There have been a ton of sightings of a shaggy-haired, bearded Keanu Reeves sauntering around the Matrix 4 film set in downtown San Francisco over the past several days and, when he’s not doing that, stopping to pose for selfies with fans. The 55-year-old actor certainly looks a good bit older than his trenchcoat and black glasses-clad younger self we saw in the original three Matrix movies, the first of which debuted way back in 1999.
So far, though, a lot of the attention around the set has focused on all the wild explosions and other special effects that people are seeing unfold right in front of them. They are then dutifully sharing them on Twitter and Facebook. Meantime, major details about the Matrix 4 plot haven’t leaked yet, despite the crew not really making an effort to hide the filming. That said, people are starting to put two-and-two together and, in light of how Keanu looks when he’s been spotted on set (in all his shaggy glory), it has sparked some mind-blowing fan theorizing: What if Keanu won’t actually be portraying Neo this time around?
The thinking goes that Keanu won’t be playing Neo in The Matrix 4 … he’ll actually be playing Mr. Anderson, the office cubicle drone and quasi-real-world human we met at the beginning of the original Matrix. He’s the one who got pulled out of what he thought was the real-world and was groomed to fulfill his destiny of being “The One” who could jack into the Matrix and destroy the machines.
But wait … if Neo sacrificed himself/dies at the end of the third movie, doesn’t that mean his real-world counterpart died as well? Yes, because Morpheus told him at one point why it’s the case that if you die in the Matrix you die in real life: “The body cannot live without the mind.” So how do you reconcile this?
One way is by making The Matrix 4 a prequel. Alternatively, the destruction of the matrix in the third movie could also present us with an entirely rebooted world and rebooted matrix, one in which the same humans keep reappearing. Like our friendly Mr. Anderson.
Reddit, meanwhile, has lit up in recent days with a couple of new twists on basically this same idea: “Instead of creating new people, as we’ve all assumed, it’s possible that the matrix system has been simply creating repeats of the people it originally enslaved in a way similar to how it repeated (and tweaked, admittedly) the timeline.
Maybe this Matrix movie doesn’t take place within the matrix at all and, instead, focuses on the original Neo and Trinity and their involvement pre-human vs machine war. This storyline would work because it would canonize the idea of individual people being repeated throughout the matrix system, would allow for Neo and Trinity to be alive, and it could account for the jump upwards in age from the first three movies (if Neo was in his mid 30s in 1999 and the human-machine war began in the early 2000s then it would make perfect sense for the movie to take place around now, maybe this possible original Neo survived for a while before being enslaved).
The footnote for this theory is that it would also make for a tragic end to the whole thing. Because, “no matter how close Neo and Trinity get to winning,” the theory goes, “the fact that they are born into the Matrix years later (AKA in the original movies) proves that they lose. No matter what they do, they’re going to lose.”
The other half of this thread plays around a bit with the same thing I was thinking. There’s also a chance, it reasons, that this movie introduces us to older Neo and Trinity because their human counterparts grew to middle-age before finding out about the matrix in some sort of reboot of the whole thing. Definitely an intriguing idea that could “allow us to explore these characters + the matrix in a brand new light.”
Unfortunately, we’ve got another year to go till we can see how all this shakes out. This latest installment in the Matrix franchise is set to hit theaters on May 21, 2021.