Friday, May 25, 2018

THE MATRIX (1999) (4K UltraHD Review)


Label: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Region Code: A
Rating: R
Duration: 136 Minutes
Audio: Dolby Atmos 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround 5.1, with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 2160p HD Widescreen (2.39:1)
Director: The Wachowskis
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano

I remember walking out of the cinema in 1999 after taking in The Matrix and being all like "whoa!", my mind was properly blown by the kung-fu sci-fi actioner, the story of a computer programmer Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves, River's Edge) who also goes by the hacker handle "Neo". As the story unfolds he learns that his perceived reality is really an elaborate virtual simulation created by intelligent machines that have enslaved mankind for hundred of years at this point, having placed all of humanity into fluid-filled pods, immersed in a false digital reality, all the while feeding off of their warmth and electrical activity, effectively turning people into the batteries that power this dystopian future-world while humans believe that their virtual prison is a true reality.

The movie opens with in very noir scenario with the character Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss, Fido) being pursued by police, she's cornered in a room at gunpoint when the film kicks into reality-bending awesomeness as she runs up a wall and the camera does a full 360 degree turn around her as she whoops some serious ass, defying gravity with a kinetic blend of kung-fu and black leather-clad cyberpunk aesthetics. Trinity later makes contact with Neo inviting him to a meet with the resistance leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn, John Wick: Chapter 2), who gives him a choice, take the blue pill and remain in his current reality, or take the red pill and have the veil lifted from his eyes. He chooses the red pill and finds his perceived reality literally melting away before his eyes, waking up naked in a goo-filled pod where he basically flushed down the drain by the machines, where he is picked-up by Morpheus in a hovercraft vehicle named the Nebuchadnezzar. Once on-board he is introduced to the rest of the resistance fighters who have aligned themselves with Morpheus, we have Cypher (Joe Pantoliano, Memento), brothers Dozer (Marcus Chong, The Crow: Wicked Prayer) and Tank (Anthony Ray Parker, Dead Air), Apoc (Julian Arahanga, Once We Were Warriors), Switch (Belinda McClory, Turkey Shoot) and Mouse (Matt Doran, The Thin Red Line). Once they get Neo up to speed he learns of the intelligent machine uprising of the 21st century, of how machine rose up against the humans and enslaved them in the Matrix, pacifying their minds with the illusion of reality, and of how there are freed humans living in a secret city called Zion, and how the Matrix is protected by sentient programs called Agents who manifest as C.I.A. looking spooks in suits, lead by Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings) as Agent Smith. 

Neo is trained in the ways of the Matrix, taught that his strength and skill inside the Matrix world are only limited by his imagination and determination, and niftily he can learn kung-fu and martial arts by simply downloading them directly into his brain through a port created by the machines, leading to a fantastic dojo fight sequence with Morpheus, one of the early highlights of the film, as Morpheus presses him to go beyond his perceived limits while inside the Matrix. . 

The action in this one comes fast and furious, plenty of cyber-kinetic kung-fu action rolled into the heady philosophical mind-fucking, with Neo and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar re-entering the Matrix and facing off against the dreaded agents while also facing real world threats like the squid-like machine known as Sentinels who hunt the freed humans. Also mixed into this is a budding love story between Neo and Trinity, plus a Christ-like prophecy with Morpheus believing Neo to be the "chosen one" who will lead to the destruction of the Matrix once and for all.

This was mega-hit right out of the gate from what I remember, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars at the box-office, inspiring loads of action and sci-fi films in it's wake, including two sequels of it's own. The kinetic kung-fu action and slick cyberpunk visuals - including "bullet time" - have been aped and re-used ad nauseum since it was revealed here, it was certainly a ground-breaking movie, though the cyberpunk, mind-bending sci-fi and dystopian elements were seen previously in films like Dark City (1998) and Strange Days (1995), but this is the one that captured movie goers attentions the most, it expanded on and perfected what those films hinted at. 

Audio/Video: The Matrix (1999) arrives on 3-disc Blu-ray/4K UltraHD + Digital from Warner Home Entertainment with a new 4K transfer from the original camera negative, supervised by the film’s director of photography, Bill Pope (Baby Driver) framed in 2160p HD Widescreen (2.39:1), and the results are potent. The image has a pleasing layer of film grain, it's crisp and finely detailed with facial details and textures coming through as never before, this is a very pleasing upgrade in fine detail and texture. Color grading is notably different than past editions have been, the somewhat overwhelming green hue has been toned down, the skin tones look more natural as a result, but the new color-grading isn't perfect in my eyes, it fluctuates quite a bit, and some of the whites do seem slightly blown in certain scenes, but overall I find this to be a nice upgrade that brought me lots of enjoyment.

Onto the audio, we get choice of Dolby Atmos or Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes, strangely the lossy Dolby Digital is the default audio option, with optional English (and many other languages) subtitles. The audio presentation for the Matrix has always been fantastic, from the cinema to the first DVD and onto the previous Blu-rays, but this new 4K presentation includes a new Dolby Atmos track, which is also included on the Blu-ray, that is simply stunning, the bass rumbles deeply, scenes of bullet-fire and breaking glass come through crispy and powerfully, everything is nicely balanced with the pulsing score pounding away, it's truly an ear-gasm of sound. 

Onto the extras we get what looks to be everything from the past releases ported over, with the 4K disc and Blu-ray containing the feature films plus a written introduction from the Wachowskis, and the four audio commentaries which includes a critic's commentary, a philosophers commentary, cast and crew and one from the composer, the highlight is the philosopher's commentary, it adds a lot to the viewing experience. Disc one also includes the In-Movie Experience which features commentary and video interviews that pop-up during playback. A second Blu-ray contains the rest of the extensive special features which are quite good, it's been years since I re-watched any of them, so it was a fun revisit. 

This 4K release comes housed in a black 4K keepcase with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring the white rabbit, which I'm not too keen on, but it does include a slipcover with a slightly more attractive artwork, but not by much. I think my favorite artwork for the original Matrix release was the Best Buy exclusive Steelbook with the pod artwork, I would have loved that for this release. 

Special Features:
- Written Introduction by the Wachowskis
- “Philosopher” Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur
- “Critics” Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
- “Cast and Crew” Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta
- “Composer” Commentary by Don Davis with Music Only Track
- The Matrix Revisited (123 min)
- The Music Revisited (
- Behind the Matrix (33 min)
- Follow the White Rabbit (23 min)
- Take the Red Pill (18 min)
- Marilyn Manson “Rock is Dead” Music Video (3 min)
- Teaser Trailer (1 min)
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min)
- TV Spots (4 min)

The Matrix (1999) still looks great some twenty years later, though some of the leather-clad visuals haven't exactly aged well in my opinion, and the digital Sentinels and scenes of the digitally created Nebuchadnezzar cruising through the utility tunnels of the future stand out as not being seamless integrated, especially with this 4K presentation, but otherwise I'm still impressed by the production design and detail that went into this one. The fight-sequences are outstanding and well shot, the energy and momentum combined with the gravity defying special effects in 4K are still mesmerizing,

This release was sent by Warner Bros. for review on the site, but this did not effect the review one way or the other, the review is my own.