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    The Ultimate Matrix IGN Review

    The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray Review

    Back in Blu-ray, but is it better?

    by Chris Carle and Christopher Monfette

    October 10, 2008 - At the very beginning of the format war – back when it looked like things might just break in the direction of HD DVD – sizeable, marquee releases like The Ultimate Matrix Collection marked the real battleground. In the case of The Matrix, this five-disc collection gave HD DVD a big win upon its initial release, but now that the format war has been decided and we're all spinning Blu-ray players and PS3's, the much-demanded set is re-releasing in the current, victorious format.

    And is it any different? In a word – "nope."

    As a collection of all existing Matrix materials, the Ultimate Collection delivers. One cannot scoff at the sheer volume of extras here: 35 hours in all. But if you are a longtime fan and already have the SD version, there are only a few reasons to pick this one up: 1) Better audio and video transfers of the films, 2) A compact collection of all previous features, and 3) One new in-movie feature for each of the films in the trilogy.

    For a more extensive breakdown of the set's strengths and weaknesses, peruse the specific sections of the review that follow below.

    The Movies

    The position of The Matrix in the pantheon of film is still in question. When the original came to theaters, the public was still trying to wash away the bitter aftertaste of Johnny Mnemonic, and confidence in Keanu Reeves' ability to open a large-scale special effects film was in question.

    But The Matrix proved to be much more than anyone had bargained for. Combining an anime aesthetic with Eastern philosophy, dystopian/apocalyptic visions and a squeaky leather wardrobe, it was both a pastiche of a million ideas… and unlike anything anyone had seen. The term "instant classic" has been rendered almost meaningless with overuse, but in the case of The Matrix, there is no other way to describe it. In the last decade, no single original idea in film has so captivated the populace.

    The timing was perfect. Combining the angst of a world moving headlong into rampantly evolving technology with a mythic, spiritual struck a chord with movie-goers and prompted intense excitement for the expansion of this new universe. In the early days of the millennium, when folks were still waiting for The Matrix Reloaded, it looked as if the trilogy would assume an unassailable place in film and pop culture history. The hype and attention leading up to The Matrix Reloaded rivaled that of the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings films.

    When Reloaded finally splashed into theaters, it polarized fans. Many found it bloated and unbalanced, with epic action sequences set against lengthy, wordy swatches of exposition.

    Here is what IGN's Steven Horn said about The Matrix Reloaded at the time of its release.

    Much of the general comments among critics centered on one sequence in particular: the much-maligned Zion rave. However, with a little backwards-looking perspective, Reloaded has established itself as a multi-layered and rich addition to the experience. The philosophy bandied about in the original film is further explained and each of the characters—and the mysteries each are wrapped up in—are developed meticulously.

    If response to Reloaded was mixed, but ultimately positive (it boasts a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes), the final installment of the series, Revolutions, did not meet with as much success (it is currently earning a Rotten rating of 37% on Rotten Tomatoes).

    Here is what IGN's Steven Horn said about The Matrix Revolutions at the time of its release.

    Full of huge special effects battles, for many the action was not enough to outweigh the illogic of the philosophy, the gaping plot holes and the unsatisfying ending to the series. As a result, the trilogy slunk to the finish line, leaving many proponents wondering what happened to an idea that was at first so promising and beloved.

    In retrospect, releasing both Reloaded and Revolutions in 2003 hurt the quality of the ultimate product and the trilogy's legacy. The net result of pushing two movies in such a short time frame is that the effects for both had to be rushed, and although they briefly set a standard for excellence, they could have been much more epic with a little padding between releases.

    Luckily, The Matrix's vision extends beyond the scope of three films. Several videogames have been released that explore the mythology further. In addition, the Wachowski Brothers, architects of the entire Matrix world, commissioned nine shorts from the anime community. Entitled The Animatrix, these nine films enrich and explain the original stories, and fill in gaps in the narrative. Taken individually, they are each inspiring and well-crafted, but taken as a whole, they form one of the coolest animation anthologies ever assembled.

    Whatever the legacy The Matrix films ultimately enjoy, one thing is certain: they forever changed science fiction and action filmmaking. In addition, although the narrative may have stumbled in the end, the world the trilogy has created will be with us forever.

    Score: 7 out of 10

    Video and Presentation

    When approaching a review of The Matrix trilogy, there are obvious destination points on each of the discs: the lobby fight in the original, the freeway chase in Reloaded, and the Siege in Revolutions. Seeing those breathtaking sequences in high definition is the reason many will seek this set, and these moments definitely do not disappoint.

