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Answers to ''Matrix Reloaded'' burning questions. From the Architect's impenetrable speech to Neo's new powers, we do our best to play Oracle

Monica Bellucci, The Matrix Reloaded | MONICA BANG Could Bellucci's character be more integral to the ''Matrix'' universe than we're led to believe in ''Reloaded''?
Image credit: The Matrix Reloaded: Jasin Boland
MONICA BANG Could Bellucci's character be more integral to the ''Matrix'' universe than we're led to believe in ''Reloaded''?

Answers to ''Matrix Reloaded'' burning questions

Reclusive auteurs Larry and Andy Wachowski have refused to discuss their box-office hit ''The Matrix Reloaded'' with the press, and who can blame them? They'd be spending every minute until the Nov. 5 release of ''The Matrix Revolutions'' explaining the baffling moments of their increasingly convoluted kung-fu-vs.-robots saga. In their absence, we take our best shot at some cogent answers. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead):

What does the Architect's speech mean?
''Some of my answers you will understand, and some of them you will not,'' the creator of the Matrix (a.k.a. the Architect) tells Neo -- but he might as well be talking to the audience. Here's the CliffsNotes version of his lengthy oration:

1. The Matrix Neo knows is the sixth version of the construct, and there has been a version of the One in each of the previous five (and whoa -- each of them looked just like Keanu). No living human being except Neo is aware of this fact.

2. There have also been five versions of the free human city of Zion, the machines have destroyed it each time, and they're about to crush it once more.

3. As ''The One,'' Neo is supposed to allow Zion to be destroyed, and then choose 23 people from inside the Matrix to rebuild it. If he doesn't, the Matrix will suffer a ''cataclysmic system crash'' that will kill every human inside it (hmm... does it run on Windows or Mac?). Neo, of course, instead chooses to save the life of his sweetie Trinity, and then to try to prevent Zion's destruction.

Is the Oracle the mother of the Matrix?
Probably not. When the Architect refers to a female ''intuitive program'' who helped him redesign humanity's prison, Neo assumes it's The Oracle. But the Architect responds with an exasperated, ''Please,'' which seems to indicate that Neo's got his facts wrong. Instead, online fans' speculation points to Persephone (Monica Bellucci) as the true Matrix Mama. In Greek mythology, Persephone is a daughter of gods who is abducted by Hades and becomes Queen of the Underworld -- a.k.a., the Matrix?

How does Neo use his powers in the real world at the end?
This is a real mind (if not spoon)-bender. Up until the moment Neo fells the robotic Sentinels by simply holding up his hand, there's not the slightest suggestion that our hero is anything but Clark Kent-like in the real world, despite his Superman-style powers in the Matrix. There are several possible explanations, but each raises objections:

1. Neo is truly the savior of all mankind, a Christ-like figure with supernatural powers that extend to the real, physical world. But this would seem to violate the saga's sci-fi ethos, which has avoided any suggestion of unearthly powers at work outside the Matrix.

2. Zion is NOT the real world; it's simply a Matrix within the Matrix. In other words, both movies have been fooling us, and the characters never left a computer-generated world. The evil machines have designed a Matrix that lets people ''escape'' without ever leaving their control. As clever as this premise might be, it seems unfair to the audience, and doesn't make much sense. Why would the machines bother with mechanical Sentinels in the ''real world'' if they could simply dispatch Agents?

3. An ingenious theory suggested by some online fans: Neo didn't really use his powers on the Sentinels -- it just looked like he did. Instead, we'll find out in ''Revolutions'' that the ship that later rescued the Nebuchadnezzar crew actually blasted the Sentinels at the exact moment Neo raised his hands. But that fails to explain why Neo would say, ''Something's different -- I can feel them,'' or for that matter, why he lapses into a coma after the incident. Maybe he was just tired.

Who's the other guy in a coma lying next to Neo at the end?
It's Agent Smith, in the body of Zion dweller Bane. In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment near the beginning, Smith took over Bane inside the Matrix, and then answered a ringing phone that transported him into the real world, in the form of Bane. That's why a wild-eyed Bane approached Neo with a knife behind his back just before he entered the Matrix. See it again, and it'll all make sense. Maybe.

What confused you in ''The Matrix Reloaded''?

Originally posted May 22, 2003