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After months of waiting the final instalment in the Wachowski’s fantastical trilogy is finally upon us in the form of a two-disc DVD set. Continuing the story of the rebel’s attempts to end the war between man and machine, The Matrix Revolutions strips away much of the intellectualising of the oft-maligned second instalment and attempts to pull together the various dangling threads to produce a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Matrix Revolutions, The
Feature
The Matrix Revolutions picks up right where the previous film—rather abruptly—left off. After inexplicably stopping a number of Sentinels, Neo (Keanu Reeves) has somehow separated his mind from his body and is trapped in a place that exists between the machine world and the Matrix. After a daring rescue attempt by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Seraph (Colin Chou), Neo pays a final visit to the Oracle (Mary Alice), who warns of impending doom at the hands of rogue program Smith (Hugo Weaving).

Back in the real world Zion’s inhabitants are preparing for the inevitable attack, with Captain Mifune (Nathaniel Lees) leading an army of mechanised warriors in a last-ditch attempt to stop the marauding machines. As Morpheus, Niobe and the crew of the Hammer race home under attack from swarms of Sentinels, Neo and Trinity head to the machine city in a desperate attempt to avert the annihilation of the human race.

While Reloaded was largely a roller-coaster ride through the artificial world of the Matrix, complete with stunning bullet time effects and extraordinary stunts, the events in Revolutions occur primarily in the real world. With Neo out of action, and Morpheus reeling from the revelations of the previous film, the focus shifts to Zion as the human race prepares to defend itself against the machine onslaught. This astounding set-piece is, without a doubt, the most visually impressive sequence in the entire trilogy. With literally thousands of Sentinels and dozens of APUs duking it out, the sheer scope of the battle is unrivalled by anything other than the Lord of the Rings trilogy (and perhaps Attack of the Clones). It’s just a pity that the film takes almost sixty minutes to build to this moment.

However, the attack on Zion isn’t the only impressive spectacle to be found. Just as Reloaded had its three big set pieces, Revolutions has its fair share of jaw-dropping action. Things start off small with the infiltration of the Merovingian’s ‘Club Hel’, in which gravity defying henchmen walk on the ceilings as our heroes fire off enough lead to sink a battleship (all to the tune of the latest Don Davis/Juno Reactor collaboration). This little bit of mayhem pales into insignificance when compared to the magnificence that is the ‘Super Burly Brawl’, the climactic, apocalyptic battle between Neo and Smith towards the end of the film. Suffice to say this is mind-blowing stuff.

Matrix Revolutions, The
Unfortunately the fact that the trilogy ends on an intellectual note rather than an emotional one has served to alienate a great deal of viewers, as has the reliance on a number of largely anonymous bit-players to carry some of the bigger scenes. This instalment also features the weakest acting in the trilogy, with the untimely passing of actress Gloria Foster having the biggest impact. It’s not that replacement Mary Alice is bad, but I was so used to the unique inflections used by Foster that I found the transition difficult to handle (not that the Wachowski’s handled it particularly well). While the loss of Foster was unavoidable, the casting of Tanveer Atwal (Sati) was not. I think the kindest thing I can say is that Atwal is not the most gifted of child actors—Jake ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ Lloyd is Robert De Niro in comparison. On the plus side Hugo Weaving is in fine form as the maniacal Smith, and I was also impressed with Nathaniel Lees’ turn as Mifune. Special mention must also go to Ian Bliss and his dead-on impersonation of Hugo Weaving. Regrettably the fantastic Laurence Fishburne is given a criminally small part in the film, taking a back seat to Jada Pinkett Smith’s tough, but no less annoying, Niobe.

One of the biggest criticisms levied at Reloaded related to its convoluted, often-impenetrable dialogue. Although seen as a weakness by the majority I was enthralled by these exchanges, primarily because I held fast to the belief that all would be revealed in the final instalment. I was wrong, and on my first viewing I will admit to being more than a little disappointed when the curtain fell. After a little thought I am now of the opinion that my discontent lay with the Wachowski’s daring decision to deliver something unexpected: an unhappy ending. Neo and Trinity, the central characters in the trilogy, are dead, and although the war is over the human race is still enslaved. It’s hardly a ‘Hollywood’ ending. However, after watching the film a number of times during the course of this review I’ve changed my opinion somewhat, and I now believe that this was the only possible conclusion to the series. What would have happened if Neo had single-handily beaten a city full of Smiths and released everyone from the Matrix? Mass starvation for a start!

Video
Continuing their recent trend of making reviewer’s lives miserable, Warner have delivered yet another stunning transfer that—dare I say it—actually surpasses the effort made for The Matrix Reloaded. Anamophically enhanced and presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the transfer is once again incredibly sharp and detailed—you can practically make out each and every pore on the actor’s faces during the close-ups. As always the film features a muted, almost antiseptic palette that helps to give the forays into the Matrix that other-worldly feel. Thankfully colour rendition is wonderfully accurate throughout, as are contrast and shadow detail.

