The Matrix appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. No real problems developed during this solid transfer.
Overall, sharpness was strong. The movie remained well-defined from start to finish, as it displayed no significant signs of softness. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects appeared, but I did see some light edge enhancement occasionally. Print flaws seemed absent. A little grain crept up in the early club scene, but otherwise I noticed no specks, debris or other distractions.
Over the years, many folks have griped about the movie's green tint. Portions of The Matrix - specifically those scenes that actually take place in the matrix - have been given a moderate green tint. Apparently this was done in an attempt to make scenes in the matrix look different from those in the "real world”, which offered a distinctly blue shade.
Whether the filmmakers succeeded in that regard, I'll leave up to the individual viewer. Overall the colors looked appropriately displayed. The matrix was green, and blue dominated the other shots. Some other hues still emerged, but those shades played the most important roles. Black levels were nicely deep and tight, and low-light shots came across as well developed and concise. Ultimately, The Matrix displayed a positive image.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix of The Matrix was also solid, though I must admit that it didn't quite live up to my expectations. I anticipated an all-out sensory assault, and that wasn't the case. Still, it's a very effective mix. The audio created a fairly convincing sound environment, and effects panned nicely between channels. Effects popped up cleanly in the surrounds and combined to create a good sense of place. These became especially useful during fight and action sequences, during which we got almost the level of activity I expected.
Audio quality appeared good. Speech was natural and distinct, and I noticed no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music could have been a little more dynamic, but the score and songs were mostly well defined and bright. Effects packed a nice punch, as they sounded accurate and clean. Across the board, bass response was tight and rich. While not quite demo level, the audio of The Matrix seemed satisfying.
How did the picture and sound of this new Matrix compare to the original DVD? The audio remained the same, but the visuals were slightly different. The movie received a new transfer that cleaned up the old one. That image showed a few small print flaws and artifacts that failed to appear here.
In addition, the new transfer used different color timing that made the movie more closely resemble the visual design of its two sequels. This accentuated the two color schemes. Shots in the matrix looked even greener now, and the “real world” elements showed stronger blues. In comparison, the shading of the old transfer - particularly inside the matrix - was subtler. The green of the matrix had more of a beige hint to it, but that’s gone now.
Is the new transfer better? Yes, to a marginal degree. I gave it an “A-“, up from my “B+” for the original. That’s mostly because the new transfer’s a little cleaner and tighter. The altered color timing gives the 2004 DVD a moderately brighter look as well, but I didn’t have any substantial concerns with the original transfer. I regard the new one as a variation more than as a significant improvement; without the loss of the minor source flaws, they’d have earned identical grades.
The new Matrix differs from the old one in regard to its extras. I’ll mark any elements new to the set with an asterisk. (This won’t include pieces found on the separate The Matrix Revisited DVD; I consider them repeated components, even if they’re not on the original Matrix movie release.)
On DVD One, we get two audio commentaries. The first comes from *philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific track. They get into some of the ideas generated through the movie. They chat about the movie’s literary and philosophical allusions as well as its themes and concepts. In theory, this kind of track is a cool idea. In reality, it’s pretty dull. Lots of dead air occurs, and when they speak, the participants often just talk about how much they like various parts of the movie.
Occasionally they do delve into the intellectual side of the flick, but their comments rarely become intriguing or thought provoking. Some of that occurs because they essentially drop names and don’t explain much. We’ll get references to philosophical concepts and areas but we don’t hear explanations or much to put the information in context. I think it’s a little much to expect the movie’s fans to be well versed enough in philosophical concepts have a full grasp on the topics discussed.
Even if you are familiar with the various theories, I can’t imagine you’ll get much from this spotty presentation. West and Wilber don’t provide a lot of insight in this commentary. I can’t say I feel like I understand the movie any better or have a greater appreciation for it due to my screening of this track.
For the second commentary, we hear from *critics Todd McCarthy, David Thomson and John Powers, all of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific chat. I was under the impression that the DVDs would include remarks from critics who didn’t like the movies. Perhaps these guys will provide nastier notes about the sequels, but I didn’t sense a lot of antipathy toward the first film.
As with the first commentary, this one suffers from a lot of dead air and little insight. The critics occasionally discuss literary and cinematic allusions in The Matrix, and they also get into what they do and don’t like about the film. Since I expected them to attack it, I was surprised by how many positives comments they offered. Really, they seem to think it’s a good movie with only a few flaws. They mostly focus on its score, which they think is unremarkable and generic, and the smattering of action film clichés found here. Heck, they even say some nice things about the often-maligned Keanu Reeves! Commentaries from critics can be incisive and informative, but this one doesn’t tell us much of value.
DVD One also presents an written introduction from the Wachowski brothers. Also available on the discs with the two sequels as well as in the package’s booklet, this piece tells us a little about the trilogy’s origins and explains why the Wachowksis won’t discuss the flicks. They state they don’t want their interpretation to become the only one out there, so they figured it’d be interesting to offer a variety of viewpoints. It’s a helpful explanation.
