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Details At A Glance
||Yes, 1 - Dolby Digital City
1 - John Gaeta (Visual Effects Supervisor), Zach Staenberg
(Editor), Carrie-Anne Moss (Actor)
2 - Isolated Music Score plus Commentary by Don Davies (Composer)
||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)
Cast & Crew
Roadshow Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
||English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 ,
Isolated Music Score plus Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 ,
|Theatrical Aspect Ratio
||English for the Hearing Impaired
||Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
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
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'
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.
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
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.
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
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.
© Dean McIntosh
7th January, 2000
Amended 10th January, 2000
||Grundig GDV 100D, using composite output
||Panasonic 51cm and 68cm televisions
||Pioneer SJ-1500D x 4, Sony SS-CN120 Centre Speaker