Both film and digital artefacts are conspicuous by their absence; if there is any aliasing, macro-blocking or edge enhancement it’s going to take someone with a bigger television and keener eyes than me to find it. The last time I saw a transfer as impressive as this (excluding the all-digital Finding Nemo) was on the Reloaded disc, and in recent memory only the Lord of the Rings films have come close to matching the overall quality of these releases.

Matrix Revolutions, The
Where Revolutions improves over its predecessor is in the visual effects department. A number of you may have read my Reloaded review in which I denied the disc top marks for video on account of some dubious use of CGI (the Burly Brawl looking more like a PlayStation game than a real fight for example). This time around there are fewer moments where suspension of disbelief becomes difficult—the digital doubles themselves seem to have been ‘upgraded’, and on the whole the special effects are astounding. Everything from Zion to the quasi-organic machine city is rendered in exquisite detail, and the CGI during the siege sets the standard by which all new films will be judged. I defy anyone not to be impressed by the ‘Hand of God’, a twisting, spiralling tornado of destruction composed of literally thousands of swarming Sentinels—simply magnificent.

Audio
The Matrix Revolutions arrives with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in both English and French (some sites have reported EX encoding, but I am unable to test this). Yet again we’re treated to superb mix, which strikes the perfect balance between dialogue, score and effects. Aggressive use of the surrounds ensures that there’s always something happening, while the LFE channel pumps out enough bass to topple ornaments and scare small pets in submission. The siege sequence provides the greatest opportunity for the track to demonstrate its brilliance, placing gunfire and Sentinels around the soundstage to create an enveloping experience that fully immerses you in the battle. The ferocity of these scenes is countered by some wonderful ambient effects, the subtle nuances of which are difficult to articulate. For me Neo’s journey through the machine city, and the subsequent meeting with the Deus Ex Machina, are among the most aurally satisfying moments in the film. The Deus Ex Machina’s guttural, almost primal voice alone is, quite frankly, awe-inspiring.

As someone who raved about the awesome score that accompanied The Matrix Reloaded it comes as a great personal relief to discover that Don Davis has seen fit not only to continue, but to expand upon that magnificent work. This soundtrack contains more choral elements than the previous two, and is probably closer to what many of us would consider a ‘traditional’ score than either The Matrix or The Matrix Reloaded. The standout piece has to be the epic ‘Neodämmerung’, which accompanies the trilogy’s climactic battle between Neo and his arch-nemesis Smith. Best described as ‘apocalyptic’ in its tone, Sanskrit chanting sets the mood as the titanic battle rages above and below the city streets. In fact, I’d have to go as far as to say that this piece of music is as good as, if not better than, John Williams’ ‘Duel of the Fates’!

The electronic elements are still present, albeit severely toned down from the previous film. Most notable among them are the tracks ‘Tetsujin’, which accompanies the hero’s decent into ‘Club Hel’, and ‘Navras’, Juno Rector’s thumping remix of Davis’ ‘Neodämmerung’ that plays over the closing credits. So there you have it—yet another reference quality soundtrack.

Extras
While most of disc one is dedicated to the film, it does include a number of trailers. There are four in total: The Matrix teaser (0:54); The Matrix Reloaded teaser (1:13); The Animatrix teaser (0:59) and The Matrix Revolutions theatrical (2:20). The rest of the supplemental material is housed on the second disc.

Matrix Revolutions, The
First up on disc two we have ‘Revolutions Recalibrated’, a twenty-seven minute documentary that takes the viewer on a journey through the making of the film. The actors and filmmakers begin by discussing the experience of working on Revolutions, as well as their feelings towards the Matrix trilogy as whole. After six years it’s understandable that they should have mixed emotions, especially considering some of the tragedies that befell the productions. The documentary touches on this with tributes to Aaliyah and the incomparable Gloria Foster, before plunging headlong into the more technical aspects of production with plenty of behind the scenes footage and interesting technical details. For example: did you know that the CG for the siege sequence alone consumed over 100,000 gigabytes of storage space? Well, now you do! During the featurette our old friend the white rabbit, last seen on the original Matrix DVD, makes a fleeting return. Pressing enter while the icon is on screen will take you to another short featurette entitled ‘Neo Realism’ (12:22), which goes into even greater depth on the phenomenal effects sequences and the methods used to create them, particularly the revolutionary (excuse the pun) virtual cinematography.

‘CG Revolution‘ (15:23) takes the viewer on a dizzying tour of the computer generated effects used throughout the movie. We learn how the animators breathe life into the massive APUs, how the astonishing ‘Hand of God’ was crafted from thousands of Sentinels, and how they were able to bring character to the most awe-inspiring machine of them all—the Deus Ex Machina. We’re also given a brief overview of the creation of the astonishing sets, and how the amalgamation of CGI and miniatures (now referred to as ‘bigatures’) helped to produce shots that would otherwise have been impossible. Speaking of miniatures, our old friend the white rabbit pops up here to transport you to a featurette called ‘Super Big Mini Models’, which goes into great detail about the various models built for use in the film.

