The Matrix

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Details At A Glance

Category Science Fiction/Action Theatrical Trailer(s) None
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 2
1 - John Gaeta (Visual Effects Supervisor), Zach Staenberg (Editor), Carrie-Anne Moss (Actor)
2 - Isolated Music Score plus Commentary by Don Davies (Composer)
Running Time 131:20 minutes Other Extras Menu Audio & Animation
Cast & Crew Biographies
Featurette-What Is The Concept (11:24)
Featurette-What Is Bullet-Time (6:14)
Featurette-Making Of (25:55)
Featurette-Follow The White Rabbit (22:51)
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (59:12)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 4 Director Larry Wachowski
Andy Wachowski

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Keanu Reeves
Laurence Fishburne
Carrie-Anne Moss
Hugo Weaving
Joe Pantoliano
RRP $34.95 Music Don Davies
Pan & Scan/Full Frame No MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score plus Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The Matrix is the kind of film that I wish would just quietly go away and die. Not because of Keanu Reeve's acting (they go to a lot of trouble in this one to hide his hideous acting "skills"), but because of the plot. It is basically what you'd get if you took Total Recall, Star Wars, and 1984, threw them in a bag, shook them violently, and ran with the first script that came out. To demonstrate, I will now go through the important plot points and where the Wachowski brothers stole them from. The Matrix concerns a young man who goes by the name of Neo (Keanu Reeves) who discovers that reality as you and I know it is a falsehood pulled over our eyes to keep us docile and in a state of slavery (Total Recall, 1984). As he makes this discovery, he is guided along by the ravishing Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and the ineffectual Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Eventually, he is also told that he just might be a reincarnation of a man who could change the fabled Matrix at will, and whom the fabled Oracle "prophesied" would return to bring the whole thing crashing down (Star Wars and any other Christ-theme based film you care to name). Along the way, he is hindered and antagonized by the fabled Agents protecting and administering the Matrix, led by the amazingly Carl Sagan-like Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Hugo could have saved this entire film from its sheer dullness by uttering the word "bullions" just once.

    Due to some of the responses to this review which I received, I have decided to amend this paragraph (and a lot of this review). Or in some cases, as you can see, rewrite it altogether. In my ever-so-humble view, The Matrix is a reasonably good film that has been turned stale by its own publicity. The DVD is little different, in my view. When this film opened in cinemas, the reaction from most critics could be described as ranging from positive in a qualified way, to downright lukewarm. This is mostly because of the fact that the advertising campaign severely makes this film out to be something it isn't. The same has happened with the DVD version, with the infamous dvdusergroup declaring it the best Region 4 release of all time. Given that the aforementioned user group is actually run by Columbia TriStar, a division of Sony, and that it is a shameless apologist for Regional Coding, this praise hardly means anything. I must stand by my description of the plot. Several versions of the Christ and Messiah themes, or a combination of both in some cases, come out every year in film and literature. The Matrix is a distinctly average one when compared to Star Wars, Robocop, or Dune. Just to show you that I am not alone in my view of this film, I invite you to take a look at other critiques such as those offered by Mr. Cranky and some very vocal patrons of his site, and the Brunching Shuttlecocks' Self-Made Critic. Essentially, the point here is to state that while you, the viewer, may feel that The Matrix is a cinematic masterpiece, there are plenty who feel otherwise and I am far from the only one. Even if I were the only one, that certainly doesn't invalidate my viewpoint, given my background as a literary and music critic.

    Finally, I would just like to extend a sincere apology to my fellow critics, especially the ones working for this site, for letting my tiredness with the hype for this film get the better of me and labelling them as idiots for their view of this film. While I am still bewildered beyond belief by reviews heralding this film as a paragon to be emulated without reservation, this hardly gives me the right to put them down as people. I will, however, state that if you're looking for something to blame the nastiness of my review of this film upon, I suggest that those of you who belong to the "your opinion is invalid because you aren't giving The Matrix rave reviews" school of response, and the people responsible for the advertising campaign, to take a good hard look at yourselves. Thank you.

Transfer Quality


    The video is of near-perfect quality. But that's hardly impressive when you remember this film only came out about six months ago. Given that this film is an infant compared to some other films that have had similarly impressive jobs done with their visual transfers, I can't say I am overly impressed, even though this film makes a good demonstration disc for the superior capabilities of the DVD format. The film is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and definitely isn't intended for small screens, so you may miss out if you choose to view this film on a DVD-ROM. It is also 16x9 enhanced, which evens out a few of the more noticeable film artefacts I noticed in the original theatrical exhibition (mainly just the occasional minor film spots that I believe happen with every film I view in the local cinema). All in all, you could do a hell of a lot worse, but I think there are plenty of other films which are far more deserving of this kind of transfer. There are also much older films which show a lot less in the way of film artefacts.

    The disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change occurring at 59:12, before the beginning of a fade-to-black after the scene in which Morpheus' ship, the Nebuchadnezzar, and its occupants narrowly avoid detection by Sentinels in the real world. In other words, a point where even I barely noticed it (at least not before I began to look for it). What more can I say? I've certainly seen far better movies ruined by far worse presentations on a DVD, so Roadshow Home Entertainment deserve an extra point for presenting The Matrix in a way that doesn't irritate the viewer. However, it would have been much nicer if the film were encoded to one layer (it would just barely fit on one layer) and extras were encoded to the other. A minor complaint, but one that would attract tremendous favour from consumers when rectified.


