The Matrix Trilogy has been available on Blu-ray for a while, but only as part of the Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray release, the DVD version of which I reviewed way back in 2004. Now Warner Bros. is releasing the individual movies, first with The Matrix and now with The Matrix Reloaded this Tuesday, September 7th.
In the second chapter of The Matrix Trilogy, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s pivotal role in the fate of mankind. Directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski.
Like other visually spectacular movies, the Matrix Reloaded benefits greatly from high definition. Finer details emerge, especially with the great underground fortress city of Zion. And sometimes, it can magnify flaws – but I couldn’t see any. During the courtyard fight with the multiple Agent Smiths, I expected at some level to be able to see the defects of splicing in the image of Hugo Weaving repeatedly, but they did such a marvelous job.
I do think the movie itself suffers a bit from being the middle of a trilogy. Rather than be a self-contained movie, it serves as the setup piece for the climactic final movie. It tries to throw in some philosophical ideas like the first, but unrelated to the plot. And it gets confusing when they start talking about the different versions of the Matrix – throwing so much into the dialog it would certainly take another viewing to understand.
But it did give an excuse for the massive fight scenes showcasing the visual effects that made the first movie so spectacular, especially the freeway scene.
Character-wise, we see a Neo who has learned to control most of his powers, but is seen as something of a messiah by the inhabitants of Zion – the One who will fulfill the prophesy, and he doesn’t feel comfortable with it. And we see Neo and Trinity dealing with their love, and Neo’s visions of Trinity dying. But I don’t see a lot more than that. And the fact that Neo has control makes his fight scenes, although visually stunning, predictable – he has no apparently weaknesses. The fight scenes involving others are more interesting given that they can be hurt.
For the disc itself, I was surprised when the disc loaded and began playing the movie without showing a menu. It could still be called up from the pop-up menu, but to get to the main menu you could not simply use the “Top Menu” button on the remote, you had to choose it from the pop-up menu. The menus themselves resemble old green monochrome text, following the theme of the Matrix computer displays. Selections on the Main Menu slide out to reveal submenus, as opposed to different pages.
In-Movie Experience – a full length “commentary” like feature, which includes video inserts, but unlike a commentary track it is more bits and pieces edited together.
Behind The Story – broken into multiple sections, featuring several featurettes regarding the subject (with a “play all” option):
- Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers – not really a commentary, but a “why we didn’t do a commentary”
- Two full length commentary tracks:
- Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
- Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
- Behind The Matrix (46:54) – making-of featurettes
- Car Chase (1:26:07) – the making of the freeway chase scene
- Teahouse Fight (7:04) – the making of the fight between equals
- Unplugged (40:24) – Creating the “Burly Brawl”
- I’ll Handle Them (17:08) – Creating the fight in the Merovingian’s Great Hall
- The Exiles (17:52) – The story behind the “programs” in exile in the Matrix
- Additional Footage
- Enter The Matrix: The Game (28:13) – making the video game
- Enter The Matrix (42:29) – Live-action cut scenes from the game
- Audio – Sleeping Awake (3:43) – music video by P.O.D.
All in all, a good release (even if it duplicates a lot of what was released before), but this is the kind of movie that high definition was meant for. I would buy a Blu-ray player and get this disc rather than get the DVD.