The ‘Super Burly Brawl’ (6:17) is a multi-angle featurette that affords the viewer an alternate take on the climactic battle between Smith and Neo. At the beginning of the feature you’re presented with a choice of three feeds—storyboards, raw footage, and final composite—which are shown in three windows. The largest of these windows displays the currently selected feed, but you can switch feeds at any time by using angle button on your remote. Personally I found the raw footage the most interesting to watch, but the storyboards are also worth a look. The white rabbit makes not one, but two appearances during this featurette, allowing you to branch off and view material relevant to the current scene. The first time the rabbit appears, pressing enter transports you to a featurette entitled ‘Double Agent Smith’ (7:11), which deals with the process of creating a multitude of Hugo Weaving look-alikes to line the streets of the Mega City. The second time the rabbit pops up it is to reveal ‘Mind Over Matter’ (8:04), which details the work that Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving put into the fight sequences. We go behind the scenes for interviews, footage of the stunt players taking the falls deemed too dangerous for the actors, and the special rigs used to facilitate some of the amazing aerial battles. This is one of the most interesting featurettes on any of the Matrix DVDs.

Matrix Revolutions, The
‘Future Gamer: The Matrix Online‘ (10:59) in an introduction to the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game) that continues the story of the Matrix beyond Revolutions. The events of the game are intended to evolve as players interact with one another, although the creators will maintain a significant amount of control over the proceedings by introducing new environments, characters and other assorted goodies. This is obviously an ambitious project, but it remains to be seen how the final product will deal with latency issues and other problems associated with online gaming. The first Matrix-inspired game, Enter the Matrix, was universally slated by reviewers and gamers alike, so it will be interesting to see how The Matrix Online fares in the coming months.

‘Before the Revolution’ is a text-based timeline that details the history of the Matrix up until the beginning of Revolutions. The majority of the text is accompanied by stills from the motion pictures, but every so often the viewer is treated to a brief video clip from one of the earlier instalments (including The Animatrix). There’s a fair amount of stuff to wade through, but thankfully the timeline is divided into clearly defined sections: Birth, Matrix, The One, Zion, and The Truth. The timeline makes for useful reading for those new to the trilogy, but there’s precious little information here that can’t be learned from the films themselves.

‘3-D Evolution’ is basically just a sill gallery, albeit a rather fancy one. Here you'll find concept art, storyboards, and final scenes. If you use the ‘Play All’ option it will take you around five minutes to sit through everything on offer here (although you can skip ahead with the chapter skip button on your remote). The final supplement, entitled Operator, offers direct access to all of the white rabbit featurettes, of which there are four in total: ‘Neo Realism’ (12:22), ‘Super Big Mini Models’ (8:47), ‘Double Agent Smith’ (7:11), and ‘Mind Over Matter’ (8:04).

The disc also includes a number of DVD-Rom features, accessed via the optional InterActual Player (complete with Matrix skin). ‘TheMatrix.com Preview Player’ gives you a brief sample of some of the content to be found at the official Matrix website. There’s little to be seen here, with only a few still images videos on offer. To be honest you’re better off visiting the real site via one of the included links…

Clicking on ‘The Matrix Comics’ opens a large PDF file (providing you have Adobe Reader or similar installed) that contains not only previews for the Matrix comics, but one complete story entitled ‘The Miller’s Tale’. The included ‘Tunnel Recon’ Flash game is straight from the Matrix website and has more than a little in common with Pac-Man. The game requires you to manoeuvre through a series of tunnels, collecting EMPs and energy ‘pills’ along the way, while avoiding the many Sentinels who are trying to destroy you. The controls aren’t the easiest I’ve ever used, but this sort of game that should keep you amused at work for a few minutes.

Matrix Revolutions, The
Overall
While not the earth-shattering finale that many hoped for, Revolutions does provide a satisfying, if flawed conclusion to the trilogy (although in true Matrix fashion the ending leaves viewers with almost as many questions as answers). As with its predecessors, repeated viewings lead to greater understanding and appreciation of the subtleties of the convoluted plot, and certainly there’s a lot more going on here than first meets the eye.

Whatever your opinion of the film there’s no denying the quality of the audio-visual presentation on offer here, which ranks among the best available on the format. Unfortunately, while better than those found in the Reloaded set, the quality of the supplemental features still isn’t up to scratch for a major release such as this. What this film—and the trilogy in general—are crying out for is a commentary by the only people who matter: the Wachowski brothers. Perhaps the inevitable release of a trilogy box set will bring this and more (and satisfy all the devoted Matrix fans who have helped to put the brothers where they are today).

All things told I’m inclined to recommend this package, but whether you decide to buy may depend largely on your attitude to the whole Matrix phenomenon. People looking for a new demo disc shouldn’t hesitate to pick this up regardless, as it’s clearly going to be up there as a contender for the technical achievement awards come the end of the year. For those of you who did enjoy the films this should be a ‘no-brainer’ purchase, and the prospect of sitting down to watch the entire six hour story of the Matrix unfold should be a most welcome one.


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