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The Matrix (The Ultimate Matrix Collection) (1999)

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NOTE: These commentaries are only available on the version of The Matrix included in "The Ultimate Matrix Collection" release. The original Matrix DVD had two different commentary tracks.

Commentaries on this disc:

Commentary 1: Philosophers Dr. Cornel West & Ken Wilber Rating:7.3/10 (12 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by Brian Thibodeau on January 6th, 2005:Find all reviews by Brian Thibodeau
Make no mistake, if you thought you understood THE MATRIX, or felt the need to laugh of as ridiculous the philosophical underpinnings of its story because, in reality, you really couldn't be bothered TRYING to understand them, then this track was designed for you.

In other words, this track is designed for every single person who saw the film, critics and paying customers alike, with the rare exceptions of people like Wilber and West, who ably demonstrate just what the critics - pied pipers of superficiality as West labels them in the track to the second film - missed on a deeper level and subsequently passed on to the popular zeitgeist via their own unwillingness to dig deeper, their need to have their summer action movies loud and stupid.

Well, now you have a perfect chance to understand the myriad philosophies the Wachowski Brothers (one of whom is soon to be a sister as I write this) were bringing together with this film (and by extension its sequels). And trust me, if you think you got it, you didn't. Not without PhD's in theology, philosophy, history and critical thinking,

Ken Wilbur and Cornel West (who actually appears in the second film) would never have crossed my mind as the ideal duo to review the deeper meanings. Wilber can be very new-agey in his writings and teachings, while West’s south side o’ Chicago” street-whine seems to come and go depending on how serious he’s being or how much he needs to pander to a certain audience. Having said that, any apprehensions are immediately put to rest when it becomes apparent just how familiar these guys are with the material that inspired the Wachowskis - and there’s a LOT of it - a knowledge no doubt aided by their acquaintances with the brothers.

While the critics, and a great deal of the audience, were “getting” the Hong Kong martial arts and gunplay influence, the video game influences, the revolutionary special effects and what they assumed was the “cyber” stuff at the core of the movie, Wilber and West and their kind were keeping mental notes, and no have an ideal venue from which to expand upon them. A track like this for a film like this is BY far preferred to the usual babbling of cast and crew (even those connected with this film) , and since their craft is ably represented in the Box Set’s myriad other features, it was inspired to have these two offer their take on the film at hand.

And it’s more than just a take, since the philosophers clearly point out much of the INTENTION of the brothers in making this film. This isn’t conjecture based on what these guys THINK the brothers were trying to say, this is precisely WHAT they were trying to say and, particularly in the sequels, what was lost on many viewers.

One thing that stands out in the track, and thus the film (since this track is all about analyzing subtext) is the ethos of multivalent “inclusivity” that permeates every aspect of the film - from blended casting of a wide array of ethnic and mixed-ethnicity actors (including lead Keanu Reeves) to the blending of religious theologies, to the mixing of philosophies from around the world, all in the service of, more or less, reminding people that no religion has it right. In fact, hardline religionists, should they deign to listen to the tracks on all three films, will hopefully be somewhat gobsmacked that the whole trilogy is a call for higher consciousness beyond silly dogmatic religious belief (represented by the Morpheus character in the series)

Much of what they cover MIGHT seem obvious in retrospect to those with the added hindsight of having seen the sequels, but I doubt many picked up on it back in 1999.

That Wilbur and West are able to cram as much as they do into this track is testament to the Wachowski Brothers ability to cram it all into a two-hour movie without making it feel didactic, and frosting the cake with enough action scenes to guarantee that those who couldn’t read ALL the deeper meanings - myself included, I must say, would have more than enough eye candy to keep them glued in their seats.

The faults on the track are minor, but worth the deduction of a point: there’s a little too much “my brutha” going on between these guys, and it grows thin very fast, and their fascination with the visual wizardry tends to stop the proceedings dead silent, or fills those moments with the kind of excessive hyperbole usually expected of filmmakers and cast members, the kinds of people who often can’t think of anything deeper to say.
Reviewed by angrynerdrock07 on July 8th, 2006:Find all reviews by angrynerdrock07
This track gives an in-depth look into the underlying philosophical themes of the first Matrix movie. First off, I have to say that if you are into philosophy then you'll enjoy this track. These two give an exhaustive look into the subtexts of this film. However, I found myself not really interested in a lot of what they had to say. The main problem I had is that I felt like the philosophy presented in the Matrix films was too heavy-handed at times, and to do an extensive analysis of it only hindered my experience even further. I'm not saying it was a bad commentary, just not my cup o' tea.
Reviewed by Numes on January 6th, 2007:Find all reviews by Numes
These two guys came completely out of left field in the beginning of this commentary. I thought I was listening to Beavis and Butthead talk about how "cool" and the movie was for the first 5-10 minutes of the movie. Then they completely pull a 180 and get into some serious (I mean serious) analysis of the movie from a philosophical and religious analyst viewpoint.

