Is Neo dead or alive at the end of the ‘Matrix’ trilogy?
The Matrix Resurrections was released in theaters today, stirring up a frenzy among fans of the more than 20-year-old franchise. The film, like its predecessors, promises a mind-bending foray into the wild world Lana and Lilly Wachowski introduced us to all the way back in 1999, with numerous characters returning to roles they haven’t played since 2003. The return of several key characters from the original trilogy, including Keanu Reeves’ Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity, is spurring questions about their fates prior to Resurrections.
The Matrix Revolutions saw the final fight unfold between the humans and the machines, both inside the Matrix and out. The film was initially intended as the franchise’s conclusion, which meant that most of its storylines were tied up by the end of the film. In the case of some of the film’s most prevalent characters, this was accomplished by killing them off.
Both Trinity and Neo end up sacrificing their lives for the future of humanity in the third Matrix film. Mid-way through Revolutions, Trinity and Neo split off from the rest of the cast toward the Machine City, where Neo hopes to bring a conclusive end to the battle between machines and humans. En route, they are ambushed by Bane, who has been assimilated by Agent Smith. In the ensuing battle, Neo is blinded by an electric cable, but ultimately discovers that he can “see” even without eyes. His abilities enable Neo to see Smith’s source code inside of Bane, allowing him to come out on top in the fight.
After defeating Bane, Trinity and Neo reach the Machine City. The onslaught of machines is too much for their ship, the Logos, to handle, and it begins to buckle under the strain. Despite Trinity’s best efforts, the ship ultimately crashes, injuring Neo and fatally wounding Trinity.
Neo’s final scenes in Revolutions see him going it alone, trekking to the location of the machine’s leader, “Deus Ex Machina.” There he makes a deal with the machines after convincing them that Agent Smith is a threat to them as well as everyone else. The machines agree to a truce between themselves and Zion, the only remaining human city, in exchange for Neo taking down Smith. The Sentinel attack on Zion immediately ceases and the machines plug Neo back into the Matrix.
The film’s final fight sees Neo and Smith facing off for the last time. Their final interaction culminates in a chaotic airborne battle in which Smith gets the upper hand, injuring Neo and forcing audiences to recognize that he simply isn’t capable of beating Smith via traditional ⏤ or non-traditional ⏤ means. Following a sound defeat at the hands of Smith, Neo seemingly accepts his fate and allows himself to be assimilated.
Once he is connected to all of the Smiths, Neo makes his final sacrifice. He channels a massive amount of energy ⏤ output by the machines and channeled through his physical body ⏤ into the Matrix, destroying all of the Smith clones and ending Neo’s life.
Neo’s body is later seen being presented to Deus Ex Machina just before the film’s final scene begins. While he is clearly portrayed as having sacrificed his life for the cause, a mention near the end of the film indicates that perhaps the Wachowskis always intended to bring the character back. The Oracle notes in the film’s final moments that she suspects they haven’t seen the last of Neo. While this line can be taken in a number of ways, it broadly seems like more of a comforting nod to his immortal importance in their lives than actual confirmation that the character isn’t dead.
Despite his sacrifice, Neo clearly returns for The Matrix Resurrections, as does Trinity. Both have been included in trailers since the beginning, which means that fans likely won’t know what to expect until they see the film for themselves.