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The Matrix Decoded

Just three more days.

That's all you'll have to wait to finally see The Matrix: Reloaded (search), the much-anticipated sequel to 1999's mega-grossing The Matrix.

But like the original, the mind-bending, cyber-thrill extravaganza Reloaded raises more questions than it answers -- and the final installment, The Matrix Revolutions (search), won't hit screens until November.

Here's a refresher course to what you need to know from the first movie -- and answers to some of the sequel's most compelling mysteries.

What is that drizzling green computer code?

That is the visual manifestation of the Matrix, a virtual reality world constructed by machines with artificial intelligence to enslave the minds of human beings while their bodies are used as energy sources.

In the original film, the rebel captain Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) plucked ace computer hacker Neo (Keanu Reeves (search)) out of the Matrix because he believed he was The One who could save the human race from the machines.

When the first movie ended, Neo had just killed (or so he thought) the machines' top assassin, Agent Smith, and finally begun to realize his full capabilities, which include the ability to stop bullets and fly.

Neo is obviously The One, so why did The Oracle tell him he wasn't?

In The Matrix, The Oracle told Neo he had the gift but was waiting for something: "Your next life, who knows?" she said. At the end of that film, Neo died in a hail of bullets but was brought back to life with a kiss from Trinity -- signaling that his next life had arrived and he become The One.

What are Squiddies?

That's the nickname for the octopus-like machines called sentinels, whose sole objective is to destroy members of the rebellion, who are based in the city of Zion.

What's with all the weird names?

Matrix writer/directors Larry and Andy Wachowski are avid students of mythology and philosophy and reference everything from Buddhism to Neuromancer author William Gibson to cybernetics.

Some examples: Morpheus' ship Nebuchadnezzar is a biblical reference to the king of ancient Babylon; Monica Bellucci's character, Persephone, derives her name from the daughter of the mythical Greek goddess of fertility, who was married to Hades, the god of the underworld; and the foppish French villain Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) is named after a line of medieval French kings.

What role was the late Aaliyah supposed to play?

The R&B singer had filmed just a few scenes before she died in a plane crash in August 2001. Marvin Gaye's daughter Nona replaced her as Zee, a human born in Zion and the wife of Link, the new operator of the Nebuchadnezzar.

What happened to Tank, the original operator of Morpheus' ship?

Though the character survived the first film (one of only four major humans to do so), the actor who played him didn't have such luck. Marcus Chong was not invited back for the sequels after he had a falling out with the producers. Harold Perrineau (Oz) took his place behind the controls, playing Link, Tank's brother-in-law.

Who is Councillor West?

The rebel city of Zion is ruled by a council, which includes a character played by Dr. Cornel West, the author of Race Matters, a professor at Princeton University and a frequent guest on Nightline and other news programs.

The Wachowski brothers are such West fans they wrote him into the movie.

Who is The Kid, and why is he so attached to Neo?

Actually, we don't know. But we'll find out who this obsequious character, who follows Neo around on Zion, is on June 3, with the release of The Animatrix, a DVD featuring nine short animes set in the Matrix universe.

Kid's Story, directed by Shinichiro Watanabe (Cowboy Bebop), is about a boy who's sitting in his high-school classroom one day when he gets a personalized invitation from Neo to escape the Matrix.

What's the significance of the silver spoon The Kid gives to Neo for luck before he leaves Zion?

In the original Matrix, one of the youngsters waiting to see The Oracle to find out if he is The One teaches Neo how to do a Uri Geller and bend a spoon with his mind, uttering the line that has been oft-quoted since, "There is no spoon."

How the hell did they do that?

If you thought the first movie's special effects were impressive, wait till you see Neo's spectacular fight -- dubbed the "Burly Brawl" -- with 100 versions of Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who survived the first movie with the ability to replicate himself at will.

Special-effects wizards John Gaeta and Kim Libreri recorded a mass of motion capture data while Keanu Reeves was fighting Weaving and a dozen or so stuntmen. They then edited and multiplied it digitally, eventually putting the duplicated characters into a virtual reality environment.

What should I do when it's over?

Reloaded ends on a cliffhanger, literally stopping mid-scene. But don't dash out of the theater too soon -- you won't want to miss the trailer for Revolutions, which comes after the end credits roll.