I’m not sure if this is a “first” or not, but this is definitely the first DVD that I’ve watched, which didn’t have a movie on it. That’s right, you heard me correctly…if you’re buying this DVD, expecting to see THE MATRIX movie, you will be disappointed. This DVD is all about extras. It is essentially a 2-hour behind-the-scenes “making of” the original movie, and I have to say, that as much as the original film was a leader in the DVD marketplace, this release might also open up some new opportunities for even more movie-making demystification with this follow-up (and a whole bunch of money for the studios, of course). I still think that it stinks that the film wasn’t included on this disc as well (obvious money-making ploy), but for those interested, there is a 2-Disc Combo Set available of this DVD and the original movie.
IS IT GOOD?
In my opinion, this DVD is an amazing treat for all MATRIX fans. I consider myself to be a pretty big fan of the film (I liked it more and more, every time that I saw it), and the ultra-comprehensive documentary included on this disc is just plain awesome! Pretty much every detail of the film’s pre-/post- and actual production is detailed here, including interviews with pretty much every single person responsible for the major parts that made up the film. I was a little disappointed that the Wachowski brothers didn’t participate in any “new” interviews for this disc (they do speak from time to time here, but it’s an old interview, of which, many items were already shown on the original MATRIX DVD) and never really like the fact that many things are “hidden” on purpose on these discs (even the trailer?), but if you’re looking for behind the scenes, you can’t go wrong with this disc.
Everything from how the screenplay originated to the studio’s confusion about what it meant to the casting, the 4-month fight training of the actors (which really gives you a greater respect for what they do in the film), the storyboards, the effects (although thankfully, they spare us the over-redundancy of the whole “Bullet Time” thing—okay, I got it already…show me something new!), the sets, costumes, specific looks at some of the more popular scenes (including the interrogation room, the government roof, the helicopter rescue, the lobby scene, etc…), the post-production, the honors, and everyone’s take on how they felt before, during and after the production. All very cool, informative, detailed and a real treat for anyone interested in the movie.
I was pretty mesmerized the whole way, and was especially surprised to see all of the injuries which occurred during the shoot (many of which were caught on tape and shown here) and the degree of difficulty of some of the sequences. Did you know that Keanu Reeves had a neck operation before the shooting of the movie because his legs were starting to get paralyzed, and yet the guy still wanted to train with a neck-brace on? Wow, that about dedication! And if there’s one thing that I came away with after watching this whole thing, it’s that Keanu is one super-dedicated man, who is probably one of the more perfectionist actors that I’ve ever seen. The guy wanted to keep doing his fight scenes over and over again, even after stunt coordinator Wo Ping and the directors were satisfied with the shot. Whatta guy!
All in all, the meat of this DVD, which runs for about 120-minutes, is enjoyable and an instant reminder of how cool and entertaining this movie was in the first place. And if I can’t give it any other compliment, I will say that it actually had me wanting to see the movie again right after watching it. Yup, yup…very slick!
BTW, one huge surprise for me was the fact that actor Joe Pantaliano was not included in one scene of the 120 minute-featurette! Very odd. This must’ve been a contractual thing or something, because he’s not interviewed, his character is not mentioned and I don’t remember seeing one sequence with him there. How strange is that? Oh well…
VIDEO / AUDIO
Video: Not that it really matters, since this is basically a documentary and not geared towards the visuals, we get the standard full-screen version here, with obvious clips from the movie inserted throughout, as well as some “videotaped” stuff.
Audio: Much like the video, I don’t think you’re gonna buy this DVD because of the sound, but it features Dolby 5.1 audio, and I have to admit that some of the cool techno tunes playing in the background of some of the montages, were wicked-cool to hear blaring through my speakers.
