The Matrix Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Ralph Potts reviews the highly anticipated Ultra HD Blu-ray release of this groundbreaking and classic, sci-fi/action thriller from Warner Brothers Home entertainment.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

98

Details:

Studio and Year: Warner – 1999
MPAA Rating: R
Feature running time: 138 minutes
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/English Dolby Digital, Spanish Stereo
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano
Written & Directed by: The Wachowskis
Music by: Don Davis
Region Code: A

Release Date: May 22, 2018

“There is no Spoon”

My Take:

Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents. It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.

The Matrix needs no introduction among film enthusiasts, especially those with an interest in sci-fi and action. I can’t believe its been nearly twenty years since its release. I remember watching it for the first time. My reaction to the experience felt very much like it did the first time I saw Star Wars (I was thirteen in 1977). The narrative, action, effects and mind-bending nature of the film was both engrossing and thought provoking. Inspiring meaningful conversation every time it came up among friends/acquaintances/strangers that had seen it. It polarized audiences, with some absolutely getting it, while others completely missed it and despised it.

The Matrix redefined the genre and has become ingrained in our popular culture, spawning two sequels and a plethora of smaller projects based on its context. It’s a film that simply never gets old and has a timeless appeal that keeps it feeling fresh despite its advancing years. It is one of the most anticipated releases to come to Ultra HD Blu-ray and am thrilled to have the opportunity to cover it.

The Matrix 4K UHD release is from a new scan of the original camera negative and is the first remaster of the film in nearly 15 years. The 4K UHD remaster was supervised by the film’s director of photography, Bill Pope. A remastered Blu-ray disc from the new 4K scan is also included.

The Matrix won four Academy Awards* and revolutionized the sci-fi action film genre. The Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures film was the first to sell more than one million DVDs, is included on multiple lists of the top sci-fi films of all time, and in 2012 was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.

Replay Value:[img] 5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sci-fi violence and brief language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 98
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights:
  • HDR: Bright Highlights:
  • HDR: Expanded Color:
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

The Matrix comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

The Matrix recently underwent a 4K restoration from the original film elements, and its presentation in Ultra HD is derived from the resulting 4K Digital Intermediate.

Let’s begin by understanding that the stylistic choices in shooting this film aren’t always lent to razor sharp imagery, and consistently natural use of color. The Matrix never looked very good on Blu-ray, so considering the fact that it received a facelift, my expectations were fairly high.

Wow! This is a rather dark film that strives to recreate the look and feel of the Wachowkis’ vision. The restored video quality looked excellent in 1080p, but this Ultra HD rendering is something to behold. The Matrix is a beautifully crafted film, both in narrative, and scope. It’s not an overtly bright film, although there are bright elements. Bill Pope’s terrific cinematography benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. The opening sequence with its inky blacks, detailed shadows and eye-catching HDR, provides a glimpse of what lies in store.

Copious amounts of detail can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. Shot on 35mm film, film grain and some innate softening are present. Neither are compromising, even during special effects shots, or those laden with minutia, such as falling rain, flying debris, hazy, light filled backgrounds or drab interiors lit only by dim florescent bulbs.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of moody visual cues offset by gleams of brilliant light that emanate from flashlights, sparks from screeching subway wheels, or an exploding bomb ripping through elevator doors, destroying what’s left of a lobby. Specular highlights abound, occasionally resulting in reflexive blinking in response to them. The film’s plethora of shadow laden environs offer increased resolve in terms of interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

Primary colors are beautifully rendered. Things such as the multi-colored magnets on the fridge in the Oracle’s kitchen, the deep red of the dress worn by “The Woman in the Red Dress” or the variety of colors seen in the clothing of the bystanders on the street during the extended chase in the finale. Fleshtones lean a bit toward the warm side but, not unnaturally so.

