Earlier this week, sci-fi fans the world over were startled and delighted to hear that the long-rumored follow-up to the Matrix trilogy was finally happening. Better still, The Matrix 4 won’t be a reboot or a spin-off, but a direct sequel featuring the iconic franchise leads, Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie Ann Moss) with franchise co-creator Lana Wachowski also involved. There is, however, one slight logistical hurdle for the upcoming film to overcome: both Neo and Trinity died at the end of the third film in the trilogy, 2003’s The Matrix: Revolutions.
The wide-ranging eclecticism of the Wachowskis’ body of work makes it tough to offer any solid predictions about what the storyline of Matrix 4 will involve, but it’s fair to assume a heady mix of philosophical exploration, mythology, and bonkers action sequences. Looking back at the end of Revolutions also offers up some clues about where the upcoming film might be headed.
Revolutions sees Neo and Trinity bound for Machine City, a place no human has ever visited, to broker peace between the two forms of existence. Trinity is fatally wounded when their ship crashes, prompting Neo, who does not want to live without her, to sacrifice his life to negotiate a truce. This choice makes Neo distinct from every previous iteration of the One, who instead opted to restart the Matrix and perpetuate the system of control.
The film’s final moments show dawn breaking on a new day, as the Architect and the Oracle meet to discuss this newfound peace between man and machine. The Architect agrees to allow any human who so chooses to leave the Matrix, and the Oracle cryptically predicts that peace between man and machine will last “as long as it can.” Sati arrives and asks if they’ll ever see Neo again, to which the Oracle replies, “I suspect so. Someday.” (Looks like she was right!)
This means that even though Neo and Trinity met decisive ends in Revolutions, the film left open the prospect of a future scenario in which the One is needed again. The hard-fought peace between humans and machines will likely have ended by the time Matrix 4 rolls around, though we can’t know yet which side is responsible.
So how do Neo and Trinity fit in? Both could simply be reborn or reincarnated, though that probably wouldn’t explain why the characters (like the actors) have aged some 20 years since the original film. It’s possible Reeves and Moss might get a bit of digital de-aging treatment to more closely resemble their early 2000s selves — like we’ve seen in the trailer for Will Smith’s Gemini Man, which features the present-day actor alongside an uncannily convincing Fresh Prince-era version of himself. Or, perhaps, we’ll learn Neo and Trinity had been reanimated off-screen sometime after Revolutions’ final meeting between the Oracle and the Architect, and have been enjoying a “normal” life outside the Matrix.
The notion of simply picking up the story after a two-decade time skip becomes more complicated in light of Variety’s reporting from earlier this week. While stating Reeves and Moss would be “reprising their roles,” it noted that Lawrence Fishburne’s character Morpheus “may be recast for a younger take,” citing anonymous sources. This is in keeping with (or may simply be a holdover from) 2017 speculation about a Matrix reboot starring Michael B. Jordan as a young Morpheus.
Fishburne, 58, is only four years older than Reeves, so he hasn’t exactly aged out of the action genre just yet. What’s more, according to The Hollywood Reporter, this reboot didn’t have either of the Wachowskis onboard, so we wouldn’t be surprised if this Young Morpheus idea were scrapped, particularly in light of the warm online reception from fans upon hearing Reeves and Moss would return to the franchise. Those same fans will likely be happy to see Fishburne don his very tiny sunglasses again, too.
Unlike the previous films, only one of the Wachowski sisters will be involved in this fourth outing. According to Variety, Lana Wachowski will write the script along with two cerebral, critically acclaimed novelists. The first is Aleksandar Hemon, who penned Nowhere Man and The Lazarus Project. Hemon won a MacArthur “genius grant” and currently moonlights as a creative writing professor at Princeton. David Mitchell, author of sprawling explorations of the subtler impacts of globalization, like Cloud Atlas (which the Wachowski’s adapted to film in 2012), will also help shape the script.
Their involvement in the project suggests Wachowski aims to recapture the intellectual and philosophical rigor that allowed the original Matrix to grab the attention of audiences for decades. Mitchell’s presence, in particular, suggests the universe of the films will likely expand to include a greater diversity of peoples and locations. It also hints toward a more direct, plainspoken approach to thorny philosophical issues, which may enable Matrix 4 to more effectively reach fans who were underwhelmed (or just plain confused) by Revolutions.
Production on The Matrix 4 is slated to begin in early 2020.