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HTF HD DVD REVIEW: The Ultimate Matrix Collection (Highly Recommended)



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#1 of 16 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 20 2007 - 05:31 AM

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The Ultimate Matrix Collection
Release Date: May 22, 2007
Studio: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $119.99

Overall Score (not averaged): 4.5/5
The Feature Films: 4/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 4/5

The video and audio quality of "The Matrix
Continue reading for specifics on each title. To jump to a specific title, use the links below:
  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix Reloaded
  • The Matrix Revolutions
  • The Matrix Experience


The Matrix
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h16m
Video (Feature): 1080p HD 16x9 2.40:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0
Video (Special Features): 480i or 480p SD
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Feature only)

The Feature: 5/5
Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a corporate drone living a double life as a computer hacker named Neo. His life feels empty; he knows that something is wrong with it and the answer could be the Matrix. When he finally learns the truth, it's more than just a revelation, it's a rebirth. The film's groundbreaking fusion of philosophy, metaphysics, technology and martial arts was an instant sensation when it made its understated debut in theaters. Though its sequels didn't live up to expectation it easily exists on its own, being clearer and less indulgent in its vision. It remains far and away my favorite of the three.


Video Quality: 4.5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1, is VC-1 encoded and free of dust, dirt and print damage. Fine object detail and texture are amazing with a plethora of examples in just the first 10 minutes - the texture of Trinity's skin in her extreme closeup, the shards of glass as she breaks through the window, the motes of dust and palpable whisps of smoke after the truck collision. And this remarkable clarity and detail continue throughout the movie. Black levels and shadow detail are excellent, displaying nuances and subtle texture in the preponderance of deep black outfits and noir settings. Film grain is often visible but is not a distraction or problem. Though the film as a whole is not a showcase for the format's color depth capabilities, it handily and consistently conveys its dark to muted color palette. My sole complaint (and it's a minor one) is there is mild edge haloing along high contrast edges, most noticeable when Neo and Morpheus are in the all-white construct scene. It's a stellar transfer but not one I can say is fully reference quality, especially after seeing the other titles.


Audio Quality: 5/5
As impressive as the video quality is, I have to say I am more impressed with the audio quality, specifically the Dolby TrueHD lossless audio track. As with the video, the audio is filled with detail, most noticeable in the upper frequencies. Being my favorite film of the three I can't say how many times I've watched the DVD, and with the new lossless track it was like hearing the film for the first time. Who knew there was such a musicality to the Matrix code sound effects, or that one could hear individual shards of breaking glass and parts of pistols moving into place? Though the added detail is more subtle in voices, it gives them a presence and depth lacking in the lossy formats. Bass is robust yet balanced, with LFE deep, clean and powerful. And though it can probably go without saying, the overall mix is perfect - balanced and enveloping.

Regarding the Dolby Digital Plus audio track, I imagine the average listener would be hard pressed to differentiate it from the Dolby TrueHD. That's not necessarily a bad thing, indicating the inherent quality of the DD+ option. Given the choice between the two, lossless is the way to go if one has the capability, with more detail in the upper frequencies and fullness in the lower, adding up to a more engaging, palpable experience.


Special Features (Side A): 5/5

In-Movie Experience: Picture-in-picture pop-ups featuring cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Essentially a visual commentary track, there is a wealth of material to draw upon, as evidenced by the separate features. Their integration with the film makes for an efficient movie-plus-extras viewing experience.

Written Introduction to the Audio Commentaries by the Wachowski Brothers: The brothers explain their reasoning behind the philosopher and movie critic commentary tracks.

Audio Commentary by Philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: Though the track starts off with two men's personal reactions and memories of the film, they don't take long to jump into some really meaty ideas. It's definitely a track I plan to revisit in its entirety.

Audio Commentary by Film Critics Toddy McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson: More promising and interesting from the start compared to their subsequent tracks, the trio offers some interesting observations and insights with respect to the history of film and film criticism. It's a track I wouldn't mind revisiting in its entirety.

