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The Ultimate Matrix Collection

The Matrix proved to be a hugely successful and thoughtful sci-fi action film upon its release in 1999, leaving audience members hungry for more. And in what may be one of the best examples of being careful what you wish for, 2003 brought The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and numerous spin-offs (most of which have been included in this DVD package, save for the video games and Powerade commercials). Such overexposure effectively destroyed popular interest in the franchise — 2004's Ultimate Matrix Collection presents an exhaustive (and exhausting) collection of ten discs meant to be so comprehensive that one suspects Warner Home Video may be releasing every speck of behind-the-scenes footage available in an effort to wash their hands of the whole affair. The set is impressive, all things considered — but by 2004 the DVD paradigm has shifted, and when it comes to supplements, less is becoming more. Besides, for many fans the only disc that won't be gathering dust shortly after the plastic is peeled is the first one. There is an intriguing element to this set in that each of the three Matrix movies is accompanied by two commentaries, one by critics (Variety's Todd McCarthy, Vogue's John Powers, and The Biographical Dictionary of Film's David Thomson) who don't like the sequels (though everyone is fond of the first film), the other by philosophers (Dr. Cornell West and Ken Wilber) who do. It's a great idea, but it appears that somebody didn't do their homework — there are many gaps in the commentaries and some pontifications that seem unfounded and/or banal (at best). Here, then, is the rundown on The Ultimate Matrix Collection with links to earlier reviews of the films in their first DVD incarnations:

  • Disc One: The Matrix (1999) is presented in a new spiffed-up transfer (five years in DVD mastering improvements makes a difference) in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, with a written director's introduction (which is repeated for all three films) and two audio commentaries.
  • Disc Two: The Matrix Revisited (2003) is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround and full-frame, supplemented by a selection of 41 of the songs that accompany the film and 17 featurettes (mostly taken from the original Matrix DVD) running 58 minutes.
  • Disc Three: The Matrix Reloaded (2003) (a film that was reviewed pre-Revolutions; with the knowledge of the conclusion, this writer would now dock it a star) in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and two audio commentaries.
  • Disc Four: "The Matrix Reloaded Revisited" features 42 minutes of cut scenes used in the tie-in video game "Enter The Matrix" along with 21 featurettes running 137 minutes.
  • Disc Five: The Matrix Revolutions (2003) in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, with two audio commentaries.
  • Disc Six: "The Matrix Revolutions Revisited" offers 28 featurettes running 178 minutes.
  • Disc Seven: The Animatrix (2003), a collection of nine Matrix-related animated shorts (one CGI, the rest cel) presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 audio and in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1). Extras on this disc include two behind-the-scenes featurettes (running 77 minutes) and commentaries on four of the shorts.
  • Disc Eight: "The Roots of The Matrix" features two documentaries: "Return to Source: Philosophy and The Matrix" and "The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction," both running 61 minutes (or 1:01 — get it?) There's also 20 minutes worth of Easter eggs.
  • Disc Nine: "The Burly Man Chronicles" (94 min.) offers a behind-the-scenes look on the shooting of the sequels, supplemented by white rabbit icons offering 23 additional featurettes that run 82 minutes.
  • Disc Ten: "The Zion Archive" features the leftovers: still galleries for storyboards, characters, ships, machines, and sets, while also featuring five trailers, 22 TV spots, and two music videos. Also included is the "Rave Reel" (9 min.), which focuses on unfinished effects shots, and "The Matrix Online Preview" (10 min.), an advert for the online game.

If The Ultimate Matrix Collection sounds exhausting, it is. With the exception of "Return to Source: Philosophy and The Matrix," this is all as overwhelmingly dull as it sounds, and much like the sequels themselves, this box-set takes the fun out of the series. Also noteworthy is that additional DVD-ROM content offers a cast-and-crew commentary (featuring Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss). The set is available in a regular box or a limited edition that also comes with a bust of Neo. Five folding digipaks in a paperboard slipcase.

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