How do you top "The Matrix"? You don't.
Following up the most exciting, interesting sci-fi flick since "The Terminator", the Wachowski brothers' still-stimulating sequel shares some of the struggles of "T2: Judgment Day" - increased anticipation, narrative muddiness, and the overblown excess that a bloated budget can provide.
Are your expectations sufficiently lowered? If so, you'll enjoy "The Matrix Reloaded" a lot. It's smart, sexy, and action-rammed - it just can't equal its illustrious predecessor, or be adequately assessed until we've seen "The Matrix Revolutions" this November.
Picking up shortly after the original left off, we join Neo (Keanu Reeves) in the real world. Haunted by a dream in which his lover, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), is killed, he enters the virtual reality construct of the Matrix, to seek out the all-knowing Oracle (the late Gloria Foster).
Zion, meanwhile, is in danger. A machine army of 250,000 sentinels (tentacled compu-beasties) are boring toward the underground city, which houses the remnants of humanity.
Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) is convinced Neo can save it, but to do so 'the One' has to locate the source of the Matrix, which proves a tricky business, with many enemies in the way.
Not least of these is Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who returns despite being deleted in part one. Other baddies include the seductive Persephone (Monica Bellucci), albino twins (Neil and Adrian Rayment), and Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), a funny Frenchman who provides the most memorable of the movie's many philosophical discursions.
These are somewhat portentous, but they never become monotonous in the way that the action sequences do.
Stepping on from the celebrated 'bullet time' photography of part one, the effects team go into overdrive in spectacular but overlong scenes. And whether battling multiple Smiths or "doing his Superman thing", Neo often - ironically - appears computer-generated.
There's still much to gape at, but here's hoping the concluding chapter will be leaner, meaner, and less grandiose. Bring on the revolution.