Uber-hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves) is on a search for truth - and on this search he encounters the deadly Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss) and enigmatic Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Through them he discovers The Truth is not quite what he expected: sentient machines took over the Earth quite some time ago, and what we think is our present-day reality is actually The Matrix - a massive virtual reality simulation designed to keep us docile while the machines harvest humanity for our biometric energy. Morpheus and Trinity head up a small force of freedom fighters that can hack the Matrix to a certain degree and perform superhuman feats. To Neo's discomfort, however, Morpheus feels that the new recruit is The One - the super hacker that can use the Matrix to break down the machine's rule permanently.
If the 90's, as written elsewhere, was the decade that cannibalized all other decades, then The Matrix is probably the Ultimate 90's movie. Writer/directors the Wachowski Brothers have drawn on Japanese anime, kung fu flicks, John Woo heroic bloodshed movies, spaghetti westerns and any number of other influences to produce a movie that is by turns exhilarating, dazzling, thoughtful and nightmarish. A lot of movies claim to be 'a roller coaster ride'; The Matrix can make that claim without resorting to hyperbole.
The crystal clarity of the disc's widescreen transfer is marvelous for scoping out the detail in the picture's many digital effects, but unfortunately really draws attention to the occasional bad effect. Also heightened is the movie's thoughtful color palette, with a soft, overly-bright light awash in green predominating in the computer world and dark, sultry blues in the reality segments. The Dolby soundtrack shines in the (many) action scenes.
The Matrix has gained a reputation as the 'hell disc' for many players, so much so that a page exists for technical support . The extras on the disc court with brilliance - one, called 'Follow the White Rabbit', flashes a white rabbit icon on the screen during an FX sequence. Clicking on it (or hitting 'enter' on your remote) takes you immediately to a behind-the-scenes montage of footage taken on the set. When this montage is over, you return to the movie.
Also included is the HBO First Look documentary on making the movie; commentary by Carrie Anne Moss, Editor Zach Sternberg and FX Supervisor John Gaeta, which, while not ideally informative, is at least chatty and interesting; a music-only audio track with comments by composer Don Davis; the usual cast and crew filmographies; and enough DVD-ROM features, including games, screenplay, storyboards and trailers to justify buying one of the damned things. Don't forget to click on the Red Pill icons when they crop up for two hidden featurettes: 'What Is Bullet Time'', a so-that's-how-they-do-that trip, and 'What Is The Concept'', a techno-scored and -paced art-to-finished-product montage.
Usually deeply discounted from its SRP to below twenty dollars, the DVD for The Matrix virtually (heh) defines the term bang for the buck.
Dr. Freex, 3/20/00