Audio Commentary with Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta: Ported from the original release, much of their comments will probably seem like a retread with all that exists in the other features. Still, it may be worthwhile just to hear them interact with each other.

Audio Commentary with Composer Don Davis and Music Only Track: Also ported from the original release, I wish content producers would include this feature more often. It's easy to take film music for granted and hearing an isolated score reveals how crucial it is to a film.

Trailers: Includes a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and eight TV spots.

Behind the Matrix (42m56s): Featurettes covering major areas of production like Moss's opening scene and martial arts training.

The Music Revisited: Forty-one tracks of songs from the film.

Marilyn Manson "Rock is Dead" Music Video (3m19s)


Special Features (Side B): 5/5

**Side B is DVD format with 480i or 480p SD video and stereo audio

The Matrix Revisited (2h02m): Exhaustive documentary on the production covers every major element from script to stunts to theatrical release.

Take the Red Pill (17m41s): Two featurettes explaining the "bullet time" effect and showing concept art for the film.

Follow the White Rabbit (23m00s): Behind-the-scenes clips used in the original release's branching feature.


Title Recap

The Feature: 5/5
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features (Side A): 5/5
Special Features (Side B): 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 5/5

The superior first film gets near-reference video, spectacular lossless audio, and all the behind-the-scenes extras one could want.

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The Matrix Reloaded
Year: 2003
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h18m
Video (Feature): 1080p HD 16x9 2.40:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0
Video (Special Features): 480i or 480p SD
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Feature only)

The Feature: 4/5
The Machines launch a full offensive on the city of Zion, sending enough sentinels to kill every man, woman and child living there. While the city prepares for the attack, Morpheus, Trinity, Neo and Nebuchadnezzar Operator, Link, set out to stop the Machines at their source and on the way discover a startling piece of information about the Matrix and its creator. Though the second installment of the trilogy amps up the action and stunts - as well as the philosophical and metaphysical components - it lacks some of the soul of the first film, ultimately feeling a bit distant or inaccessible. Still, even on a superficial level there's plenty to keep one entertained.


Video Quality: 5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1, is VC-1 encoded, and free of edge halos, dust, dirt and print damage. Fine object detail and texture are amazing with a multitude of examples - from Morpheus's pockmarked cheeks, to the coarsely woven garments of the Zionites, to the aged and battered metal making up the city they live in. The remarkable clarity and detail also make textureless garments like Trinity's patent leather jumpsuit stand out, giving them a breathtaking, three-dimensional sheen. Black levels and shadow detail are excellent, consistent across scenes ranging from the shadowy, abandoned sewer tunnels to the virtual reality white room of Zion's gatekeepers. Film grain is visible in the darker scenes, but is not a distraction or problem. Though the film is not a showcase for the format's color depth capabilities, it handily and consistently conveys its dark to muted color palette. A reference image top to bottom.


Audio Quality: 5/5
The Dolby TrueHD lossless audio track once more delivers a startling clarity and depth. Upper frequency detail helps one hear every pixel in the opening code scene, every arcing thread of electricity in the Nebuchadnezzar's engines, every shard of breaking glass. Though the added detail is more subtle in voices, it gives them a presence and depth lacking in the lossy formats. Bass is robust yet balanced, with LFE sometimes startling in depth and power, especially as the sound mix is judicious in its use. And though it can probably go without saying, the overall mix is perfect - balanced and enveloping.

Regarding the Dolby Digital Plus audio track, I imagine the average listener would be hard pressed to differentiate it from the Dolby TrueHD. That's not necessarily a bad thing, indicating the inherent quality of the DD+ option. Given the choice between the two, lossless is the way to go if one has the capability, with more detail in the upper frequencies and fullness in the lower, adding up to a more engaging, palpable experience.


Special Features (Side A): 5/5

In-Movie Experience: Picture-in-picture pop-ups featuring cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Essentially a visual commentary track, there is a wealth of material to draw upon, as evidenced by the separate features. Their integration with the film makes for an efficient movie-plus-extras viewing experience.

Written Introduction to the Audio Commentaries by the Wachowski Brothers: The brothers explain their reasoning behind the philosopher and movie critic commentary tracks.

