed the fight for him, Keanu would not have been able to do it.
The Exiles: The Merovingian and his cohorts and lackeys get the microscope treatment here. Many of the clips here appeared in the IME. Worth the price of admission alone for the section on Persephone, played by the ever enchanting Monica Bellucci.
The Matrix Revolutions:
In-Movie Experience: Considering that Revolutions was the most disappointing entry, and got the worst reception, this IME can't help but be disappointing as well. The last two films were shot at the same time, so the IME is taken from footage shot before Reloaded even came out. The upshot of this is that we get a lot of production stories, a lot of interviews saying how much they like the movie, how great it will be, etc. As with the other two, all the clips and interviews are taken from features available elsewhere on the disc. Of all the movies, this one deserved new interviews the most.
Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: Well, if I thought these guys were going nuts for Reloaded, it's nothing compared to how they react to Revolutions. The way these guys talk about it, you'd think this was the single greatest contribution to world culture since Shakespeare. It gets boring to hear them discuss the piece at length without any kind of critical view of the film itself. And I understand that they could very well have liked the movies (especially West, who appears in them), but the excessive praise wears thin.
Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson: On the other hand, too much criticism can be just as bad. But I personally think that Revolutions deserves a healthy amount of criticism, so this commentary feels far more listenable to my ears. Actually, the three critic commentaries are perhaps the best overview of the series available in the set. They react the way the audience does, with adulation for the first, reservations on the second, and derision for the third. Of course, not every comment on this one is negative (they actually rather enjoy the sequence in the train station, which I personally found to be filler), but I think the critics do a good job of voicing the thoughts that a majority of the audience has had since the release of the sequels.
Behind The Matrix: Again, these interviews were all shot before the release of either of the sequels, which again leads to people talking about the movie like it's going to change the world forever. When they're not talking about how The Matrix Revolutions will be the next Star Wars, they talk about how much work and money went in to some of the bigger sequences. All that does was remind me that throwing money at a problem more often than not is not as good of a solution as finding a more inventive path.
Trailers and TV Spots.
Before the Revolution: A fairly useless (in the context of this set) collection of text summaries of the events leading up to this film, going all the way back to the beginning of the machine war. All of this information can be found by watching the movies and The Animatrix.
3-D Evolution: A collection of conceptual designs, set photos, and storyboards.
Crew: A set of featurettes that focus on various departments that worked on the film. This is very much about the guys behind the scenes in all their aspects, and it's interesting, but doesn't generate the level of interest as, say, the "I'll Take Them" extra from the Reloaded disc that took a similar method of approach.
Hel: A look at the Club Hel sequences (Merovingian's outlandish S&M club). The more crazy stuff you see in these movies, the more you forget how hard it is for the filmmakers to achieve the effects they do. This piece, which shows how they got actors to jump to the ceiling and stick in real time, reminds us of just how much went into every shot.
Siege: The obligatory peek into the making of the robots attack on the Dock. Considering this is the worst extended sequence in the trilogy, the making-of is not at all interesting to watch.
Super Burly Brawl: Take a guess as to what this is about. That's right, it's the disappointing final fight between Neo and Smith. As seems to be the trend on this side of the disc, it's not about interviews with the stars, but the stunt doubles and coordinators and set dressers and so on. Of course, since the scene is about a fight between two people, Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving do show up, but they don't get as much time as they did in the IME, for example.
New Blue World: A mish-mash of different featurettes, starting with a piece about Zion. From there, they go to the sewer system in which the ships and sentinels roam. Then pieces specifically about the ships themselves, then the people who make the digital graphics we see on the TV screens in the films. We conclude with a piece about the Neo/Bane fight. All of this takes less than half an hour, with no particular subject getting much attention.
Aftermath: I was hoping that a set called "Aftermath" might deal with the critical reception afforded to the two sequels, but alas, it's simply about all the various post-production tasks that have to get done, such as scoring and visual effects.
