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The Matrix 4 Theory That's Blowing Our Minds

Audiences are about to re-enter the Matrix, 18 years after the machine war and the apparent deaths of leading characters Neo and Trinity. Yet, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, the stars who played them, are currently shooting the Matrix 4. Among fans, that news has raised just as many questions as theories about the still unknown plot of the game-changing series' next installment. While there's been speculation about everything from retcons to time jumps, one Reddit user has not one, but two convincing theories about how a world where anything is possible brings its famous leads back.

A fourth film in The Matrix series starring Reeves and Moss was a move many believed inconceivable considering The Matrix Revolutions' ending. Yes, the film's final moments see the "mother" of the Matrix, Oracle, and its "father" figure, the Architect, alluding to a future where peace is possible, thanks to Neo. Both also agreed it was not everlasting, leaving the door open for another chapter in The Matrix universe. It just didn't seem narratively likely that said chapter would involve Neo and Trinity. When the war between humans and machines ended, so did the lives of the film's leading characters.

Trinity died from injuries sustained during a hovercraft crash. Meanwhile, Neo's death came from a peace deal made in exchange for stopping Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), a policing program-turned-virus which the Matrix could no longer control. As part of Neo's sacrifice, he re-entered the Matrix to be intentionally absorbed by Smith, allowing him to destroy the virus from within. That was seemingly the end for him, even if it wasn't the end for the Matrix itself. But Reddit user u/dinguschungus thinks the answer — or answers — lie directly in the conditions of Reeves' and Moss's returns (via Fatherly).

Could The Matrix 4 be a prequel?

Amid our current cinematic ecosystem of perpetual prequels, sequels, and spin-offs, fans have gotten quite familiar with the various ways studio franchises reset themselves to allow for more movies. So familiar, in fact, that many see things like retconning as unimaginative and lazy. While our intrepid Redditor's theories don't completely shirk tropes, they do offer a believable and compelling way for Reeves and Moss to return. Most importantly, they do it by asking audiences to build on previously established canon, instead of ignoring it. 

The Matrix Revolutions reveals that this isn't the first time Neo has tried to save the human race. In fact, he's the sixth incarnation of the One to appear, with five others attempting to bring down the Matrix's other stable versions. Knowing that the Matrix can reboot — and that the One continuously comes back, as evidenced by the Architect's TV screens — the Redditor proposes that a retcon of Trinity and Neo's deaths is not necessary. The fourth film only needs to lean into its digital universe and cyclical timeline.

Instead of creating new people every time it begins again, the theory speculates that the Matrix just reproduces the same group of people it initially enslaved, physically and digitally. This opens the door for a story focusing on an older Neo and Trinity who are among those alive prior to the First Machine War, but aren't necessarily the people we already now. A story about the "original" human versions of both characters could account for them not only being alive and having aged, but could also lay the groundwork for the first Matrix film. This pre-Neo and Trinity may get close to stopping the machines, but they'll ultimately fail, and it will be the job of a future (digitally and physically cloned) Neo to end the wars.

Could the Matrix 4 explore earlier simulations?

That theory creates a parallel of sorts between human life and machine programming, both of which would be perpetually "re-birthed" within the Matrix until they are exiled — or freed — from its illusions and control. But it's not the only theory our Redditor has to explain why Reeves and Moss are back. While the first assumes that the fourth chapter in the Matrix universe is a prequel that exists outside of the simulation, the second throws audiences back into the digital world. Instead of starting with the "Adam and Eve" of Neos and Trinitys — another element of the Redditor's speculation that leans into the previous film's universe by way of Christian symbolism — this theory argues that Matrix 4 could follow a previous or different incarnation of Trinity and Neo.

As the Oracle and Architect both acknowledged, it's entirely possible to see the same people within the Matrix again. Reeves and Moss could embody one of the five failed fights against the machines, before they eventually take on the Architect and Neo makes his "choice." This would let audiences explore the Matrix's various incarnations, as well as the universe's time structure, from a different angle.

While the details around the plot of The Matrix 4 are still hidden in the code, both of these theories present exciting ways audiences could re-enter the cinematic simulation when it hits theaters on May 21, 2021.