You always hear about films like Halloween and Evil Dead being the release queens of the industry, but what about The Matrix Trilogy? There were separate releases for each film, and the Animatrix tie-in. EventuallyThe Ultimate Matrix Collection appears on DVD with a remastered version of the first film, so of course that was hard to pass up! And if you really liked to spend money, it was also available in a hard plastic shell which housed a bust of Neo. Are you done bleeding green? Of course not! The high definition format war blew into town, and The Ultimate Matrix Collection was released on HD-DVD with two separate sets you could choose from. Now, HD-DVD is dead and gone, so naturally, we have The Ultimate Matrix Collection available on Blu-ray for the first time. I do mean first time, because you know you'll see another release of these eventually, I'm sure.
The first film in the series was considered by many, to be one of the best and imaginative sci-fi/action films ever. The film had just about everything going for it. A great story, lots of action, amazing special effects, mystery, intrigue, and perhaps to the point of being an understatement, depth. The second and third movies were filmed together, and it's with these installments that fans began to bicker feverishly amongst themselves. Complaints ranged from saying the films were confusing, or flat out bloated in presentation. It's not my time to agree or disagree with these claims. I'll get to that in the individual film reviews.
What can't be disputed is how successful the entire franchise has been. The first film alone earned $171 million in the United States, and was the first DVD to sell 3 million copies. The second film earned $114 million just during its 3 day opening weekend! The third did pretty well for itself, too. Of course, everyone wanted to know what would happen, so they went to the second and third films in droves. The reactions were very mixed after everything was all said and done.
So, the question at hand becomes, how do you feel about the trilogy overall? There's a lot to take into consideration here, between deciding if you like the series enough to buy them, if you've bought them already, or perhaps maybe you're looking for something to show off your home theater. I'll go over what's featured in this set, and hopefully the breakdown can help you make up your mind.
Every day you get up and follow the same routine. You take a shower, throw on some clothes, have a little something to eat, brush your teeth, and then you go to work. You're debatably happy living 'in the system', ensuring you have a roof over your head, money to spend, and food to eat. Life just doesn't get much better than having all the comforts you need to survive, and even entertain at times. Despite certain days being a real treat, and others that make you feel sick of it all, the world always feels like it's a little cocoon that's making sure you're being treated pretty well. What if you were to learn otherwise?
Computer hacker Neo has unknowingly burrowed his head into the rabbit hole of truth, and is approached by other infamous computer hackers, Trinity and Morpheus. They promise Neo the truth about the world, but at the price of freedom, with no option of ever turning back. What they don't tell him, is that his role in everything he's about to learn is far more important than they're letting on.
What Neo learns has him reeling. Everything he's ever known has been a lie. The world he's known and loved was nothing more than a computer simulation, run by a vast army of machines that have taken over the world long before his time. The so called 'truth' he was offered, was finding out the human race was nothing more than a supply of batteries to keep the machines running indefinitely. He's been unplugged and 'rescued', if you can call it that, and his new life begins as a rebel, just like many that are doing their best to hide from the machines until they can figure something out.
Neo can enter the Matrix at any time, but as a wanderer from outside the system, special Agents that don't play by the rules of the digital world will always find him, and try to kill him. These Agents are led by a Mr. Smith, and they can do whatever they want. They can move fast, they have great strength, and can take over the body of anyone who's currently 'living' inside of the Matrix. This makes avoiding them impossible, and fighting them a fatal mistake. If only the humans were also able to live outside the rules of the Matrix, they could have a fighting chance.
That's where Neo comes in, and that's why they chose to bring him back to the real world and open his eyes. There's a prophecy that predicted Morpheus would find 'The One', a person who could enter the Matrix and treat it like their personal playground. 'The One' would be able to put an end to the oppression of the cozy prison the machines have created for the human race, without fear of falling to the machines. The human race could be freed.
