The Matrix – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review


Film Title: The Matrix
Release Date: 1999
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Studio: Warner
Audio Format(s): Dolby Atmos & Dolby Digital 5.1
High Dynamic Range: HDR (HDR10) & Dolby Vision
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Formats Available: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Versions Available: 4K Blu-ray
Director: Lana WachowskiLilly Wachowski (as the Wachowski Brothers)
Cast: Keanu ReevesLaurence FishburneCarrie Anne-Moss, Hugo WeavingGloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Julian Arahanga

Editorial Note:
This review was co-wrote by:
Brendan Surpless and Justin Sluss

the_matrix_41click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

The Movie

The Matrix” is the ground-breaking 1999 sci-fi/action film from Lana and Lilly Wachowski – at that point and time, 1999 though, as The Wachowski Brothers.

For those that don’t know what the film is about or, worse, haven’t seen it (for some reason) the story goes a little something like this. “Thomas A. Anderson” (Keanu Reeves) is your seemingly average man working what looks like a very mundane cubicle job during the day. What most don’t know is by night, Thomas turns into a fairly big computer hacker by the name of “Neo.” Targeted by the police after being contacted by the legendary “Morpheus” (Laurence Fishburne,) he informs Neo that the world humans live in, is nothing more than a wasteland controlled by machines who feed off of the heat/electrochemical energy humans provide/trapping them in a world known as “The Matrix.” Neo must now return to “The Matrix” and confront a group of computer programs known as  “Agents” led by “Agent Smith” (Hugo Weaving), whose goal is to find Neo and destroy the human race. What results is a film that is quite excellent, yet not the ‘mind-bending’ film most think it is.

I remember when this film was released in early April of 1999. For an R-Rated film, it was gaining quite the buzz from 2 relatively unknown directors in the Wachowski’s. Having interest in the subject matter and the stars, I went in with no real expectations as films of this nature are usually more miss than hit. Upon exit, I thought the film was quite entertaining, but boy oh boy was I surprised to read on the net (still somewhat in its infancies in 1999) how a majority of folks were treating this film along the lines of “Dark City” or even “Blade Runner,” some mind-bending film.

Let us face facts here folks, “The Matrix,” is certainly a good film, even great at times, but is nowhere the film people speak of. While the action impressed for its time (ie “Bullet-Time”) and the acting was solid (Hugo Weaving in particular), the is fairly basic in tone, and definitely not the ‘confusing’ flick I’ve read about. Let’s see here, something or someone wants to end the human race, and a savior must come along and thwart all evil.

Still, I’ll admit that even though the film is by-the-books, “The Matrix” is entertaining, and well worth watching, especially to revisit particularly in this new 4K release, which we’ll touch on below.

Movie Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

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Video Quality

According to the technical specifications on IMDb“The Matrix” was filmed using a variety of Panavision cameras on 35MM and Super 35MM film, in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.

In terms of high definition, the film originally received a Blu-ray Disc release debut all the way back in 2008 via “The Ultimate Matrix Collection” box set. So, keep in mind an actual decade has passed since that release, and things have changed, a tad. There’s actually a 4K home video format for one, when we only had 2K home video format via Blu-ray back then. So let’s keep that in mind. Also, keep in mind this DVD was originally a “demo disc” in terms of visuals, not just it’s killer sound mix. So let’s talk about how this 2018 iteration in 4K with both types of HDR fends versus the other ‘catalog’ 4K titles out on the market.

The first thing you’ll notice here is the blacks are darker, the whites are brighter than ever in terms of tone, and the black level is absolutely solid, which comes much thanks to the types of High Dynamic Range, both Dolby Vision and HDR10 (the standard) that formats are included on the 4K disc. The color palette is definitely muted, to fit the visual style, as well as we see a strong emphasis on the green tone, the film’s real color theme. These greens and other colors seem to stand out a lot more thanks to us getting HDR behind the 4K resolution. The amount of detail, especially in close-ups, and in action sequences is impressive. It’s a great improvement over the previous Blu-ray Disc release.