    The video across the three movie discs is 16X9 1080p widescreen with a 2.4:1 aspect ratio. All of the special features (on both front and back of the movie discs) are presented in 480i or 480p standard definition, which is likely to disappoint folks who were hoping for some HD extras love.

    Judging against what has previously been released in standard definition, the HD portion of the presentation (ie, the films themselves) is a huge leap up (especially if anyone out there is still holding on to the original DVD release). Judging against the previous HD-DVD release, the transfers are roughly the same – offering neither a noticeable increase or decrease in overall fidelity. The boost in quality is immediately apparent. Even simple things, like the camera push through the numbers of code in the beginning of Reloaded, show how much detail has been added to the set. Trinity's leather catsuit and Neo's flowing robes are beautiful here and the dark surfaces boast a lot of differentiation. In fact, black levels have been improved across the set. The areas of half-light, which are in abundance everywhere in this moody world, have been cleaned up.

    The increase in detail is generally good, but it has an adverse effect in some situations. During the first Burlybrawl in Reloaded, for instance, the effect of switching back and forth between real and CG Neo is even more pronounced, and makes the SFX look dated. The same is true of the Siege sequence.

    Of the three, the transfer of the original Matrix seems to be the best. Perhaps this is due to the example above… The sequels boast many more effects in general, and balancing them with live action in HD. It may also have to do with the fact that this transfer has seen more iterations than any of the others. Whatever the case, the original is the biggest treat of the bunch.

    As good as the video is across the board, it is not perfect. In the love scene between Trinity and Neo in Reloaded, some of the skin tones blend together into color patches, which will only frustrate the most picky of viewers. In some of the wide, live-action shots, there is minor noise present on the image. And in some of the darkest scenes in the collection (especially near the end of Revolutions), the detail drops some.

    Score: 8 out of 10

    Languages and Audio

    One cannot ask for more from a disc than the aural experience The Ultimate Matrix Collection provides. The treatment is a fitting tribute to the sound team, who created one of the most audibly memorable series in cinema.

    The trilogy is an amazing example of sound design in film—from the crawling digital tickle of the Matrix code to the bombastic, bass-bombing explosions, every sound effect and utterance is approached with care, and the total package is nothing short of legendary.

    It's good to see the chilling audio experience preserved in the home format (previous owners will note the stunning audio in earlier efforts). This collection has the following audio options on the movie discs: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0. The special features are in stereo only.

    The 5.1 treatments all offer great mixes and directional sound. This is one of those sets you'll want to turn up loud. Audio highlights: the lobby fight and helicopter sequence in The Matrix, the slow-mo bullet rounds in the Trinity Falls segment of Reloaded, the freeway chase in Reloaded (a perfect blend of sound effects, music and dialogue), the mech fight in Revolutions' siege.

    The beauty of the audio treatment is that it amps up whatever the scene is trying to showcase. If it is an over-articulated Morpheus speech, the voice is given requisite power. If it's time for a sword-fight, the shing and swing of the blade is accentuated. If there is an explosion on a battlefield, it will rumble through your toes to the pit of your belly. These films are meant to move your body as well as your mind, and the audio adds to the rollercoaster.

    Score: 10 out of 10

    Packaging and Extras

    Gone is the four-case, five-disc presentation of the HD DVD, replaced with five slim Blu-ray cases of which "The Matrix Experience" holds two SD DVDs.

    Moving on, the special features are extensive. Essentially, this collection archives all of the previously-released Matrix bonuses, including The Animatrix and The Matrix Revisited, both of which were released as their own DVDs at different points. Read on to see how the features break down:

    The Matrix Blu-ray features the following bonus materials:

    • In-Movie Experience
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowski brothers
    • Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
    • Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • Cast and Crew Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta
    • Composer Commentary by Don Davis with Music Only Track
    • Behind the Matrix 7-Part Featurette: Making The Matrix, The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping's Blocking Tapes, The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall, The Code of the Red Dress, The Old Exit: Wabash and Lake, Agent Down, and But Wait- There's More
    • The Music Revisited
    • Marilyn Manson Music Video Rock is Dead
    • The Matrix Teaser
    • The Matrix Trailer
    • 8 The Matrix TV Spots
    • The Matrix Revisited
    • Two-Part Take the Red Pill Featurette: What is Bullet Time? And What is the Concept?
    • Follow the White Rabbit Featurette: Trinity Escapes, Pod, Kung Fu, The Wall, Bathroom Fight, Government Lobby, Government Roof, Helicopter, Subway
    • Digital Copy

