The Matrix – LIVE @ Royal Albert Hall – Review

Matrix Live
Sunday 23 October 2011 – 7:45 PM
Royal Albert Hall

There has been a growing trend in the last few years to present classic and iconic movies with a live soundtrack performance. The latest addition to the list was an HD screening of The Matrix at The Royal Albert Hall a couple of weeks ago, following on from their successful screenings of The Lord of The Rings Trilogy.

The event was a complete sell out, as you would expect. You would have to go a long way to find someone who does not regard The Matrix as one of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever made. Nobody can deny the impact that it made in the movie world when it was first released, especially with it much copied but never bettered ‘Bullet Time’ techniques.

This live version was created around Don Davis’s live score, which was performed by the 85-piece NDR Pops Orchestra from Hanover, Germany.

For me, The Matrix is not the most obvious choice of film to be screened with a Live Orchestra and unfortunately that did become obvious throughout the film. There seemed to be long periods where the orchestra did not do anything.

When i think about the soundtrack to The Matrix, there are many tracks i would think of first before thinking about the classical accompaniment. There are memorable sequences of the film, that have no classical music involvement at all. A good number of The Matrix’s most iconic scenes fit into this category. In particular the scene with Neo and Trinity in the nightclub, with The Prodigy track ‘Minefields’ and ‘Dragula’ by Rob Zombie. Of course the Hallway scene is famous for its use of the track ‘Spybreak’ by The Propellerheads. Rob D’s ‘Clubbed to Death’ is possibly the most successful track used in the film… and the End Credits featuring Rage Against the Machine. A very varied and heavy soundtrack.

Having said that, there are plenty of action sequences that feature high tension and this is where the Orchestra came into their own. These scenes were all encompassing and truly great. The timing impeccable, the skills of the NDR Pops Orchestra were second to none.

It was a fantastic night so i don’t want to moan too much but there were issues that should have been dealt with. A lot of people worked extremely hard to produce this show and i found it a great shame that the screening was hampered by presentation issues.

There were 2 major problems that detracted from the enjoyment of the film. They may have been a necessary evil to put on a screening like this, in this iconic and splendid environment, but they did impact the quality of the screening.

The first being that the screening was subtitled with English subtitles – on such a huge screen it was immensely irritating. The Matrix is such a beautifully made film in terms of Cinematography and style, the subtitles were a constant distraction. There is no need to put English subtitles on an English film surely? I admit there were the odd few sentences that became inaudible when the orchestra was in full sway but i’m sure that every single person sitting there had previously seen the film at least once and knew what was being said anyway. It’s a real shame that the integrity of the whole film was sacrificed on that basis.

The second being the actual sound quality – believe it or not. The Royal Albert Hall is steeped in history and tradition and yes its acoustics are amazing. Amazing for an orchestra yes. Not very good with a set of speakers playing film audio. The levels were obviously set so that when the orchestra was playing, the two were in perfect tandem but when the orchestra were quiet and we just heard the audio from the film, it was bad. It was too quiet and it was echoey.

Earlier this year Front Row Reviews attended a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey at The Southbank Centre with a full live orchestra and choir. Anyone who has seen that film will know that the entire soundtrack and score is made from classical music. This was a much better choice of film to conduct a live version of. The entire score was all encompassing and added a new dimension to the film. It was sadly not the same in this case.

In summary, we all know what a fantastic and groudbreaking film The Matrix was and still is. The NDR Pops Orchestra did a great professional job too but it just did not gel together as it should. On the whole people enjoyed the night but it promised and should have delivered a lot more.


West Side Story – 50th Anniversary Celebration
Friday 22nd – Sunday 24th June 2012
Royal Albert Hall
Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, conducted by Jayce Ogren

WEST-SIDE-STORYFollowing The Matrix: Live, the next screening will be the all time classic West Side Story.

Fifty years after its release, the MGM re-mastered film returns to the big screen in high definition with its original vocals and dialog intact. Experience this classic romantic tragedy and the bitter battle between the Jets and the Sharks as Leonard Bernstein’s seminal score, featuring the much loved ‘America’, ‘Somewhere’ and ‘Tonight’, is dramatically brought to life on stage by The Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra conducted by Jayce Ogren.

22 June at 7.30pm
23 June at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
24 June at 2.30pm


Tickets: £25 – £65
Box Office: 020 7589 8212

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