It was an incredibly inventive idea when it first came out. Hippies and stoners were usually the ones that would question if our reality was, well, real, but The Matrix really took that idea and made it into something that was intriguing. The idea itself was interesting enough, but mixing it with the idea that it was technology that was creating our universe for us was a fantastic touch. I'm sure some of us have asked if we were a part of someone else's dream, but saying we're all here because we're plugged into a computer program? Don't lie, you know you've thought about the possibility after seeing The Matrix! Does it sound absolutely ridiculous? Absolutely! But did you entertain the idea because of how cool it sounded? I'll place a wager that the answer is a big fat yes!
This film took audiences by storm, and it's easy to see why. It was a fantastical idea wrapped in a gripping story that was loaded with action. It had a pretty fantastic cast, too. I know, I know. Keanu Reeves has one of the worst spoken lines in cinematic history: "I know kung-fu!" It was terrible. What can I say though? He wasn't bad as Neo by any means. I couldn't picture anyone else as Neo either. Keanu has the cool and calm persona to give a certain edge to a 'would be' super-hero. It would be a lie to say the rest of the cast wasn't quite a bit better however. Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, all delivers a performance that does the story and characters justice. The one who stole the show for me though, as I'm sure for many of you, was Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith. He was cool, calm, collected, yet sinister in a way that normally could only exist in a comic book.
If you haven't even seen the first film yet, it's an absolute must. It's pretty clear that when the Wachowskis were given the opportunity to make this film, they wanted to bring the rest of the story to the screen. The film left us off with a satisfying ending, but it was clear that there was so much more to explore. It was up to the box office numbers if we were going to see the continuation of the story.
The Matrix was a groundbreaker and a box office smash, and the rest is history. This movie is 138 minutes in length, and is possibly the only film by the Wachowskis that wasn't accused of being a bloated, self indulged effort. If only the later entries in the Matrix universe could mimic how The Matrix was able to spin a web of intricate storytelling, without feeling stretched out too long or feeling too scrunched, they could have had one of the best trilogies ever made.
This film is in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and encoded using VC-1. The Matrix had a lot of grain in it. That's something I specifically remember seeing in the theater almost a decade ago. That look hasn't been scrubbed away with DNR or edge enhancement. The grain is intact, but otherwise, this is an amazing looking transfer.
The image is sharp, black levels are excellent, and the contrast is stunning. The color scheme that's used on this release is the revised version that made the hue look more like what we see in the later two films. In my opinion, it makes this film look quite a bit better, and not as dreary.
You'd be hard pressed to find any flaws in this transfer at all. This definitely has 'top tier' written all over it.
To be covered with the audio break-down of the other two movies.
What you'll first notice when diving into the entire set is that everything is in slim-cases. The Matrix slim-case houses two discs. One is for the movie and special features, and the other is for a digital copy of the film.
In-Movie Experience - Much like the similar features I saw like this with The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up on Blu-ray, this is a nice little pop-up feature that runs while you're watching the film. Like those other films I've seen on Blu-ray for review, it's basically a highlight reel for the rest of the bonus content that you can watch in full. If you're not one for sitting down and watching hours of special features, you'll probably find the In-Movie Experience to be very beneficial, probably even more so if you can't stand to listen to commentaries. All the relevant information is presented in an entertaining way, and there's actually stuff for you to watch, as opposed to listening to people just chat for over two hours.
Written Introduction by the Wachowki Brothers - This is a somewhat lengthy read for just an introduction, but the Wachowskis make this introduction feel about as bloated as some of their films. There's a lot of reading just to hear why they don't like to talk about their own work that much. Some of what they say seems a bit snippy for some humorous effect, but I'm not really cool with reading stuff in that kind of tone when I'm basically being told 'we won't discuss our work'. The Matrix is intricate, and the later films can even be pretty complicated. With so much of their thought process on screen, there should be more explanation from them.
Thankfully, there are four commentaries that are provided. Yes, four!
Philosophers: Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur - Although the Wachowskis aren't laying down any dialogue to explain their work, these guys know how to deliver on a commentary. It's loaded with tons of information that details everything The Matrix hints at, from religion to mythology. If you listen to only one commentary track, this is going to be the most engaging by far. The Matrix can make you question an entire world of ideas, so it's only suitable that we have some guys who can take many of these ideas presented on film, and give them some better context.
Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson - I think I was able to talk about The Matrix without trying to judge it based on the other two films, which needless to say, got very mixed reviews. These critics do their best at trying to hold back their tears (not literally) while thinking about what happened to the other films which they hated, but they do say a lot of good things about this particular film. There's some dead space for three guys being on a commentary track, and you know, I don't think it's really that interesting to hear what critics have to say about these films anyway. I know I'm kind of double talking here since I'm a reviewer, but I never tend to trust the opinions of professional critics. There are some very good ones out there, and I'm not familiar with the work of these particular critics, but they tend to suck all the fun out of a movie when they watch it, don't they? They don't really convey that sense of entitlement to perfection and nothing but, it's just not very interesting overall.
Cast/Crew: Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta - It's a wonder why they didn't include Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, or even Joe Pantoliano. I think they probably could have spiced things up a bit more, because this track is fairly dry, and not informative enough to be worth the listen.
Composer: Don Davis with Music-Only Track - I never found the score to The Matrix to be classic in any way. It complemented the film well enough, but I wouldn't justify listening to a full commentary track with it. It's nice that it's included, but I can't really give it kudos for anything much more than that.
Feature-Length Documentary The Matrix Revisited - This is an incredibly useful feature. You're going to see a bit of this on the In-Movie Experience feature, but a lot of this material is going to be pretty fresh. After all, it is feature length! There's a lot of great information covered, thanks to tons of interviews with a bunch of the people that were involved with making The Matrix. Thanks to the Wachowskis being silent on their own work, I highly recommend watching this feature, even over the four commentaries. When one documentary can cover the real things you want to know over a commentary, you know it's going to be worth it.
Behind the Matrix, Take The Red Pill, Follow the White Rabbit - There are a bunch of mini featurettes inside each of these three extras, but they're not really that informative. The Matrix Revisited seemed to pretty much nail everything we really wanted to know about the making of this film. These are all really nice featurettes, and they can sometimes offer some video footage that wasn't really a big part of The Matrix Revisited, such as some behind the scenes bullet-time work. Overall though, there's not too much here that's going to make you feel as if it were worth the time if you've already seen the rest of the content that's been discussed.
The Music Revisited - 41 Track Audio Selection of Nearly 3 Hours of Music - This is pretty self explanatory. We have a whole mess of tracks here that's all music from the film. Again, the score isn't something I would really say was classic or memorable, but it's nice this was included.
Also included is Marilyn Manson's Rock Is Dead music video, as well as the theatrical trailer and TV spots.
The Matrix Reloaded
The first film was all about Neo being taken out of his element, and spending a majority of the film finding himself so he could truly see if he was 'The One'. Now that we, as well as the machines, know that Neo is more or a less a super-hero to be reckoned with, the ante needed to be upped.
And upped the ante has been. The Matrix focused mainly on what happened inside of the Matrix. We got glimpses into how the 'real world' was left in ruin by our futile attempts to destroy the machines, but The Matrix Reloaded takes that zoomed-in focus and pans it out. We get intimate with the last city left in the real world, Zion. It's buried deep underground and resides near the earth's core. There's no sunlight anymore, so it's the only place the humans could hide that provided any warmth.
Zion mimics any society that has to deal with religion or faith. Morpheus has spread the word that the only way to victory is by finding 'The One', and Morpheus believes he has done so by finding Neo. There are some people that believe him, but there are many others that believe military force is the only way to stand against the machines. Skepticism is especially high at this time. Because the humans have been more successful at freeing members of their race from the machines than ever, the machines have taken notice and are now drilling their way to Zion.
Neo has become much more comfortable with his powers inside of the Matrix since the first film. After defeating Agent Smith, he's been able to sweep Agents under the rug like they were nothing. With the Matrix being invaded by someone who's now unplugged from the system, it seems the typical rules that apply inside of the digital world are also changing to make things more difficult, even for Neo. Smith is no longer an Agent, and is able to multiply himself as many times as he so wishes. Neo having to fly away from his first major encounter with Smith since their last battle knows that the road to victory isn't going to be easy, even with the powers he's learned to tame. If that wasn't bad enough, it seems the Agents of the system are receiving upgrades themselves.
