The Matrix Resurrections is one of the year’s most-hyped films. The fourth film in the legendary Matrix franchise that began all the way back in 1999, Resurrections will see Keanu Reeves return to the role of Neo. However, one detail about the upcoming film is causing fans to create some fascinating fan theories.
Spoiler alert: At the end of 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions, the final film in the original Matrix trilogy, we see both Trinity and Neo perish. The former crashes her ship into a building before getting impaled. The latter is assimilated into Agent Smith before the machines shock Neo’s physical body, destroying Neo and the Smith hivemind in the process.
So how are Neo and Trinity still alive and kicking in the new movie? Here are the most compelling fan theories.
Neo’s death got retconned
We’ll start with the least-fun answer. It’s not uncommon for sequels to ignore plot points from previous movies, often because real-world issues force studios to change their plans. That and there’s nothing more hated by audiences than an unresolved cliffhanger.
So many writers, especially ones who don’t know if they’ll get to make a sequel, prefer to give a conclusive ending and retcon it if and when the sequel is green-lit, rather than leaving audiences feeling unfulfilled and waiting for a movie that may never come. It’s been 18 years since the last Matrix film hit theaters, so in the eyes of many fans, it’s totally acceptable to retcon the original ending to allow this unforeseen follow-up to reach fruition.
Neo is revived by the machines
One popular theory states that Neo is revived by the Machines at the start of The Matrix Resurrections. In fact, the franchise already hinted at this being the case in the now-defunct MMO Matrix Online.
This game was advertised as a canon successor to the film franchise’s narrative. In the Matrix Online, the player is informed that Neo’s Residual Self-Image is recoverable. Later in the game, it’s revealed that the Machines never returned Neo or Trinity’s bodies after the characters perished in the film. Morpheus mentions that these actions are highly suspicious, suggesting that something was afoot. Alas, the game was shut down before the plot point could be explained.
There is some hint towards this theory in The Matrix Resurrections trailer. As we’re treated to a glimpse of Neo’s seemingly real-world body. This body is surrounded by machines and tech, implying that his body is still in the Machine’s possession. Eagle-eyed fans noticed that Neo’s eyes appear to be burnt out. This is an injury that Neo picked up in Matrix Revolutions, suggesting that this is the body from that film.
This theory could also explain Neo’s memory loss. In the original trilogy, Cypher betrays the resistance. He makes a bargain with Agent Smith that involves Cypher being plugged back into the Matrix, with the Machines wiping his memory of events. This suggests that the Machines could have returned Neo to the Matrix after carrying his body away.
The big question is why? Could they be using this new Matrix as a form of life-support while they rebuild Neo’s body, or could this new Matrix be a holding cell for Neo, one designed to prevent him from saving humanity again in the future? Of course, others are pointing to the title as evidence for this theory, as it would be odd for a film titled The Matrix Resurrections to not feature a resurrection of some form.
The Oracle planned for this
The Oracle is one of the most fascinating characters in the original Matrix trilogy. This all-seeing character apparently knows Neo’s actions before they happen and can seemingly use her knowledge of future events to manipulate the present.
At the end of Revolutions, we see the Architect and the Oracle meet up in a park. The Oracle says that she believes they will see Neo again, and when questioned about her knowledge of events, she replies by saying that she didn’t know, but she believed it. The delivery of this line highly suggests that the Oracle knows way more than she is letting on.
It isn’t hard to believe that the Oracle knew what would happen and planned for it, and also that her plan allows for Neo and Trinity to cheat death in the previous movie, hence why she believes they will return again.
This Neo isn’t the Neo from the previous movies
One of the biggest surprises about the new film is that Laurence Fishburne will not be reprising his role as Morpheus. This role will now be played by the much younger-looking Yahya Abdul-Mateen. This change has spawned many fan theories, with fans questioning if the recasting is plot-relevant or a case of behind-the-scenes necessity.
There’s evidence to suggest that many of the roles in the Matrix are actually titles that change hands. In The Matrix Reloaded, the Architect informs Neo that he is the sixth iteration of The One since the simulation began. And every version of The One before him had opted to restart the cycle by allowing Zion to fall.
However, the names of these other people were never stated, meaning that they could all be called Neo, or all of them simply take the title during their loop. This suggests that the Neo found in Resurrections could be one of those past versions of The One⏤or a new version that formed after the Neo from the original trilogy died.
In fact, each version of The One could inherit some of the memories of the previous ones, allowing Neo and Trinity to recognize each other, despite not meeting up in the current time loop. This would also mean that the dreams Neo mentions in the trailers are not dreams but rather visions of a past life. Of course, these time loops may not always be the same, explaining why Morpheus looks so different and why this loop is playing out differently from the previous ones.
Interestingly, The Matrix Online also factors into this theory. In that game, players were told that Morpheous had died after the original trilogy ended, suggesting that our three main characters could all be the new holders of long-running mantles.
Of course, Young Morpheus could be the younger version of Morpheus from the previous films. This Morpheus could have grabbed Neo and Trinity before they died and pulled them back in time. Or, this Morpheus was able to jump forward in time and prevent Neo’s original death through some as-yet-unknown means.
If this is true, it could mean that someone or something has decided to mess with the flow of time in the hope of changing history. Or they could be fighting a foe that also has access to time travel powers, forcing Neo to go through time to track them down.
Neo was backed-up in the Matrix
The first rule of computing is to always keep a backup just in case you need to recover a file that gets lost or damaged. Could this also be true for the Matrix?
While the Machines’ power surge may have killed both Neo’s body and his Matrix form, it isn’t too hard to believe that the Machines or even Neo himself was able to create a backup. Neo was able to manipulate the Matrix in many ways, so it doesn’t feel outside of the realm of possibility that he could have hidden a copy of himself somewhere within the Matrix.
This could also explain why Neo looks so different now. If the backup has been floating around the Matrix for 18 years, waiting for its moment, it could have changed, altered, or corrupted. That, or maybe the backup was incomplete. The process of fixing and restoring it has created a Neo with several differences from the original, explaining why Neo seems to be so confused in the trailers for Resurrections.
The previous Matrix films never happened
Warner Bros’ original summary for The Matrix Resurrections said that it was a “continuation of the story established in the first Matrix film.” This caught fans’ attention, as it seems to imply that the sequels Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions had been rendered non-canon. Of course, if Matrix Revolutions never happened, Neo’s death didn’t happen either, meaning there is no need for any in-universe resurrection.
This opens up several different options. One popular theory states that The Matrix Resurrections could be set in an alternative timeline where events play out differently, and this new timeline exists alongside the original sequels. While this idea may seem odd on paper, it wouldn’t be the first franchise reboot to ignore the original sequels, nor the first to have the sequels hand-waved as not actually happening.
Some fans have suggested that the original two sequels were a simulation created by the machines to keep Neo docile and prevent him from assuming his role as The One, meaning that Resurrections is the first “true” sequel to The Matrix.
We won’t know the answer for sure until The Matrix Resurrections hits cinemas on Dec. 22, 2021.