What if you could wake up one day? I mean REALLY wake up.. and realize that every time you've woken up
before was just a dream. What would you see? What is the World really like? Is there a "World" at all?
These questions have plagued philosophers for ages.. don't you think it's about time YOU found out?
If you were touched by City of Angels, if you were reached by You've Got Mail, if you were
awe-stricken by Contact, prepare yourself to be completely blown away by The Matrix!
The Matrix has captured the attention of hard-core
sci-fi and action thriller fans around the globe with an unparalleled journey into the unknown. In a world where human-kind has created a
technological terror so menacing, so powerful, so completely in control, it would take a miracle to survive. It would take.. The One.
The One who has the courage.. the know-how.. the strength.. the power to out-think and conquer an artificial intelligence with an
empire so vast, it'll take your breath away! Possibly the hottest film of the summer, The Matrix is up for release to home video in just a few days.
Thanks to Warner Home Video, I have an oportunity to review the upcoming DVD release content in advance of its release in order to give
fans a glimpse into the future. Perhaps rightly termed? The trend has shown DVD production quality to go up since the advent of the technology,
and that being the case, the future is bright indeed!
The Matrix DVD contains a plethora of extra features to
keep we, the special-effect savvy fans, happily in the cognizante. With a 24 minute behind-the-scenes featurette, and an unprecedented feature
called "Follow The White Rabbit", there is plenty of eye candy here. And talk about eye candy, the movie itself which has tons of visual effects
and superb CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), has undergone a spotless digital transfer onto DVD. While I have not yet had the pleasure, I'm sure
the 16x9 capability is a sweet deal more. Although this disc is 16x9 enhanced, even in S-Video there is no visible artifacting, especially "edge-aliasing" (an issue
that occurs when a player down-converts 16x9 transfers to 4x3 letterboxed images) which is particularly annoying to me. The video transfer seems to have been tailored
to look sweet either way as the down-conversion of this disc was more visually gratifying than many other titles
in this respect. Taking a look at some of the behind-the-scenes action sequences reveals just how much strenuously demanding
work goes into putting together the seamless shots we sometimes come to expect from films of this caliber. For me, seeing it in action certainly
puts a clear perspective appreciation for the attention to detail and extra effort from the actors. This disc also contains a decent cast & crew
listing which makes for a good, interesting once-through reading. An awesome option offered by this DVD is the ability to view the movie from the
"Follow The White Rabbit" menu option. This feature enabled allows the movie to progress in real-time, and at key points in the movie shows a small,
white rabbit icon at the lower right of the screen. Pressing Enter on your DVD remote takes you to the behind-the scenes development of the scene
you are currently viewing, sometimes lasting several minutes, then returns you to the movie to see the scene in its final cut form and continues
with the movie. Keep your eyes peeled for the white rabbit, because these are inside views that you won't want to miss! As an added bonus, red pills
are hidden at various points on the menu pages. If you decide to "Take the Red Pills", each will reveal different behind-the-scenes Special Effect
Documentaries which are both interesting and informative. (They make that stuff look so easy! Where's my camcorder!?)
And if visual effects isn't enough for you hard-core fans,
to seal the deal, The Matrix DVD packs a walloping Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track which literally shook the house. This movie presents a
fantastic example of the awesome potential of Dolby Digital with complete auditory immersion from moment to moment that will have your head spinning!
I was pleased with the detailed sound during explosive action sequences which involve heavy gun-fire (a big chunk of the action scenes), hearing
cartridge rounds, bits of debris (and bits of enemies? cringe) flying this way and that.
There is incredible separation between the channels allowing you to distinctly audibly follow a single
bit of shrapnel across the room. With such detail during chaotic scenes which are almost commonplace in
this movie, it's hard to miss. Equally impressive was the full range of sound. Deep, rumbling bass
presence filled the room (probably the entire street, actually, but we didn't go outside to check for rioting neighbors forming a lynch-mob), and piercing
high end could have made our ears bleed (thankfully, no one was hospitalized on this particular occasion). Interestingly, there were
some strangenesses to ambient sounds. For instance, during the club scene (Trinity's contacts invite
Neo to join them for a night on the town. "Follow the white rabbit...") Trinity approaches Neo and
leans into him against the wall, speaking in a hushed tone. I distinctly recall making out every word
of this dialog in the theater, but found myself trying to pick out the words from the ambient
environment. This was the only point where I noticed the dialog fighting with the background noise.