Throughout the course of the film, a number of revelations are set up like bowling pins. This film is going to annihilate some of what we've known by expanding the plot into an idea far more intricate than we could have imagined, while the rest of the pins are left in the balance until the third movie.
This is a very good follow-up to The Matrix. It continued to offer incredible depth to the already intricate storyline that was laid out, and it did a fantastic job at offering action sequences that blew a lot of what we saw in the first film out of the water. However, it's the increasingly epic scope that actually made this film feel not as tight as the original.
So many questions of 'why' and 'how' are raised throughout this film. The Wachowskis love to make the audience see verbal showdowns between good and evil, and I can appreciate that. It's a quality we don't see in film all too often anymore. It can be a great tension builder, but when Neo meets 'The Architect', it seems to go way over the heads of the audience. You can basically get what's being said, sure, but I knew a lot of people that were still a little confused about what was going on after the movie was over. It was almost as if the Wachowskis knew they were running out of time, so they had to throw a lot of the confusing aspects of their plot together in one mess of a scene.
The Wachowskis started to receive complaints of making a bloated movie with The Matrix Reloaded, but certainly not to the degree that the third film received. I think it's actually quite the opposite though. It seems that instead of stretching out a simple idea to fill more time, they had too much content and not enough time to make it all work. There were certain scenes in this film that felt a little unnecessary, so the real culprit in this film was the lack of good editing. It bogged down the pacing at times. Yet the Wachowskis are never available to discuss their work, so of course we can never really get a straight answer out of them as to why they wouldn't compromise any of their vision to make a better film.
Overall, The Matrix Reloaded still ends up being a lot better than most sequels. Despite some of the issues with pacing as well as being confusing at times, the action and story were stepped up and more than made up for the negative things this film brought to the table.
To be discussed with the video break-down after the next film.
To be discussed with the audio break-down after the next film.
In-Movie Experience - There was a lot more behind the scenes coverage for both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, so there's plenty of additional information that really complements this picture in picture feature quite well. This is a much better presentation overall than what was available for the first Matrix In-Movie Experience.
Philosophers: Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber - The first time these guys appeared on a commentary track, they really had a lot of interesting things to say about The Matrix. There's so much that's being unloaded in The Matrix Reloaded though, so they're all over the place with their thoughts this time. It's still an interesting listen that's going to offer many thing you may not have made a connection with before, but it's definitely not as fun as the last go round.
Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson - The critics are able to finally unleash a horde of hatred upon The Matrix Reloaded. The entire commentary track isn't completely negative, but it's clear they really enjoy tearing this apart whenever possible. Critics in generally seemed to dislike this movie for the most part, but I don't think it's as bad as some critics make it out to be. If you want to hear about how a critic can look at way too many things to make an entertaining film seem like a pile of crap, then listen to this. However, I once again have to say I could care less what critics have to say about movies. The sad thing is, this is actually a better listen this time than the track with Dr. West and Mr. Wilber.
Behind the Matrix Documentary Gallery - This is a culmination of four featurettes, and unfortunately, they're not as informative as the Behind the Matrix features available with the first film. They take great pride in glossing over everything that was supposed to make this film an amazing achievement. If there's anything I could take away from watching these, it's that the Wachowskis built up quite an ego after the first film, and infected everyone involved with their glee. Again, I'm a fan of this film as well as the first, but not to the extent where I'd say it's a masterpiece, because it's not. So when you're checking these featurettes out, make sure you take it all in with a pretty large grain of salt.
Enter the Matrix: The Game Documentary/Enter the Matrix: View 23 Live-Action Scenes Shot for the Video Game That Plug into the Action of The Matrix Reloaded - I completely understand that they're trying to give us a virtual treasure chest of special features for an ultimate Blu-ray boxed set, but do we really need a documentary on a video game? The game isn't even included in this set, and it's not as if it's a new product in the gaming world, so why bother? The live action scenes that were filmed for the game are here though, and these are actually worth the time. They piece together some additional story elements for the secondary characters, such as the one Jada Pinkett Smith played. If you're interested in seeing some additional story that is interesting but not really necessary, I recommend you check them out.
