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Whoa Déjà vu

The reason that I bring up The Matrix and the influence that it had on the DVD format is that I recently purchased The Matrix Trilogy on HD DVD, and I can’t help wondering whether this movie can have a similar effect a second time.

There is of course one big difference this time around, and that’s the fact that there are two competing high definition formats, rather than a single new format looking for acceptance. It’s therefore quite telling that The Matrix Trilogy is only available on HD DVD and not Blu-ray, something that I can’t help seeing as a bit of a coup. Of course the Blu-ray camp will counter that statement by citing many of its own exclusive releases, like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, but superb as Captain Jack Sparrow was in the first film (the sequels were quite simply appalling), even that undoubtedly successful franchise is no match for the cult following that The Matrix has. And yes, I’m well aware of the sales figures that have been released showing that the first two Pirates movies outsold The Matrix box set considerably, but comparing single disc sales to a box set is pure folly – after all a single disc is often an impulse buy, whereas a box set costing over $100 is not.

Warner has stated that it will release The Matrix Trilogy on Blu-ray, but there is no official release date. The studio is probably waiting for BDJ to finally sort itself out and allow proper interactive features on Blu-ray, since anyone who previously owned The Matrix on DVD would definitely expect a good interactive experience on Blu-ray.

Of course when I say that The Matrix Trilogy is available on HD DVD, I do of course mean that it’s available in the US. It’s therefore a good thing that HD DVDs aren’t region coded, unlike Blu-ray discs. I’ve yet to find a US HD DVD that won’t play in a UK player, whereas all of my US Blu-ray discs have refused to play in UK players – it’s a good thing that my Japanese PS3 is happy to play anything.

But can the release of The Matrix Trilogy on HD DVD really have as profound an effect as the original DVD release? Probably not, but it does still offer a very compelling reason to invest in the format and make the jump to high definition movie viewing. You see the most obvious benefit of HD DVD over Blu-ray is cost, and right now you can buy an HD DVD player for under £200, while you’re looking at over three times that much for a decent standalone Blu-ray player. Even if you throw the PS3 and Samsung’s awful BD-P1000 into the mix, you’re still looking at £400 or double the cost of the Toshiba HD-E1. Therefore, for any serious Matrix fan, the cost of jumping on the HD DVD bandwagon in order to experience Neo’s adventures in glorious high definition is far from insurmountable.

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