The Ultimate Matrix Collection Review
Few people actually anticipated the effect that The Matrix would have. After all, summer 1999 was the year of Star Wars. I remember it all so clearly; the rampant disappointment of Episode I distilled by a sci-fi film starring Ted Theodore Logan. George Lucas must have been furious, since the Wachowski Brother’s had achieved everything he set out to do, and with a quarter of his budget. Now, The Matrix has taken its place as an influential masterpiece, and rightly so in my opinion. It came from nowhere, and a modern legend was forged (as well as two sequels, that divide opinion wherever they go). I’m not going to delve too deeply into the trilogy - thousands of people have already documented it so well - but I will highlight what makes the films so vital to the science fiction genre, and film-making in general. And with Warner’s new deluxe box set, it’s about time we assessed the sequels without the anticipation and hype that surrounded their release. Will the Matrix trilogy stand the test of time?
The Matrix - 10/10
“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you're inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it...”
Everyone knows that The Matrix was a quantum leap forward in terms of action movie-making, but it is the story that continues to resonate, rather than the opulent special effects. The best movies work beyond their surface value, allowing audiences to scratch away the veneer, and see the themes beneath. The Wachowski’s knew this more than most. They weren’t content to let the action speak for itself. The Matrix represents every thought they’ve ever had; a tapestry of themes regarding Christianity, kung-fu, Japanese anime, and technophobia. Placing them into the same narrative, the writer/director’s juggled all of them, creating a story that shouldn’t have worked, but did so effectively. The notion that we’re living in some manufactured “dream world” is too insidious to comprehend. It’s a masterstroke really - a truly horrifying thought, given power through the Wachowski’s dynamic visual prowess. And while the sequels may have dimmed our appreciation of these filmmakers, the original remains a perfect example of science fiction at its most powerful.
Keeping us riveted, were the characters. A truly diverse clash of personalities, the cast of The Matrix seem to embody their roles with skill. Even Keanu Reeves revealed some unseen charms, portraying this white trash freedom fighter with the open-jawed amazement that audiences would later experience. For the rest of his career, he’ll be known as Neo, a man with so much power, he’ll stop bullets rather than dodge them. Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) is different. A strong-willed and sharply intelligent woman, who is fully prepared to bring this fight to the Machine’s doorstep. And like all martial arts motion pictures, they have a mentor to guide them - the mysterious Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Given the monumental task of explaining what the Matrix is, Fishburne’s scenes never feel like droll exposition; a credit to the Wachowski’s as well as the actor. After all, is there a single piece of dialogue in The Matrix that isn’t memorable?
Elsewhere, Hugo Weaving seemed built for Agent Smith. Oozing menace, his performance is perfectly controlled - the very nature of a machine flowing through his iconic voice, and direct movements. Only The Terminator is an adequate comparison. While it is doubtful the character will become as iconic, Smith is certainly a villain that will linger in the memory; which is an ideal way of assessing the movie. Watching The Matrix today, is like sitting through a “Greatest Hits” of movie moments. So many shots or scenes inspire awe, or a sense of wonder that cinema rarely provides. Bill Pope’s cinematography is always eye-opening with its beauty, a fact matched by the production design, which contrasts with “the real world” throughout. And then, there’s the action. Boasting Yuen Wo-Ping’s expertly timed choreography, and John Gaeta’s visual effects, the stunts really did break new ground. The government lobby sequence immediately springs to mind, and it never gets boring. “Bullet Time” has since dissolved into cliché, but that shot of Neo dodging gunfire will last through the ages. If a word can sum up The Matrix, it’s influential.
The Wachowski’s may never direct a film as good as this, but it certainly shows them as Hollywood filmmakers that refuse to take the easy way out. Their cinema is one of ideas and exploration, and while the latest chapters scream of commercial opportunity, they still hold a great deal of thought beneath the surface. The Matrix is one story worth seeing again and again...
