When he's not playing Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne has a much clearer answer to explain the question on moviegoers' lips: "What is the Matrix?"
At the star-studded New York City premiere of The Matrix Reloaded, Fishburne looked out at the throngs of celebrities and announced, "It's worldwide pop cultural phenomenon time!"
Fishburne was joined Tuesday night by co-stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving, as well as Janet Jackson, Glenn Close and Chevy Chase, among hundreds of others. Even TV psychic John Edward didn't trust his otherworldly sources. He, too, wanted to see the eagerly awaited sequel that opens at 2,000 screens Thursday and will reach 8,400 screens by the weekend.
Industry watchers say the The Matrix sequel is posed to break numerous box-office records, including best single-day opening, best weekend opening and best debut of an R-rated film.
Spider-Man currently holds the box-office single-day record of $43 million and the opening-weekend record of $115 million. Hannibal holds the record for the best R-rated opening with $58 million.
Agent Smith vs. The Elves
Reloaded advances the story started in the 1999 blockbuster, which grossed more than $450 million. The machines have discovered the human stronghold of Zion deep inside the Earth's core and are tunneling there to kill the human race.
Neo (Reeves) must travel back inside the Matrix — an alternate universe created by the robots as a prison for humans. He's again aided by his spiritual teacher, Morpheus (Fishburne), and his girlfriend, Trinity (Moss).
The trio again tangle with robot enforcer Agent Smith (Weaving), as Neo adjusts to his destiny as "The One" who can liberate humanity.
Fishburne promises that all the elements of the first Matrix come together again — including the stars, the action and style of the original.
"It's obviously the Wachowski brothers' writing and direction," Fishburne said. "It's the ideas, the questions, it's all that went into the soup at is The Matrix."
Weaving's Agent Smith develops the ability to clone himself, allowing scads of duplicates to fight Neo. The actor also plays the Elf lord Elrond in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
When ABCNEWS Radio asked who would win in a fight between an army of Elves and an army of Agent Smiths, Weaving had no doubts, but his loyalty was divided.
"I think the Smiths would have to win because they can keep replicating," he said. "The Elves are immortal but the Smiths can keep growing … The Smiths might be able to fly in the near future and, well, we'll see. But my heart would be with the Elves."
Still, Reloaded doesn't complete the story. Another sequel, The Matrix Revolutions, hits theaters in November.
"When I made the first film, I had no expectation that would happen at all," said Reeves. "I was just hoping people dug it as much as I did."
‘It’s Hard to Put Any Limit on This Film’
Some industry observers predict The Matrix Reloaded could earn as much as $150 million between Thursday's limited-release opening and this Sunday — breaking Spider-Man's record.
"[It's] going to be very tough," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office receipts.
"Spider-Man had a single day Saturday after it opened that was $43 million. If any film can do it, I guess it's The Matrix Reloaded."
While Dergarabedian said there's no guarantee The Matrix Reloaded will beak Spidey's record, he added, "It's really hard to put any kind of limit on this movie."
Close, who attended the premiere with her daughter Annie, says the first Matrix succeeded in creating a special world that viewers want to visit again.
"It's like a huge fairy tale and that becomes iconic," she said. "It is a world that is very seductive."
Crossing Over star Edward took the night off from talking to dead people so he could attend the special showing. "There's this underlying message of spirituality but it's kind of camouflaged in this action-packed adventure," he said. "And you know, it's cool."
As Edward prepared to enter the theater, he said he's never been contacted by deceased moviegoers with the latest Hollywood scoop.
"It's not the place, you know. It's not set up for that," he said. "Could it happen? I guess it could. But not tonight. I'm off duty. I'm here to enjoy."