Audio Commentary by Philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: The track gets off to a slow start but from my sampling I found the two offer plenty of interesting ideas and insights. It's definitely a track I plan to revisit in its entirety.

Audio Commentary by Film Critics Toddy McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson: It is refreshing to hear criticism in a feature typified by praise, but from what I heard I don't feel especially motivated to listen to the track in its entirety.

Making of Enter the Matrix (28m13s): Documentary on the creation of the "Enter the Matrix" video game.

Enter the Matrix (42m29s): All the cut scenes from the video game, unfortunately in 4:3 matted widescreen. Not surprisingly the thing plays disjointedly without the video game pieces between scenes, but for anyone uninterested (or unskilled) in video games it's a great addition.

Sleeping Awake (3m43s): P.O.D. music video.

Behind the Matrix (46m54s): Documentary covers the commercial impact of the first film, the making of "Reloaded" and its marketing and advertising campaign. Also included is a spoof from the MTV Movie Awards.

Trailers: Includes a teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and eight TV spots.


Special Features (Side B): 5/5

**Side B is DVD format with 480i or 480p SD video and stereo audio

The Matrix Reloaded Revisited: Exhaustive and interesting series of featurettes totaling almost three hours focuses heavily on the stunt and action sequences, though some time is given to the supporting "Exile" characters like the Merovingian and his brood.


Title Recap

The Feature: 4/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features (Side A): 5/5
Special Features (Side B): 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 4/5

A less engaging sequel gets reference quality audio and video and a plethora of extras.

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The Matrix Revolutions
Year: 2003
Rating: R
Running Time: 2h09m
Video (Feature): 1080p HD 16x9 2.40:1
Audio (Feature): Dolby TrueHD: English 5.1; Dolby Digital Plus: English 5.1, French 5.1, Spanish 2.0
Video (Special Features): 480i or 480p SD
Audio (Special Features): Stereo
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish (Feature only)

The Feature: 3/5
In the final act Neo looks for the solution to end the war once and for all, while the citizens of Zion try to push back the relentless Sentinel onslaught. The third film is more indulgent than the last, the religious and philosophical references becoming heavy handed by the finale. Though the action set pieces are riveting - more so now than when I saw the film theatrically - they can't wholly distract from the film's convolutions and flaws, making for a disappointing close to a series filled with promise.


Video Quality: 5/5
The film is correctly framed at 2.40:1, is VC-1 encoded, and free of edge halos, dust, dirt and print damage. As the film is a continuation of the previous one, what stood out there holds true here. Fine object detail and texture are again impressive - the Sentinel attack and Neo's encounter with the Deus Ex Machina in the finale show off the full extent. Black level and contrast are excellent as well, consistently holding up under a greater variety of lighting conditions. Film grain is visible in the darker scenes and the final scene with the Architect and the Oracle, but is not a distraction or problem. The movie also has more splashes of color than the others, which the format conveys with a remarkable boldness and saturation. Another reference image top to bottom.


Audio Quality: 5/5
Again I can't help but marvel at the Dolby TrueHD lossless audio track, the clarity of the upper frequencies adding so much to the experience. Sound effects for the Matrix code glisten and falling rain has a palpable quality. The film also pulls out the stops with the LFE, particularly in the final fight between Neo and Smith. It can be startling in its depth and power, but is never overbearing. And though it can probably go without saying, the overall mix is perfect - balanced and enveloping.

Regarding the Dolby Digital Plus audio track, I imagine the average listener would be hard pressed to differentiate it from the Dolby TrueHD. That's not necessarily a bad thing, indicating the inherent quality of the DD+ option. Given the choice between the two, lossless is the way to go if one has the capability, with more detail in the upper frequencies and fullness in the lower, adding up to a more engaging, palpable experience.


Special Features (Side A): 5/5

In-Movie Experience: Picture-in-picture pop-ups featuring cast and crew interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. Essentially a visual commentary track, there is a wealth of material to draw upon, as evidenced by the separate features. Their integration with the film makes for an efficient movie-plus-extras viewing experience.