The Matrix Reloaded - 6.5/10
“Free your mind”
Anticipation really is a killer. Perhaps one day, studios will realise that hyping a movie to death, is not really the best way to market a movie. After all, by the time The Matrix Reloaded reached theatres, anticipation was so high, that only disappointment could result. It was inevitable really - fans across the world had waited patiently, excited by the very potential of this series. The possibilities were endless, and the Wachowski’s were given carte blanche; resulting in an overblown movie, with cutting-edge effects but a hollow screenplay that was content to spew meaningless gobbledy-gook. That said, I feel time will be kind to The Matrix Reloaded. Watched in quick succession with its predecessor, it’s clear that the film deserves more praise than it was given all those months ago. It lives up to the very nature of a sequel - expand the universe with broader ideas, introduce new themes, and continue the story arc in an unexpected fashion. Reloaded is overflowing with complex concepts, often exhausting the viewer with its need to “challenge our minds”, and deliver popcorn thrills simultaneously. While the Wachowski’s vision certainly becomes convoluted, it seems idiotic to brand the film as a failure. In fact, it’s probably the most underrated film in recent memory; not great, but certainly stunning.
The title of the film is rather apt really. Imagine The Matrix on fast-forward, and seen through the eyes of a crack-head, and Reloaded is the result. From the opening frames, it is clear that the filmmakers are trying to out-do every facet of the original - its faster, denser, and certainly louder. Even that iconic green coding gets an upgrade to begin the film, before launching straight into the action without build-up. Still, I actually applaud the Wachowski’s for wanting to go in different directions. As I said before, they refuse to take the easy way out, and to them, Reloaded was a journey of discovery both in terms of story and technology. The enormous budget affords them the greatest tools in the business, and after four years, the special effects business had reached its zenith. Much of the film is rigged for our pleasure, and Pope’s photography continues to please, yet it’s the little things that bug us about Reloaded; and even long-time fans have to highlight its faults.
The chance to see Zion was certainly worth it - and the Brother’s invest a lot of screen time in establishing this “last human city”, but the beginning of the film has a lethargic pace, that makes you wish for the next punch-up. And that time comes, with Neo’s dizzying fight with 100 Agent Smiths. Completely over-the-top and quite mind-boggling, the famed sequence is a gob-smacking marriage of visual effects and fight techniques, yet the Wachowski’s get self-indulgent, and it goes on for several minutes longer than it should. Much of the film falls into a similar trap - the lengthy moments of exposition (brought on by stuffing the film with new characters), is probably the films biggest fault. There is really too much going on in this film, and the dialogue often washes over the viewer without sinking in. And before we can assess the scene playing before us, a new action set-piece flies along to snare our attention. Which leads us, inevitably, to the Architect. This infamous scene is riddled with such problems, and trying to make sense of his dialogue brought many audiences to boiling point. In fact, to fully understand, or appreciate Reloaded, you’ll have to watch it several times.
Thankfully, the action makes the film worth those repeat viewings. Obviously, I’m talking about the frenzied freeway chase, which reaches new levels of screen carnage. The most breathtaking sequence in the film (and the trilogy), is one that I’ll gladly watch again and again. Ultimately, The Matrix Reloaded is a film that tries extremely hard to gain our affection, but is only partly successful. Each viewing wields some new discoveries, making it a sequel that gets better with time and reflection. It isn’t destined to become a classic like the original, but you’ve got to admire it for trying something new...
The Matrix Revolutions - 7/10
“Everything that has a beginning, has an end...”
Last November, hopes were high that this concluding chapter would reclaim The Matrix’s crown as superior science fiction. The result, was a motion picture that polarised critics and audiences alike. In some cases, it was more hated than Reloaded, but to me, Revolutions is a stronger and more coherent piece of work. It rounds up the trilogy in an acceptable fashion, tying up some of the loose ends, and giving the characters a decent farewell. The style and mood employed by the Wachowski’s is also closer to that of the first film - dark, foreboding, and more than a little mysterious. While their cheesy scripting highlights several gaping flaws, the third film is a much more satisfying adventure. Plus, it has the distinction of answering several questions: who will survive the fight? Does Neo eventually destroy Smith? And most importantly of all, will the war finally end?
