Release Date(s)2003 (October 30, 2018)
Studio(s)Village Roadshow/Silver Pictures/Groucho II Film Partnership (Warner Bros.)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B+
The story so far...
Back in 1999, a computer hacker named Neo discovered that the world he thought he knew was in fact an elaborate simulation called the Matrix. In the real world, his body was plugged into the Matrix and being used as a battery to feed the machines that had taken over the world long ago. Neo was rescued from his dream-state by Morpheus and Trinity, two people from the real world that believed Neo was “The One,” a savior who could end the war between man and machine and whose coming had been foretold by The Oracle. Attempting to stop them was Agent Smith, a computer program whose task it was to track down and kill humans aware of their existence in the Matrix. Neo destroyed Smith and returned to the real world with Morpheus and Trinity, ready to take things to the next level. Along the way, the filmmaking Wachowskis redefined science fiction cinema, creating a visual look and style whose influence is still felt today. In Neo, Keanu Reeves found another role that fit his Zen-surfer acting style. And Japanese anime and wire-fu were thrust into the mainstream of American pop culture.
2003’s The Matrix Reloaded found Neo settling comfortably into his new role as messiah, having picked up all sorts of nifty savior tricks like the ability to fly and bring people back from the dead. In the last remaining human city of Zion, Morpheus continued to tell anybody who’d listen that Neo was going to end the war. While back in the Matrix, Agent Smith turned out to be not quite as destroyed as everyone assumed. In fact, he’d actually been freed from the Matrix and was now running loose, replicating himself throughout the system like the world’s worst computer virus. Smith even figured out a way to enter the real world through a hapless human soldier. In the end, Zion was about to be attacked by the machines and time was running out. If Neo really was The One, he’d better do something quick. But that was thrown into doubt as Neo lay comatose (next to the Smith-possessed soldier) after taking out Sentinels in the real world just by waving his fingers at them.
I mention all of this because if you attempt to watch The Matrix Revolutions without first trying to make sense of the two earlier films, you’re not going to have a clue what’s going on in this final battle to free humans from the tyranny of the Matrix. Revolutions doesn’t approach the innovative heights of the first film, nor does it answer all of the questions left by Reloaded. But it does correct some of the second film’s more fundamental cinematic flaws. In Reloaded, Neo seemed to have become so powerful that there was practically nothing he couldn’t do. It’s no coincidence that the Wachowskis banished Neo from Reloaded’s signature freeway chase; as soon as he swept in and saved the day, the chase was over. But in Revolutions, Neo is thankfully more human. He starts the movie in a kind of purgatory run by “The Trainman.” And for the first time since the original film, he’s in a situation he doesn’t understand or control.
Unfortunately, not everything is fixed. Still missing in action from the Wachowskis’ repertoire is anything resembling a sense of humor. The Matrix was a big, thunderous action film, yes, but it had lighter moments too, as well as a few laughs as Neo tried to figure out what the hell was going on. Humor was sacrificed totally in the second film and is only lurking around the edges of the third. Granted, it’s tough to make room for a pie fight in a film about humanity’s last stand but adding some lighter moments would have helped to humanize these characters a bit more.
Still, what people respond to most in these films are the set-piece action sequences. Here, Revolutions delivers in spades. Smack dab in the center of the film is the Sentinels’ siege on Zion, a breathtaking twenty-minute action epic that starts big and doesn’t let up. Capping it is Neo’s final “Super Burly Brawl” showdown with Agent Smith, another impressive sequence that tops the other mano-a-mano battles in this series.
Like The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded (read our reviews of those films in 4K here and here), The Matrix Revolutions was shot in Super 35 using Panavision cameras and finished on film (with VFX shots rendered at 2K). The original camera negative (and master internegative for visual effects shots finished on film) were scanned in 4K and remastered under the supervision of the film’s director of photography, Bill Pope. The resulting 4K master was graded for high dynamic range in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision, and the resulting image is presented here on Ultra HD at the proper 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. As with the two previous films, there’s a remarkable increase in fine detail and texturing over the previous Blu-ray transfer here. The film’s grain structure is moderate and remains wonderfully intact, but image definition is crisp and tight. The digitally-processed look the film suffered on Blu-ray is gone; this looks like a true film experience. HDR is particularly suited to this film, deepening shadows while enhancing the highlights and giving the brightest areas of the frame an eye-reactive pop. The new grade also restores the film’s proper color timing, eliminating the constant green push of the Blu-ray. The hues are now more varied and natural, as they should be, and the wider color gamut lends them a greater degree of nuance and richness. Overall, the image is consistent with the two previous films in 4K. It’s fair to say that this film has never looked so good before.
