The trailer for The Matrix Resurrections finally revealed the return of Neo, which has spawned a wealth of theories as to how the character is still alive. The character of Neo in The Matrix remains one of Keanu Reeves’ career-defining roles. His part as lead protagonist in the Wachowskis science fiction trilogy was expertly cast, and his return to the role seems natural after his larger return to mainstream awareness with the John Wick movies. Originally known as Thomas Anderson, Neo wakes up to the realization that his world is nothing more than a digital fabrication. Choosing Morpheus’ red pill, Neo is brought into the real world, a futuristic dystopia where Machines rule over the dregs of humanity and is thought to be the subject of a prophecy that tells of The One leading people out of the darkness.
The final installment of the trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions, appears to confirm this. With the Agent Smith program rampaging out of control, Hugo Weaving’s character has become a threat to both man and machine. In exchange for halting the war on humanity, Neo strikes a deal with his metallic counterparts, agreeing to take down Smith once and for all. Unfortuantely, this requires Neo’s own life as a sacrifice. After Smith is lured into absorbing his opponent, the Machines kill both Neo and Smith with a surge of power from the Source. Neo is hailed as a hero for selflessly giving up his life to foster a peaceful future, and the story comes to an end.
Related: The Matrix: When Was the First Computer Simulation Built By the Machines?
Or so everyone thought. Some two decades after The Matrix first became a cultural phenomenon, a continuation was announced in the form of The Matrix Resurrections, to be directed by Lana Wachowski and is set for a December 2021 release date. The sequel announcement itself wasn’t a huge surprise – rumors of another Matrix movie had been bubbling away for years. More shocking was Keanu Reeves’ confirmed return as Neo, despite his death in the previous movie. Naturally, this has led to rampant speculation as to how Neo comes back, and here are the most prominent theories.
The Machines Revive Neo In Matrix Resurrections
Technically, the Matrix franchise has already hinted at how Neo could still be alive in The Matrix Resurrections. Released several years after the conclusion of the movie trilogy, The Matrix Online was advertised as a canon successor to the films, picking up directly in the wake of The Matrix Revolutions, and the game contained several major hints towards Neo’s survival. Firstly, Neo’s RSI (residual self-image, a person’s in-Matrix avatar) was deemed recoverable, suggesting that the protagonist hadn’t been completely obliterated in his battle against Smith. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the Machines mysteriously refused to hand Neo’s body back to Morpheus after the final battle. Morpheus strongly suspected something was amiss here, but the game’s storyline ended before dropping any big reveals.
The Machines stored both Neo and Trinity’s bodies in The Matrix Online, and this could relate directly to the returns of Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Resurrections, with their technology perhaps capable of restoring a consciousness into a dead body. This idea plays into another The Matrix Resurrections theory – that the main villain will be an enemy to both mankind and the Machines. Neo could be brought back by his old mechanical foes to battle a bigger threat, but whether or not The Matrix Resurrections will take the online video game’s story into account remains to be seen.
The trailer for The Matrix Resurrections gives some additional weight to this theory and suggests that this is the most likely storyline to actually be followed. In The Matrix Revolutions, a dramatic fight aboard the Logos in the real world sees Neo face off against Bane, who has been effectively possessed by Agent Smith. During the fight, Smith’s avatar uses an electrical cable to blind Neo, scarring his face. While his powers allow him to regain a type of sight, Neo remains physically blinded for the rest of the film, still wearing bloodied bandages over his eyes at the time of his death. A brief glimpse in the trailer shows an image of Neo’s body, complete with plugs that demonstrate it takes place in the real world, not in the Matrix, as it is covered in machines. This shows that Neo’s body is still in the hands of the machines and appears to be being used as a power source once again. His eyes are still blinded from his The Matrix Revolutions fight, meaning that this must be the same body and has been revived by the machines somehow.
