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The Matrix (1999)
Warner Home Video
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/31/2009
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/8/2009; Updated 5/16/2018
I like to think that I have a good memory when it comes to most things, but especially when the subject is movies. I distinctly remember seeing the trailer for The Matrix in theaters in 1999. As you may remember, the trailer's were purposely vague, so all that we knew is that it was an action movie starring Keanu Reeves. At that point in time, Reeves' star was on the decline. Despite the fact that The Devil's Advocate was a minor hit, movies like Chain Reaction and The Last Time I Committed Suicide did nothing to bring Reeves back to the star-level created by Speed. Sure, The Matrix looked interesting, but how good could it be? Little did we know that the movie would change the face of filmmaking.
The Matrix opens by introducing us to two distinct storylines. In the opening, we see a vinyl-clad woman, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), fighting police officers and seemingly flying. We then meet Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), an office-worker by day and a notorious hacker who goes by the name "Neo" by night. Neo receives a cryptic message through his computer giving him instructions. By following these, he goes to a nightclub and meets Trinity. She tells him that he needs to meet Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an almost mythical hacker. Neo is unsure of this idea until he arrested by a group of menacing "Agents" who are lead by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Following this, Neo meets with Morpheus and learns that everything that he has ever known in his life is a lie. From this point on, Neo finds himself involved in a fight between supercomputers and mankind. He also learns that he may possess superhuman powers and be the key to saving humanity.
It seems almost surreal to think that The Matrix is 10 years old. It's even odder to realize that the film rarely comes up in conversations about important and influential movies. In some ways that's easy to understand. When you really sit down and analyze the movie, you can see that the story is an amalgam of several other movies (most of which are The Terminator). And despite the fact that the film's visual effects and style were original and mind-blowing at the time, they have become so in-grained in us that we no longer see them for how special that they were. And, despite the fact that the movie put Keanu Reeves back on the map, he still doesn't get much respect as an actor. (And, let's not forget that The Matrix sequels are amongst the worst movies ever made and many people can't get over this fact.)
All of that aside, there's no denying that The Matrix is still a great movie. The Wachowski Brothers, who were at that time known only for making the film Bound, burst onto the scene with a movie which was, if nothing else, unapologetic. Rarely has a film blended so much plot, so many existential ideas, and so much action into one place. Sure, there had sci-fi action films before this, such as RoboCop, Total Recall, and the aforementioned The Terminator, but most of these offered fair-to-medium level sci-fi. The Matrix unabashedly throws cyberpunk, Eastern philosophies, techno paranoia, and a slew of other concepts at the viewer and asks us to attempt to digest the whole thing. At the same time, The Wachowski's were re-defining the look of the sci-fi action film. Not satisfied with mere fight scenes or gunplay, everything here is bigger, louder, and faster than ever-before. Again, "Bulllet Time" may seem hackneyed today, but at the time, it was state of art, and seeing Neo dodge the bullets on the big-screen was a great movie-going experience.
Today, The Wachowski's are still dealing with the luke-warm reception to their ambitiousSpeed Racer, but The Matrix will most likely always be considered their masterpiece. Even if the story goes over your head, there's no denying that the action in the film is breathtaking and it's breakneck pace is intoxicating. The sequels may have ruined the film's mystique, but taken on its own, The Matrix is a sci-fi classic and this new Blu-ray Disc release should re-solidify it as one of the best action movies of the last decade.
The Matrix admits that there is no spoon onBlu-ray Disc courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a very slight amount of grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, which is important, as the film is bathed in green hues. The image is never overly bright or dark. The level of depth and detail is acceptable. The video isn't perfect, but it's very good. The Disc contains a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The Matrix won the Oscar for best sound and this track goes a long way towards supporting that. The stereo effects are nearly constant, highly detailed, show good speaker separation. Likewise, the surround effects are nicely handled, most notably during the action scenes. While the subwoofer effects aren't of the wall-shaking variety, they still pack a punch and accent the shootouts. Overall, a good technical package.
The Matrix Blu-ray Disc contains several extra features. "In-Movie Experience" offers nearly constant Picture-in-Picture bonus footage which contains interviews with the filmmakers (relaying information on the scene being viewed), storyboards, animatics, test footage, and on-set material. We get a Written Introduction by The Wachowski Brothers, who describe their feelings on the film. The Disc contains four AUDIO COMMENTARIES; the first featuring philosophers Dr. Cornel West & Ken Wilber; the second featuring critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers, & David Thomson; the third offering Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg, & John Gaeta; and the fourth featuring Composer Don Davis speaking over a music-only track. "The Matrix Revisited" (123 minutes) is a feature-length making-of which explores nearly every facet of the film's production, offering a great deal of on-set and behind-the-scenes footage, as well as cast and crew comments. "Behind The Matrix" (43 minutes) contains seven featurettes which go inside the making of the film, focusing on specifics such as the fight training for the film, and how certain scenes were shot. "Follow the White Rabbit" (23 minutes) offers nine mini-segments which are comprised of "fly on the wall" on-set video which show raw footage of some of the most famous scenes from the film. "Take the Red Pill" (18 minutes) explores the creation of the "Bullet Time" effect and looks at the ideas behind the film. "The Music Revisited" is a sort of jukebox where the viewer can listen to 41 different tracks. (Were these all in the movie?) The Disc contains the MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Rock is Dead" by Marilyn Manson. The extras are rounded out by a TEASER for the film, the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film, and eight TV SPOTS. This special edition Blu-ray also contains a booklet with full-color photos from the film.
On May 22, 2018, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment released The Matrix on 4K UHD. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p transfer which runs at an average of 60 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times. (Do you remember when movies were shot on film?) The colors look very good, most obviously the greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail here is excellent, as we can make out textures on objects and skintones look realistic. The depth is good as well, as the actors are clearly separate from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos (7.1) audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This track has much more presence than the 5.1 track and it really shows off the mix of sounds here. Simply go to any action sequence and you'll be treated to bullets whizzing by in the surround sound channels, accompanied by strong subwoofer action. There is a lot of detail and play in the stereo effects as well. One only has to look at the bitrate counts here to know that the 4K UHD release is worth the upgrade.
The extra features included in this 4K UHD release of The Matrix are exactly the same as those found on the Blu-ray Disc.
Review Copyright 2009/2018 by Mike Long