Reviewing The Matrix Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray is an awful lot like reviewing one’s work week. For starters, everyone knows what their work week entails, much like everyone knows the basic premise and plot of the three Matrix movies and the Animatrix: alternate reality/dimension, being held down by “The Man,” controlling time with your mind, wearing black leather, yada yada yada. In other words, there’s no need to rehash any of that here. However, The Matrix Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray also encompasses six jam-packed discs filled with eight hours of feature film content and 35 hours of bonus features, meaning that reviewing all that 1080p high-definition content would amount to recapping more than a 40-hour work week’s worth of material. We all know darn well you don’t want to wade through that.
What you want to know with this massive Blu-ray box set is the following: how does the material look on Blu-ray? How are the bonus features? And has Warner Home Video added anything to warrant the purchase for those who already own either the DVD or HD-DVD release of this collection? The Cliff’s Notes answers to those questions are: jaw-dropping, exhaustive, and probably not.
This extensive six-disc Blu-ray box set includes essentially everything Warner has released already in the HD-DVD and standard-DVD releases of The Matrix Ultimate Collection. In other words, this Blu-ray set is merely a re-encoding, repackaging and direct port to 50GB Blu-ray Discs. But to Warner’s credit, it represents a massive porting effort. The first three discs in the set are comprised of one feature film each, along with its related bonus features. The fourth disc contains The Animatrix, the first time this series of short films has been seen in 1080p, as well as several insightful tidbits about the series. The final two discs in the set contain a compilation that Warner is calling “The Matrix Experience.” In reality, this experience is nothing new, as it’s simply a now-on-two-discs-rather-than-three compilation of “The Burly Man Chronicles,” “The Roots of the Matrix” and “The Zion Archive.”
Warner Home Video has included two new elements for this Blu-ray release, and although both are relatively minor, they do provide some warm fuzzies that the studio powers that be didn’t simply dump the content blindly onto Blu-ray Disc. The first new element is a digital copy of The Matrix on a stand-alone DVD. Why Warner chose to release only The Matrix as a digital copy rather than all three (or four, if you include The Animatrix) is beyond me, particularly since The Matrix is the least impressive of the films from an audio and visual perspective. I’d like to think perhaps it was Warner’s subtle way of acknowledging that the first movie captured lighting in a bottle, whereas the subsequent two feature films were comparatively disappointing, but that’s probably just wishful thinking on my part. The second new feature is a pop-up track that incorporates interviews and behind-the-scenes footage on the screen while the movie plays in the background. This video footage has largely been seen before in one form or another, but repurposing it for this PiP application is a nice touch for those of us who have gotten accustomed to the still-novel Blu-ray technology.
Much like PiP was introduced with HD-DVD, so too was high-definition video. However, where the PiP track on The Matrix Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray mimics HD-DVD technology, the video and audio quality of this Blu-ray set are absolutely gorgeous. Although people associate The Matrix with black leather and green binary code, the spectrum is actually well represented in all three films, and of course the color palette of The Animatrix just pops off the screen in VC-1 encoded 1080p. Amazingly, the fast action and visual delicacy of the bullet-time effect show no signs of artifacting, and even as The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions look better than the original, the first film still looks impressive on Blu-ray, with very little grain or noise. The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio mix is also pleasing, with hearty bass thumps and a fantastic use of the surround-sound channels. Keanu Reeves has never been much of a talker, but when the environmental audio is this immersive, you don’t need a lot of dialogue to carry the audio track’s water.
Still, the question begs to be asked: if you already own The Matrix Ultimate Collection on either DVD or HD-DVD, is this Blu-ray set really necessary? Arguably, it’s not. The content is the same, the movie’s haven’t changed, and although the PiP track an slim packaging are nice, those probably aren’t sufficient to justify the $80 price tag. If you’ve never owned The Matrix films, though, and you’re looking for a good deal this holiday season, The Matrix Ultimate Collection on Blu-ray is pound for pound one of the best deals you’ll find. With Blu-ray movies often running upwards of $25 each, this massive 43-hour set is among the best per-minute bargains around.
Amazon is running a great deal now on The Ultimate Matrix Collection on Blu-ray if you’d like to do some early holiday shopping.
- Score: 8.5
- The movies have never looked or sounded better, and the sheer number of bonus features is staggering, though they’re mostly holdovers from previous releases.
— Jonas Allen