Written Introduction to the Audio Commentaries by the Wachowski Brothers: The brothers explain their reasoning behind the philosopher and movie critic commentary tracks.

Audio Commentary by Philosophers Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber: In their final commentary West and Wilber jump right in to the ideas and observations, making it another commentary worthy of a revisit.

Audio Commentary by Film Critics Toddy McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson: In their final commentary the trio seem to be running out of things to say. Long periods of silence early on do not inspire returning for the track's entirety.

Behind the Matrix (1h30m): Featurettes on the film provide an overview of the production and pieces on the stunts and special effects.

Trailers: Includes the theatrical trailer and six TV spots.


Special Features (Side B): 5/5

**Side B is DVD format with 480i or 480p SD video and stereo audio

Before the Revolution: Interactive timeline shows the events leading to the final film, incorporating both the events from the feature films and "The Animatrix" release.

The Matrix Revolutions Revisited: Exhaustive series of featurettes totaling over two hours focus on the production crew, set pieces like Club Hel and the Siege of Zion, and the final battle between Neo and Smith.


Title Recap

The Feature: 3/5
Video Quality: 5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features (Side A): 5/5
Special Features (Side B): 5/5
Overall Score (not an average): 3/5

A disappointing final act gets the same treatment as its predecessors, with reference audio and video and exhaustive special features.


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The Matrix Experience

**Both discs are DVD format

Disc 1 (Side A): 4/5

The Animatrix (1h29m): Animated shorts from a variety of artists providing back story to the Matrix mythology. The shorts are uniformly excellent and engrossing, with very good anamorphic video and DD5.1 audio. Special features include four commentary tracks. Given the quality of the visuals it's disappointing this wasn't given HD treatment.


Disc 1 (Side B): 5/5

Return to the Source: Philosophy and the Matrix (1h01m): Documentary exploring the philosophical underpinnings of the franchise. Anamorphic video and DD2.1 audio.

The Hard Problem: The Science Behind the Fiction (1h01m): Scientists sound off on the ideas presented in the trilogy. Anamorphic video and DD2.1 audio.


Disc 2 (Side A): 5/5

The Burly Man Chronicles (1h34m): Production diary of the "Reloaded," "Revolutions" and "Enter the Matrix" productions. Includes a branching feature incorporating the creative professional profiles found in the "Follow the White Rabbit" feature.

Follow the White Rabbit: Individually accessible profiles of the creative professionals who worked on the films.


Disc 2 (Side B): 5/5

The Zion Archive: Massive collection of storyboards and concept art for characters, settings, vehicles and other technology.

The Media of the Matrix: Trailers, TV spots and music videos from each of the films.

Rave Reel (9m09s): Montage of animatics, CGI work and screen tests.

"The Matrix Online" Preview (9m34s): Featurette about the online PC game that picks up where "Revolutions" left off.


Title Recap

Overall Score: 4/5

Two more discs of extras make the total special feature set beyond exhaustive. The lack of an HD transfer for "The Animatrix" is a disappointment.

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#2 of 16 Tim Glover

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Posted May 20 2007 - 06:28 AM

Most excellent review Cameron! And an exhausting one no doubt. Posted Image....You took alot of time with this set and love the way you isolated each film's quality and extras. Bravo! Posted Image

I'm hoping that Amazon will send me an email very, very soon saying...."we thought you'd like to know that your order has shipped....". Posted Image

Good job.

#3 of 16 Chuck Mayer

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Posted May 20 2007 - 06:48 AM

Same with me...I have one order full of Pirates and Matrix, and I want it ASAP.

Can't wait to hear the Matrix films in TrueHD!

Great review of the set, Cameron. It was too late to sway my purchase, but it's nice to know I am getting a nice quality collection.
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#4 of 16 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 20 2007 - 06:48 AM

Thanks Tim. I got a good crash course in reviewing box sets when I did the James Bond collections. Now THAT was exhausting (but still fun).
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#5 of 16 Yumbo

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Posted May 20 2007 - 09:36 AM

What MINIMUM setup does one need to hear TrueHD?