Neo Is “Saved” In The Matrix
In the world of computing, it’s notoriously hard to truly delete something. Unless a drive has already been overwritten, a skilled IT specialist can piece together fragments of deleted data still lingering on a hard drive, and the same could be true of Neo in The Matrix Resurrections. The established logic behind Neo’s death is that the Machines’ power surge killed both his human body and his Matrix programming, ending Neo’s existence entirely. But have they tried turning him off and on again? Given how vast the digital network of the Matrix is, and the enigmatic powers of The One, it’s entirely possible that a version of Neo is still cached in the files of the Matrix, ready to be brought back when needed. This would add a fun wrinkle to Neo’s return, in which Reeves’ character could only ever appear inside the Matrix, since his physical form remained destroyed.
Related: The Matrix: Where is the Machine City Located?
The Matrix Resurrections Uses Time Travel
Among the various The Matrix Resurrections theories doing the rounds, time travel is a frequent mention. No one seems completely sure how timeline shenanigans will factor into the already complex world of The Matrix, but with a younger Morpheus confirmed to appear, and both Reeves and Moss looking older, some form of time travel feels like a distinct possibility. Instead of bringing Neo back to life, someone (most likely the Machines or Morpheus) could pluck Neo and Trinity from the past and bring them into the far future to help solve a problem that only the legendary duo can deal with. In this scenario, The Matrix Resurrections’s Neo could be fresh from his kung fu lessons with Morpheus, or his first battle against Agent Smith.
Time travel is arguably the most problematic way of bringing Neo into The Matrix Resurrections. Not only would marrying the new sequel up with the original trilogy be inherently tricky, but it would also be difficult to explain Reeves’ older appearance if his character were taken directly from the timeline of the previous movies.
Neo & Trinity Are Agents In Matrix Resurrections
Following Neo’s brave act of sacrifice, the Matrix is rebooted and humans are finally given the choice to opt out of the simulation. However, the Matrix itself still exists, and will, therefore, still require some form of policing. With Smith out of the picture, the Machines might turn their attention to a duo who have already proven themselves superior: Neo and Trinity. Previously, the Agents were created to prevent subversion in the Matrix, but with humans now being offered an exit route, the role of the Agents would be very different – trying to keep the peace between red pill supporters, blue pill die-hards, and rogue programs such as the Merovingian, perhaps. Since Neo was effectively the one who created this new world, the Machines might hire him to guard it and preserve the status quo as an agent. After all, Neo and Smith became one during the finale of The Matrix Revolutions, potentially creating the code for a hybrid of the two.
This theory plays into the previous ideas that the Machines might’ve retained Neo and Trinity’s bodies, or that the Matrix might’ve saved a version of Neo in its archives. In terms of storyline development, making Neo an agent rather than the main protagonist would support rumors that newer cast members are being lined up for a brand new trilogy of Matrix movies. The trailer suggests Neo is still the “hero” in traditional terms, but it would not be unprecedented for a trailer to misrepresent the facts. And it’s also entirely possible that Neo is unaware of his true role, just as he was in the original Matrix trilogy and Resurrections is once again a journey of self-realization.
Related: Biggest Questions The Matrix 4 Can Answer
Matrix Resurrections Stars A Previous Version Of The One
As revealed by The Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, Neo is the sixth iteration of The One since the simulation began. Each previous version opted to restart the cycle by allowing Zion’s destruction, but Neo’s love for Trinity allowed him to break free of that pattern and forge a new path ahead. Assuming the Neo fans know and love is truly dead in The Matrix Resurrections, Keanu Reeves might well be playing one of these predecessors. Since The Matrix never properly explains where the Machines get their human subjects from, it’s not known whether all six Ones looked the same or are called the same, but it’s certainly possible, and might help account for Keanu looking a little older than before. Additionally, these historic Ones didn’t sacrifice themselves like Neo did. Instead, they disseminated their code into restarting a new Matrix and, therefore, could hypothetically be restored from the archives. If the world needs a hero in The Matrix Resurrections and Neo is too dead to answer the call, an older lookalike might be the best alternative. It’ll be fascinating to see how this past incarnation of The One feels knowing that Zion’s destruction was never inevitable.
