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There's no doubt the Matrix has been carried a long way by its "cool factor". Brilliant cinematography and creative action sequences make this film one of the most visually impressive for some time. Box-office cash and a legion of dedicated fans carried the movie on a tidal wave throughout its theatrical run. And once the Matrix was done wowing audiences in cinemas the impact it had on DVD was, for then at least, second to none. Still regarded as one of the best "show off" discs for HT lovers, it seems many people just can't get enough of Neo and his ultra-hip buddies. Thankfully with the upcoming sequels soon to hit the big screen those hungry for more will soon be satisfied. But until then Roadshow have released the ultimate gap-filler that will take you even closer into the Matrix phenomenon and whet your appetite for the next two instalments. Cool.

The Disc
The disc is basically an extended extras package that covers most of what wasn’t canvassed in the original DVD and delves even further into most of the stuff die-hard fans have been begging to know. The fact that the disc doesn’t contain an actual movie has brought its value into question, as has the bold move of producing a DVD containing nothing more than documentaries, interviews and cut footage. But thankfully the brains behind this production have seen the value in releasing a disc such as this. Even if the Matrix isn’t at the top of your list you’re bound to enjoy what’s on offer, and for dedicated fans of this film the DVD will almost certainly satisfy. Think of your favourite film (if it’s not actually this one) and imagine how much you’d enjoy a deeper and broader insight into its creation. Enter the “cool factor” once again.

The bulk of the disc is taken up by a two-hour documentary covering all aspects of the original film’s production. Playing much more like the Magnolia diary than the electronic press kit, the feature length...erm...special feature has everything and everyone you could want. And the best thing about this little gem is that it is cut extremely well to cover the action, the locations and the people behind the flick. We get to see some behind the scenes footage of the fight sequences, Andy and Larry Wachowski talking at length about anything and everything, original storyboards and interviews with all the key players from Keanu himself right down to the sound designer. Very slick.

There’s not all that much footage of the upcoming sequels but enough insight is included to intrigue without giving too much away. Anything less would’ve disappointed many fans but anything more would’ve spoiled the surprises that will no doubt be included in the next two instalments as everyone involved looks to raise the bar. It’s a very tough ask, but judging by the comments made on this disc we’re in for a couple of corkers.

Couch potatoes
Much has been said about the perceived “double-dipping” by the studios with this release, but in reality it’s quite the opposite. Instead of continuing the trend of re-releasing the film in a double-disc special edition we have merely been given the option of purchasing the extra disc separately so as to not alienate fans of the film that have the original flick. Choice is good and even better if you don’t have to sell your old disc in the process.

As far as documentaries go this one is up with the best of them. As in depth as in depth can be, this disc makes the perfect companion to the film on the original DVD. Everything on this release is quality, so there’s no need to sit through another painful commentary like the one on the first disc. If you’re hungry for some more Matrix info or a decent, if a little brief, sneak peek into the upcoming films this one is definitely well worth the reasonable asking price.

Video
The visual quality inevitably varies between low-grade stock footage to sharp as a knife clips from the movie. Once the viewer gets used to the changes in quality the focus remains on the content throughout. The fact that most of this stuff is being shown at all is enough to accept that much of it won't be top notch visually. That said, the DVD does look quite impressive on the whole. When film has been used the image is quite clear and sharp, with the colours looking particularly well rendered. Some of the other footage has been taken from low-grade video sources and the like but it still looks quite clear and detailed considering the restraint on those types of formats. You could pick at it until your heart is content but this release doesn’t need the clean transfer so crucial to many other DVDs. A very good effort to bring us as much footage that was humanly possible even if it meant sacrificing a little image quality for information.

Audio
Included on the disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that does its job quite well. The surrounds and subwoofer are basically only used during the clips from the film (which is pretty much as expected) but the rest of the documentary is boosted quite well by a decent sounding bunch of music, one of the staples of the film. Dialogue is clear at all times which is pretty crucial when you’re dealing with a mumbling Keanu and a bunch of other personalities that really need to be heard. Good stuff.

Damir Dokic turns his hand to movies
Extras
Even though the whole disc is basically an extras package in itself, the main documentary has been enhanced by quite a few quality featurettes that go as far into the movie as you’re ever going to go. If you thought the doco had everything, think again.

First up is What Is To Come which looks at the upcoming movies and some of the scenes that are bound to become instant hits upon their release. As mentioned earlier the look at these movies is a little brief but what is on offer is generally very good. We get to see the car chases and green screen work that will almost certainly have you circling the release dates pretty quickly.

What is Animatrix? deals with the upcoming production of an animated shorts DVD that will hit the shelves in the near future. More of an extended promotional plug that anything else this featurette is pretty much a once-only affair.

Acting basically as a glorified weblink, the whatisthematrix.com special feature merely contains Joel Silver having a chat about the now famous website. This one will probably have many viewers checking out the site when they’re next online so I guess it’ll be pretty effective.

Next up is the jewel in the extra features crown of this DVD package; Dance Of The Master: Yuen Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes beefs up the cool factor of the movie by showing some of the major fight scenes from the flick in their earliest stages. Wo Ping’s talent is highly regarded and it shows in this little gem. The team of choreographers become the fighters to flesh out exactly how Neo and Morpheous plan to kick the crap out of each other. Great to watch, definitely cool.

The True Followers is an amusing featurette containing interviews with the most ardent of Matrix fans who spout their perceptions on the movie. These people are pretty laughable but it’ll have dedicated followers wishing they made it onto the DVD.

"Whoa"
The last two little pieces are pretty much the off cuts of the off cuts, showing us a little more footage from the making of the original movie. The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall contains a few interviews and looks at the production of these two bits in the film. Probably would’ve been more at home in the doco because in isolation it may have lost a little bit of its appeal. Finally there’s a But Wait, There’s More section which contains, yep......more.

If that’s not enough there’s four, yes four, easter eggs that complete a pretty impressive package. An I must say there’s some quality stuff in there that could’ve easily been placed in the press release and back cover to sell a few more copies. Included is a clip and interview with the Wachowski brothers, a look at the mysterious red lady, a behind the scenes montage surrounding Hugo Weaving’s injury and a 180 minute juke box with Matrix-esque tracks to pump out of your speakers for over three hours. Now that’s what I call a quality easter egg. Look in the Easter Egg section on the site for details on how to get there.

Overall
If you’re a Matrix devotee there’s no reason you should be reading this. Either you’ve already pre-ordered your copy, you’ve been living off the planet for the past few months or your as broke as Alan Bond and awaiting your next pay cheque to grab this disc. For the others you should now be confident that this disc has enough value to warrant its release independently from the film. The documentary is as comprehensive as you’re ever going to get and the other featurettes are very good quality on the whole. There’s hours of footage and interviews in here to keep you occupied non-stop until the sequels surface. As Neo would say, “Whoa”.


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