Warning: this article contains some spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections.
It’s been 18 years since the last Matrix sequel and more than two decades since the original movie redefined the action movie for the 21st century, but far more time has passed in the fictional timeline of the series since the events of The Matrix Revolutions.
Time has always been a bit fuzzy when it comes to the Matrix films. When most of the characters’ “reality” is actually a computer-generated hallucination intended to mollify humanity into accepting their fate as batteries to power the machines — they dominate the dystopia that is the actual real-world — time becomes a somewhat hazy concept at best.
In The Matrix, Keanu Reeves’ Neo is awakened to the actual nature of reality. Although he believes that he was living in the year 1999, he is told that the year is actually somewhere around 2199 (even in the first movie, the Wachowskis refused to commit to a hard date).
However, in the sequels it is revealed that Zion, the hidden city of the human resistance, was actually designed by the machines as a sort of pressure valve, that would allow the more rebellious one percent of humanity to be purged from the Matrix to be destroyed at any point it presented a real threat to the machines. We are told that there have been five previous Zions, each destroyed in turn and another allowed to grow. Factoring in these multiple “resets” to the timeline, the setting is actually closer to the year 2699.
Warning spoilers for The Matrix Resurrections begin below. Don’t read further if you don’t want the movie spoiled.
So when, exactly, does The Matrix Resurrections take place? Well, as the reckoning above shows, it’s pretty hard to say precisely. Ostensibly, the action of the film takes place approximately 60 years after the Truce, the stalemate between the forces of mankind and the machines. But Keanu Reeves 9despite the occasional rumor of immortality) certainly does not appear to be in his 80s, nor does his co-star, Carrie-Ann Moss. And although they have both aged perceptibly, if gracefully, they look remarkable for two people who were supposed to have died in the last franchise installment.
To further confuse things, Jada Pinkett Smith reprises her role as Niobe, but the actress, who is younger than both Reeves and Moss in real life, has been aged up through prostheses and/or CGI to look well past 70. Unlike Neo and Moss’ character Trinity, Niobe survived the Machine War that took place in The Matrix Revolutions and has aged in the “actual” timeline, while Trinity and Neo have both aged slightly due to being kept alive in yet another computer simulation.
Niobe reveals to the newly reawakened Neo that 60 years have passed since the end of the war. This would establish that the events of the newest Matrix installment are occurring sometime around 2759 give or take a year or two (or a few centuries, your choice).
The Matrix Resurrections is currently playing in theaters and streaming on HBO Max.