Disc reviews by Bill Hunt of The Digital Bits
The Ultimate Matrix Collection
1999-2003 (2008) - Warner Bros.
Released on Blu-ray Disc on October 14th, 2008
Film Rating (Matrix): A
Video (1-20): 18
Audio (1-20): 18
Film Rating (Reloaded): C+
Video (1-20): 18.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Film Rating (Revolutions): B
Video (1-20): 18.5
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Program Rating (Animatrix): B+
Video (1-20): 19
Audio (1-20): 18.5
Extras (Overall): A
|Hey, what do you know? The third time's a charm! Finally, we've got the "ultimate" set of the Matrix films on a format that's TRULY ultimate... at least for the forseeable future.
I won't rehash the film plots and what I think of them again here - I've already done it multiple times over the years, including reviewing the original Ultimate DVD box set release, as well as last year's HD-DVD release of the set. Click on the links and you can read everything you want about the films and what I think of them. What you need to know is 1) does THIS Blu-ray set include everything that was on those previous releases, and 2) what is the quality like on Blu-ray?
The answer to the first question is, yes. This new 6-disc Blu-ray box includes EVERYTHING that was on the original Ultimate DVD box set, as well as EVERYTHING that was on the HD-DVD release, including the new In Movie Experience options for each film. Actually, it includes stuff the HD-DVD set DIDN'T have, including a Digital Copy of The Matrix and also The Animatrix in full 1080p high-definition. In terms of disc configuration, the original DVD had two discs per film - one for the film and one for the film's extras. The HD-DVD used DVD/HD-DVD Combo discs to include the film in high-def and the extras in DVD format on the flip side of the disc. Here, on Blu-ray, all the content of BOTH discs is included on the same side of a single BD-50 disc. The Animatrix films also have their own Blu-ray. The remaining extras were available on three separate DVD discs in the original set as The Burly Man Chronicles, The Roots of the Matrix and The Zion Archive. Those three DVD discs have now been condensed into two DVDs for the Blu-ray set: The Burly Man Chronicles and The Roots of the Matrix are now on opposite sides of a DVD flipper, while The Zion Archive still has its own disc. So if you have either the original DVD box set or the more recent HD-DVD box set, you can safely get rid of them if you buy the new Blu-ray version. I've gone through all three sets disc by disc and item by item, and the Blu-ray does indeed include everything from those.
The one KEY thing you need to know is this: There are a couple of DVD-based features, that were available on the ORIGINAL DVD releases of the films, that weren't included in the Ultimate set on either DVD or HD-DVD, and they're not here either.
So if you want to keep EVERY SINGLE BONUS FEATURE that's been released for these films, here's what you need to keep IN ADDITION to the Blu-ray set:
1) The very original DVD release of The Matrix, from 1999, has DVD-ROM based extras available nowhere else on disc, including The One game, the film's script and storyboards, a number of essays and articles and an archive of the original film's website.
2) [UPDATED INFORMATION] The original Matrix Revisited DVD release, from 2001, has a featurette called The True Followers which isn't here. Also missing are a trio of marketing featurettes - What is to Come?, What is Animatrix? and Whatisthematrix.com? (These weren't on the Ultimate DVD or HD-DVD sets either.) There are also a trio of short Easter egg featurettes from this disc - Red Girl Accident, Hugo's Hip and Keanu's Perfectionism and the Smith's Humanity - that don't appear to be on the Blu-ray.
3) Disc Two of the original 2-disc DVD release of The Matrix Reloaded, from 2003, includes a trailer for The Animatrix available nowhere else on disc.
4) Disc Two of the original 2-disc DVD release of The Matrix Revolutions, from 2004, includes a multi-angle presentation of the Super Burly Brawl scene, letting you view either the on-set footage, the storyboards or the final film footage. This feature also contains a number of branching White Rabbit featurettes that ARE included on the Blu-ray, but the root multi-angle feature is not.
The Blu-ray is packaged in a thinner version of the previous glossy slipcase, with the actual discs contained in new Blu-ray versions of the familiar Thinpak case, so the set actually takes up even less room on your shelf than any of the previous sets. The Blu-ray also includes a smaller version of the insert booklet that was available in the previous Ultimate sets, though I should note that it's not entirely accurate in terms of listing all the featurettes included in the Blu-ray set.
In particular, several Revolutions features aren't accurately listed, though rest assured they ARE on the disc.
As for that second question, in terms of presentation quality, know that the films all look and sound terrific. Contrast is very good on all three, and there's excellent fine image detail. All three films have that slightly greenish tint that's there deliberately, but the colors are accurate at all times. For films this complex in terms of motion, action and compression challenge, there's surprisingly little digital artifacting visible. I would say that Reloaded and Revolutions look just a hair better than the original Matrix, but it's close. All three discs deliver a very pleasing, film-like image. Audio-wise, all three discs offer an exceptional Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix. Each presents a wide, immersive soundstage, with copious bass, smooth panning and active surrounds. I would say that the mixes for Reloaded and Revolutions are a bit more lively in terms of directional sound play than the original film, so they earn very slightly higher marks. But you will not be disappointed by any of the three. As for The Animatrix, the shorts look absolutely fantastic in HD. The visual experience really lives up to expectations. Audio for the shorts is also available in TrueHD 5.1 mixes that, quality-wise, are on par with those of the latter two films.
So is Warner's new Blu-ray Ultimate box set worth the money? If you're a serious fan of this franchise, then yes, I think it is. The quality is great, the content is just as good as it was before, and finally having The Animatrix films in HD is a pretty attractive enticement all on its own.
On the other hand, if you've purchased the previous versions before, this will represent your third dip of this same basic set, so you'll have to decide if it's worth upgrading again for yourself. If you purchased the HD-DVD version, well... you have my sympathies. At least Blu-ray is likely to stick around a while as a format. On the other hand, hey... it's not like your HD-DVD player or discs stopped working when the format died. Whichever version of the set you have or choose, The Ultimate Matrix Collection was (and continues to be) a spectacular release. Enjoy!
Bill Hunt, Editor