The main reason why I prefer Revolutions to its forerunner, is the fact that spectacle replaces much of the philosophical hogwash. The last two acts are dominated with action, and the awe-inspiring attack on Zion by the Machines. The sight of those Sentinel’s laying waste to the city is one of sheer excitement. The CGI occasionally borders on poor, but many of the shots are truly spectacular (the Sentinel’s swarming like insects is beautiful in a terrifying way). Plus, with most of the film occurring outside the world of the Matrix, Neo’s life is always endangered - a sense of threat that Reloaded never possessed. This manages to give the film some tension, and the Wachowski’s are clearly trying hard to make the conclusion a surprising one. With explosions galore, frenetic gunfights, and Neo’s climactic confrontation with Smith, Revolutions still has some bang for its buck. That said, problems still arise. The opening for instance, feels very redundant indeed, with a large chunk of screen time passing before the real fight begins. And the ending will either infuriate or please. It really depends on the viewer, and if you hated the film on its theatrical run, I doubt you’ll change your mind.
Something tells me that I’ll always be a fan of The Matrix saga. There’s never been anything quite like it in cinema, and I doubt any imitators will come close to matching the “mythic perfection” of the original. Still, the sequels offer a valid way to explore this world more deeply, and with a universe so unique and fresh, it isn’t surprising that the Wachowski’s creation would become a world-wide phenomenon. So yes, the trilogy will stand the test of time, and DVD is the best place to see it...
This is it, folks. As of 2004, Warner have unleashed what is arguably, the most comprehensive box set to date. The Ultimate Matrix Collection is a ten-disc work of art, with over 35 hours of bonus material that serves to tell you everything about the series. It’s breathtaking in its scope, with every conceivable detail thrown out for your perusal. Easily beating the Alien Quadrilogy, this will require plenty of free time, and might rob you of your social life. You’ve been warned...
The Look and Sound
It’s hard to imagine now, but the original Matrix DVD is five years old. Released soon after the format’s triumphant birth, it was the first must-own title, getting many people to ditch those videotapes and go digital. Therefore, the first edition is looking a little worn-out in this day and age of video perfection. In most respects, the most mouth-watering prospect for me, while venturing into this set, was the chance to see the first film in a brand new transfer. All three are once again presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), though Part I is given new life, thanks to the Wachowski’s and DP Bill Pope. Gone is most of the grain that was evident on the first transfer, as well as the lack of depth in some scenes. The new edition is razor-sharp, looking closer to its sequels with deep blacks and a smoother colour palette. In fact, there have been some slight alterations to the theatrical edition (though nothing that will get fan-boys angry). The green tint found in all films, is emphasised on this new transfer, indicating when our heroes are “jacked in”. It’s a subtle touch, that gives this new remaster added punch. In most respects, The Matrix now looks perfect.
Naturally, no work has been done for the sequels (or The Animatrix for that matter). Their transfers were already top-notch, so Warner’s have simply reproduced those original discs. Anyone who saw those releases will know how good they look, and they still hold-up to close scrutiny. On a visual level, this set deserves a great deal of praise. As for audio, each film retains its Dolby Digital 5.1 source, and they sound amazing, if not perfect. Surround activity is still incredibly high, and seems to have been improved on the first film, with more discrete effects and added pizzazz (the lobby shoot-out remains the best demo for your home cinema). The music on all films is loud and consistent (especially in Reloaded and Revolutions), while dialogue is crisp and clear. That said, I sometimes had trouble hearing dialogue in the first film - the club sequence when Neo first meets Trinity, is often drowned out in the ambience and heavy metal. Likewise, dynamic range is low, and I always expected Warners to include DTS for this set. Still, the tracks perfectly create the Matrix universe, and remain ear-splitting mixes. The sequels are consistently loud and abrasive, with that infamous car chase making your subwoofer work overtime. Everything great about the previous copies is retained here. This is a work of peerless quality...
Very similar in style to the previous DVD’s, these come directly from the Architect’s crib. Lovingly animated, the backgrounds feature clips from the movie, with options running along the bottom. Hardly the best menus I’ve ever seen, but certainly functional and easy to navigate (bonus points are given to the “Zion Archive” disc, which is awarded a futuristic interface). Neat and efficient, these are satisfying menus.
