Spoilers for a series that concluded over 15 years ago: Neo dies at the end of The Matrix trilogy. Sorry about that. In hindsight, though, it’s frustratingly predictable. Keanu Reeves’ character was always doomed to die, his fate dictated by the Oracle’s prophecy. But, in a twist announcement, The Matrix 4 has been confirmed, with Reeves returning to the franchise alongside Trinity actress Carrie Ann-Moss and one-half of the Wachowski sisters (Lana will direct; Lilly is absent). How can Neo return? Excitingly, no one apart from the creative team seems to know.
What made The Matrix so successful was the original movie’s premise. John/Neo’s life transforms before our eyes, the character leaving behind a mundane desk job for a life of cyberpunk outfits, cool cars, and guns. Lots of guns. Suddenly, the shackles are off as Neo learns to bend the machine-made world of the Matrix. Anything’s possible as the confines of reality rapidly melt away. Neo, of course, has questions, the most important being “What is The Matrix?”
“You don't know what it is, but it's there,” Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus tantalisingly says. “Like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” The question of what exactly The Matrix is, and therefore his purpose within it, digs away at Neo carries throughout both sequels, The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions. However, rather than leaving these questions unanswered, the two sequels unravel the mystery, and they do so quite literally.
One scene surmises this. During the Matrix: Reloaded, Neo meets The Architect, the bearded creator of The Matrix, who, surrounded by television monitors, explains exactly who Neo is. “Your life is the sum of a remainder of an unbalanced equation inherent to the programming of The Matrix,” he says, matter-of-factly. “You are the eventuality of an anomaly, which despite my sincerest efforts I have been unable to eliminate from what is otherwise a harmony of mathematical precision.” Peeking behind the Wizard’s curtain and learning how the world of the machines works makes the trilogy retroactively lose a little of its magic.
And then there’s the prophecy – a puppet-master of a plot device that shuffles Neo from Point A to Point B. In short, the Oracle knows everything that’s going to happen, and Morpheus reveals as much early on. “His coming would hail the destruction of the Matrix, end the war; bring freedom to our people," he tells Neo of the Chosen One. This, plus numerous signposts foreshadowing Neo’s death (and Jesus analogies aplenty), makes things annoyingly… predictable.
As with Christ, there must come a resurrection. Enter: The Matrix 4. However, while the single fact of Neo being brought back to life may follow the Jesus analogy once again, what happens after that – and how the character comes back – is anyone’s guess.
The Matrix, rebooted
The movie’s marketing will inevitably reveal some of the mystery regarding The Matrix 4, but, for now, it’s worth holding onto the enigma. The reported addition of Young Morpheus happily confuses things further. Michael B. Jordan has been rumoured to step into the character’s shoes, leaving us questioning whether the movie may be a prequel, alternate universe, or something equally mind-bending. Trinity is likewise returning after seemingly meeting her end. She’s not the Chosen One, so how’s that possible?
Fans can barely conjure up a hare-brained fan theory at this point, let alone anything meaningful as to how all of the disparate threads will tie together. Nothing quite adds up. And yet we’re ready to fall down the rabbit hole again, excited to head back into that world of falling green code and Mr. Andersons.
Perhaps the marketing team would do well to take note of the way Death Stranding has been promoted. We know barely anything about the PS4 exclusive from visionary Hideo Kojima, despite the release date being around the corner. A screenshot here, a tweet about Kojima feeling tired there; information has been drip-fed to players. Only a very recent Gamescom trailer has shed light on what the game’s story is about: a journey across America to save the world from certain disaster. Maybe.
With both Death Stranding and The Matrix 4, the jigsaw pieces are all visible (for Reeves, substitute Norman Reedus; for bullet time, bring in tube babies) yet where they will fall, we do not know. And even if the puzzle doesn’t fit together, we’ll still be there on day one to see what happens, solely because each respective property has promised something completely unknowable.
Additionally, Keanu Reeves has continued to be a box-office pull. Sure, there were some wayward years between the heydays of Reeves in the ‘90s (Point Break and Speed), but the actor’s now back at the top of his game, namely thanks to the adrenaline pumping John Wick series. Whatever the actor touches, especially when it concerns a beloved property, is guaranteed gold dust for a studio (hence why Bill & Ted is also coming back).
The Matrix 4 seemingly has it all: the head-scratching returns, the continuation of a story long finished, and an iconic actor at the apex of his action prowess. Questions will need to be answered, but for the meantime... Can you feel that? It’s a splinter, a nagging question, digging into your brain, making you question the world around you. Let it in. Because there’s still plenty about The Matrix we don’t know. Isn't that brilliant?
Need to kill some time between now and The Matrix 4? Here are the best sci-fi movies, in this world or the next.