I'll be honest, I'm not a dumb guy, but I could hardly keep with these guys. All of their comments sounded incredibly well informed and reasearched. Perhaps if I would have majored in philosophy or took a couple of philosophy classes in college I could have understood them at a higher level than I did.

The one thing that bothered me about the commentary was that I found them not really coming to any conclusions about the movie and simply pointing out where these ideas relate to in philosophy and religion. I have a feeling that in their subsequent reviews of reloaded and revisited they will come up with some more conclusions.
Reviewed by zombking on January 20th, 2008:Find all reviews by zombking
Here our "philosophers" (though if one looks up their credentials they seem to be more like social activists of sorts) manage to get into some good discussions regarding the implicit meanings of the films, but they also go too far at times, and very often they comment on what they shouldn't be (such as the special effects or the fight sequences, which are just "oh wow" sequences.) They act as though the Matrix is the greatest film of all time (it isn't) and throw more "meanings" around than one can handle for a multi-million dollar big-budget actioner.

See my other reviews for the other five commentaries on the mega-set.
Commentary 2: Film critics Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson Rating:6.2/10 (12 votes) [graph]Login to vote or review
Reviewed by Brian Thibodeau on January 3rd, 2005:Find all reviews by Brian Thibodeau
McCarthy, Powers and Thompson prove exactly what you've always suspected about film criticism - it's all subjective.

They're at their best here when they're knocking the film's undergraduate-level philosophizing and pretentious enigmatism, and frequently snicker at some of the more inane lines of dialogue. At their most desperate, however, they take advantage of the easy opportunity afforded by sequences and, worse, short moments of mise-en-scene in this film to reference similar scenes in other films that, at best, the Wachowski brothers MIGHT have seen but, more likely, were just similar by coincidence (for example, one mentions PRIZZI'S HONOR in relation to a scene of Neo and Trinity entering an elevator, another likens the kung-fu training sequence to an essentially similar scene in THE MASK OF ZORRO - come on!).

On one hand, they routinely hold the film up to higher standards simply because THEY'VE seen similar individual SHOTS in other films (as though the very nature of filmmaking should NEVER result in such similarities) and because THEY'VE grown tired of falling bullet casings, Hong Kong action and fireballs rushing the camera. On the other hand, one of them readily admits that "we're not the people this film was made for," acknowledging the film's box-office base as a collective that would not likely be so cinema-savvy, even in this digital age. They show a lack of understanding of the subtext of the film, preferring to collectively agree that the admittedly chatty moments are when they mentally check out of the picture.

Finally, they can't seem to agree on some deeper significance - if there even was one intended - on the detonation of the electromagnetic pulse weapon that stops the sentinels during the film's climax. I couldn't tell if they were just not familiar with the science behind EMP or if they suddenly missed the quasi-religious philosophizing they'd sloughed off earlier in the film.

Not really recommended.
Reviewed by angrynerdrock07 on July 3rd, 2006:Find all reviews by angrynerdrock07
The whole concept the Wachowski Brothers had with these two commentary tracks was to have philosophers who were fans of the series on one track and critics who were not on the other. However, for the first 30 minutes or so the critics do nothing but sing the praises of The Matrix. It becomes obvious throughout the commentary that they actually really enjoyed the film, even with it's shortcomings. They give much credit to it's beautiful cinematography and inventive action, but aren't afraid to point out the ridiculous and often pretentious dialogue. Not what I expected, but an interesting listen.

7/10
Reviewed by zombking on January 20th, 2008:Find all reviews by zombking
The critics haven't hit their forte in this film yet, but give them a couple movies and they'll get there.

The concept here is that the W brothers wanted to get critics who didn't like the films. However, in this case, they did like this first Matrix film, and thus it seems like an odd commentary. They do criticize certain aspects, but overall they are supportive of the film, almost calling it a masterpiece, with the exception that sequels were made. They seem to misunderstand certain aspects of the film, and this hurts them.

See my reviews for the other five.
Reviewed by msz on July 30th, 2008:Find all reviews by msz
A very laudable idea from the Wachowski brothers: including two dissenting / opposing commentary tracks.
However the concept for this track (the film critics not liking the movie) sounds better than the execution. The critics actually like many aspects of the film - which isn't a problem in itself, but doesn't make for much of a counterpart for the philosopher's track. Furthermore, it often sounds a bit too much like a couple of buddies hanging together and just talking about a movie with a bit too many pauses - something I didn't expect from a critic's commentary track.
This is in parts an enjoyable track but I rather prefer the other one.