The Ultimate Matrix Collection Larry and Andy Wachowski

What is The Matrix? In 1999, it was one of the most intelligent, philosophical and innovative action/sci-fi/noir-ish mish mash films ever made. It breathed new life into a then dead in space science fiction genre and its equally stagnating action brother, posing questions about the nature of reality, putting "bullet time" in the pop culture lexicon, leading the martial arts "influence" trend in American films and spawning legions of imitators. (Not to mention it was a genius promotional tagline.) In the first half of 2003, The Matrix (Reloaded) was a muddled philosophical journey fraught with pseudo-intellectual exposition and musings, abandoning the plot threads of the first and leaving us with a cliché cliff-hanger ending, antiseptic fight scenes (the burly brawl anyone?) and a whole whack of unanswered questions. (Of course, the freeway chase scenes were worth talking about.) In the latter half of 2003, The Matrix (Revolutions) was a big, dumb, present-day Lucas-inspired CGI action movie, lacking the intelligent, slowly revealing journey of the first and the bloated pretension and exposition of the second, content simply to abandon any semblance of logic or allegiance to the first film's accomplishments in the face of all the CG eye candy. Although, granted, it was impressive eye candy. In December 2004, The Matrix is the "ultimate" collection, a ten-disc over-indulgence (in a good way… kind of) that on the surface competes with the Alien Quadriliogy set as the most comprehensive and expansive DVD release ever (at least until the 20-disc The Lord of the Rings "cloak and staff" set comes out). But despite featuring all three movies (detailing the discovery of "the one" in a computerised dream world and his quest to free the humans in the "real world" from the dominion of the machines), The Animatrix anime homage disc (telling "fill in the gap" short stories in various animated styles), more featurettes than a human being could reasonably be expected to consume (although a number are from the previously released editions) and snazzy packaging, Quadrilogy is still the undisputed champ, because the Wachowskis have done it again. Of course "it" is not the stunning accomplishment of the first Matrix, but "it" is the Wachowskis once again dodging any and all responsibility in explaining the muddled, confusing Matrix sequels by eschewing any sort of interviews or involvement (save in the original The Matrix featurettes and peripherally in the newer ones). Oh sure, there's commentary, two separate tracks for each film in fact, but they aren't by the Wachowskis. While Quadriligy went out of its way to offer multiple commentaries from directors and cast, even shedding lights on the horrible events surrounding the creation of a couple of the films (notably Alien 3 and Cameron's culture-clashing during Aliens), The Ultimate Matrix Collection, much like its last two instalments, is content to answer nothing, merely pose more questions and frustrate. While the Wachowskis offer only a short, semi-egotistical essay on their "unorthodox" idea for the set's commentary, the concept is at least interesting, if not incredibly flawed. (Would you rather hear the Wachowskis or people not associated with the film?). Recruiting philosophers who "love the films" and critics "who didn't," and giving them each a track is an intriguing (commendable?) idea, but having the filmmakers shed insight into the jumbled, perplexing sequels would have been a better use of resources. However, despite the fact that critics are pompous and annoying by nature, the critic track is the more interesting one, even if they don't "hate the film" (as implied in the essay) and are generally complimenting (in that dismissing way critics have). Although the long pauses throughout are quite surprising — who thought a critic could ever shut up? However, while almost everything and the kitchen sink is included in this opulent ten-disc set, the lack of the Wachowskis in the commentary and the removing of the "follow the white rabbit" feature from the initial The Matrix DVD make it more notable for what it doesn't have. Ultimate? Not quite. Hell, even Lucas had the guts to defend his films and they had Jar-Jar. (Warner)