For the US release..
In what might be a first (or, at least, a rarity) in the 4K era, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment used a new 4K restoration and Digital Intermediate to create both a 2160p HEVC-encoded Ultra HD Blu-ray with Dolby Vision (and HDR10) high dynamic range grading in the DCI P3 color space, AND a new 1080p AVC MPEG-4-encoded Blu-ray with standard dynamic range grading in the Rec.709 color space. At a time when studios simply include the old Blu-ray and call it a day, this is terrific news, but there's one catch. If you want to enjoy this new transfer or the new Dolby Atmos mix on Blu-ray disc, you have to purchase this 4K set. (NOTE: if this changes, do let us know.)
Blu-ray -- 4.0 Stars
This is primarily a 4K review, but let's start with the new Blu-ray first because, in and of itself, it's a dramatic upgrade from the 2009-era Blu-ray. Even though our writer awarded that release a 5-star video grade at the time, in hindsight, and in comparing all three discs for this review, I'd call the original MatrixBlu-ray a 3.0 or 3.5 transfer at best. It's a mess of digital tinkering, poor detail rendering, smeared color grading, and banding galore.
Pop in this new Blu-ray and you are rewarded with more detail, improved contrast, and much less banding. In other words, the 1080p Blu-ray is an obvious upgrade that makes its older sibling look fugly by comparison. Also, I'd argue this new master looks much closer to the film's original theatrical presentation and less like the Reloaded/Revolutions green-everywhere color grading that was a bit like that first Fellowship of the Ring Blu-ray. Skin tones and contrast are on point and there's plenty of shadow detail, but without HDR, black levels hover somewhere just-above true black. The special and visual effects still look good, for the most part, save for the CGI-generated machines, which can seem a bit flat and cartoony when not drenched in shadows. There's also a touch of banding and haloing around contrasty subjects, but it's not severe. Despite a few flaws, The Matrix has never looked better in HD.
Available on both the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and Blu-ray (thank you, Warners!), The Matrix roars to life with an intense, reference quality Atmos mix that's sure to test the accuracy of any Dolby Atmos home theater system or sound bar. The movie has been a go-to demo disc since the days of DVD, but this is a whole other level.
If any of you read my recent Gladiator and Braveheart 4K reviews, you may recall that I enjoyed those mixes, but felt they were holding back in terms of overhead immersion. The Matrix, by comparison, is foot-to-the-floor wide open throttle the whole time. And the best part? Because the movie oozes kinetic, mind-bending visuals, aggressive overhead and surround panning fits the aesthetic perfectly. Rain and thunder cascade from above. When the camera pushes into The Matrix, it feels like you're falling into another world. When the bullets slow down to super slow motion, it sounds like they're just missing you. We're talking Fury Road levels of hemispherical immersion, folks, and this sound mix is shiny and chrome on the road to Valhalla -- oh, what a day, what a lovely day!
LFE effects are also impressive, punctuating gunshots and explosions with heart-pounding grunt. Dialogue is clean and intelligible. Don Davis' pulsating score also surrounds the audience as it helps build the movie's sensations of tension, horror, and wonder. Everything sounds clean and dynamic and like it was recorded in 2018, not 1999. Honestly, if Warners can make an older mix sound this good, Disney should be embarrassed by their new releases.
If you have a Dolby Atmos sound system, you're going to love The Matrix.