Car Chase Documentary Gallery - There are nine featurettes that tell the entire behind the scenes story of debatably the best action/chase scene in any of the Matrix films. I remember when I had first seen it in theaters; I had my jaw left open for minutes on end. These nine featurettes together are extremely informative and fairly engrossing. This is by far the best supplement this disc has to offer.
Teahouse Fight Documentary Gallery - Two featurettes show us how the martial arts fight was crafted into the final product we saw in the film. It's not really a fantastic behind the scenes look, especially after seeing how the car chase scene was done, but it was still pretty interesting to see how the martial arts were done.
Unplugged Documentary Gallery - I thought this fight scene in the film was pretty amazing. The five featurettes here are pretty in depth, but don't really offer a lot of information I couldn't have figured out just by guessing. It's a nice inclusion though for some who aren't too familiar with how certain effects are done for film.
I'll Handle Them Documentary Gallery - Four featurettes this time, and it shows us an in depth behind the scenes look of the fight that took place after the Keymaker was set free. Since there was so much more involved in making sure the entire scene flowed with so many actors involved fighting at once, this is a significant improvement over the Teahouse Fight Documentary.
The Exiles Documentary Gallery - The two featurettes here are all about the Merovingian and those that pal around with him. Although these don't have much to do with a behind the scenes look at some of the action scenes, it's actually pretty interesting.
Also included is a P.O.D. Sleeping Awake music video, as well as the theatrical trailers and TV spots.
The Matrix Revolutions
This was filmed back to back with The Matrix Reloaded, and it's pretty clear that this is supposed to pick up right where the last film left off. I won't go into any more detail than that so I won't spoil anything for those who haven't had a chance to see the trilogy as of yet.
All the cards have been put on the table in the first two films, and The Matrix Revolutions is about all the final twists that lead up to the ultimate battles between good and evil. Both Zion and the digital world are facing peril. Smith has taken control of the Matrix like a virus, inhabiting every 'living' thing inside. Smith has proven himself to be quite the adversary for Neo, but his quest for revenge doesn't end there. He's found a link to the real world. Neo is going to have to face Smith, and he just might have to do it in both worlds.
Zion is gearing up for the final showdown with the machines. They've been drilling their way to the last city of the human race, and they're practically knocking at the door.
This entire film is knocking down the pins the second film set up. The sub-plots of taking action versus faith continue, as well as the increasing divide in Zion that believes force is the answer versus a messiah. It all boils down to this, and as we've known all along, the Wachowskis meant to end the franchise with a glorious bang. If you're solely looking at great effects, amazing cinematography, and some of the biggest action scenes you've seen in a movie to date, The Matrix Revolutions does its job splendidly.
You might want to kill me for saying this, but I actually appreciated a lot of what this movie had to offer. It was a spectacular feast for the eyes, and it was certainly one hell of a ride. There's imagery I don't think I'll ever get out of my head. So much of what was put on screen really was that good. However, I can't overlook the fact that these are the only aspects of an actual movie this film actually offers.
Over two hours in length, we're watching the ultimate showdown between good and evil. A lot of stand-alone films might extend their length to two and a half hours, or even three, and use the last half hour to bring out the big finale. The Matrix Revolutions is basically an entire movie dedicated to that finale. I've mentioned while reviewing both of the prior films, that fans may have had complaints that were unwarranted about them being too bloated. This film however, earns that criticism in spades. The second movie seemed to feel scrunched. There was too much content with not enough time. I don't want to go on and on about this film and give a lot away, but if I take anything away from watching the final two films together, it's a strong opinion that the Wachowskis should have done a better job at evening out these movies.
Video for Reloaded/Revolutions
These movies were filmed together, so it's only logical that they both look the same in the video department. These films were in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and encoded using VC-1.
These films are easily reference material. The print is clean, detail is high, color reproduction is fantastic, and there aren't any flaws that have been artificially created with edge enhancement or DNR. Each film is sharp, vibrant, has great black levels and a superb contrast. There's really not much more you can ask for in a transfer.
