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HD DVD Review: The Ultimate Matrix Collection, Part 1

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(Part 2, pt 3

In the first installment of this trilogy, The Matrix, Neo takes the red pill and descends Alice’s rabbit hole. But it’s an intriguing paradox that the Wachowskis use a mirror or looking glass to show the real beginning of his journey. Like Alice, we all go down the rabbit hole to Wonderland simply by watching The Matrix. We then choose immersion via her Looking Glass by seeing The Matrix Reloaded or The Matrix Revolutions.

When Morpheus tells Neo that the Matrix is “the world pulled over our eyes,” he could very well be describing the movie itself. The entity that the Matrix Trilogy has evolved into is not a fraudulent cover up however. It is a world that an eager audience has willingly drawn down and around them, the mantle of questions, of enlightenment, the shroud of a thought experiment of vast scale.

And The Ultimate Matrix Collection too, provides deep exploration into a world that cannot be explained, it must be shown. With 35 hours of extras, plus the three films, this set is a massive compilation of behind-the-scenes technical goodies, background information on the actors and their work on the three films, and of course, some naval-gazing and New Age philosophizing.

And so, here’s a brief bit of summary and random reactions and observations on the Trilogy.

The Matrix (Disc One)

I’ve always maintained that The Matrix was, at the very least, a visually stunning project. Now it’s captivating and wondrous in other ways as well, but since this is a review of a high definition product, then we must start with appearances. For example, the use of the green tint inside the Matrix was mainly used to symbolize the color of old computer monitors and screens, but it also brings such texture. The addition of 1080p HD technology just cranks this up to a new level. The scene that made bullet-time famous – Trinity suspended in the air, all black suited whoop-ass splendor – is even more jaw-dropping.

It doesn’t stop. Other scenes that were fairly gorgeous anyway are just that much better. When Neo waits to meet Morpheus, he stands under a bridge during a rainstorm. HD makes the rainfall absolutely glorious. And the dojo training fight between Neo and Morpheus is fantastic. The whole damn thing is luscious from the get-go.

The audio is enhanced as well. This set has Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1 and Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1 and you can hear the difference. When Neo and Trinity come to rescue Morpheus from the Agents, they shoot up the lobby of the building where their leader is held. You’ve got bullet casings falling, column supports being eaten away by gunfire and the sound is incredible.

Observations:

• I’ll delve deeper in to symbols and themes in a subsequent post, but one thing I just noticed for the first time was when Neo was first freed from the Matrix. As Morpheus and the crew re-worked his atrophied muscles, he wore a simple loin cloth, just like Jesus. But in Neo’s case, he was being reborn, rather than preparing for crucifixion.

• Hugo Weaving rocks, his brilliance would come through no matter what definition he is rendered in.

• I never get tired of Neo and Morpheus in the Dojo Training Construct. Never.

The Matrix Reloaded (Disc Two)

Observations:

• Ah, the Burly Brawl – one of my favorite scenes. The crows sound like tigers. It’s a bit chilling, and a lot of awesome. The courtyard – how could something so decrepit look so lovely?

• And the fight in the chateau’s Great Hall – HD shows off the gloss of the marble floor perfectly. Yum.

• The Freeway Scene is still just as long, maybe a little too long, but otherwise it’s augmented nicely in HD.

• Once more we are reminded of the Wachowskis’ penchant for long winded monologues. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But when we meet The Architect (Helmut Bakaitis) we, or maybe it was just me, are left feeling like the frustrated man in the old hearing aid commercial, “What did he say?” The precision and locution of The Architect’s dialogue had me staring in bewildered admiration. Like the rest of the trilogy, I understood more after multiple viewings.

The Matrix Revolutions (Disc Three)

• One of the big questions posed at the beginning of Revolutions is – how the heck is Neo in the Matrix – when he’s not jacked in. I was not aware that this was even an issue when I initially watched the third sequel. Apparently Neo himself isn’t aware of the significance of this conundrum; he just keeps wandering around the train stop for Mobil Avenue – which, by the way, looks wonderfully crisp and clean. Oh, and what happens when you rearrange the letters in Mobil?

• Because Neo is stuck in Matrix Limbo, Neo and Trinity need to contact someone named The Trainman to get him out. Of course, guess who they need to go through? Of course, the Merovingian. Accompanied by Seraph, they pay a visit to the Merovingian’s Hel Club. I’d forgotten about the shootout in the parking garage the way that the bouncers/enforcers walk on the ceiling. Very cool. But why does the Merovingian refer to Seraph as a "little Judas"?

• The Mexican standoff scene is funny, especially considering that everyone was supposed to have checked their weapons before entering the club.

• Poor Mifune, he really takes a beating during the fight in Zion’s Dock. It’s amazing that he can even get his final words out to Kid.

• The final showdown between Neo and Smith is intense in its stylized fighting sequences and special effects. I read somewhere that when they are fighting in the air, swirling about, their outlines create a yin-yang effect. Nice imagery, as the two have been intertwined since the beginning of The Matrix.

There are lots and lots and lots more to this Ultimate Matrix Collection in HD DVD, stay tuned for Part 2.

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  • http://kanrei.blogspot.com Brad Schader

    I always thought Neo was not the main point of the Matrix trilogy. He was the point of the first movie, but he does not grow at all as the series progresses. He reaches he strongest at teh end of the first. Agent Smith on the other hand only first becomes free in the first, evolves into a virus for the second, and reaches his max power at teh end. The Matirx is really the story of Agent Smith. Neo is the antagonist, trying to stop Smith from evolving. The story sucks as the tale of Neo, but once I saw it this way I grew to love the movies. Looking forward to seeing the HD versions.