The Matrix (Remastered) (1999)

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Released 7-Dec-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
Dolby Digital Trailer-Train
Notes-Written Introduction By The Wachowski Brothers
Audio Commentary-The Philosophers: Dr Cornel West & Ken Wilber
Audio Commentary-The Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers & David Thomson
DVD-ROM Extras-and Commentary by Don Davies (Composer)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 130:43 (Case: 136)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (65:01) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Larry Wachowski
Andy Wachowsky
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Keanu Reeves
Laurence Fishburne
Carrie-Anne Moss
Hugo Weaving
Joe Pantoliano
Gloria Foster
Case ?
RPI Box Music Don Davis


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    1999 was looked upon with excitement. For many years, sci-fi fans had waited impatiently, desperately for what was surely the most anticipated science fiction film of all time. 16 years after the release of Star Wars: Episode VI - The Return of the Jedi, a new Star Wars film was nearly upon us. People flocked to Meet Joe Black just to see the trailer for the next Star Wars film. The hype was incredible, palatable and it cascaded in intensity. Meanwhile, just a couple of months before the release of Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, another film came along. Largely unheralded, a small film called The Matrix started in cinemas in April 1999, and it would be one of the most memorable films of all time.

"What is The Matrix?"

    Directed by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski, The Matrix tells the story of Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, and his awakening to the world around him. Aware that there is something wrong with the world, Thomas seeks information on a mysterious man named Morpheus. Whilst not knowing a lot about him, he does know that he just may hold the key to the truth of the Matrix. Anderson's search bears fruit when, after an invitation to a night club, he meets Trinity. Anderson knows of Trinity, but she has more important information to impart...information on the Matrix and what it is.

"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself."

    At work the next day, Thomas receives a parcel that contains a phone. Upon opening it, it rings and on the other end is Morpheus. Warning that the authorities are after him, Morpheus tries to lead Anderson to safety, but to no avail. An Agent, Agent Smith is hot on Anderson's trail, and he knows that the young computer programmer just might have information on the whereabouts of Morpheus. When Anderson is less than forthcoming, Agent Smith demonstrates that he has more power behind him than just the law. Learning that things are even less than what they appear to be, Thomas takes the opportunity to again contact, and finally meet the elusive and enigmatic Morpheus. He is even more surprised to learn that Morpheus has been searching for Anderson, more importantly, for Neo for some time...and he has a proposition. Morpheus holds in his hand the key to the truth of the Matrix, and Neo is given the choice of truth or ignorance. Choosing the path of truth, Neo finds himself quickly detached from his former life, and in an instant everything that he knows and understands is turned on its head.

    "Welcome to the real world."
 
     Awakening from his slumber, Neo finds himself in a different place. Morpheus tells Neo that he has been a prisoner in the Matrix, an artificial world created by a race of machines to enslave the minds of mankind. Jacked into the Matrix, the world's human population believes that it is going about its day to day activities, while the machines use the electrochemical and thermal energies of the human body as a power source. Morpheus tells Neo of a prophecy about a saviour, the One, that will transcend the laws and design of the Matrix to free the minds of mankind and end the rule of the machines. This, of course, is easier said than done.

"You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt and disbelief. Free your mind."

    Neo struggles to understand that his former self, world and life were all an illusion. The shackles that bind him are the remnants of his connection to his dream life in the Matrix. As Neo is trained to work and think outside what is normally possible, he slowly understands that there is no limit to the power he can wield within the Matrix if he can totally accept that the laws of mind and physics don't apply when you understand that nothing is real. This is put to the test when Morpheus is captured by Agent Smith during an excursion into the Matrix. Neo, with the help of Trinity, must re-enter the Matrix and take on Smith and the other Agents head-to-head if he is to save Morpheus. The problem is that everyone who has faced an Agent has been killed. Neo's only hope is to rely on his training and believe that nothing in the Matrix is real. In the end, the only one who can save Morpheus and defeat the Agents is The One. But is Neo really The One?