The Box Set
Possibly the most important aspect of any box set, is umm, the box set. This has got to be one of the better-looking in recent memory. No words or slogans. Just the Matrix coding, reproduced in a holographic pattern with flashy greens. It looks brilliant on your shelf, and better in my opinion, than the “Limited Edition” pictured below. That includes a painted Neo “bust” and collectable booklet, but isn’t as pleasing to the eye. The standard version, which I reviewed here, is a very sturdy box that should stand the test of time. The discs are housed in individual card boxes, that should be treated with some care (though the outer box is given some real strength, which is always a plus). Aesthetically pleasing, the set complements the discs perfectly.
Morpheus: “I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?”
You could say that. Next to New Line’s work on that other trilogy, this has got to be the most exhausting of all DVD releases. I’m mentally drained, but it was worth every minute. If you want to know how these groundbreaking films were made, then this is the place. Each film gets its own bonus disc, with the original Animatrix release present and correct, and 3 further discs of fact-based content, providing the last word on the franchise. Here we go...
Discs 1, 3 and 5: The Commentaries
Each film gets two commentary tracks, though none of them feature members of cast and crew. The Wachowski’s justify their slack-jawed nature in a “Written Introduction” (found on all the movie discs, and in the booklet). This explains their general ideas for the series, through some wildly high-brow text and deadpan humour. With minds as complex as theirs, the Brothers would be perfect for the commentary world, but it wasn’t to be. Instead, we get two conflicting tracks, with “The Philosophers” on one, and “The Critics” on the other. Naturally, there’s an awful lot of far-out preaching and critical bile, but it’s certainly an experience new to DVD.
The philosophical tracks feature Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber, who are full of ideas behind the series, and proceed to question the messages contained within them. Like it or loathe it, The Matrix is over-flowing with religious subtext, cultural commentary and technological insight. The pair dissect the trilogy in fascinating fashion - you might not agree with their comments, but they’re consistently involving. After all, the films are rich in this area, and the commentators never get tired. Very rarely do they treat the trilogy as mere “films”, but do comment on the quality shift throughout (especially when Revolutions kicks-in). They discuss the popular opinions behind their cultural value, and the deeper psychological underpinnings prevalent throughout. And would a commentary for Reloaded be complete without the Architect? They don’t know what he’s blathering on about either, but offer their two cents regardless. Amusing, illuminating and sometimes perplexing, this is a different and cerebral experience.
Moving on, it’s the critic’s turn. Often frank and sometimes highly entertaining, this features Todd McCarthy, John Powers and renowned author David Thomsen. They treat the trilogy for what it is - a commercial success, and provide their own thoughts on how the franchise progressed. Naturally, they’re pretty lenient on the first film, often sitting back and enjoying the spectacle. They appreciate its fresh ideas, and spectacular action. When the sequels begin, the mood changes. They pick at the Wachowski’s script writing talents, and give many of the elements a firm drubbing. Still, at least they weigh the pros and cons fairly, and they all agree that the action inspires awe. Devoted fans will probably hate these tracks - they’re rather picky - and the three have stuffy personalities that reveal their over-educated roots. That said, most of you will agree with a great deal of their comments. These tracks are hardly a must-listen, but they offer intriguing alternatives to those cast commentaries, that rarely bare fruit. Props must go to Warners for having the guts to record them...
Disc 2: “The Matrix Revisited”
Many fans will already own this documentary, which runs just over 2 hours in length. Previously available as a standalone title (and part of a snazzy gift set), The Matrix Revisited is one meaty companion piece, that is dripping in nostalgia and insight. With heaps of behind-the-scenes footage, it goes from the preparation process right through to the pre-production on the sequels. I’m so glad it found its way into the set, since it documents the original film so passionately. Reeves, Fishburne, Moss, Weaving and the Wachowski’s are interviewed, and they reflect on the trials that went into its making (kung-fu is hard, folks) and their surprise at its world-wide acclaim. Detail is given to all of the key areas, from scripting to filming, to effects and editing. Among the talking heads, is Joel Silver, FX honcho John Gaeta, and composer Don Davis. There isn’t much ground it doesn’t cover, and extra points are given for showing Yuen Wo-Ping doing what he does best. This more than makes up for the lack of a technical commentary...
