The Ultimate Matrix Collection
Warner Bros.' Ultimate Matrix Collection continues the tradition of excellence set by the first record-breaking DVD release of 1999's original Matrix film. While this superior production level caused many to purchase DVD players for the first time and resulted in one of the highest home-video grosses for a single film, the DVD releases for The Matrix's two sequels were rushed, commercial-filled disappointments. All is forgiven here with this mega-packed ten-disc set that is spilling over with insightful looks into the long production journey of the Matrix trilogy. Those willing see how deep the set's rabbit hole goes will find over 35 hours of featurettes, production drawings, interviews, and philosophical discussions of what the Matrix really means. Each of the three films is presented in a gorgeous 2.35:1 widescreen edition. While each film features outstanding picture quality, the original Matrix shines the brightest. Featuring an all-new high-definition transfer created especially for this collection, the picture quality is clearly a major step up from the film's previous DVD release. The crisp colors, dark blacks, and zero film grain make this new eye-popping presentation reason enough to give this set high praise, yet this is only the beginning. Each film features outstanding Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks and two very different audio commentaries. While the creators of the trilogy, brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski are nowhere to be heard, they did allow a pair of Matrix-loving philosophers, Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, to analyze every aspect of the films. The also allowed a group of Matrix-bashing critics, Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson, to rip the trilogy apart. While all six commentary tracks are lively and interesting to hear, especially any comment by Dr. West, who appears to be the Matrix films' biggest fan, the trio of grumpy critics can often become downright annoying. While all three hesitantly admit to enjoying the first film, most of their time with the sequels is spent either constantly name dropping obscure directors they believe the Wachowskis are ripping off or complaining about the modern state of filmmaking. Although the comments can be become irritating, it still makes for a great listen as stands a document of how many felt about the films at the time of their release. Starting out the treasure trove of supplemental materials is a slightly altered version of the 2001 Matrix Revisited DVD. Those who already own this all-bonus-features disc will find nothing different aside from new menus and the absence of a few items that were on the original release. These missing bits go largely unnoticed here and add to the focused nature of the entire set. What remains is a feature-length look at the film's production, success, and future. Dozens of extra featurettes offer a deeper look at aspects like the film's complex visual effects and kung fu choreography. This is continued in the supplemental discs for the sequels, appropriately titled "The Matrix Reloaded Revisited" and "The Matrix Revolutions Revisited." Through the 50 mini-documentaries presented here, you learn every little detail you ever wanted to know about the two films. Everything, from the live-action footage used in the Enter the Matrix video game to what happened to all the wood used to build the freeway in Reloaded, is covered in great detail. While some of the material featured in the hours and hours of behind-the-scenes footage shown here overlaps from the film's previous DVD releases, especially with Reloaded's car chase and Revolutions' gravity-bending final battle, the majority of it is has never been seen and is likely to be eaten up by fans. Following the Revisited discs, the Ultimate Collection then serves up a series of four stand-alone discs that amazingly have more to say about the Matrix experience. Starting things out is the inclusion of The Animatrix, a series of nine well-made animated short films set in the Matrix universe. This version of The Animatrix remains exactly the same from its previous DVD release in 2003, aside from having new menus and the dated commercials for the Enter the Matrix video game removed. "The Roots of the Matrix" disc offers two feature-length documentaries on the intellectual and philosophical ideas of the trilogy, and the real science that inspired the more science fiction aspects of the films. While both are constantly stimulating and entertaining, one senses that some of the highly intelligent participants are straying away from the films -- sometimes discussing some fairly bizarre ideas. Those seeking even more can find several hidden DVD Easter eggs tucked away on this disc. Next up is a disc titled "The Burly Man Chronicles." Perhaps the most intriguing disc in the set, it features an over two-hour "fly on the wall," week-by-week look at the entire production of Reloaded and Revolutions. From the deaths of cast members to what the cast and crew were doing on September 11, everything is covered here. The viewer walks away having an even greater appreciation for what went into making the two films. Twenty-one extra featurettes are included that add even more detail to the experience. Also to be noted is that the now well-known ultra-reclusive Wachowski Brothers appear all over the place on this disc, and a tiny glimpse is given into their directing style. Closing things out is a disc titled "The Zion Archive," which offers up tons of the trilogy's many trailers, TV spots, music videos, storyboards, and concept drawings. Things wouldn't be complete without some kind of commercial, and one is shamelessly given for the Matrix Online video game. While this Ultimate Collection is an extraordinarily impressive DVD collection, those just mildly curious about the films are better off with the previous DVD releases, as this set appears to be for Matrix-crazed fans only. Those fans out there willing to take the blue pill and jack in to this wondrously massive Matrix set will not be disappointed.