    This film came right out of left field in 1999. Previously, directors Larry and Andy Wachowski had only directed the stylish cult lesbian gangster film Bound. Whilst well received, it didn't hint to anything like The Matrix in terms of scope and profile. Perhaps its success was due to fortuitous timing and the mood of the market, but whatever it was, it worked. Borrowing from a range of films and genres, the Wachowski Brothers managed to blend it all into a cohesive whole. Make no mistake here, The Matrix is far from original. Black trench coats and massive firepower had been done long before in Hong Kong films such as John Woo's The Killer (along with many others) and the Jet Li film Black Mask. Along with the overkill firepower aspect of the film is the role of martial arts in the film. Using the legendary fight choreographer Woo-ping Yuen, the Wachowski Brothers were able to capture the feel of a Hong Kong film accurately, without the amateurish feel of a pure Hollywood offering. Another major influence would be the 1995 anime classic Ghost in the Shell, which is the origin of the falling Matrix code. Also in the mix are the Alien films and strangely enough, spaghetti westerns. The real trick to success with this film is that although it is not entirely original, the mix of influences is so well done that you can forgive the borrowing. The other trick up the sleeves of the Wachowski Brothers was special effects wizard John Gaeta. Developing several special effect processes for use in the film (including the now famous Bullet Time), Gaeta would stamp his mark all over the film and ensure its world-wide success.

    Along with the groundbreaking special effects that would shine in this film, the performances set the film apart. Often criticized for wooden delivery, Keanu Reeves excels in the role of Neo. Playing the part with a real sense of bewilderment and naivety, it's this vulnerability and lack of bravado that make the character of Neo work so well. Ewan McGregor, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith were all considered for the role of Neo, but in the end it was Keanu Reeves that would make the role his own. Every hero has to have a villain, and for this film Hugo Weaving is that villain. Famous in Australia for roles in films such as Proof, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Interview and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Weaving is perfectly cast here as the ultimate bad guy. With an accent somewhere between Carl Sagan and a 1950s news reader, Weaving as Agent Smith is the antithesis of Thomas Anderson / Neo. Totally sure of himself and his power, he is driven with machine-like efficiency to destroy Neo and Morpheus and locate the last human city, Zion. Weaving does a great balancing act, as he is able to convey total menace and power whilst still being able to bring humour to the role. The cast of supporting actors is also superb. Laurence Fishburne is perfectly cast as Morpheus, the voice calling out in the wilderness. He brings a balance between the Neo and Agent Smith characters that is totally believable. Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, Joe Pantoliano as Cypher and the late Gloria Foster as the Oracle all do splendid jobs in their roles and add to the rich tapestry that is the film.

    This film has had a couple of reviews written about it on this site. Both Michael D and Dean M have had a look at the film. Dean M also wrote an article called  Top 10 Reasons Why The Matrix Stank. To each his own I say. I have always been a fan of this film, and it has sat unmoved at the No. 1 position in my Top Ten for several years now. This film is more than the sum of its parts. It could have been a half-assed rehash of a dozen other films before it. I don't necessarily disagree with the rehash part, but this film is far from half-assed. Larry and Andy Wachowski have created something amazing with this film, and when seen as a single film and separate from the two follow-ups, it is a spectacular thing to behold. Sadly, nothing can be left well alone and market forces dictate that if a film is a success, then it must spawn a franchise. If only this hadn't happened here, it would be held in the same light as Blade Runner in years to come. Still, this is a groundbreaking film that remains a thrill to watch. A real classic.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer here is excellent and conveys the film very well.

    The video is presented in 2.40:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is very close to the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. In direct comparison to the original Region 1 disc, the matte seems to have been opened up slightly here, with just a little more information available at the top and bottom of screen. A casual viewing won't reveal this, but pausing the same frame on both the Region 1 and this new Region 4 disc makes it a bit more noticeable. That said, there isn't enough difference between the original Region 1 disc's picture and that of this new version to cause any real problems.

    The detail here is quite good, and is just that little bit better than the original release. Skin texture seems more refined here, and there is a reduction in the level of grain and fine pixelization that was slightly noticeable on the first release. Shadow detail is good here. The black level seems more pronounced with this transfer compared to the previous one, but I didn't feel that this resulted in a loss of image. Low level noise is not a problem here.