This disc also features its own bonus material, the most refreshing of which is “The Music Revisited”. It was an easter egg on the original disc, but is now given easy access. It’s 41 tracks of music that inspired the Wachowski’s during their scripting process (though none of it appeared on the released soundtrack). This is a bizarre compendium, that should interest the die-hard followers.
The “Behind the Matrix” section features 6 featurettes, which can be played in one go. They cover:
-- “Dance of the Master”: The legend that is Yuen Wo-Ping goes through the motions. This is the blocking tape that the stunt fighters used to show the cast and crew, and concerns the infamous “Dojo” sequence between Neo and Morpheus.
-- “Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall”: The name gives it away - the scene in which the main characters escape the Agents is well-covered here. A special set was created for the sequence, and there is plenty of footage from the shoot.
-- “Code of the Red Dress”: Here, costume designer Kym Barrett discusses the mysterious “Woman in the Red Dress”, who provided male crew members with many distractions.
-- “The Old Exit: Wabash and Lake”: The final chase between Neo and the Agents is documented here, with copious amounts of on-set activity.
-- "Agent Down”: Self-injury was rife on the set, so it isn’t surprising that Hugo Weaving was badly hurt during his stint as Agent Smith. Still, he lived to tell the tale...
-- “But Wait—There’s More”: A quick dose of B-role mayhem and pre-take
“Take the Red Pill” reveals the following features:
-- “What Is Bullet-Time?”: John Gaeta is on hand to document The Matrix’s most famous special effect; revealing the set that housed multiple cameras to create the shots.
-- “What Is the Concept?”: Here, cast and crew discuss the general ideas behind the film; concentrating mostly on the differences between the real world, and that of the Matrix.
Moving on, the last section is “Follow the White Rabbit” and includes:
-- “Trinity Escapes”: The opening of the film, in which Trinity escapes the police and agents, before jumping from one roof to another, is given its due here.
-- “Pod”: The pod which houses Neo’s body in the machine world, is one of the films more important elements. This piece shows the making of that sequence, with Reeves offering some interesting insight (he shaved all of his hair and eyebrows for the scene).
-- “Kung Fu”: The Dojo fight is once again dissected.
-- “Wall”: This follows the shoot behind the inner-wall scene, and how it was pulled off.
-- “Bathroom Fight”: That violent clash between Morpheus and Smith, was one of the many challenging moments on set.
-- “Government Lobby”: The defining moment in the first film, is given yet more screen time, with a montage of fast-paced gunplay.
-- “Government Roof”: Neo dodging bullets. Trinity kicking ass. And saving Morpheus via chopper. All of these elements are documented in this fun vignette.
-- “Helicopter”: The exploding helicopter sequence was achieved via model work and visual effects, and this allows us to watch the scene being filmed.
-- “Subway”: As you’d expect, this chronicles Neo and Smith’s climactic tussle in the train station.
Disc 4: “The Matrix Reloaded Revisited”
This in-name-only sequel to the original disc, is presented in a different way; composed of short featurettes rather than one long documentary. That said, there is the option to play all of them at once.
Our first stop is possibly the most tantalising aspect of this disc - the section marked “Enter the Matrix”. Most of you will have played the video game of the same name, and be aware that the Wachowski’s filmed exclusive footage for it. Those who didn’t, can see all of that footage here. Preceding it, is a short introduction featuring Jada Pinkett-Smith (Niobe) and Anthony Wong (Ghost), who seem to love being part of the gaming experience.
Moving on, the first section is dubbed “I’ll Handle Them”, and concerns Neo’s fight in the Merovingian’s chateau lair. The featurettes include:
-- “The Great Hall”: The logistics of fight choreography come under fire with some detailed blocking techniques.
-- “Building the Merovingian’s Lair”: Production design is central to The Matrix universe, and we get to see the Frenchman’s crib get constructed.
-- “Tiger Style - A Day in the Life of Chen Hu”: The gifted stuntman behind some of Reloaded’s best punch-ups, is given a great tribute with shots of him hard at work.
-- “Heavy Metal: Weapons of the Great Hall”: This sequence required many props to be made, with rubber swords and axes all coming into play. This shows the thought process behind such scenes.
