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  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
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The Matrix Revisited

Roadshow Entertainment/Roadshow Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 123 mins . PG . PAL

  Feature
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When The Matrix exploded onto our screens back in 1999, to many it represented a cinematic revelation. Combining some of the best elements from existing cult genres, The Matrix fused traditional sci-fi with stylised, wire-based kung-fu and John Woo-style bullet-ballet to create a film that was both visually breathtaking, and a philosophical treatise for the digital age. With its gothic, leather-clad anti-heroes sporting dual 45s, to its breathless kung-fu battles and the duality of its nightmarish future grounded in the present day, The Matrix represented the zenith of pulp-cinema cool. And now Roadshow give us the chance to relive it all again with The Matrix Revisited.

Beginning life as a concept for a comic book, The Matrix creators Andy and Larry Wachowski soon recognised that their futuristic tale of reality as illusion was perfect for a trilogy of feature films, and soon the screenplay for The Matrix - the first instalment and the first screenplay they had ever written - was in the hands of Warner Bros. executives. Of course the executives saw potential in the screenplay, but were unwilling to take a $50 million gamble on a couple of first time directors in baseball caps. Consequently the project was shelved indefinitely. But with the critical acclaim of the brothers' low-budget, darkly romantic heist film Bound that was soon to follow, (and helped by a stunning set of storyboards), Warner Bros. was finally convinced to take a chance.

"I just can’t believe a film this smart got made at all." – Laurence Fishburne

That we should be eternally grateful to Warner Bros. for taking that chance is a monumental understatement. Though consistently appearing in B-grade Hollywood films since Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon, it was only with the success of The Matrix that stylised Hong Kong action found its way into the Hollywood mainstream. This timely breath of fresh air has since seen stylised action permeate all manner of big-budget Hollywood films from MI:2 to Charlie's Angels and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. That The Matrix combined both style and substance seems to have been unfortunately lost in the process – such is the Hollywood mill, but there is no doubt that The Matrix raised the bar for the films that would follow.

Coming more than two years years after the release of the original film on DVD, The Matrix Revisited is a two-hour documentary that recounts the history of this ground-breaking film from conception, through pre-production to completion, and provides a sneak peak into the two sequel films now in development. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage (the majority of which never appeared in the original DVD release) and retrospective interviews from all major cast members, producers, the Wachowski brothers, and all others involved in the development of the first film, this is as comprehensive a look at the creation of the film as you could ever hope to see.

All aspects of the film’s production are covered, including the origins of the screenplay, Owen Wilson’s fantastic production design from original drawings by conceptual artist Jeff Darrow, the costumes of Kym Barrett, the actors' gruelling training regime under action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, the groundbreaking "bullet-time" visual effects developed by John Gaeta, and aspects of the principle shoot in Sydney. In addition, the development and implementation of all the film's major action scenes are discussed, including the government lobby shootout, the rooftop and helicopter scenes, the interrogation room, as well as the subway and dojo battles. The behind-the-scenes footage is fantastic, particularly the lobby shootout, and all the while retrospective interviews with the cast put the footage in perspective.

With a duration that rivals that of the original film, you are never going to see a behind-the-scenes documentary like this one. Forget featurettes – The Matrix Revisited is a feature in and of itself, presenting a comprehensive examination of the film, and representing the definitive companion to your DVD copy of The Matrix.

  Video
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Presented in full-frame on a dual-layer disc, The Matrix Revisited is not going to win any awards for its video quality. The documentary is constructed from multiple video sources – interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, technology test footage – as well as CGI test renders and so on, all inter-cut with snippets from the film. All video footage has been captured with a handicam and hasn’t been “professionally” produced – even the interviews are staged on location, either in people’s offices, the parking lot or on set. As you can imagine, the resulting footage is of variable quality. The image is nice and sharp, and when the locations are well lit, the video footage is bright and detailed. However, when the locations are darker, the image is grainy and noisy, and detail is markedly reduced. It's all to be expected given the nature of the content.

In general, the transfer does the best it can with the source material. As noted the image is generally sharp, and the colours are bright with deep blacks. Scenes taken from the film retain their fantastic original transfer (except they are non-anamorphic) and look great. There are no MPEG artefacts to be seen throughout the presentation, and film artefacts are an irrelevancy. The layer change must have been well placed, as it was undetectable on my player – possibly it does not occur at all during the feature.

All in all, in terms of video The Matrix Revisited is no show-pony, but the limitations in the image are minor and definitely won’t hinder your enjoyment of the material.