The Matrix Databank Disc 1:
Side A, The Animatrix:
The Animatrix was a project the Wachowskis conceived of where several of their favorite anime directors would make Matrix-related shorts that would either tie in to the movies or would broaden the world in which they take place. Nine were commissioned, and they're all presented here, but none of them are in HD, which I consider a major failing of this set, as many fans think more highly of The Animatrix than they do of Reloaded or Revolutions.
The Final Flight of the Osiris: Directed by Andy Jones, "The Final Flight of the Osiris" is a direct prequel to Reloaded. It's done in high quality CGI (think Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, but even better) and as such feels closer to the movies than any of the other shorts. This sense of communion with the films is supported by the lack of stylization normally found in anime. If the project didn't call for animation, this short could have been done in live action with almost no changes, although the CGI allows for some pretty nifty acrobatics while in the Matrix.
The Second Renaissance, Parts I and II: I remember waiting impatiently for these shorts to be posted on The Matrix website. I liked the historical perspective the short gave, as well as the negative light it gave to the human race, who at this point had been seen only as hapless victims. This piece gave the entire Matrix universe a more political context, with race riots and images from famous world events, redone with robots. Director Mahiro Maeda also elicited a sense of nostalgia by using several 70's animation styles, with static backgrounds and archaic face animations. At the same time, it uses CGI-assisted animation techniques to give a sense that this is the future. This blending of new and old gives a palpable tension to the images that parallels the tension in the content. Of all the Animatrix shorts, this one gives us the most information that deepens our experience of viewing the films. Director's commentary is available for both shorts.
Kid's Story: Remember Mouse, that really annoying kid who has a single important scene in Revolutions that does not justify all the time spent on him? Well, now we have even more time wasted on him in this boring piece. Skip this one.
Program: In this Crouching Tiger-esque piece, two rebels discuss the possibility (and impossibility) of returning to the Matrix after being told the truth. The ending is a bit of a letdown, and I would have liked it more with a few more twists, but the animation is solid and stylish. Director's commentary is available on this one.
World Record: I thought this was the work of Peter Chung (who did direct "Matriculated"), but it's actually from director Takeshi Koike. It's about a world record-holding runner who has been caught taking steroids, and is now trying to show the world he can break his own record clean. The strain of attempting this temporarily wakes him up from The Matrix, although it doesn't do him much good...or does it? Also offers a director's commentary.
Beyond: I guess it's too much for me to ask for this to be an homage to From Beyond, but when the director worked on the world famous Akira, there's little to complain about. This is the most Japanese of all the segments, with typical modern character animations and the sounds of cicadas filling the air (think of the soundtrack to Neon Genesis Evangelion during the quiet outdoor scenes and you'll know exactly what sound I'm talking about). A girl named Yoko loses her cat and decides to look for her in the local haunted house, a house that has rain even when it's sunny out. It's a creepy place, but we all know it's not ghosts that cause the strange disturbances, it's a glitch in the Matrix.
A Detective Story: A film noir homage, this piece by Shinichiro Watanabe (creator of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo) is a fascinating take on the Matrix world. It plays out like a real mystery. There's also a fantastic melding of 1940's technology with futuristic devices, such as using a rotary dialer for a video phone, or a typewriter set of keys for a computer keyboard. The short also features Watanabe's now famous use of jazz. This has all the vitality and freshness I've come to expect from Watanabe, and probably succeeds because it's the least like anything else in the Matrix universe.
Matriculated: Peter Chung is the director most known to American audiences, having directed Aeon Flux, Reign: The Conqueror, and Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury. He's also the director with the most distinctive style which makes all of his character instantly recognizable. He takes to the Matrix universe like a duck to water, creating machines and environments that put the Wachowskis to shame. Even more than he did with Dark Fury, Chung subverts the source material to his own dark and brilliant ends. He plays with ideas of reality and virtual reality that are far more complex than any other depiction of the Matrix. Out of all of the shorts, this one is by far the best, because it takes the possibilities inherent in the world the Wachowskis have created and uses them to create something far more interesting and creative. I would actually go so far as to say that "Matriculated" is the single best piece of content in the entire set, better than the original Matrix and it's criminal that it hasn't been offered in high definition.