Next, we get the “Car Chase” area, which covers the Freeway scene with a great deal of relish. There is plenty of facts to take on board here...
-- “Oakland Streets and Freeway - Unseen Material”: A lengthy collage of production footage awaits us, as we see the sequence slowly take shape. Much of this vignette concerns the construction of the fake freeway (a masterpiece in production design), and the start of shooting.
-- “Tour of the Merovingian’s Garage”: Preceding the car chase, is this small scene with the Twins, and what vehicles the slippery Frenchman owns. Naturally, some of them would be destroyed in the next scene.
-- “Queen of the Road”: Debbie Evans is Trinity’s stunt double, and this piece shows her during the exciting motorcycle shots.
-- “Arteries of the Mega-City - The Visual Effects of the Freeway Chase”: The scene features many fake shots of the surrounding city and freeway. The process behind creating these realistic vistas, is shown here.
-- “Foresight - Preplanning the Mayhem”: Most Hollywood studios “previz” sequences these days, and we get to see the tech heads plan out the chase in minute detail.
-- “Freeway Truck Crash - Anatomy of a Shot”: The shot of two trucks colliding is deconstructed for this illuminating piece. It goes from the original concept art, right through to the digital finish.
-- “Fate of the Freeway”: Naturally, the freeway would be torn down eventually. This small piece shows the crew doing just that, and shipping the remnants off to Mexico for use in housing projects. (Yep, not even the mundane is useless in this box set).
-- “Freeway Action Match”: We get to watch the entire freeway chase, alongside concept art, production footage and effects work. The best extra on the disc.
The “Teahouse Fight” between Neo and Seraph (Collin Chou) is documented in this next section:
-- “Two Equals Clash”: Chou discusses the sequence, and what it means to him personally, before the choreography is highlighted.
-- “Guardian of the Oracle - Collin Chou”: The actor gives us more insight, this time offering his thoughts on the character.
The duel between Neo and a hundred Smiths, takes centre-stage in “Unplugged”, which manages to convince us of the sheer hard work that went into creating this over-the-top sequence.
-- “Creating the Burly Brawl”: The shoot here looks very intense. Apparently, there’s more fight choreography in this one scene, than in the whole of the first film. Reeves looks suitably daunted, as they soldier ahead with planning every kick and punch. And this is all before the digital craftsmen take over.
-- “A Conversation with Master Wo-Ping”: The term master is correct, since Wo-Ping is like no one else. He gives us a brief rundown of his career (via subtitles), and how he appreciates the Wachowski’s vision. Clearly a man without an ego, he takes the time to highlight his martial arts team, and there’s some more shots of him at work. Neat.
-- “Chad Stahelski - The Other Neo”: Keanu’s stunt double gets some deserved screen time with this featurette.
-- “Burly Brawl Action Match”: Like the extra above, this shows the entire scene next to concept work, B-roll footage and effects prowess.
-- “Spiralling Virtual Shot - Anatomy of a Shot”: The shot of Agent Smith’s leaping onto Neo is analysed with this last piece.
The final area of the Reloaded disc is called “Exiles”, and concerns various new characters introduced in the second film:
-- “The Exiles”: The Merovingian, Persephone, the Twins, the Keymaster, Sati and the “Trainman” (both from Revolutions), are discussed here. The actors behind them offer their thoughts, and the atmosphere on set was clearly electric.
-- “Big Brother Is Watching - The Architect’s Office”: I hadn’t realised, but an awful lot of green screen was used for this sequence. The filming is shown, with comments from the actors. However there’s no mention of the ridiculous dialogue...
Disc 6: “The Matrix Revolutions Revisited”
Once again, we get a whole horde of different featurettes, which can be selected or watched in one lengthy chunk, beginning with “Crew”:
-- “Owen’s Army - The Australian Art Dept”: Production designer Owen Paterson gets his time to shine, with this neat look at the Australian team busily prepping sets and shots.
-- “2nd Unit - A World of Their Own”: These guys seem to have the most thankless job on set - filming pick-ups, coverage of explosions and general seconds of footage that the director’s are too busy to supervise.