And on another end of the spectrum, during one of the killer rooftop scenes where Trinity runs from
Agents, there is a TREMENDOUS bass presence which struck me as a little odd. I could tell that it was
supposed to be a mood-setter and it should have got me on edge, but I found myself just looking the
scene over trying to find something in the scene which could account for that much bass. But
there was nothing, it was just ambience, which I found to be a little on the strange side. There may
have perhaps been other points in the showing which exhibited these strange ambience mix levels, but
I chose these in favor of focusing on other topics. All in all, the majority of quality digital sound detail is what truly puts
the viewing audience into the middle of the action which, gosh darn it, is right where we want to be! For the musically inclined, this disc presents
and excellent opportunity to hear from the film music Composer Don Davis in an exclusive audio-only commentary track. And if you thought the sound
track was killer like me, check out recordings from Prodigy, Rob Zombie, Deftones, Rammstein, Rage Against The Machine and Marilyn Manson. (Also, not
mentioned in the disc documentation, is a partial track from Propellerheads during the shoot-out following "I need guns, LOTS of guns". The
Propellerheads are extremely talented in the art of electronica and also had their hit "Bang On!" featured in the film Lost In Space) So with
all this, The Matrix offers a rip-roaring audio collection which, on our system, knocked the socks off the local theaters'!
Now, it should be clear that we're all pretty excited about
The Matrix DVD over here. Even so, there are some details that depreciate the overall quality of the disc of which, while worth noting, do not seriously detract
from the the value of the disc. The first, and most apparent, point is that there is excessive delay in navigating the menu system due to some overly
lengthy introductory video clip sequences. These can get fairly annoying to an avid DVD user who wants to quickly jump to a feature to show a friend.
Aside from this minor irritation, I found the menus to be well laid out with easily identifiable selections and nifty hidden features. Several of the
menu frame transitions have pretty clever, short video sequences inserted between them. I feel obligated to mention that while we tested this disc on
five separate DVD systems, one of the five did not work as expected. The Sony S7000 (much to our surprise, and dismay) seemed to cause the system to
hang upon selection of extra feature items. We have yet to determine if it was an isolated incident or if the problem exists with other S7000 players.
Even so, we were able to access all of the disc features by exercising the 'Title Search' option and manually plugging in title numbers to view the otherwise
inaccessible menu content. A later model Toshiba as well as Panasonic set-top player, and 2 DVD ROM systems, handled the features correctly.
Moving on to the DVD-ROM features of The Matrix DVD, the
first thing I see is a poor, drawn-out installation process which in its most basic form installs 15MB of unknown material onto my hard drive. As a software
developer myself, I see this as an unnecessary installation when the materials could have been set up to run directly from the DVD itself, not
wasting any of my hard drive space. After a miserable failure of the first launch, the second time around I decided to allow the program to install
MSIE, which got things running. (Drawback #2: requires MSIE to run). The interface from "PCFriendly" is simple enough and decorative, but quickly lost
my navigational patience to see what features lay hidden beneath. From what I can tell, a significant portion of the content is promotional material designed
to direct you to various web pages with additional features and interesting things to do realating to the movie. I would categorize the DVD ROM content on
this disc as "aimed at the younger viewing audience". Overall I am not terribly impressed with the design effort put into the DVD ROM portion of this disc.
Still, because of the superior DVD video content of this disc, I must
say that The Matrix DVD is a steal of a buy, almost a crime given recent promotional pricing. The DVD ROM content adds little, but takes away nothing,
and I don't consider it a detrimental item for this disc. I think it can be used as a starting point model for improving the quality of DVD ROM additions to
high quality DVD video titles. In closing, I stated many months ago, when The Matrix hit the theaters, "Don't walk, but RUN to see The Matrix!"
It is an awesome movie which Warner has given significant attention, worthy of a space on avid DVD collectors' shelves. Strangely, (is it really a coincidence?)
we previewed this title largely on September 18th, 1999.. which just happens to be the date on which the story ends (pay close attention to the last scene)...