When we head to DVD Two, the main component comes from a 123-minute documentary called The Matrix Revisited. Already available on its own, the format follows a standard documentary design. Some clips from the movie appear, as well as lots of behind the scenes footage and interviews with participants. In the latter category, we hear from writers/directors Andy and Larry Wachowski, cinematographer Bill Pope, editor Zach Staenberg, production designer Owen Paterson, President of Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Productions Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, producer Joel Silver, actors Keanu Reevese, Laurence Fishburne, Hugo Weaving, and Carrie-Anne Moss, storyboard artist Steve Skroce, conceptual artist Geof Darrow, visual effects supervisor John Gaeta, kung fu choreographer Yuen Wu Ping, costume designer Kym Barrett, Peter Doyle of effects house Dfilm, associate visual effects supervisor Janek Sirrs, sound designer Dane Davis, composer Don Davis, and music supervisor Jason Bentley. All of them appear via new interviews, many of the which come from the set of the sequels. In addition, we see one 1997 clip of Di Bonaventura in which he presciently relates the impact he felt The Matrix would have.
Revisited provides a very rich and full examination of the creation of the movie. Appropriately, it starts at the beginning and relates some interesting material about how the project came to fruition. For example, I had no idea that the Wachowskis’ first film, 1996’s Bound, actually was developed after they’d already initiated work on The Matrix. Apparently they needed to prove themselves as filmmakers and Bound was the project that gave them something on their résumé.
From there we go to other pre-production elements like the incredibly rich and detailed storyboards and additional conceptual art. However, most of the program deals with the actual shoot itself, as we hear lots of great information about the production. Until we reach the point where the actors become involved in training, most of the show used film clips and “talking head” interview snippets; other than the various art, little “behind the scenes” material appeared.
However, that changes once we get to the martial arts training through which the actors had to go. From there until nearly the end of Revisited, the documentary more equally splits between the interviews, the behind the scenes shots, and the movie snippets. Happily, the latter are never used gratuitously to fill space. Instead, when we see a clip from the film, it’s there to illustrate the discussion, and even folks who know The Matrix well should like this method.
Nonetheless, the other elements are the prime attraction here, and they’re almost uniformly excellent. Though some praise is doled out to participants, Revisited never resembles a happy talk festival, and the focus remains on the actions, not the subjective appraisal of the work. Pretty much every element of the production receives attention, though the show spends a surprisingly short amount of time on the visual effects. To be certain, Revisited discusses that work, but considering the effects-intensive nature of the production, I thought the show would cover them in greater detail.
Not that I mind, for too often, documentaries about effects-heavy movies become bogged down in technical jargon and we learn too little about the rest of the process. That definitely doesn’t occur during Revisited, as it touches nicely upon all the other areas. The actors weigh in with their approaches to the film and tell us about the various difficulties, prime among which was Reeves’ neck injury; interestingly, though this could have paralyzed him, he seems to shrug it off and not really view it as a big deal.
Reeves takes his lumps as an actor, but you may leave Revisited with a new appreciation for his dedication and work ethic. Throughout the show, we discover how hard he worked on the project, and his attention to detail seems strong. Of course, we hear about the other actors as well, and all offer their insights about the process.
Revisited deftly inserts comments about other subjects as well, as it covers every major aspect of the production. Possibly my favorite sub-domain was that of costume design. Kym Barrett goes beyond a simple discussion of visual motifs and gets into nice details about her choices; it’s a topic not often visited in these sorts of shows – especially for a movie like The Matrix - and the material adds a lot of depth to the piece.
The behind the scenes footage contributes an excellent layer of involvement as well. While we hear the reflections about the process, we see the film as it was shot, and these elements seem very worthwhile and interesting. Revisited largely goes through the movie in the order it was filmed, and it tends to break down the subjects into specific scenes. For instance, one area covers the dojo fight, while another goes over the government lobby sequence. This compartmentalizes the topics neatly, but it doesn’t isolate them; the program flows well from subject to subject. The show gives us a very detailed look at the various fight and action scenes.
Toward the end, we get information about the reactions to The Matrix. The participants provide their thoughts about the final product – not surprisingly, these are all positive – and they cover audience opinions as well. In addition, we get a little information about the simultaneous production of the two Matrix sequels. No substantive information about those flicks appears, but it offers a decent teaser nonetheless.
Overall, I was very impressed with The Matrix Revisited. The documentary offers an excellent summary of the production and it gives us a lot of good information. All of the facts are related in a clear and engaging manner, and the documentary consistently kept me entertained and involved.
Inside The Music Revisited, we get a jukebox feature. Found as an Easter egg on the old Revisited DVD, it includes 41 musical selections that you can screen on their own or together via the “Play All” option. I can’t say the tunes appealed to me, but for fans, it’s a good component.
Under the banner of “Behind The Matrix”, six components appear. The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes runs five minutes and 48 seconds. It presents the preparatory video created for four scenes: “The Dojo Fight”, “The Subway Fight”, “The Government Lobby”, “The Bathroom Fight”. The first two dominated the clip, and the others took up much less time. This was a great look at the planning of these segments, and it offered a very useful experience.