Thanks

#6 of 16 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 20 2007 - 11:48 AM

Quote:
What MINIMUM setup does one need to hear TrueHD?

Your player's firmware may need to be upgraded. Then your receiver needs six channel analog inputs if you don't have HDMI. And of course calibration.
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#7 of 16 Shane Martin

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Posted May 20 2007 - 12:33 PM

I wanted to throw this in because someone with a 360 drive might be looking..

1. You must own a standalone HD DVD player. The 360 drive does NOT count.
2. You must have the firmware upgraded if you have an A1, or XA1. The A2, A20 and Xa2 had it out of the box.
3. 6 channel analog outs or HDMI depending on which player. For the A2 and A20, it's HDMI only.
4. A 5.1 surround system.

#8 of 16 Jim_K

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Posted May 21 2007 - 12:24 AM

Quote:
Two more discs of extras make the total special feature set beyond exhaustive. The lack of an HD transfer for "The Animatrix" is a disappointment.

Thanks for the review. No HD for the Animatrix is the main reason I opted for the complete set and not the ultimate.


Mine shipped from Warner last week so I should be getting it today or tomorrow. Can't wait. Posted Image
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#9 of 16 DaViD Boulet

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Posted May 21 2007 - 01:54 AM

Also bummed by the lack of HD for the Animatrix! But otherwise thrilled that WB has done such a stellar job with the video encode of the feature films.

Quote:
Being my favorite film of the three I can't say how many times I've watched the DVD, and with the new lossless track it was like hearing the film for the first time. Who knew there was such a musicality to the Matrix code sound effects, or that one could hear individual shards of breaking glass and parts of pistols moving into place? Though the added detail is more subtle in voices, it gives them a presence and depth lacking in the lossy formats.

Those of us who lived with laserdisc prior to DVD remember what it was like to give-up lossless audio when we moved to the better video of our beloved 5" discs. Sigh. It's so thrilling to realize that the future can give us everything: HD picture *and* lossless sound.

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#10 of 16 Robert George

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Posted May 21 2007 - 02:10 AM

Very good work. A great review of a great HD DVD set. This has already become the centerpiece of my HD collection.

I will only add that I personally would give the first film also a "5" for video based on how that film has looked in the past, and also knowing a little bit about what Warner had to do to bring it up close to the level of the second and third films. In relative terms, I don't think that movie could look any better within the limits of the consumer HD formats.

#11 of 16 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 21 2007 - 02:23 AM

Quote:
will only add that I personally would give the first film also a "5" for video based on how that film has looked in the past, and also knowing a little bit about what Warner had to do to bring it up close to the level of the second and third films. In relative terms, I don't think that movie could look any better within the limits of the consumer HD formats.
I admit I struggled with knocking it down half a point. Some of our reviewers don't like assigning point scores and that was a case when I didn't really like it either. And I thought it would look a little silly to put a 4.9, though that would probably quantify my opinion more accurately if it were ALL about a number. At any rate, I strongly encourage people to round up Posted Image.
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#12 of 16 Jesper

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Posted May 21 2007 - 02:34 AM

Thanks for the review. I am looking forward to get this box!
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#13 of 16 Grant H

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Posted May 21 2007 - 05:09 AM

First I'd heard mention that the color timing of the first film looks more like the initial DVD release (and theatrical release). Very cool news to me if true.
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#14 of 16 Cameron Yee

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Posted May 21 2007 - 08:45 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grant H
First I'd heard mention that the color timing of the first film looks more like the initial DVD release (and theatrical release). Very cool news to me if true.
I decided to remove the statement about the color timing until I or someone else can do a proper comparison. I apologize if I got anyone's hopes up.
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#15 of 16 Robert George

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Posted May 21 2007 - 09:06 AM

The first film has the rather darker green tint in the "matrix" scenes as was done for the second DVD release.

#16 of 16 Chuck Mayer

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Posted May 21 2007 - 10:22 AM

Showing up tomorrow with Pirates 1 and 2. Big high-def day!

Reloaded will be the first thing I put in Posted Image
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