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The Matrix (1999) Amazon
Director: Andy WachowskiLana Wachowski

The classic movie. The first and original—and the best in my opinion. You know the main characters: Neo (Keeanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Although this is an ancient movie (technologically speaking), 1999 after all, the most interesting extras on this DVD are in the effects stories. You have to remember that most of the effects are primarily “practical effects”, unlike today, where they are mostly CG. What they were able to accomplish is truly astounding.

    • HBO: Making The Matrix
    • Running Commentary
    • Cast and Crew
    • Music Only Track
    • Follow the White Rabbit
    • Take the Red Pill
      • “What is The Concept?”
      • “What is Bullet-Time?”
    • DVD ROM PC
      • “Are You the One?”
      • Screenplay and Storyboards
      • 7 Special Essays and Articles
      • “Do you know Kung-Fu?
      • Trailers
      • Website

Under Cast and Crew, several of the main characters are highlighted in text notation. Career, public life, movie listings, etc… these tidbits are referred to as the “Data Files.” Pretty boring IMO. 

“The Dream World” is your access point into the extras. It features a running commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, John Gaeta (visual effects supervisor), and Zach Staenberg (film editor) and a featurette called “Making the Matrix.” I don’t quite know how to categorize this commentary. It had a mix of stories about the production, remembrances of influences used to develop the movie. Not too much into the technical realm, but enough to keep me interested. Carrie-Anne chimed in on occasion. Mostly it was John and Zach doing the talking.

By clicking on the red pill you will be taken to the first of two features: “What is Bullet-Time?” a special effects video examination of the technique, setup, equipment, etc… You’ll see the entire process with “behind the scene” footage and you also hear about the problems and limitations encountered while developing the techniques. In particular you get an in depth view of the revolutionary camera rig setup and compositing technique. Very cool stuff.

The second feature is “What is The Concept?” Click here for Google Links. It features an 11 minute piece with “storyboards to film” analysis. You’ll see many of the models, CG effects, and stories behind the “Concept.” You get a very good sense of the process that takes the film maker from concept sketches, to animatics, from pre-visuals to wireframes, to fully rendered footage. It does not have any narration (sadly missing, IMO).

Now, in “Making the Matrix” you have a 30 minute video commentary featuring the directors, producers, actors, and production personnel talking about the movie. It is really cool. You get a lot of great “behind the scenes” video, a sense of what it was like on the set, and some of the excellent story boarding. It was very important to have the actors do as much as was possible in their stunts, including the fight scenes — no CG. You get to see Woo-ping Yuen in action training Keeanu.

There is a Music-Only track with commentary by music composer Don Davis. He talks about the process he goes through and why he composed in a certain way and what effect he was going for. Be sure to turn on the subtitles while you view this extra feature (there are a lot of blank areas in his commentary—as it probably should be, I guess).

Follow the White Rabbit is a feature that shows a pop of a white rabbit icon where ever there is “secret” footage related to the scene.

The  DVD-ROM features (file:///E:/WHV/INDEX.HTML) features:

    • Launch to the Matrix Events (defunct links to Special DVD Web Events)
    • The One (Are you really the one?)
    • Alternate Realities (Essays Inspired by the Matrix)
    • Programmed Realities (Screenplay and Storyboards, Do You Know Kung-Fu)
    • Original Theatrical Website (defunct link)

Of the 5 chapters in the DVD-ROM; only Essays Inspired by the Matrix (found in Alternate Realities) and Screenplay and Storyboards (found in Programmed Realities) are of any real value – mainly because of expired links.

In Alternate Realities, you have 7 chapters to explorer— essays all in text.

      1. Essays on Martial Arts found in Everybody Loves Kung-Fu Fighting,
      2. Comic Books in the Cinema found in From Script to Screen,
      3. Science Fiction Films found in Infinity and Beyond, an article by Herbert Muschamp for the NY Times called If the City is Only a Dream (the link does not work so click here for the article),
      4. An article by Edward Rothstein for the NY Times called A Hacker’s haunting Vision of a Reality Within Illusion (the link does not work so click here for the article), 
      5. Maximizing the Matrix by N’Gai Croal for Newsweek, Popular Metaphysics by Richard Corliss for Time

Screenplay and Storyboards gives you the script on the right side, and storyboard sequences to flip through. At the bottom are thumbnails of the 38 storyboards you get to interact with. Most of the functionality is still there with  the exception of the non working video clips.

On the left navigation panel there are links to several Warner Bros. sites but they are not accessible from this menu. There is one interesting one called the Matrix Code. It plays a loop of the screen showing those green characters flowing down the screens in the movie. Does it say something? I don’t know if there is a secret hidden message in them – you may need to know how to read the matrix!

So, I’d still say you have to check out the extras on this DVD. It has something for everyone. I’m giving it 4 of 5 stars only because technology has move forwards quite a bit nowadays and the running commentary while enjoyable it is not “educational.”

I give it ★★★★☆