Is ‘The Matrix Resurrections’ a sequel or a reboot?

The Matrix Resurrections

The Matrix Resurrections is finally out in theaters and on streaming from today, marking our first return to the seminal sci-fi franchise since the original trilogy wrapped up in 2003. As marketing has made clear, both Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss are back in their iconic roles as Neo and Trinity, respectively, but with Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus MIA and various other newcomers joining the series, you might be wondering if The Matrix 4 is a sequel or a reboot.

OK, assuming it’s safe to move forward with spoilers for a 20-year-old movie, the big confusion going into Resurrections concerns the mystery of how Neo and Trinity are back when they both died in The Matrix Revolutions. So is it set in some alternate continuity or is it some kind of prequel? Well, it’s difficult to say, as the filmmakers behind it seem keen to avoid slapping a conventional label on it.

Co-writer David Mitchell, who penned the film’s script with director Lana Wachowski (who’s working separately from sister and co-creator Lily this time), gave a spoiler-free summation of Resurrections in an interview with To Vima (via Distractify):

“I cannot tell you what this film is about, but I could explain what it is not,” Mitchell teased. “It’s certainly not yet one more sequel, but something autonomous that contains, however, the three Matrix that preceded in a really ingenious way. It’s a very beautiful and weird creation. It also achieves a couple of things that we do not see in action films, meaning it subverts the rules of blockbusters.”

While the production team’s aims to keep Resurrections from being pigeonholed are noble, obviously folks like to know what they’re getting into. This has led to the movie being generally talked about as a “legacy sequel”. For instance, that’s how The Atlantic’s David Sims refers to it in his review.

So what is a legacy sequel? That’s a term that’s gained a lot of momentum in recent years due to the many revivals of classic franchises that have come our way. A legacy sequel is something of a halfway point between a sequel and a reboot. As with examples such as Jurassic World and Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it’s set in the original continuity but introduces a lot of new characters and plots. It might not be one that Wachowski and Mitchell are embracing, but “legacy sequel” is as good a description as any for something as subversive as The Matrix Resurrections.

Catch The Matrix Resurrections in cinemas and on HBO Max from today, Dec. 22.