The Matrix Reloaded

'Matrix' programmed for action overload
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Like the first instalment of the Harry Potter films or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Matrix (1999) was big on exposition and restrained about the slam-bang action stuff. Like their sequels, The Matrix Reloaded plays down the grand design and jams its stylish boot hard on the action accelerator.

Film goers new to the story will have trouble working out that the film's human protagonists live in a virtual world constructed for them by the machines who now run the universe.

All they will grasp from the sequel is that an underground city called Zion is under attack from half-a-million Sentinels, and that its inhabitants will all die unless the Messianic Neo (Keanu Reeves, who has ditched his leather greatcoat for a long, flapping priest's soutane) can find the Keymaker and, with his help, enter the room containing the mainframe of the Matrix itself and destroy it.

Or something like that. The plot is full of Greek mythological echoes and Zen Buddhist waffle about fate and destiny and choice, but it makes about as much sense as our hero's unexplained powers.

Luckily, Reloaded has a first-class production designer in Owen Patterson, who creates scene after scene of jaw-dropping beauty. Zion is a huge cave pullulating with dancers; the invading Sentinels turn out to be malevolent squid whizzing through boiling orange clouds; a car chase turns into a thrilling maelstrom of disintegrating traffic and leaping martial artists, led by a pair of albino twins in floury dreadlocks.

The fight scenes are repetitive and rather silly (they amount to a lot of slapping, kicking and twirling, as though from a film called "Girls' Fight Club"), even when Reeves is fighting 100 clones of the extremely nasty Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving).

It all becomes too much: too many flying cars, bodies, fists and bits of furniture, too many shots of people doing Important Walking, too many pretentious discussions ("are you prepared to take responsibility for the death of every human being in this world?") and way too many abstract nouns. The Matrix Reloaded is basically The Sequel Overloaded. But kids between 11 and 17 will love it.