My biggest thing here, when deciding its VQ (video quality) rating in 4K, was comparing it to “Blade Runner,” “Goodfellas,” and “Unforgiven” – the other MPI (Motion Picture Imaging) labs 4K UHD Blu-ray work (titles released) by the folks at Warner. The reason for this is that I assume that Warner had them work on this title, it being big for the studio as it is. In comparison, “The Matrix” was respected on a level almost as much as those three other said films, however it didn’t seem to get quite as much attention, and some areas of the 35MM print perhaps just couldn’t be polished up enough in a 2160p 4K resolution to blend any better than they do.

The benefits of High Dynamic Range, be it either the HDR10 (standard), or even the Dolby Vision are extreme, and are enough to justify it being on 4K UHD Blu-ray, just for that aspect of the visual presentation alone. You’ll definitely notice an almost “night and day” comparison to the original Blu-ray Disc release. That said, it’s superior and we likely would have given that, or hell perhaps we did back then give that a perfect score, however this is 2018 and things have changed. Today, it earns a near perfect score in its 4K debut.

On a closing note, perhaps they’ll do a full-scale restoration on the anniversary next year or so and try to “double dip” on us, as usual with that studio, and make us buy the release for like the third or fourth time a year later when they bring the sequels to 4K in a big box set or such to celebrate the 20th anniversary. I mean, I’m just hypothetically thanking, I’m sorry thinking, pun intended, about how this studio does consumers in terms of marketing on their home video releases over the years. – J. Sluss

Video Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

the_matrix_22click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Audio Quality

–– One quick side-note here. As I normally do with every disc I watch, I brought up the info section as the film began and noticed that the film defaults to the Dolby Digital mix. Be sure to go to the film’s Audio section and select the Atmos mix before watching. ––

Audio here (on the 4K disc) is presented in Dolby Atmos, as well as Dolby TrueHD – as its core track. So, if you’re not on a Dolby Atmos capable speaker set up, AVR unit, and/or 4K UHD Blu-ray Player capable of decoding the format: you will get that essentially Dolby TrueHD mix in a 5.1 or 7.1 configuration, depending on your speaker set up.

As one might expect given that this film had been a demo title for the previous iterations on originally DVD, and eventually Blu-ray, this 4K UHD Blu-ray is a complete stunner. With two real key “demo material” worthy scenes (the lobby and the fight), I’m going to give my attention to the film’s final act.

The ending fight sequence has always been one of my favorite scenes in the film. From the second that Neo and Smith charge at each other, we hear the excellent score by Don David pound throughout the punches, the wall breaks and the bones snapping (one would assume with the power of each punch). Bullets zip by our ears, as does the train, creating a truly impressive mix.

As one might expect, little aspects of the mix, such as dialogue, never falter, neither do all the numerous sound effects and placements throughout the film. Having won numerous awards for this mix, Warner has done this Atmos mix right. There’s just a problem, and it’s not an unfixable problem, but it’s a problem. More on that below. – B. Surpless

You know, as much as it was praised in its time, it is even nice to see they included that Dolby Digital 5.1 mix originally found on the DVD that everyone heard back in like 2000? Here lies the real “no brainer” of a problem, Warner, and that is this: That mix is EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD! So, I mean why? Why on earth would you use a next-gen home video format like 4K UHD Blu-ray to DEFAULT to an 18-year-old sound mix instead of a new amazing Atmos mix?! The average consumer is not going to be thinking you’re dumb enough to have it playing in an AC-3 (Dolby Digital 5.1) mix instead of the new Dolby Atmos mix they likely bought the damn film for. So, you have to just HOPE, keyword hope, that they know to hit the pop-up menu button on their remote, goto audio on the menu and change the sound from Dolby Digital 5.1 to Atmos. Wow, that wore me out typing, because it made me just as angry doing it as it did to explain it out. – J. Sluss

Audio Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)

the_matrix_49click to view a 1080p Blu-ray Screenshot

Bonus Materials

  • A Digital Copy of the film via Movies Anywhere is included, which is compatible with iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video and more. You redeem this with a code on paper insert in the various forms of packaging.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc includes the following bonus materials:

  • Written Intro by the Wachowskis
  • Philosopher Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
  • Critics’ Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
  • Cast & Crew Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg & John Gaeta
  • Composer Commentary by Don Davis and Music-Only Track

The second and third Blu-ray Discs of the film, is where the majority of the bonus materials are to be found. All bonus materials include Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound unless noted otherwise in the description.