Audio for The Matrix Trilogy
Each film sports a fantastic Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. Every detail in the numerous and layered effects that blow through your speaker system can be heard in startling clarity that you couldn't with a lossy track. The dialogue is crisp and clear. When the action is picking up, every channel completely engulfs you in what's happening on the screen, and there's plenty of bass to complement it. The dynamic range is excellent, too. This track does a great job at producing some nice highs, while really filling any room with a good system without issue. This is the best the entire trilogy has ever sounded. That says a lot too, considering how good the trilogy sounded on DVD already!
Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 English tracks, as well as French 5.1, Spanish 2.0, Italian 5.1, and Portuguese 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.
The Animatrix was released as sort of a multi-promotion home video release. The Wachowski brothers seemed to say it was for giving us more background information about The Matrix, but let's get real here. Both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were hitting theaters that year, and Enter the Matrix was hitting virtually every video game system and PC at the time. Although this was supposed to act as a prequel and some kind of history lesson, it really didn't feel like that to me.
That's not to say that the nine stories that are presented in some stunning Japanese animation aren't decent. It's certainly a good way to kill some time if you have nothing to watch some evening.
I bought The Animatrix when it first hit DVD in 2003. Some of the shorts were pretty amazing, while others fell a bit short of the mark. Watching them again, I feel much the same way I did back in 2003. There's stunning animation to behold in each of the nine shorts, even if the story isn't always compelling.
It's never something I would have recommended as a stand-alone release. I didn't see a whole lot of replay value in this. A few of the shorts are worth watching over and over again, but as an experience as a whole, it felt inconsistent with its delivery. However, I feel much better about The Animatrix being a part of The Ultimate Matrix Collection, because it seems to be better suited as part of a collection, or a supplement, rather than something you're solely going to spend your money on.
The Animatrix is also presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, and is encoded with VC-1. I don't think there's going to be anyone out there that appreciated this release that won't love the fact this is now in full 1080p glory. The is the first time The Animatrix has been given a high definition transfer, and I have to say, I did gain a little more enjoyment in seeing these shorts the way they were intended.
The color reproduction is excellent, as are the black levels and contrast. The image is sharp and clean, and there are only a few instances where some grain can be seen. It doesn't end up looking as impressive as The Matrix Trilogy, but it's a very fine representation of how we should have been seeing The Animatrix all along.
The Animatrix also has a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track. For animated shorts, the sound is very impressive. There's a lot of crispness in clarity, as well as some earth shattering bass when there's some action on the screen. The dynamic range is impressive as well. You'll get a lot of use out of your entire surround sound system. Environmental and sound effects make excellent use of the rears. Color me impressed with how good these looked!
Also included are Dolby Digital 5.1 English tracks, as well as French 5.1, Spanish 2.0, Italian 5.1, and Portuguese 2.0. Subtitles are available in English, French, Dutch, Italian, and Portuguese.
Making-of Featurettes on Each Film - There are a lot of interviews and conceptual art that come together to explain how each of the nine shorts were created. It's a pretty interesting watch, as I personally never grow tired of seeing how much work goes into creating anything that has to do with Japanese animation.
Genre Chronicle Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime - If you were a fan of The Matrix but never really dabbled into the world of anime, this literally acts as a twenty two minute history lesson for the art. Even if you didn't care for anything The Animatrix had to offer, this is worth seeing.
Director Commentaries on The Second Renaissance Parts I & II, Program, and World Record - Each of the four commentaries give a lot of good insight from coming up with the ideas, to getting it put on disc. To see behind the scenes work for animation is one thing, to hear the directors sharing their thought process is even better. It's too bad we didn't get commentaries for each of the nine shorts.
Biographical Profiles of the Directors and Animation Producers - Pretty self explanatory, these are text profiles of the main people who were involved in bringing The Animatrix to life.
The Matrix Experience - 2 Disc Databank
Both discs that make up The Matrix Experience are standard definition DVD's. I guess this makes sense. The Animatrix was an experience that deserved to be seen in HD, why would a bunch of extras get the same treatment? I can't help but feel a little cheated though. Why couldn't they put together all of the bonus content that's available on one dual sided DVD, and one single sided DVD, and put them all on one Blu-ray disc? It's pretty disappointing.