“What is to Come?” is a 3-minute montage of behind-the-scenes fight training which the actors are undergoing for the sequels to the original film, as well as some car stunts and a little bit of the makings behind THE MATRIX 2 video game, as well as Wo Ping’s involvement. Nice to see, but nothing spectacular (especially since the pitch on the cover of the DVD makes it seem like we’re gonna see all kinds of stuff from the sequels), although the one shot of smoke rising out of Reeves’ head after a particularly sweaty training session, is a chuckler, to be sure.
“What is Animatrix?” is 5-minute piece which lets us know that the people behind this movie have hooked up with various talented Japanese animators/directors, to create an anthology of several short pieces by different artists (anime), which they intend on releasing on a “regular basis” about a year before the sequel in order to “whet the appetite of the Matrix fans” until the sequel is released in 2001 (according to producer Joel Silver). Not too much insight on this extra, just some obvious marketing for this new product, which doesn’t appeal to me personally (but then again, I’m not a fan of Anime, but many people are).
“Whatisthematrix.com?” is 2-minute plug of the official website, basically, with Joel Silver letting us know how cool the site is, and how it allowed people to interact and get more out of it, then your other basic “movie” websites. Having seen the site and many other crappy movie websites, I have to agree with the man. Here’s a site that actually attempts to take the web experience one step further, by presenting more original online content for fans and a greater community in which they could interact. Silver promises more stuff for the site in the future, and I for one, am looking forward to it. Now that’s what the Web is all about!! Other studios should takes notes.
“The Dance of the Master: Yuen Wo Ping’s Blocking Tapes” is a 5-minute practice tape featuring some of stunt coordinator extraordinaire Ping’s students, performing all of the main fight scenes from the movie, in a rickety, but convincing fashion. The scenes include the Dojo karate sequence between Fishburne and Reeves, the subway fight, the lobby and the bathroom fight scene. A pretty funky thing to see, especially when you compare it to the end product. Crude, but definitely a good template from which to gather shots for the film.
“The True Followers” is a 5-minute exploration of the super-creepy world of massive MATRIX fans, most of whom got to know each other on the MATRIX website chat room, some of whom write fan fiction involving the environment of the MATRIX and each and every one of whom, should…get a life!! (copyright William Shatner) Sorry folks, but as much as I love the movie, attempting to believe the actual events in the flick, theorizing that an alien race gave the Wachowski brothers the idea of making this movie so that we could realize that we are still in our “pod” stage, or to watch the film over 35 times is just plain…well, fanatical! (but that’s not a bad thang, is it?). You decide.
“The Bathroom Fight and Wet Wall” is a 3-minute behind-the-scenes of the bathroom fight scene and the wet wall….duh!!! Anyway, it’s okay but should’ve been included in the main 2-hour documentary…no need to have it on its own like this, other than to pad the DVD.
“But Wait—There’s More!” is 3-minutes worth of miscellaneous behind-the-scenes movie snippets cut to a techno soundtrack. Most of the sequences haven’t been seen before, but nothing really special here. Again, not sure why this is deserving of its own featurette.
A definite purchase for all MATRIX fanatics, but not really worth buying for anyone just interested in seeing the “behind-the-scenes” of the movie, only once. Most of the “extras” just felt like padding to me, and I would have liked to have had deleted scenes, outtakes or more from the brothers Wachowski. But the 2-hour main crux of the DVD is pretty kickass for anyone who wants to know anything about the making of the movie, and makes it all, pretty worth it!
EASTER EGGS: When you’re in the GO FURTHER menu, click on your right-arrow, and the “woman in red” will appear behind Fishburne’s character on the right menu bar. Click enter and watch a 40-second anecdote about the “woman in red” from the movie, and see her…in red. When you’re back in the menu, click on your right-arrow again, and she will change into Agent Smith. Click enter and watch a 2-minute clip about how Hugo Weaving had a major hip injury during the training part of the production, and watch his discussion with his co-stars right after the operation went down. When you click on CONTINUE after that, and move to the second part of the GO FURTHER menu, you can right-click again, and then click enter to see a 3-minute montage of more behind-the-scenes stuff, concentrating on the final showdown sequence between Neo and Agent Smith.