Scrolls to Screen - The History and Culture of Anime: This feature discusses why anime was such a perfect fit for the Wachowskis' vision. Interviews with the directors of the various Animatrix shorts discuss why they were drawn to the project. Joel Silver also gives an overview of how the project came to be.
Creators: Text biographies of the directors and segment producers of the shorts.
Execution: Quick peeks at the making of each segment, with development drawings, interviews, and more.
Return to the Source - Philosophy and the Matrix: The documentary version of the commentaries we got, this one includes many more people. This is made with the average viewer in mind, so unlike the commentaries, people actually introduce concepts instead of just naming people or theories. Of course, that also means things are far more simplified than in the commentaries, and the documentary branches out into other things like cyberpunk and comic books, but overall, they do dig into some good stuff.
The Hard Problem - The Science Behind The Fiction: A big problem with many sci-fi films, especially Hollywood films, is that the "science" is really more fiction than science. A few films, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, worked to make the science be as believable and accurate as possible. This piece does not examine the actual science in The Matrix, but more of the possibility that the science in the films could actually come to pass. One of the most interesting discussions in it is about how video games are training grounds for humans to interact with advanced A.I. They also discuss the nature of reality, with some of them saying it's possible for us to already be in a Matrix-like construct, but if we are, and we can't prove it one way or the other, does it even matter?
DVD-ROM Content: Put the disc in your computer and get access to even more Matrix content on the web (if that still works).
The Matrix Databank, Disc 2:
The Burly Man Chronicles: A feature-length documentary on the entire production process for both sequels. It starts 265 days before production and ends with post. Not only is this documentary over an hour and a half, but it's also got the "Follow the White Rabbit" feature imbedded in it, which makes it even longer! simply put, if it hasn't been introduced in any of the other discs, this is where you're going to find the information about how they put together a specific part of the sequels.
Follow The White Rabbit: If you don't want to interrupt the Burly Man Chronicles by clicking on all of the white rabbits, you can see them through this index, thankfully.
The Zion Archive: A dauntingly massive collectiion of storyboards, conceptual drawings, production photos, and more. If it's been on paper, it's in here.
The Media of the Matrix: Trailers, TV spots, and music videos for all three movies. It appears to me as if a lot of this, if not all of it, appears on Side A of discs 1-3. In fact, I think the movie discs actually have more trailers than are presented here.
Rave Reel: A seemingly random assortment of in-process special effects shots, set to the choir music from the end of Revolutions.
The Matrix Online Preview: The Matrix seemed like the perfect property for an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game), but like so many MMOs, it pretty much fell prey to the 800-pound gorilla known as World of Warcraft. It was taken over by Sony, who still runs it, and it's recently been updated, but it's not one of the top MMOs. This feature looks at the game back when it started, which by now is not necessarily what the game is like at all. Still, it was a good idea.
Wow. That sure is a whole lot of Matrix. For most people, the big draw here is going to be the three movies in HD. And they do look good, and sound better. However, the set isn't without problems. The movies feature the HD exclusive In-Movie Experience, which is great, but it's comprised of footage from pre-existing supplements, all of which are included in this set, and that's not so great. To make matters worse, The Animatrix, easily the most intriguing and interesting Matrix project outside of the first film is not in high definition, which is a serious oversight on Warner's part. Furthermore, it's hard to think of this set as "ultimate" when it has no reflections on the sequels by the cast and crew. Also, despite the overwhelming amount of bonus material on display here, I think most people would prefer The Complete Matrix Trilogy, which is cheaper and not so intimidating. But for those who demand every last scrap of information about The Matrix, The Ultimate Matrix Collection is the only way to go. And those movies do look good. Highly Recommended.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.