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A Quick Look At The Matrix
By Steve Tannehill

Unfortunately no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

After a twelve hour day at the day job, I came home to large Airborne Express box on my doorstep. Opening it revealed a black corrugated box with a plastic window on the top. In the window was displayed a white sheet of paper with three question marks. Opening the box revealed a quad-fold insert... and written on the four flaps of this insert were the following words: What Is The Matrix? Beneath this was the DVD, the rock-music soundtrack, and a little flip book. Warner clearly wanted to make an impression with this package, and they definitely succeeded.

To be honest, I did not see The Matrix in the theater, knowing full well that I would see it in a spectacular Warner special edition DVD. I am now kicking myself for missing this on that Texas Giant screen. But while I have enjoyed the DVD, there are elements with it that are problematic.

So far, I have made it through the movie and the special effects segment demonstrating "bullet time." There is another 26-minute documentary to watch, a feature-length commentary to listen to, an isolated score track with commentary, and a feature called "Follow the White Rabbit." When the icon of a white rabbit appears on screen, you are supposed to be able to press the enter key on the remote control and be taken to one of nine behind-the-scenes featurettes.

I tried spinning up the disc on my Apple PowerBook's DVD-ROM drive, but the disc was formatted for PC-playback only, like You've Got Mail. (Note: forcing the disc to mount by control-clicking it made the DVD-ROM content accessible.) There is also no front-end on the standard DVD menus (on the movie side of the disc) to access the video clips or the trailers. And although you can use Title search to access the 35 titles on the disc, I could not find the trailers after going to every title. So you apparently have to have a DVD-ROM drive to access some of the supplements.

Picture quality of the movie is good (yes, it is 2.35x1 widescreen and 16x9-enhanced). The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is excellent, with split-surround effects galore. The disc is dual-layered with a layer switch at 1:07:42. But this fascination with DVD-ROM content at the expense of actual DVD content is really beginning to get on my nerves. And this isn't just a Mac and PC thing. This is about having to spend time typing in numbers on the remote control to try to find content, when a simple menu screen would have sufficed.

The Matrix streets September 21st.