DVD Kicks 'Matrix'
by Lou Lumenick
CRITICS weren't big fans of "The Matrix" movies — and they speak their mind freely on the new 10-disc DVD "The Ultimate Matrix Collection." The eccentric Wachowski brothers, who directed the three "Matrix" movies and who have never spoken publicly about their work, instead invited three critics to do the talking for them, asking them to provide feature-length commentaries for the DVD set (which will be released Dec. 7).
And in what's believed to be an industry first, they mostly trash the films — particularly the trilogy's second and third installments — in the nearly seven-hour-long commentary track.
"Is anyone else as stupefied by this as I am?" asks John Powers of Vogue magazine when the hero Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, meets with the Oracle (Gloria Foster) in the second film, "The Matrix Reloaded."
"It's just dreadful," says David Thompson, a British critic who wrote "The Autobiographical Dictionary of Film."
The harshest criticisms in "Reloaded" come during the notorious rave sequence, where hundreds of people writhe sexually in the underground Zion City.
"Now comes one of the funniest scenes in contemporary cinema," says Powers. "It looks like a beer commercial with all the slow-mo."
Todd McCarthy, chief film critic of Variety, harshly pans a lengthy car chase for which directors Larry and Andy Wachowski had a 1.6-mile section of freeway built outside San Francisco.
"In narrative terms," McCarthy gripes, "not much has happened at all."
They are slightly kinder to "The Matrix Revolutions" — but not much.
"I'd rather play The Matrix video game than watch this," complains a bored Powers during the climactic battle in the Zion docks. (THAT BATTLE WAS AWESOME AND YOU SUCK. - Ani)
The critics reserve most of their praise for the original "The Matrix" and opine that the sequels were pointless.
"I think if the whole series ends there, you've got nearly a masterpiece," says Thompson.
"You've got a hell of a film, a film that could stand alone for having a vision you couldn't shrug off."
But the publicity-shy Wachowskis don't let the critics have the last word.
In addition to the commentary track from the critics, the DVD set includes a second commentary track contributed by a pair of philosophers: Ken Wilbur, whose works include "Sex, Ecology, Spirituality," and Princeton University Professor Cornel West, who makes cameo appearances in the second and third films as a member of Zion City's ruling council.
The philosophers, not surprisingly, defend the films.
"Most of the critics are just too lazy to figure [them] out," says West.
Andy Patrizio, who comments on DVDs for the ign.com Web site, says the unusually critical commentary tracks are sure to spark controversy among fans.
"Some of their comments will probably not go over with the easily offended crowd," he wrote.