Better still was The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall. This 195-second clip looked just like something from the main program, which I assume it was and just got cut for unknown reasons. It should have stayed in Revisited, for we got a good impression of this particular scene. We heard from Owen Paterson, Bill Pope, the Wachowskis, Fishburne and Weaving as they related information about how this segment was shot.
Back on the old Revisited DVD, The Code of the Red Dress offered a 45-second Easter egg. In it, costume designer Kym Barrett tells a funny anecdote about the reactions engendered by Fiona Johnson, the sexy “woman in red” actress.
For The Old Exit - Wabash and Lake, we get a two-minute and 38-second clip that also showed up as an Easter egg on the prior disc. It includes comments from Reeves, Fishburne, Weaving, and the Wachowskis. It lacks a strong focus, as it tells us a little about Reeves’ concentration on physical movements and the character development of Agent Smith.
Another repeated egg, in Agent Down you’ll learn about Hugo Weaving’s on-set physical problems. We hear from Weaving, Reeves, and Fishburne as they briefly discuss the issue in this 90-second piece.
But Wait – There’s More finished this area with a montage. This 190-second piece showed a mix of behind the scenes shots, effects footage and other elements, all of which was backed by the standard techno score. It offered enough interesting shots to merit a look.
Hidden extras from the original Matrix movie DVD, “Take the Red Pill” consists of two components. The first is called What is Bullet Time?. This segment runs for six minutes and 15 seconds, and it details how the "stop motion" effects in the film were produced. We see behind the scenes shots and hear from Gaeta. It's a pretty interesting piece that lets you better understand how they did some of the movie's most provocative effects.
The next one's called What is the Concept? and it lasts for 11 minutes and 20 seconds. It's a little more abstract than "What is Bullet Time?" as it consists of a video montage of storyboards, rough effects, production drawings, and finished film clips. I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed "Bullet Time", but it's nonetheless another fun behind the scenes segment.
Another repeat from the movie DVD, Follow the White Rabbit is more user-friendly here. On the old disc, a white rabbit icon would periodically appear in the lower right hand corner of your TV screen. At that time, you can press the "enter" button on your remote to activate the featurettes. This was a nuisance and also didn’t work well on some players.
Here we get the nine segments without all the muss and fuss. These include “Trinity Escapes” (65 seconds), “Pod” (2:23), “Kung Fu” (3:58), “The Wall” (2:03), “Bathroom Fight” (2:05), “Government Lobby” (4:07), “Government Roof” (2:34), “Helicopter” (1:01) and “Subway” (3:30). These offer video montages that intersperse raw footage from the set with some of the finished product. They're really quite interesting; it's a lot of fun to see the "behind the scenes" machinations for the film. I also definitely appreciate the simplicity with which we can access these clips; I really hated that “white rabbit” nonsense.
Folks with DVD-ROM drives can access a few additional elements. The main attraction comes from a “bonus commentary”. This sends you online. As I write this about 10 days before street date, the link doesn’t work; it just displays some Warner Bros. ads. I’ll update the review when the content actually appears.
In addition, some other links pop up here. We get connections to “The Matrix Online Game”, but it doesn’t launch for a couple of months. Another portal to the Enter the Matrix game just heads to more WB ads. At least we can actually visit the Matrix website; that connection works.
Not all of the extras from the original Matrix and Revisited DVDs appear in this set. From the movie DVD, we lose the bland audio commentary with actor Carrie-Anne Moss, editor Zach Staenberg and special effects supervisor John Gaeta. I never thought this was as terrible a track as many people did, but it wasn’t very good. The disc also drops a pretty good isolated music-only audio track that featured additional commentary from composer Don Davis.
Another loss comes from the absence of a 26-minute documentary called “Making The Matrix”. It was decent but became redundant with the much more detailed Revisited. The movie DVD also presented fairly good cast and crew biographies.
Cuts from Revisited start with “What Is to Come?”, a superficial preview of the Matrix sequels. “What Is Animatrix?” fell into the same category and did little more than promote the animated program, while “Whatisthematrix.com?” touted the website. I can’t say I mourn the loss of these clips.
The final missing piece is a snippet called “The True Followers”. It offered a moderately interesting look at the series’ biggest fans. It wasn’t great, but it was watchable, and I don’t know why they dropped it.
One of the most influential films of the last decade, The Matrix holds up well after five years and two sequels. No, it doesn’t pack the same punch as it did in 1999; too many imitators have made some of its work too commonplace. Nonetheless, it remains a rich thrill ride. This new DVD offers audio identical to that of the original release, but it presents a new visual transfer that moderately improves on the old one. It also includes a much broader set of supplements.
Normally recommendations for reissued DVDs aren’t difficult, but since this version of The Matrix can be found only in a 10-disc boxed set called The Ultimate Matrix Collection, matters become more complicated. At the risk of sounding like a coward, I’ll defer my recommendation until I get to the final review of the set; that one will cover DVDs Eight through Ten and summarize the whole package. For now, suffice it to say that this new Matrix DVD definitely outdoes the original one.
To rate this film, visit the original review of THE MATRIX