On the first Blu-ray Disc (along with an HD version of the film) you will find the the intro by The Wachowskis and audio commentaries (listed above on the 4K UHD Blu-ray) and this very cool feature:

  • In-Movie Experience plays along with the film using video pop-ups and audio commentary. This In-Movie Experience includes interviews with The Wachowskis, Joel Silver (Producer), Bill Pope (Director of Photography), more crew, as well as cast members: Carrie-Anne Moss, Keanu Reeves and more. This feature has Dolby Digital 5.1 sound.

On the third Blu-ray “Bonus” Disc you will find the following materials:

  • Behind the Story”
    • The Matrix Revisited” (2:02:50 – SD) is very thorough and lengthy featurette looking back on the original idea of the film and how it came to eventually be. At 2 hours, 2 minutes and 50 seconds in runtime, it’s almost as long as the film itself.
    • Behind The Matrix” (43:06 – SD) is broken down into a few sub parts:
      • “Making The Matrix
      • “The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes”
      • “The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall”
      • “The Code of the Red Dress”
      • “The Old Exit: Wabash and Lake”
      • Agent Down”
      • “But Wait—There’s More”
  • Follow the White Rabbit” (22:51 – SD) breaks down into to the following:
    • Trinity Escapes”
    • “Pod”
    • “Kung Fu”
    • “The Wall”
    • “Bathroom Fight”
    • “Government Lobby”
    • “Government Roof”
    • “Helicopter”
    • “Subway”
  • Take the Red Pill” (17:42 – SD) is broke down into two parts:
    • “What Is Bullet Time?”
    • “What Is the Concept?”
  • Music
    • The Music Revisited” (3:14:51 – HD) Functions a bit like a jukebox, and a whopping total of 41 tracks are included. You can “play all” or just pick tracks individually from the film’s Soundtrack and original Score. If you play all, you’re sitting down for 3 hours, 14 minutes and 51 seconds of music. Enjoy!
    • Rock Is Dead (3:20 – SD) is the music video for the song “Rock is Dead” performed by musician Marilyn Manson, from the film’s Soundtrack.
  • Trailers
    • The Matrix Teaser (1:01 – SD) sadly, not only is presented in a 4×3 aspect ratio, instead of widescreen, and is also not in HD.
    • The Matrix Trailer (2:33 – HD) again sadly, not only is presented in 4×3 aspect ratio, instead of widescreen, and is also not in HD.
    • The Matrix TV Spots (3:54 – SD) include a total of EIGHT TV Spots that were used in promotion for the film. Those TV spots are titled: “Manson,” “Reality,” “Forget Everything,” “Mystery,” “Buckle Up,” “The Answer,” “Kung Fu,” and “Whoa.”

Bonus Materials Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

Closing Thoughts

The Matrix” was one of the most popular DVDs of its time, likewise with the Blu-ray Disc, and now with the 4K UHD Blu-ray (as evident by its in and out of stock on Amazon). This film has survived nearly 20 years of effects, and is still talked about to this day.

To no one’s surprise, Warner has done the film justice with excellent 4K coming at you in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision High Dynamic Range options, and with an expected excellent Atmos audio mix. It’s quality all around is just excellent. This is a highly recommended 4K UHD Blu-ray title. I’d say to any fan, this is worth replacing your old Blu-ray Disc with. That thing is outdated now. If you’ve never seen the film: There’s no better time than now in 4K.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.5 (out of 5) for video quality
5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
Highly Recommended

The Matrix(UHD/BD) [Blu-ray]

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