    Colour's use in this film is very distinct. There is a pronounced green hue in all the scenes that take place within the Matrix. This corresponds with a lack of blue colour. Outside the Matrix is a different story, with the green gone and colour looking more natural, although with an accent on blue. This difference in colour is used to highlight the different realities of the film, from the stagnant techno-death of the Matrix to the blue hue that hints at the life that was once prevalent on Earth. This new transfer more accurately conveys these differences and the material is well served.

    There is a dramatic data transfer rate difference between the original release and this new version. Whilst the original disc housed the film, 2 audio commentaries and a host of extra material, this new collection is spread over 10 discs, so the discs for the films doesn't have to be overloaded. What this transfers to is quite a high overall bitrate. This new version runs at around 7.00 to 7.50 Mb/s average, in comparison to the original's overall bitrate of around 4.65 Mb/s. This helps reduce the slight but noticeable fine pixelization present in the first release. The first release was good, especially when compared to the first release of a film like The Fifth Element, but there was always room for improvement, and improvement we have with this disc. Grain is still noticeable, but is isn't a huge problem here. There is a bit of edge enhancement visible during the programme, such as that seen around Neo at 67:40, but it isn't out of control.

    There are 2 subtitle options here, these being an English stream and an English for the Hearing Impaired stream. The English does an okay job of conveying the dialogue of the film, but it isn't word for word.

    This disc is formatted RSDL, with the layer change taking place at 65:01 between Chapters 20 and 21. It's a good place for a change, but my player clipped Morpheus's line "We're in" to just "We're i..."  This could be a limitation on my player's part, but I wish that the change didn't take place so close to dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio here is good, and serves the material well.

    There are 3 audio options available on this title, these being an English Dolby Digital 5.l mix running at 384 Kb/s and 2 Audio Commentaries in Dolby Digital 2.0 running at a basic 192 Kb/s. Many will be disappointed to hear that we haven't been given a 448 Kb/s audio track with this film (let alone a dts track), but seeing as Region 1 doesn't get it either (and didn't get it with the original release), we don't have too much to complain about.

    Dialogue quality here is excellent, with the spoken word understandable throughout. I had no issues with audio sync, apart from the occasional obvious ADR, which isn't avoidable.

    Music for this film comes from composer Don Davis. Don has been writing scores for film and television since the late 70s and has contributed to such features as SeaQuest DSV, Bound (the other Wachowski Brothers feature), Jurassic Park III and Behind Enemy Lines. The music is very basic, with a blend of horns and prominent percussion. Some have criticized the score of the film, calling it too bland and by the numbers, but I believe that the traditional score serves the film. The opening credits theme is fantastic in its simplicity and menace, and far from bland. The other side of this film's soundtrack comes from many modern composers and artists. Featured throughout the film is music from Massive Attack, Rob Zombie, Prodigy, Lunatic Calm, Rob D, Duke Ellington (when Neo visits the Oracle, just in case you were wondering), and Rage Against the Machine, just to name a few. The blend of traditional score and modern compositions works well and completely suits the material.

    There is a constant surround presence with this film, but it isn't gimmicky or distracting. I heard sound coming from all around, with the rear channels delivering a very good atmospheric presence along with some occasional directional rear effect.

    The subwoofer gets a workout here with some serious LFE. From the various fight scenes and passages of high energy action to the modern soundtrack, there will be plenty for your subwoofer to do here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The first release of The Matrix was one of the last high profile DVD releases that wasn't what is now the obligatory 2 Disc Collector's Edition. Just the one disc with the first release, but it was packed to the rafters with extra features. With this new release, the extras are a bit thinner on the ground, but only because Roadshow Home Entertainment have spread the goods over all 10 discs in the set. One handy thing is that Roadshow have created a package that supplements the original releases, but doesn't replace them. The audio commentaries and extras on the original disc are not replicated here, which is a nice change.
 

