The Ultimate Matrix Collection (1999 – 2003)
Directed by: The Wachowski Brothers
Premise: A 10-disc box set of the Wachowski Brothers’ science fiction epic.
What Works: The films are terrifically written and successfully combine thoughtful philosophical concepts with the entertaining sensibilities of a commercial film. Despite its top-heavy premise, the first film appears to be a fairly simple good versus evil binary (and this may be partly the cause for its wide appeal) and a messianic allegory. Reloaded and Revolutions complicate this binary and use elements of the messianic allegory to further the drama of the story and explore the issues of free will and heroism. This is some of the most thoughtful filmmaking to come out of Hollywood in a long time. Also included in the set is The Animatrix, a disc of nine short animated films that explore the world of The Matrix and flesh out some of its characters.
What Doesn’t: This series is not pop-philosophy thrown in for the mere appearance of sophistication. The sequels get so complicated that they can lose an inattentive viewer, especially the long dialogue sequences in Reloaded. The films are not perfect; Reloaded struggles at times to keep its narrative movement going and Revolutions resolves the cliffhanger ending of the second film too easily.
DVD extras: This set is intended for hardcore collectors. Each film features two commentary tracks, one with philosophers who enjoyed the picture and point out its many layers of meaning, and the other with three film critics who did not like the films, especially Reloaded and Revolutions. There are six discs of bonus material that explore the making of the pictures. Most notable are “The Burly Man Chronicles” which recognizes and explores those behind the scenes of the picture and “The Roots of the Matrix” which reveals the many philosophical layers of the trilogy.
Bottom Line: The Matrix trilogy is the best thing to happen to science fiction since Kubrick’s 2001. This set is intended for hardcore fans of the trilogy, as it goes through the details of the production in meticulous, and sometimes numbing, detail. Passive fans of the series who already own the films in their initial release may want to hold off on purchasing this set, but for those with an intense interest in the series or in filmmaking, this is a terrific set.
Episode: #44 (March 20, 2005)