Disc 1 - Side A -
The Burly Man Chronicles - This is a feature length presentation in a production diary format. There's a lot of information that's presented to cover The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and even Enter the Matrix. If you're a fan of production diaries like me, they're worth watching. However, I have to continually question why so much emphasis is being placed on behind the scenes stuff for the video game. With so much information presented about it in this set, why not include the PC version of the game or something?
Follow the White Rabbit - While watching The Burly Man Chronicles, there's an option to view additional material via seamless branching by clicking on a white rabbit icon when it pops up. If you do this, you'll receive some information about the individual craftspeople behind the scenes. If you don't care to do this though, you can stop chasing that rabbit and watch them through this menu.
Disc 1 - Side B -
Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix/The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction - Each of these features are just over an hour in length each, and they complement each other quite well. The first discusses (duh) most of the philosophical aspects that are introduced throughout the trilogy, while the second feature is covered by scientists discussing how they feel about much of the ideas presented in the trilogy. These are pretty interesting, and I know by this point all the special features are incredibly exhausting, but try to check these out if you get the chance.
Disc 2 -
The Zion Archive - This is a pretty expansive showing of concept art, storyboards and drawings. I never really spend too much time looking at such material when I buy a DVD, but The Matrix has a lot of amazing concept art, so I found myself burrowing through everything much more than I normally would have.
The Media of The Matrix - This is simply a collection of music videos, TV spots, and trailers.
Rave Reel - There's a lot of early CGI work here, as well as certain screen tests that were done to green screen. Everything is edited together over some music, and this feature is only about nine minutes in length overall. It's interesting to a certain degree, but continues to make this second disc more like extra throwaway material than anything.
The Matrix Online - A short preview of an online community game based on the franchise. Honestly, this game looks like it would be awful, just awful.
These discs really could have been combined into one single Blu-ray. The fact that Warner decided to cheap out on us and give us a double sided disc, as well as a second DVD, is really lame. There's a lot of good stuff on the first disc, but the second disc just seems to really drive the final nail into the 'this is exhaustive' column.
The cardboard box housing the discs has a nice construction. It's not flimsy at all. The green Matrix screen that's on the front is actually sunken into a window on the front, and the green has sort of a shiny hologram effect to it.
Everything has been put into slim cases. The slim cases for The Matrix and The Matrix Experience holds two discs, one on each side of the case once it's opened up.
Also included is a nice booklet that's twenty two pages long. It basically gives a very nice graphical layout that includes screenshots from the film as well as concept art, while providing an introduction from the Wachowskis, as well as detailing what's available on every disc. It's a great booklet, and is not a hardcover as some may have thought it would have been based on an early specs release for this set. I find this to be very refreshing though. With the box being designed with slim cases to save space, I'm glad they didn't throw a hardcover book in for twenty two pages for the boxed set breakdown. It would have defeated the purpose of saving space.
I guess the biggest thing to mention, is that besides the one DVD that's double sided with The Matrix Experience, this set has made up of one sided discs. This is a huge improvement over the HD-DVD set in my opinion, as I absolutely loathe double sided discs of any kind.
There is no question about it, this is the definitive edition of The Matrix to own. The video and audio for the films as well as The Animatrix are a huge step up from the standard DVD's, and there's a virtual library of features that ring in at about thirty five hours. Not all of it is necessary, that's for sure. But I guess we can't blame them for giving us everything, can we? The only thing I found to be a little bit of a downer with all the extra content, is that it's so exhaustive, that I think many casual movie fans aren't going to watch too much of it.
If you have a Blu-ray player and you're wondering if this is worth the upgrade from the standard DVD's, then the answer is an astounding yes! Despite the three movies being in high definition, this is the first time The Animatrix has been available in high definition as well. If you own the HD-DVD boxed set already, you may think this set wouldn't be worth the money. I understand if you want to wait for it to drop in price, but HD-DVD is gone. There are reasons to appreciate this over the HD-DVD set, such as the single sided discs, as well as the high def presentation of The Animatrix. I highly recommend this release for anyone who has the means to watch Blu-ray discs. It's loaded to the teeth with features and then some, and the films are undeniable reference quality material.