    The Matrix Reloaded Blu-ray features the following bonus materials:

    • In-Movie Experience
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowski brothers
    • Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
    • Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • Behind The Matrix Featurettes: The Matrix Unfolds, Pre-Load, Get Me an Exit, The MTV Movie Awards Reloaded
    • Enter the Matrix: The Game
    • Enter the Matrix (contains 23 scenes from the video game)
    • P.O.D. Music Video Sleeping Awake
    • Reloaded/Revolutions Teaser
    • The Matrix Reloaded Trailer
    • 8 The Matrix Reloaded TV Spots
    • Car Chase Featurettes: The Freeway Chase, Oakland Streets and Freeway: Unseen Material, Tour of the Merovingian's Garage, Queen of the Road, Arteries of the Mega-City: The Visual Effects of the Freeway Chase, Foresight: Pre-planning the Mayhem, Freeway Truck Crash: Anatomy of a Shot, Fate of the Freeway, Freeway Action Match
    • Teahouse Fight Featurettes: Two Equals Clash and Guardian of the Oracle: Collin Chou
    • Unplugged Featurettes: Creating the Burly Brawl, A Conversation with Master Wo Ping, Chad Stahelski: The Other Neo, Burly Brawl Action Match, Spiraling Virtual Shot: Anatomy of a Shot
    • I'll Handle Them Featurettes: The Great Hall, Building the Merovingian's Lair, Tiger Style: A Day in the Life of Chen Hu, Heavy Metal: Weapons of the Great Hall
    • The Exiles Featurettes: The Exiles and Big Brother is Watching: The Architect's Office

    The Matrix Revolutions Blu-ray features the following bonus materials:

    • In-Movie Experience
    • Written Introduction by The Wachowski brothers
    • Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
    • Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • Behind The Matrix Featurettes: Revolutions Recalibrated, Neo Realism: The Evolution of Bullet Time, CG Revolution, Super Big Mini Models, Super Burly Brawl, Double Agent Smith, Mind Over Matter: The Physicality of The Matrix, Future Gamer: The Matrix Online
    • The Matrix Revolutions Trailer
    • 6 The Matrix Revolutions TV Spots

    Behind The Matrix Featurettes: Before the Revolution and 3-D Evolution
    Crew Featurettes: Owen's Army: The Australian Art Dept., 2nd Unit: A World of Their Own, Bill Pope: Cinematographer of The Matrix, Masters of Light and Shadow
    Hel Featurettes: Coat Check, Upsidedown Under, Fast Break, Exploding Man, Gun Club, The Extras of Club Hel
    Super Burly Brawl Featurettes: The Skybarn, The Crater, The Egg, Anatomy of the Superpunch, Super Burly Brawl
    New Blue World Featurettes: Geography of Zion, The Ships, Tour of the Neb, Matrix TV, Logos Fight Expansion
    Siege Featurettes: Dig This, The Siege Action Match, Anatomy of a Shot: Mifune's Last Stand, Building an APU, Product of Zion
    Aftermath Featurettes: Revolutionary Composition, The Glue, Dane Tracks, Cause and Effects

    The Animatrix Blu-ray features the following bonus materials:

    • Scrolls to Screen: The History and Culture of Anime
    • 7-Part Execution Featurette: Making Final Flight of the Osiris, Making The Second Renaissance Parts I & II, Making Kid's Story & A Detective Story, Making Program, Making World Record, Making Beyond, Making Matriculated
    • Voices Featurettes: The Second Renaissance Part I Commentary by Mahiro Maeda, The Second Renaissance Part II Commentary by Mahiro Maeda, Program Commentary by Yoshiaki Kawajiri, World Record Commentary by Takeshi Koike

    The Matrix Experience Two-Disc Databank standard-def disc features the following bonus materials:

    • Return to Source: Philosophy & the Matrix (AKA. Brainiac's Revenge)
    • The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction
    • The Burly Man Chronicles
    • Pre-Production
    • Alameda Shoot
    • Australia Shoot
    • The Zion Archive - Photo galleries
    • The Rave Reel
    • The Matrix Online
    • 2 Music Videos, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots

    We have already extensively reviewed most of the special features across all of these discs. The packaging advertises 35 hours of special stuff, and as you can see from the list above, it is a mighty list, indeed. Read Andy Patrizio's SD Ultimate Matrix Collection review for an in-depth look at all the goodies stuffed on these discs.