The finale, beginning with the standoff between Neo and Smith, through to his demise, and then the Sentinel attack, brings all of the presentations best elements together and looks terrific. I was pleased with the new 1080p rendering but found the Ultra HD presentation took it to the next level, allowing its attributes to be fully realized in a way that it hadn’t been before. Hands down this is the best that this film has looked since coming to home video.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Forum Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR-10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference Oppo UHD player (both in DV and forced HDR-10 and Samsung UHD player (HDR-10 only). The title looked outstanding on both formats with respect to the reproduction of HDR. I did feel that the DV presentation offered slightly richer color rendition and handling of the finest details in shadows. The former wasn’t enough of a difference to warrant a rating difference but, I felt the latter did. As I said you can’t go wrong with either.

The Matrix was long considered to be the go to for demonstration purposes when it was released on DVD. When it came to high definition the updated Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mix improved upon the previous 5.1 channel mix and sounded superb. The new Dolby Atmos immersive mix retains the things that make that track so good and raises the bar. This soundtrack runs the gamut between subtle passages of spoken dialog to dynamically charged sequences that deliver opulent surround sound. As an enthusiast, I appreciate a well-crafted sound mix that draws me into the onscreen elements, regardless of where the sounds are emanating from.

Audio object placement from both above and in the listening plane at ear level are put to effective use. This mix generates a correlated, and broad soundstage where effects swirl, shift and traverse the listening area. Bass response is superb as it underscores the action with room shaking depth. I also appreciated the effectiveness of the added dimension during sequences where subtle special cues replicated the environments contained in the scene. I enjoyed the balance of atmosphere and integration of discrete object placement. I think that this immersive sound mix complimented the source material and rejuvenated one of the most renown soundtracks on home video. Fantastic.

** NOTE: The default audio track is the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix. Selection of the Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel track has to be done manually.**

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

Audio: 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 

The Matrix comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Warner remastered The Matrix from the original 35mm film elements, and that 4K restoration was used for this 1080p rendering.

The original Blu-ray release for The Matrix suffered from a problematic encoding and the overuse of enhancement tools. Such isn’t the case here. This film has an intentionally dark and reserved chromatic visual style that doesn’t lend itself to vibrant colors and glossy video quality. There are instances where brighter colors/elements are utilized and the boldly applied contrast allows them to pop visually. Otherwise onscreen images lean toward imagery that provides the thematic look intended to drive the story’s components. This is done to good effect. Shadow delineation is excellent overall and revealing of visible details within dark backgrounds and low lighting. Deep blacks allow scenes containing mixed content to appear gradationally satisfying with appreciable dynamic highlights. It should be noted that the new encode shows evidence of elevated contrast which occasionally crushes white detail. Not certain what the reason for this is. Resolution is discerning as images are characterized by intricate and definitively rendered detail that gives the video appreciable dimension and delineated texture. This is a solid high definition presentation that looked great on my large screen.

The lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (Atmos core) soundtrack bests the 5.1 channel mix, offering excellent dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and noteworthy use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the action-based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I am so pleased the Warner opted to include the Dolby Atmos/7.1TrueHD soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: The Matrix Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: The Matrix Blu-ray
    • Written Introduction by the Wachowskis
    • “Philosopher” Commentary by Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilbur
    • “Critics” Commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
    • “Cast & Crew” Commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta
    • “Composer” Commentary by Don Davis with Music Only Track
    • The Matrix Revisited
    • Follow the White Rabbit
    • Take the Red Pill
    • Marilyn Manson “Rock is Dead” Music Video
    • Teaser Trailer
    • Theatrical Trailer
    • TV Spots
  • Digital Copy

Final Thoughts:

The Matrix won four Academy Awards* and revolutionized the sci-fi action film genre. It is a personal favorite of many and, as such, has been included on multiple lists of the top sci-fi films of all time. In 2012 it was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray in this Combo Pack, from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment, featuring newly restored video quality that befits its status, a terrific Dolby Atmos immersive listening experience that enhances its already renowned soundtrack, and legacy supplements. The Matrix on Ultra HD Blu-ray is simply a must have for fans that are set up for Ultra HD Blu-ray and or Dolby Atmos immersive sound. Enjoy!


Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems 


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