by Rick Fulton
THE Matrix changed Hollywood film-making for ever - and now 192 brings you a glimpse of the stunning sequel as well as the first interviews with its stars.
The Matrix: Reloaded is now just two months from release.
As well as seeing Keanu Reeves back as Neo, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie- Anne Moss as Trinity and Hugh Weaving as Agent Smith, it adds Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, Morpehus' love interest, and Monica Bellucci as Persephone, who tries to move Neo from his path.
Most surprisingly, Adrian and Neil Rayment, best known as the DIY twins on ITV's Better Homes, play blond dreadlocked baddies.
After The Matrix hit cinemas in 1999, its slow-motion fight scene techniques were copied in films as diverse as Shrek and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The film created a new world discovered by Reeves' character Thomas A Anderson, whose hacker name is Neo, where robots use humans as power sources.
The world we see is made up in our subconscious, just to keep us inactive. A few know the secret and are trying to break free.
In the sequel, out on May 23, it's six months later and Neo has 72 hours to stop 250,000 probes discovering humankind's last stronghold Zion and destroying them.
The film will end in a cliffhanger - literally, a scene which will then be cut in half. Fans will have to wait six months until late November to see what happens in The Matrix: Revolutions - both films were made back to back over 270 days.
Director brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski are staying tight-lipped about the epic, but producer Joel Silver explained: "This story was designed as a four-and- a-half-hour movie that is being broken up and shown as two films.
"That is essentially what it is. It literally stops right in the middle of a scene and is designed to flow right into the next picture.
"In Reloaded, Neo goes to Zion. We knew we couldn't do that when we made the first film so we cut the story off and ended it with Neo flying off into the sky. That was the end of the first episode.
"If the first film had not been a success, that would have been the end and it would have been a shame. That was not the story the brothers wanted to tell.
"They had to do the opening movie to establish this world and create a place where superheroes could exist in a fashion that was not Spiderman."
For cast members such as Fishburne, there was no question they wanted to finish what they'd started - even if they didn't know what it was about. Laurence said: "I always read the script before I sign, but not with this film. We were given Reloaded first and then we had to wait a month or two before they gave us Revolutions to read, because it was too much to take in just one sitting. Then months later, we got the computer game script."
While the rooftop fight scene with slow-motion bullets was stunning in the first film, an epic freeway multi-car chase will freeze the blood in Reloaded as the camera jumps from car to car.
Fishburne said: "It took around 40 days to shoot it on a mile and a half of freeway. We had 200 extras every day. They had to come with their cars, drive the stretch that we shot, get off, drive back the other way, then do it all again."
Keanu Reeves, who like the rest of the main leads had to spend time at an extreme driving school, said: "There are some pretty extraordinary car stunts. They used some great drivers.
"We are talking about 40, 50 or 60-year-old cats who were flipping big rigs. `You wanna do a 180 with an 18-wheeler? I'm your guy'. They did one sequence where three cars went airborne at the same time with people in them.
"People speak about the cool special effects but this scene was just some good old- fashioned mechanical cats flipping cars."
Carrie-Anne Moss' character is in the thick of the mechanical stunts, too.
She said: "The motorcycle was a bit scary, but having the metal of the car was cool. I loved doing the car stuff. When are you going to get a chance to smash into cars in real life?"
Explaining how the film will use virtual cinematography, Fishburne said: "It's strange and all very new. There are lots of different stages you have to go through. You do stuff on film, then on motion capture, then face capture and they take that and make soup with it."
But he reckons it's worth it.
He added: "The choreography is much more sophisticated and complex. There are multiple opponents in some of the fights and, technically speaking, some of what they do didn't exist when we did the first film. The new technology will raise the level of what you see."
Jada's character, Niobe, was written especially for the second and third film and a lot of the story is seen through her eyes. And she gave herself even more pressure by making the character up as the film began rolling.
Jada said: "On the first day of shooting, I said to myself that I had to rework this. I didn't have the opportunity to talk to the boys when I started because things were already rolling.
"She is captain of her own ship. She is a very powerful soldier. She wants to do her part in the fate of Zion. She is a warrior.
"I really enjoyed the training - although I just had to learn to get my kicks right. When I first started, nobody was sure what my style would be so they basically tried a few things and style but the training was pretty easy in comparison to what Carrie- Anne and Keanu and Laurence did."
The Matrix used mythology, modern computer hacking and even Alice In Wonderland - but like Star Wars the film has already built up its own world and philosophy.
Keanu Reeves explained: "Don't be alienated by the new technology. Don't be alienated by a difference in religion. Don't be alienated by expectation. Understand, have a point of view and have compassion. These films are not anti- technology and not anti-human. This is not about spectacle. It is about your humanity. Don't let that machine put a screen before your eyes. Use it to see clearer."
Although the final instalment of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy will also be a huge cinema draw, The Matrix phenomenon looks like seeping through every pore of cinema fans.
There is already talk that The Matrix: Reloaded will be premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15 - the same date as its American release.
As well as the two live-action sequel films, there are nine Animatrix animated shorts which will be released on a DVD in June. The video game is an hour's worth of material that will tie up with scenes in the film.
You will see scenes that begin in the movie but end in the video game and then scenes that begin in the video game but end in the movie.
But first, it's the live action films.
Joel said: "We wanted to release both films in the summer because we felt the audience would want to see the third film as quickly as possible.
"I think six months is quick. It's never been done that quickly before.
"People will live in the cinema and then stand in line for the next one."