-- “Bill Pope - Cinematographer of the Matrix”: The huge task facing Pope must have been frustrating at times, and the gifted DP is shown doing what he does best. The featurette offers a decent overview of his career, and the techniques he employs to give The Matrix Trilogy a distinctive feel.
-- “Masters of Light and Shadow”: The lighting dept. go about their work.
Next-up is the “Club Hell” section, which delves into the disappointing action scene.
-- “Coat Check”: This explains how the stuntmen were able to defy gravity, without turning the set upside down.
-- “Upsidedown Under”: Yet another look at the men performing these wicked stunts while stuck to the ceiling. Moss rightly calls them “crazy”.
-- “Fast Break”: Finally, a featurette about practical effects, rather than the digital kind. Exploding pillars and bullet hits are highlighted for this fun vignette.
-- “Exploding Man”: Leo Henry is the man in charge of pyrotechnics, and he gets to show off his credentials in explosive fashion. Book this man at your next bonfire...
-- “Gun Club”: Guns, lots of guns. Blanks are fired everywhere in this piece.
-- “The Extras of Club Hell”: The extras here are odd to say the least. Most of them came in their own costumes too.
Much more interesting, is the “Siege” section, which covers the Machine assault on Zion, and those few thousand Sentinels.
-- “Dig This”: Clearly a mammoth area of the production, we see the set being prepared for destruction, and the beginnings of the shoot. Miniature effects combine with CGI, and we get to see the concept art, shooting, and actors preparing for battle. This set was very busy indeed.
-- “The Siege Action Match”: Yet another dual-screen look at the scene, and the elements that went into its making. Fab.
-- “Anatomy of a Shot - Mifune’s Last Stand”: Effects wunderkind John Gaeta pops up once more, to examine this character’s triumphant swan song. It was clearly more complex to pull off, than it appears in the film.
-- “Building an APU”: The large robotic machines of Zion are given their own piece here. A combination of prop work and CGI innovation, they’re impressive. That said, the similarities to those machines in Aliens is hardly an issue...
-- “Product of Zion”: This features Harold Perrineau (Link), Nona Gaye (Zee), Rachel Blackman (Charra), Harry Jlennix (Commander Lock), and Nathaniel Lees (Mifune), and their thoughts on entering the
Following this, is the section marked “Super Burly Brawl”, which chronicles Neo’s final fight with the diabolical Smith(s).
-- “The Sky Barn”: A huge set was constructed for this sequence, and this featurette concerns the differences between practical work and digital shots.
-- “The Crater”: One of the more memorable shots in the film, is Neo staring out from this crater formed in the city streets. The set was forever water-logged, which elicits some discomfort from the actors.
-- “The Egg”: This refers to one of the rigs responsible for placing the actors in the sky, or in reality, against a green screen.
-- “Anatomy of the Superpunch”: Remember that huge close-up of the punch Neo gives Smith? Well, this is how they did it. And the effects crew reveal their inspiration - Fight Club...
After this, is the “New Blue World” area. In other words, it’s the real world environments that pad-out most of Revolution’s running time.
-- “Geography of Zion”: The ‘last human’ city is one of great grandeur and spectacle. The cast and crew reflect on its construction, and the many ideas that went into its creation.
-- “The Ships”: The crafts that our heroes pilot, are quickly shown here, along with Geof Darrow’s conceptual artwork.
-- “Tour of the Neb”: As you’d expect, this is all about Morpheus’s ship the Nebuchadnezzar, with host Owen Paterson.
-- “Logos Fight Expansion”: We see the filming of the fight between Neo and Bane, which leaves the character blinded.
Finally, the last section concerns the “Aftermath”, i.e. the processes involved after principle photography.
-- “Revolutionary Composition”: It took long enough, but we finally get a detailed look at Don Davis scoring the trilogy. He discusses his work, his influences, and the mood he was trying to generate. It also allows him to show his choir at work.
-- “The Glue”: This follows editor Zach Staenberg, who was interviewed as principle photography finished. For some reason, he’s far too energetic for a man given the task of editing two full-length movies.
-- “Dane Tracks”: Don’s brother Dane gets the spotlight this time, and he shows us what he used to create all of those sound effects that have become instantly recognisable.
