The Matrix 4 is officially happening, and despite Neo's death at the end of The Matrix Trilogy, there are a few ways Keanu Reeves can return for the new sequel. Reeves is confirmed to be coming back for The Matrix 4, alongside Carrie-Anne Moss, who reprises her role as Trinity. Laurence Fishburne doesn't appear to have any involvement at this stage, with reports suggesting a younger actor will be cast as Morpheus, while Lana Wachowski will direct and co-write.
The Matrix was released back in 1999, introducing audiences to Reeves' Neo, believed to be the prophecized savior called The One. Two sequels followed in 2003, although neither of them was as well-received as the groundbreaking first movie, with things coming to an end with The Matrix Revolutions. There has since been talk and rumors at various points over a potential Matrix reboot, sequel, or spin-off, and now we're definitely getting The Matrix 4.
The Matrix 4 is expected to enter production in 2020, and while it'll continue the story of Neo, the big question is just how it's going to do that. Neo was dead by the end of The Matrix Trilogy, so how will they bring him back for the new sequel?
How Neo Died In The Matrix Revolutions
With The Matrix Revolutions rounding out The Matrix Trilogy, it wasn't much of a surprise that it culminated in the death of Neo: this was his journey as The One (regardless of whether it was genuine or something manufactured), so it had to have a sense of finality for the character, and him saving the world but dying in the process was about as fitting a conclusion as possible for such a figure of salvation. Except, of course, that this is The Matrix, so it's not quite that simple.
The Matrix Revolutions brings to a head the rivalry between Agent Smith and Neo, with the two engaging in one last, epic duel, albeit one that has no end in sight since they're so equally matched, until Neo realizes that the only way in which Smith can be defeated is if both of them are. He allows Smith to assimilate him, but when Smith sends an energy surge into him, it backfires. Because Neo was connected to the Source, and had already made the decision to be deleted, that then deletes Smith and all of his clones.
In the real world, Neo succumbs to his injuries and dies, although it's a little less clear what happens in the Matrix itself. Neo is carried by the Machines to Machine City, which further paints him as a Christ-like figure, although rather than his ascension, what we're seeing is seemingly his transcendence beyond the physical form. With the Buddhist symbolism at his end, we can surmise he has moved on to a fully enlightened state, but the door is left open for a return: it isn't clear whether his consciousness has gone or not, but the Oracle does tell Sati she expects to see Neo again, which may come true in The Matrix 4.
Neo Already Died Once
The Matrix Revolutions might've been the final death of Neo - until he returns in The Matrix 4, at least - but it wasn't the first time he died. In The Matrix, Trinity and Neo enter the Matrix in order to save Morpheus, with Neo having prepared to sacrifice himself in order to do so. Morpheus and Trinity make it back out of the Matrix alive, but Neo is ambushed and killed by Agent Smith before he can leave, thus marking the first time Neo died in The Matrix Trilogy.
He was able to be brought back then thanks to Trinity. She declares her love for him, revealing that the Oracle had told her she would fall in love with The One. She then kisses him, and because of her love she is able to bring him back to life. As with his death in The Matrix Revolutions, this isn't just killing him off, but another example of his progression: it's with his return that he is able to fully become The One and gain the powers that come with it. It stands to reason, then, that death is no barrier to Neo being around in The Matrix 4; he has died and been resurrected, and then died and transcended. Following the Christ-like pattern, then it has always been foretold that one day Christ will return again. Neo is just beating him to it.
There Were Previous Ones - Were They Also Keanu Reeves?
In The Matrix Reloaded, Neo meets the Architect, the creator of the Matrix who explains that it is now in its sixth iteration. The Architect informs Neo that there were five stable versions previously - and two failed ones - and that in each of them, there was always an anomaly in the code: a.k.a. The One. Neo comes to believe that the Oracle's prophecy was simply a means of controlling The One, leading them to the Source and making a choice that will destroy part of Zion and leave only a select number of survivors for the new cycle.
Neo is the sixth incarnation of The One, but what we don't know is who the first five Ones were. Has The One taken on many different appearances, or do they always look like Keanu Reeves? A younger version of Morpheus is reportedly being cast for The Matrix 4, so that suggests we're going to be seeing a different version of the Matrix to that in the first three films. It's plausible that we could be seeing a different One, who just so happens to look like Reeves again. Similarly, if we're going to be seeing the 7th cycle of the Matrix, which is what begins to form at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, then again there'd be a new One, who could again take the form of Keanu Reeves. At the same time, because Neo's body died but mind didn't necessarily do so, then it might mean another way of the real Neo returning.
Were Neo & Trinity Cached In The Matrix?
It isn't just Keanu Reeves returning for The Matrix 4, but also Carrie-Anne Moss. And while there's an issue with Neo being dead, there's arguably an even bigger hurdle for Moss to overcome, since Trinity was also killed, but without the same sort of transcendence achieved by Neo in the end. So not only does The Matrix 4 need to have a satisfying explanation for Neo's return, it also needs to find one that fits with Trinity's too. Luckily, the Matrix itself might well hold the key to that.
One of the core ideas of The Matrix Trilogy was the separation of body and mind, subscribing to Descartes' idea of dualism while at the same time aiming to progress beyond that by leaving the body behind altogether, which is what happens with Neo at the end of The Matrix Revolutions. Many works of science-fiction have focused on the idea of uploading your consciousness into a machine and being able to live on beyond your physical form, and it's entirely possible that both Neo and Trinity do still exist somewhere with the Matrix, and can be transferred back into new physical bodies (explaining why they've since aged), and thus appear in The Matrix 4 despite their respective deaths.