  Audio
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In terms of audio, The Matrix Revisited has been furnished with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. The audio from the original video footage is retained in the centre speaker and the sound stage is filled out with a pumping techno score. This score, which disappears from time to time but appears fairly constantly throughout the feature, is mixed to the sides and rear to provide an enveloping sound experience.

The reason for producing a 5.1 soundtrack for a mere documentary becomes obvious when scenes from the film appear. Each snippet from the film retains its original Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and the integration of the cinema soundtrack within the documentary becomes seamless.

In terms of the score, channel separation is minimal and there are one or two instances where the pumping soundtrack does make the dialogue a little hard to understand, but all in all the 5.1 mix is a great addition to the documentary and serves to greatly increase the production values of the entire package.

  Extras
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In terms of the disc itself, The Matrix Revisited is well presented by Roadshow, with a nicely animated, anamorphic main menu that (again) pumps with a cool techno soundtrack. The rest of the menus are static. Apart from the documentary itself, there are a great selection of extras to be enjoyed, and still more hidden throughout the disc.

  • What is to Come?: (2min 45s) Presents behind-the-scenes teaser footage of the preparations for movies 2 and 3. We glimpse car chases, motorcycle pursuits, green screen work and fight choreography being practiced. For those who want no spoilers at all for the next two films, then I suggest not watching this.

  • What is Animatrix?: (5mins) Presents an introduction to the Animatrix project – the creation of ten animated shorts by world renowned Japanese animators, including Yoshiaki Kawajiri (the director of Ninja Scroll) and Square Productions (the company behind Final Fantasy). Five of the shorts have been written by the Wachowski brothers, while the others (including Kawajiri’s) are original stories. The premise behind the shorts is to fill the gaps between the present day and the world of The Matrix, and will be released on the internet and DVD sometime before the cinema release of the next feature film. This short featurette provides artwork sneak-peaks and interviews with the animators.

  • What is the Matrix.com?: (1min 27s) A little bit of promotion for the official The Matrix website, we get a few snippets from producer Joel Silver waxing lyrical about it, and concept artist Jeff Darrow talking about the online comics that the brothers commissioned (by Darrow and others) to publish online.

  • The Dance of the Master – Yeun Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes: (5min 40s) This great inclusion shows Wo Ping’s stunt men performing the kung-fu fight sequences seen in the final film. Filmed on a handicam and cut together as they appear in the final release, these sequences acted as the templates for the actors' training sessions. The difference in the abilities of these kung-fu professionals as compared to the actors' final performances is astounding.

  • The True Followers: (4min 25s) A bunch of complete toss-pots that apparently make up the core of fanatical online fans of The Matrix talk about what drew them to The Matrix chat rooms and the relationships they have built up there. Do not watch this under any circumstances!

  • The Bathroom Fight and Wetwall: (3min 14s) Provides information on these sequences that did not appear in the documentary, including the massive wet-wall set that was constructed by production designer Owen Wilson, the dirty and confined nature of the bathroom tussle, and the injuries that Hugo suffered during its filming.

  • But Wait, There’s More: (3mins) Yet more footage that didn’t make it into the documentary, cut together to a pulsing techno soundtrack. Presents footage from behind the scenes, early takes of CGI effects shots, and the original simulations of the bullet-time sequences.

  • Dolby Digital Trailer: The train one.

Of course, no The Matrix DVD would be complete without an Easter egg or two, and the official Roadshow press release states that The Matrix Revisited contains over three hours of hidden features. Even I was able to find several of these hidden extras, including a Juke Box that presents 41 separate techno tracks (totalling an astounding 188 minutes of music!) that are used during the documentary and extras. See the DVD.net Easter eggs section for more details.

  Overall  
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There's no disputing that The Matrix remains one of the most successful DVD releases of all time. In The Matrix Revisited, we finally have the ultimate companion disc to The Matrix, and one that gives The Matrix the best treatment on DVD to date, hands down. Ok, so you have to purchase the discs separately, but The Matrix Revisited represents an excellent ‘extras’ disc in a two-disc The Matrix box set, and if you're a fan of this fantastic film, this supplemental disc is certain to keep you happy until the release of Animatix sometime (hopefully) towards the end of this year, and the second instalment due in cinemas 2003.


  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=1340
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      And I quote...
    "...the ultimate companion disc to The Matrix that no fan of this fantastic film should be without."
    - Gavin Turner
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Toshiba SD-2108
    • TV:
          Panasonic TC-68P90A TAU (80cm)
    • Receiver:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Amplifier:
          Yamaha RX-V795
    • Speakers:
          B&W 602
    • Centre Speaker:
          B&W CC6 S2
    • Surrounds:
          JM Lab Cobalt SR20
    • Subwoofer:
          B&W ASW-500
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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