-- “Cause and Effects”: The effects houses that created so many of those money shots are shown in their natural habitat. In other words, huddled around computers. We get to see what each house worked on.
Disc 7: “The Animatrix” - Full Review
There are several pieces for the animated segments, including “Voices”, which documents the voice actors who worked on the project; “Scrolls to Screen”, a history of anime; “Creators”, which provides bio screens for the different directors; and last but not least, “Execution” a 55-minute documentary focusing on each short in turn. As we’ve come to expect, these supplements are very comprehensive.
Disc 8: “The Roots of the Matrix”
This is for all the geeks out there. Best described as an appendage to the philosophical commentaries, this disc ventures into the deeper meanings of the franchise, with two documentaries that run just over an hour each. Dense and full of complex theories, it might give you something to argue about over Christmas dinner (as if your mother’s roast isn’t enough).
“Return to Source: Philosophy & The Matrix” is the first and covers everything from Gnostic Christianity, to the influence of Nietzsche. The Wachowski’s are revealed as great followers of many beliefs, with Christian ideals and Hindu texts providing a source of inspiration for their tales. The philosophers on hand do a decent job of assessing the films, and miraculously, helped me understand a lot of what the Wachowski’s were aiming for with Reloaded and Revolutions. Clearly, these films weren’t the aimless disasters we thought they were. Whatever you might think of their film-making talents, the Wachowski’s are clearly geniuses.
The follow-up is called “The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction”, which concerns our dependence on machines to live, and what might eventually happen if the controls slip from our grasp. It’s actually pretty creepy. Our reliance on computers in every day life is far too widespread to comprehend, and there’s even a connection made between the video games we play and the world of The Matrix. Most will dismiss it, but in this day and age of computer dominance, perhaps we should be more cautious. Techno-phobes: give this one a miss...
Disc 9: “The Burly Man Chronicles”
By this point, I was generally shocked that there was still more to see in this set. Clearly, I was wrong. “The Burly Man Chronicles” is a 95-minute documentary, chronicling the entire shoot of Reloaded and Revolutions, from August of 2000, right through to the eventual release. It really goes into the awe-inspiring nitty-gritty, with plenty of unseen footage throughout. While there is some repetition with the “Revisited” discs, this gets bonus points for presentation, with the events shown in chronological order, and more behind the scenes action to savour. Watching this documentary, is almost like being part of the crew. Outstanding.
If that wasn’t enough, this documentary gets its very own “Follow the White Rabbit” feature (which fans will know, accompanies the first film). Select this option, and the rabbit will pop up throughout, enabling you to access further featurettes:
-- “Pre-Production”: The key members of the crew dissect the prep work
behind this mammoth shooting schedule.
-- “Alameda Shoot”: 4 short pieces that last 17 minutes.
-- “Australia Shoot”: 10 more featurettes, which round out the disc.
And so, our journey comes to a close with --
Disc 10: The Zion Archive
The word “comprehensive” gets its final use in this review, with the largest collection of galleries and concept work that I’ve ever seen. “The Zion Archive” lets go of the video supplements, with thousands of screens revealing sections documenting storyboards, characters, ships, machines and sets. There really is too much here. In most respects, I got lost in them, with my head going dizzy at the amount of stills and pictures to look at. And just in case you were wondering, the disc does feature the theatrical trailers for each film, which are neatly displayed within “The Media of the Matrix” (as well as TV spots and music videos by Marilyn Manson and P.O.D.). Finishing off the set in mouth-watering style, is the 10 minute “Matrix Online Preview”; a sneak-peak at the up-coming PC game. This is, by far, the greatest collection of materials ever assembled on the format. It will take a Herculean effort to beat this...
Five years later, The Matrix remains a global phenomenon; a force given full reign with this exhaustive (and stupendous) box set. It will take the average viewer months to view the material contained within, making it a must-own for fans, and more than worth a look for those who appreciated the Wachowski’s blockbuster trilogy. While the sequels disappoint, they continue to steadily improve after multiple viewings and reflection. Warners have created something truly special with this set - and any hyperbole I throw at the reader won’t do it justice. To quote the mighty Morpheus, “no one can be told what the Matrix is, you have to see it for yourself...”