Menu

    After the normal distributor's logos, copyright warnings and the ever-present 'What is Warner Bros. Movie World?' trailer (1:20, 2.35:1, 16x9), we are taken to the disc's Main Menu which offers us the following:

    The Main Menu is 16x9 enhanced and animated. Audio is in English Dolby Digital 2.0.

    Selecting the Commentaries icon offers up the following:

Written Introduction by The Wachowski Brothers   -   9 Pages

    Those waiting to hear a commentary by the Wachowski Bros. will be disappointed. Not fans of hearing themselves talk, the pair have instead offered the opinions of two distinct groups: fans of the films and critics. These pages go into how the whole dual commentary idea came to fruition, despite the reservations of the studio.

Audio Commentary - The Philosophers: Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber

    Cornel West is a professor of African-American studies and philosophy of religion at Harvard University. He is the author of several books, including the noted Race Matters in 1993. West brings an casual yet authoritative voice to this commentary. If you ever wanted to hear funky philosophy, then you'd hear it from this guy. Ken Wilber is a philosopher and author with more than a dozen books to his credit. Ken's speciality is in human spirituality, which is quite appropriate for the subject matter of this film. This is an engaging commentary, and something worth listening to if you are a fan of the films.

Audio Commentary - The Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers & David Thomson

    This audio commentary is the flip side of the coin. With Cornel West and Ken Wilber, we had fans of not only the original film, but of the series as a whole. Not here. Todd McCarthy of Variety, John Powers of Vogue and film critic and author David Thomson are all somewhat scathing of this trilogy of films. Although the trio do criticize The Matrix  from time to time, it becomes apparent that the three are in some ways fans of the first film. I'm sure that as the series continues, the praise will die down a little from this crew.

Web Links

    With the InterActual DVD player installed (included), a host of interactive and web enabled extras are made available. There is meant to be an audio commentary with the film's score composer Don Davis as part of the DVD-Rom extras, but this is dependant on it being available on-line, and as of December 22, 2004, the on-line information on commentaries is that they are still in production. I'll keep you posted as to when they might become available.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This collection was released in Region 1 on December 7, 2004, just a day after it was released here in Region 4. The packages are for the most part the same, but the Region 1 set does get the additional audio options of French (Canadian dub) and Japanese in 5.1 as well as Spanish and French subtitles. In terms of content, I can find no information that would separate the two packages. The Region 1 discs will not feature the Warner Bros. Movie World promos, but this is of no consequence. For all practical purposes the packages are the same and you can feel free to buy the Region 4 set with confidence.

Summary

     This is one of the most popular films of the 20th century. Love it or hate it, you can't dismiss its popularity and influence. Admittedly, the film is a blend of styles and genres that have been collected and woven together, but it's in the final product where the Wachowski Brothers have been able to excel. This is great fun and remains as such today. If you have been a fan of the film, then this will be one collection that you will want to own.

     The video is very good and a real improvement on the original release.

     The audio is good, but a 448 Kb/s bitrate soundtrack would have been nice.

     There are 2 new commentaries for fans of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD RP-82 with DVD-Audio on board, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko TRW 325 / 32 SFT 10 76cm (32") 16x9. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderYamaha RX-V2300 Dolby Digital and dts. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2300 110w X 6 connected via optical cable and shielded RCA (gold plated) connects for DVD-Audio
SpeakersVAF DC-X Fronts (bi-wired), VAF DC-6 Center, VAF DC-2 Rears, VAF LFE-07 Sub (Dual Amp. 80w x 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
So is this available outside of the box set? - Christopher REPLY POSTED
What's the difference? - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
No R1 Movie World Add - napalm68 REPLY POSTED
Is this encoded for R2? - Gav REPLY POSTED
Colour timing - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
matrix remastered is region 4 only - chucky, has drop out of dvdcompare.net
Green tinting and Less Matting conformed - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
Green tinting and Less Matting conformed - Anonymous
Layer Change - Ben
Spewing blood [Caution, profanity] - Anonymous REPLY POSTED
The other Matrix Dvd were really crap transfers and OVERATED! - Pendergast REPLY POSTED
Audio bitrate - Pharaoh