Audio on the 4K disc is available in another new object-based Dolby Atmos lossless mix. Note that Atmos not the default option when you press play, so be sure to select it in the menus when you start the film. Once you do, the audio experience is tremendous. The staging is natural and highly immersive, with terrific dynamic range from the quietest atmospheric moments to long scenes of muscular bombast. Dialogue is clean and surround movement is smooth and precise. The height channels extend the sound field vertically to enhance the action almost constantly. Like the Atmos mix on The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded in 4K, this is a reference-quality sonic experience. Strangely, though, this disc has far fewer audio and subtitle options available than The Matrix Reloaded. Additional audio options include 5.1 Dolby Digital in English and French, and 2.0 Dolby Digital in Spanish, with optional subtitles available in English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Dutch, and Spanish.
The Ultra HD disc offers a trio of extras, carried over from the previous DVD and Blu-ray release. They include:
- Written Introduction by The Wachowskis
- Philosophers Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber
- Critics Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, and David Thomson
All of this is good, but the Philosophers Commentary is the real standout. It’s totally worth your time, and remains one of the more original and interesting special features ever created for DVD.
In addition to the 4K disc, there’s a 1080p HD Blu-ray version of the film included in the packaging. Once again, this is not the previous release, but a new Blu-ray mastered from the 4K scan. It’s a night-and-day difference over the previous release, which appeared digitally-processed and featured an excessive green push in the coloring. Detail is now more refined, coloring is more natural, and there’s little in the way compression artifacting. This disc also employs the new Atmos mix. 4K UHD would still be my preferred viewing option, but the remastered Blu-ray is well worth upgrading to for standard HD fans.
The movie Blu-ray includes the same three features above and adds the following, again carried over for the previous edition:
- In-Movie Experience
Once again, there’s also a second Blu-ray of special features that carries over most of the other previous extras, including the following (in the original SD):
- Behind the Matrix (7 featurettes – 90:57 in all)
- Before the Revolution (text feature)
- 3-D Evolution (interactive concept & storyboard art gallery)
- Crew (4 featurettes – 25:01 in all)
- Hel (6 featurettes – 27:36 in all)
- Super Burly Brawl (4 featurettes – 16:53 in all)
- New Blue World (5 featurettes – 26:07 in all)
- Siege (5 featurettes – 40:09 in all)
- Aftermath (4 featurettes – 39:49 in all)
All of these are in English, but there are English subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and many other languages too. This represents most of the content from the previous Blu-ray release, but not all. Missing are the Matrix Revolutions trailer, and 6 TV spots. Disc Two of the original DVD release also included a Super Burly Brawl Multi-Angle feature that’s not here (it was missing from the previous Blu-ray too). And it’s important to point out that neither the individual film releases nor The Matrix Trilogy in 4K Ultra HD includes The Animatrix or The Matrix Experience from the previous The Ultimate Matrix Collection Blu-ray box set (reviewed here). It’s possible that The Animatrix could be released in 4K at some point, but it’s unlikely that The Matrix Experience content (The Burly Man Chronicles, The Roots of The Matrix, The Zion Archive) will appear elsewhere. So you will likely want to keep the BD box set if you have it. You do at least get a Movies Anywhere Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the packaging.
Though again more visually dense and conceptually laden than the original film, The Matrix Revolutions does at least pay off the trilogy in a mostly satisfying way. For those who appreciate it, Warner’s new 4K Ultra HD release certainly offers the best ever picture and sound presentation of this film, along with a remastered Blu-ray too. Fans should get your money’s worth here. Recommended.
- Bill Hunt