Keanu Reeves Isn’t Actually Playing The Original Neo In Resurrections
Inverting the above theory, Keanu Reeves could be playing the next version of The One in The Matrix Resurrections. Although the Matrix is reset in the final moments of the original trilogy, there’s no real indication of what the new simulation looks like or who it might include. So does the rebooted Matrix still have a One program waiting to be activated? As in the above theory, the Neo fans know could truly be dead in The Matrix Resurrections, but instead of a predecessor, Keanu Reeves could be playing Neo’s successor. Given that the Matrix lore never established the names of the Ones, it could be that each is called Neo – a fact made easier to accept by the fact that Neo is of course an anagram of “one”. It would also make sense that in a Matrix where inhabitants are given the choice to leave, the One might take longer to become self-aware, accounting for the older-looking Neo in the upcoming sequel. Neo the Seventh – the same program, but without meaning or purpose in a world of peace.
Neo Is Secretly Immortal
In the original 1999 Matrix movie, Neo heals himself from Agent Smith’s bullet wound inside the Matrix, fulfilling the prophecy of The One and manifesting his fabled abilities. Logic suggests that when the entire power of the Source runs through Neo’s real body in The Matrix Revolutions, resurrection is no longer a possibility, but that’s not necessarily the case. Neo’s arc in the Matrix trilogy is an analog of Jesus Christ from Christian mythology – he dies, miraculously revives, and then sacrifices himself for the good of mankind. The Bible assures readers that Jesus will one day return to lead his followers towards salvation, and this could potentially reveal Neo’s role in The Matrix Resurrections. Just like Christ, Neo never exactly died, he simply went away until the appointed hour of his return. Or when Warner Bros. green-light a sequel, whichever comes sooner.
The Oracle Planned Everything In The Original Matrix Trilogy
Living up to her name, very little happens in the world of The Matrix without the Oracle knowing about it. It’s the mystic cookie baker who foresees that Trinity will be the game-changing element in forcing The One to take a different path. It’s even implied that the Oracle allows herself to be absorbed by Smith in order to create a threat big enough to concern the Machines into taking Neo’s truce offer seriously. In typically enigmatic fashion, the Oracle reveals in the dying moments of the Matrix trilogy that she believes Neo will one day return when he is needed. The Oracle’s final prediction could apply to any of the above theories, but it’s possible that, once again, she laid the foundations personally.
The Oracle is known for baking cookies in The Matrix, but in the computing world, cookies are small pieces of data saved onto a device. Knowing that a day would come when Neo would need to be returned from the dead for The Matrix Resurrections, was The Oracle literally saving little pieces of The One right in front of the audience’s eyes?
The Matrix Resurrections Retcons Neo’s Death
Many fans of the original The Matrix have often joked that the second and third movies do not exist. One hint from the studio suggests that those fans might be about to get their wish when it comes to the canon world of The Matrix. When Warner Bros. released the official synopsis for The Matrix Resurrections, one sentence suggested that the new movie might ignore the sequels, saying that the film was a “continuation of the story established in the first MATRIX film.” While this would allow The Matrix Resurrections to ignore Neo’s death, it ultimately seems more probably that this was just a strange choice of wording and not the solution to Neo’s resurrection given the previously mentioned trailer image that shows that Neo’s eyes are still damaged from The Matrix Revolutions.
More: Why Matrix 4 Is So Exciting (Despite The Bad Sequels)
The Matrix Resurrections (2021)Release date: Dec 22, 2021
Matrix 4 Theory: Young Morpheus Is A Program Designed To Trap The One
About The Author
(3024 Articles Published)
Craig first began contributing to Screen Rant in 2016, several years after graduating college, and has been ranting ever since, mostly to himself in a darkened room. Having previously written for various sports and music outlets, Craig’s interest soon turned to TV and film, where a steady upbringing of science fiction and comic books finally came into its own.
Craig has previously been published on sites such as Den of Geek, and after many coffee-drenched hours hunched over a laptop, part-time evening work eventually turned into a full-time career covering everything from the zombie apocalypse to the Starship Enterprise via the TARDIS.
Since joining the Screen Rant fold, Craig has been involved in breaking news stories and mildly controversial ranking lists, but now works predominantly as a features writer.
Jim Carrey is Craig’s top acting pick and favorite topics include superheroes, anime and the unrecognized genius of the High School Musical trilogy.
More From Craig Elvy