THERE is no denying the original Matrix was a groundbreaking movie.

It virtually came from nowhere and took the film world by storm. The special effects were astounding, the concept mindblowing, and it established Keanu Reeves as the coollest star on the planet.

We want more, was the general cry from its adoring fans. And we've got more. There are two sequels coming out this year The Matrix Revolutions is due out in November; The Matrix Reloaded is already blazing a trail across cinema screens.

Reloaded's story picks up pretty much where the original left off. A band of rebel humans are at large in a world run by the machines, the same machines that have created The Matrix, a complex computer system that makes the enslaved human race believe it is living a normal life.

The breakaway humans are holed up in the underground city of Zion, preparing to defend themselves against an attack from the machines.

Morpheus (Fishburne), a sort of rebel rebel, sees a way of ending the war quickly, thanks to his belief in the special powers of Thomas Anderson (Reeves), aka Neo, aka The One.

Teaming up with Neo's lover Trinity (Moss) and pilot Link (Harold Perrineau), they venture into The Matrix on a dangerous quest to unravel a series of puzzles and literally find the key that could save Zion from destruction.

Whereas The Matrix crept up on us with a minimum of hype, Reloaded arrives on a tsunami of publicity and consequently expectations are high.

But the result is disappointing.

Yes, the special effects are astounding. Yes, the action scenes are fast and furious. And yes, the wardrobe department has set the fashion trend for the summer.

But what holds all this together is a mess. It's not good enough for a sequel to assume its audience has seen the original film a great deal of explanation is needed for what is a complex idea, otherwise the story will fly over people's heads (having said that, the Matrix virgin I took to see the film was able to keep up with the plot and was enthralled by what she saw on the screen).

The beauty of The Matrix was it appeared cleverer than it actually was. The story itself was actually quite simple (mankind is controlled by machines and living in a virtual world) and once that was established, the special effects department and the stunt team could get down to what filmgoers really wanted to see.

This time the directors are trying to be too clever, working in all sorts of philosophical and mystical musings which simply pad the film out to an unacceptable running time.

The script is flabby, with far too many long and rambling speeches which rather than inform the audience, is likely to bore it to death. There are also moments which require Reeves to emote, which is not this actor's forte.

Thank heavens for the action, which is breathtaking. The kung fu scenes which caused such a stir in the first film are extended here, with Neo taking on all-comers and performing these fights with considerably more panache. His new flowing, ankle length black coat adds to the spectacle.

He is also reunited with Agent Smith (Weaving), or at least several dozen Agent Smiths, as the protagonist from the previous film has somehow developed the power to clone himself. Their first fight scene, in a playground, is a sight to behold although it does resemble a bizarre game of British bulldog.

Look out too for the ghostly Twins (Adrian and Neil Rayment), who add a new dimension to the combat sequences.

But the highlight of an otherwise average production is a lengthy sequence on a freeway, with fights and chases involving cars, trucks, motorbikes and articulated lorries.

This is what The Matrix is all about, and more of this and less of the waffle and it would have been full marks all round. Let's hope Revolutions turns things around.

Rating: 5 out of 10