    By turning on the In-Movie Experience, viewers are treated to a running video commentary (presented picture-in-picture) on the scene that's playing. Culling material from all the special features, these HD insertions are the perfect complement to the action.

    By switching between multiple perspectives and types of discussion, the information flows smoothly and quickly. At one point, Carrie-Anne Moss will be talking about being cast as Trinity. Moments later, you will see her doing wire-work as the rooftop chase plays underneath. All three of the In-Movie experiences are enriching and well-made, and serve as a good condensed view of the sprawling content slathered across the five discs.

    The one disappointing thing about the special features is the lack of HD content beyond the In-Movie stuff discussed above. Viewers who purchased the original Ultimate Collection have very little to look forward to here. All of the features in the Databank are standard definition, which will be more than enough to keep some folks away from the set. Thankfully, however, the Blu-ray improves upon the HD DVD release by offering up The Animatrix on high-definition.

    Score: 8 out of 10

    Here you guys go for all of you that have been waiting for this.

    Samsung 46'', 250 GB PS3, Samsung Soundbar, Astro A40's

  2. #2
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    Thanks for posting. Been waiting for a Blu ray release of the Matrix movies.

  3. #3
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    too bad the video is the same as the HD release, but what you gonna do.
    at the end of the day its matrix on blu

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  4. #4
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    Im still going to pick this up on HD-DVD

    no need to spend more and get it on Blu

    PSN ID/Live GT: Evoking1230

  5. #5
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    I just got home from target with the set. I am most excited to see The Animatrix in HD.
    Click the link above and sign up for the new FF7 forums run by our very own AaronSOLDIER.

  6. #6
    Dude. You NEED to put QUOTE TAGS around your stuff.

    And, I said before that High-Def Digest is better for Blu-ray reviews. But please whatever you are posting like that, you NEED Quote tags.

    I've had this Ultimate collection for a long long time on HD DVD. The picture and sound cannot get any better... so its no surprise that its the same on the Blu-ray.

    And the MATRIX review has been out for a week or so already:

    Seriously, these guys do more reviews, and are better at it. I'd trust their word in this stuff more.

  7. #7
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    Did they even mention that the animatrix was upped to HD on the Blu-ray edition whereas it was I think SD on the HD-DVD?
    Oh well.
    I don't really want 2 and 3, I'd rather buy those on DVD and get 1 and Animatrix on Blu-Ray, hope they release them separately soon.
    Nos Locos kick your ***, Nos Locos kick your face, Nos Locos kick your balls into outer space!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrnagy88 View Post
    I don't really want 2 and 3 ...
    likewise. all i wanted was the first film on Blu-ray. the sequels were not necessary.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by REFLEX View Post
    Dude. You NEED to put QUOTE TAGS around your stuff.

    And, I said before that High-Def Digest is better for Blu-ray reviews. But please whatever you are posting like that, you NEED Quote tags.

    I've had this Ultimate collection for a long long time on HD DVD. The picture and sound cannot get any better... so its no surprise that its the same on the Blu-ray.

    And the MATRIX review has been out for a week or so already:

    Seriously, these guys do more reviews, and are better at it. I'd trust their word in this stuff more.
    The very fact that some of the animatrix episodes have been re mastered into high definition makes this a better release.

    Not that it matters - it just makes me wonder if these reviwers were not just talking out their rear USB port.

  10. #10
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    I'm a big fan of all three films (the sequels are underrated IMO) and I have yet to see The Animatrix. So I'll be getting this soon, no doubt.

  11. #11
    Superior Member
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    I've been contemplating a double-dip on this. I LOVE the Matrix universe, but it's hard to justify buying it again when I have it on HD-DVD. The reason I want to go for the double-dip is so I'll be able to enjoy this release with lossless audio. I only have the 360 add-on as my HD-DVD player, so lossless audio is an impossibility for me using that. And buying this release again is a better option than buying a stand-alone HD-DVD player. Decisions, decisions...

  12. #12
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    I already have the original DVD set, but I'd love to get this in hi-def.....I'll probably wait till it's a little less expensive though...

    Sig by Sn00pSta00 - Thanks!!

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    Saw it @ Wal-Mart last night... I t was hard for me to leave it there.
    But, at 90$ Cnd. I'll pass. If it were 60, then I might get it.
    40GB -> 250GB PS3 Connected to Sharp 52D64U via HDMI, Yamaha RX-V1500 Receiver
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