    The dialogue is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 English. It would have been nice to see more choices in this area, but then you wouldn't be able to isolate those people who want home cinema by cramming in those extra DVD-ROM extras, would you? Also presented are an English Commentary track, in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding, as well as an isolated music score with composer commentary track in Dolby Digital 2.0, again with surround-encoding. Frankly, I find the use of pseudo-alternative bands and their music in combination with a proper film score rather offensive, but that's just one of my quirks. I am sure there are plenty of people out there who will find that comment about them equally offending.

    The dialogue is almost always nice and clear, even when Hugo Weaving is speaking in that trademark monotone mumble. Every time he opened his mouth I was waiting for him to say "bullions and bullions of dollars". The only time where the audio mix slips up is when Trinity talks with Neo for the first time, with the background music mostly drowning out their speech. This, however, is no different from the original theatrical exhibition, in which the music caused a lot of popped ears. The rest of the music in this film ranges from impressive (Don Davis' score music) to completely inappropriate (all the pseudo-alternative bands such as Rage Against The Machine that make up the soundtrack album). The score music is surprisingly well made, given some of the sequences it was used in. I felt that it really should have been used all through the movie, and such a tactic may have elicited a more positive response from the film's detractors.


    A bunch of extras are presented on this disc. They range from Interesting to Just Plain Annoying.


    A Just Plain Annoying extra, a menu designed without a single thought to the fact that it might get left on for more than fifteen seconds. The animation and sound of the main menu are not very well designed at all, and soon irritate the hell out of me. A little more thought should have gone into the design here.

Audio Commentary

    The audio commentary is so weak and masturbatory that you will want to shut it off within thirty seconds if you're anything like me. A note to the crew (I still don't remember which one made this comment): no, Morpheus' voice does not even come close to equalling Darth Vader's. A voice is only as powerful as the character of the man backing it up, and Morpheus doesn't even get into the same meat puppet ballpark as Vader's red-faced, gold-horned predecessor. Oh, and when you provide audio commentary on the making of the film, it pays to make the stories amusing and not just a load of verbal masturbation about how great you think the film you have just made is. The "tell them what they want instead of give it to them" phenomenon in popular media appears to have struck again here. Because of the inherent arrogance I found in the main commentary track, I originally didn't even bother with the music-plus-commentary track. Why bother when the rest of the film is made by people so up themselves?

Isolated Music Score With Commentary by Don Davies (composer)

    An interesting extra (sort of), in that it gives an insight into one of the more pleasant aspects of the film, in spite of the occasional moment of lapsing into the same masturbatory mode as the other commentary track. While composer Don Davis certainly doesn't strike me as the best in the business, he does have a certain something that separates him from the rest of the pack. Were I being introduced to his work through another film, I might even put him up there with the greats. We'll just have to wait and see what he produces next. If you're into film scores, then you will find this of some moderate value to listen to. If not, then it's really a matter of personal taste or interest.

Featurette - Making The Matrix

    Another one of the few extras that doesn't give this viewer an impulse to throw the disc out of the window. It does reveal exactly how unimpressive most of the effects shots really are, at least in my view. Most of the amazing shots used to make up this film appear in the commercial, which is what I choose to call the hallmark of a truly unimpressive film.

Featurette - Follow The White Rabbit

    I activated one scene in this featurette, and was so impressed with the ease-of-navigation and content that I immediately turned it off. If you're going to put an extra of this nature on a film, I suggest you put it there in a such a way that makes it more accessible to potential viewers, Roadshow Home Entertainment.

Featurette - What Is The Concept

    I assume this is the extra you activate the red pill for. Again, I am less than impressed, although it was interesting to watch the first time around because I didn't quite now what I was in for. However, I soon grew tired of the featurette after a second viewing.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Why won't big, strong, tough-voiced Larry Fishburne admit to being in such B-grade horror films as A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors in his bio? It's because in reality, he is a big old wuss, like the character he is playing. Similar things can be said about the rest of the cast, whose biographies are designed to give no acknowledgement to the more forgettable aspects of their careers.

R4 vs R1

    Because I was so unimpressed with the film itself, I don't see much point in describing any additional extras either region might have. Given how chock-full the disc is, it is hard to believe that either version could have something which seriously swings a buyer's decision in either direction. However, because the NTSC (or Never Twice The Same Colour as a friend who repairs audio-visual equipment in his spare time likes to call it) format is an unfortunate "bonus" of the Region 1 version, I would prefer the Region 4 version anyway. I also prefer it because paying any more than I have to for this disc would leave a very bitter taste in my mouth.


    A textbook presentation of what is the most overhyped film of the previous century.

    The video quality is reference material.

    Ditto for the audio quality. It's just such a shame such a great transfer was wasted on this, of all films.

    The extras are a similar game to shoving your hand down the fabled Worst Toilet In Scotland to find gold, except the total amount of gold to be found here is moderate at best.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
7th January, 2000
Amended 10th January, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100D, using composite output
Display Panasonic 51cm and 68cm televisions
Audio Decoder None
Amplification Sony STR-DE535
Speakers Pioneer SJ-1500D x 4, Sony SS-CN120 Centre Speaker