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THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss
Directors:  Andy and Larry Wachowski
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Features:  See Review
Release Date:  December 7, 2004

"Welcome...to the real world."

Box Set ****

And that real world has become a much sweeter place for DVD fans now that Warner Bros. has released The Ultimate Matrix Collection...a box set as big, sprawling and intricate as the matrix itself.

These are the films that created the first really new science fiction mythology since the Star Wars trilogy.  They presented a world of reality vs. illusion, of philosophy and faith vs. nihilism and despair.  These movies revolutionized the way we looked at motion with Oscar winning advancements in special effects.  But most of all, they gave us plenty to think and jaw about later...something you can't say about most action or sci-fi films.

Individually, the movies provided sparkling escapist entertainment with style, gusto and imagination.  Together, they comprised a legitimate story trilogy that took the audience and the characters further and further into the proverbial rabbit hole, all the while pointing towards an inevitable climax where man would battle the machines he created in a spectacular winner-take-all showdown.  And neither the climax nor the journey to it were disappointments.

Those three movies are included in this set, but that's only the beginning.  For more comprehensive reviews of the individual pictures, click on the links below, and then come back here, because we have plenty more to talk about:

The Matrix
The Matrix Reloaded
Matrix Revolutions
The Animatrix

Video ****

With a striking new transfer for the first movie, the quality trifecta is complete.  Now The Matrix has even more detail and better color coordinating, with less saturation and more definition than before.  It now joins the sequels as top notch reference quality anamorphic offerings.

Audio ****

All of the soundtracks continue to be stunning...dynamic, expressive and powerful.  All channels are in use for a completely enveloping experience.  Crossover signals are smooth and clean, and the subwoofer powers the many action sequences.  When Revolutions kicks in with its battle for Zion, you'd best hold on tight and remove the breakables from your shelves.

Features ****

This may be the first time I've ever been intimidated by a DVD set's extras.  This box set contains TEN discs worth of stuff, folks.  To say you're going to be busy awhile with this collection is an understatement.  I know I'm bound to miss something here, but I'll do my best to include it all.  If I've overlooked something, consider it an added bonus when you discover it on your own.

Each of the three films now contain two new commentary tracks.  One is by philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, the other is by film critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson.  Being a critic myself, I enjoyed the latter ones more because they analyzed the films in cinematic ways and discussed genre influences and bending as well as broader ideas in science fiction and action.  There have been books written about the philosophy of the Matrix movies, so fans of those might appreciate the former a little more.  Text introductions by the Wachowski Brothers accompany each movie.

Accompanying the first film is The Matrix Revisited, previously released on DVD as a feature length documentary on the making of the movie.  There is also a music only selection of nearly 3 hours of music chosen by the Wachowski Brothers in creating the film, five behind-the-matrix featurettes, plus the original "red pill" and "white rabbit" featurettes from the original disc release.

The second film's extra disc includes 8 featurettes on the car chase sequence, two on the teahouse fight, plus 11 additional featurettes on various aspects of the film.  Rounding out are 23 live action scenes shot for the video game.

The third movie's bonuses include 29 featurettes that cover just about everything from the battle for Zion to the crew to Club Hel and more.

The Animatrix features a look at the history and culture of anime, as well as making-of documentaries for each of the nine animated shorts that comprise the title.

Roots of the Matrix has two new documentaries, "Philosophy and The Matrix" and "The Science Behind the Fiction".  The Burly Man Chronicles profiles the cast and crew who made the movies possible, with featurettes on pre-production and shooting in both Alameda and Australia.

Finally, the Zion Archive has just about everything else:  trailers, TV spots, and music videos for each of the movies, a rave reel, and a preview of the online video game.

Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention this box is one of the coolest packages I've seen...it's kind of 3D looking, and it seems to come alive in the light!

Summary:

The bar has been raised high, friends.  This incredible 10 disc box set not only lets you relive the Matrix trilogy in full digital home theatre glory, but it lets you go further into the movies than you ever thought possible.  This is an absolute treasure trove, and a shining example of why DVD was invented in the first place.  An absolute MUST OWN.

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