The Matrix 4 should see Neo and Trinity pass the torch to a new generation of characters who perform martial arts in long leather coats. After years of incessant speculation, it was finally revealed back in August that a fourth Matrix movie was in the works but, somewhat surprisingly given that most were expecting a reboot of some kind, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss were confirmed to be reprising their roles as Neo and Trinity, respectively. With franchise co-creator Lana Wachowski in the director's chair, the prospect of plugging back into the Matrix has generated plenty of excitement.
And yet the prospect of The Matrix 4 almost 20 years after the previous installment remains a curious one. The return of Reeves and Moss suggests a stronger connection to the original trilogy than might've been predicted and also allows The Matrix 4 to play into the nostalgia factor more heavily than a straight-up reboot. The implication, therefore, is that The Matrix 4 will be a direct follow-up to The Matrix Revolutions, but Warner Bros.' intentions for the franchise remain unclear. Is The Matrix 4 a standalone venture designed to atone for the wrongs of the previous two sequels, or are the studio envisioning a whole new trilogy?
While there is clearly a nostalgic appeal to seeing Neo don his shades and do kung fu once again, particularly in this era of Keanu Reeves online adoration, it's very unlike Lana Wachowski to look backwards instead of forwards. Both Wachowski siblings are renowned for their progressive approach to filmmaking and the prospect of The Matrix 4 just rattling through the greatest hits once last time seems remote.
A more probable outcome is that The Matrix 4 will make an effort to course-correct the franchise after the previous two movies solicited a mostly negative response. Particularly in the case of Trinity, whose death was a low point for The Matrix Revolutions, there are several repairs The Matrix 4 needs to make, whatever the future of the franchise may be, and a few unanswered questions that need to be explored, such as the fate of the real world and the circumstances of Neo's return.
But again, this approach is unlikely to result in a fulfilling cinematic experience. The Terminator franchise perfectly demonstrates the perils that come with releasing movies designed to correct the errors of past installments, and each release has only dug a deeper hole for the T-800. The Matrix 4 could fall into a similar trap if it spends too much time trying to undo its predecessors. Even as a straight sequel, The Matrix 4 doesn't feel like an enticing proposition. Like them or not, both Neo and Trinity's arcs end conclusively with the original trilogy. The very reason Trinity is killed off is because she no longer serves a purpose. What can a fourth film do with these characters that continues their story without feeling contrived?
The solution is to have Neo and Trinity's returns act as a passing of the torch to a new generation of cast members that can take the franchise into the future in bold new ways. After saving all of mankind at the end of the original trilogy, what other purpose does Neo have to serve other than to take on the Morpheus role and nurture a new version of The One that can continue Neo's work, or face down a brand new villain? Similarly, what would be the point in resurrecting Trinity in The Matrix 4 just to have her cheer from the sidelines again and then die a second time, albeit perhaps in a less insulting manner?
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II was recently confirmed for a lead role in The Matrix 4, and while there's no hint regarding his character, the casting does at least confirm the presence of leads that aren't taken from the original trilogy. Furthermore, rumors suggest that Warner Bros. are already planning a fifth film. If The Matrix's return to theaters is intended to last in the long-term, The Matrix 4 should focus on Reeves and Moss handing the reins over to new protagonists - potentially the one set to be played by Abdul-Mateen. This would be a softer transition for fans than an immediate reboot, but still ensure that The Matrix 4 retains the franchise's sense of cutting-edge newness, rather than simply recycling old storylines.
In a sense, this would mirror the trick employed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens when J. J. Abrams was tasked with bringing that famed franchise to a brand new audience. The older, original cast were drafted in for familiarity but, ultimately, they were only present to pass the focus over to the new grouping of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. The Matrix 4 could benefit greatly from similar tactics.