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The Matrix Trilogy Ending Explained: Neo’s Sacrifice And New Reboot

The Matrix Trilogy is one of the most complex and layered stories in film history, rife with hidden symbolism and open to endless speculation, and the ending of the franchise is no different. The Matrix follows the adventures of Neo, a young hacker who discovers that his reality is actually a simulation controlled by a species of sentient machines, with humanity embroiled in a desperate war for their freedom. After finding out that he can manipulate the internal coding of the Matrix for his own purposes, Neo discovers that he’s actually “The One,” a prophesied messiah destined to save humanity and end the war.

Unique and inventive at the time of its release in 1999, The Matrix franchise will return once again in the highly anticipated The Matrix Resurrections. While plot details remain scant, Lana Wachowski’s solo fourth Matrix installment will seemingly bring franchise favorites Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) back from beyond the veil to once again traverse the simulation. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II’s portrayal footage of a young Morpheus is also making waves ahead of The Matrix Resurrections release, with speculation rife as to how a younger incarnation of the Zion hero is possible.

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The ending of The Matrix Revolutions has been surrounded by intense debate and speculation to this day. In it, Neo sacrifices himself, along with the help of the machines, in order to defeat Agent Smith and save the Matrix one last time. The logistics of this sacrifice, as well as the perceived meaning in a saga so heavily defined by religious symbolism, have been disputed for years since the film’s release. While the meaning of Neo’s sacrifice may not have been bow-tied and handed to the general audience, there’s certainly more than enough evidence in the franchise to provide an explanation for Revolutions ending, as well as the consequences it may have on The Matrix 4.

Why Neo Had To Die In The Matrix Revolutions

In the climax of The Matrix cycle, Neo is seemingly killed after an intense fight with Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith, a program created by the machines to police and control the Matrix. However Trinity’s love revives Neo and he, in essence, conquers death, embracing his newfound skills as the prophesied hero and defeating Agent Smith with ease. While it appears that Smith dies in a brilliant explosion of light, Neo discovers in The Matrix Reloaded that Smith has also been reborn with the ability to assimilate programs currently residing in the Matrix. This is a huge problem inadvertently created by Neo, with his defeat of Smith in the first film imprinting part of Neo’s being onto the Agent which grants him a set of Matrix-warping abilities.

In The Matrix Revolutions, Smith‘s abilities are pushed to their limit as he assimilates more and more victims, including Seraph and, inevitably, The Oracle. The film’s penultimate scene sees Neo to jack into the Matrix one last time, where he and Agent Smith engage in a cataclysmic battle. Neo quickly realizes that he and Smith are evenly matched, and he allows Smith to assimilate him. It’s here that Neo’s Christ parallels come full circle, as he sacrifices himself by instructing the machines to surge his body with energy in the real world. While this causes the desired effect and defeats Smith, Neo’s death also causes a total continuity reboot of the Matrix. This recalibration at the climax of the movie implies that there will be a lasting era of peace, one in which humans will be able to choose to leave the Matrix if they so desire that is seemingly akin to biblical ideals of faith.

Related: The Matrix 4: How Agent Smith Can Return In The Sequel

What The Architect And The Oracle’s Fight Was Really About

MBTI Personality Types Of The Matrix Characters

At the climax of The Matrix Reloaded, after being told by The Oracle that he must find “The Source” of the Matrix in order to save humanity, Neo makes it to a room that he believes is a pathway to The Source. While technically correct, Neo receives a shock when he steps inside and meets The Architect, a collectivist program created by the machines to design and shepherd the Matrix program. There, Neo discovers that “The One” is merely a coding anomaly within the Matrix, and that he is one of seven previous abnormalities within the simulation.

Neo also discovers the true purpose of his destiny, namely that each version of The One has been presented with a choice: become one with The Source and choose a handful of humans from the Matrix to repopulate Zion for the seventh reboot, or return to the Matrix, which will inevitably suffer a system-wide crash that kills every human still connected to the simulation. Each of the previous versions of The One chose to return to the Source and reboot the system; however, Neo’s love for Trinity continues to manifest as an unpredictable variation in the anomaly, causing Neo to choose to return to the Matrix and forge his own path.

As The Oracle is a program just like The Architect, the assumption becomes that both see a similar plane of reality. However, since The Oracle was created as a human-intuitive program designed to understand humanity, she doesn’t see the world in the same black-and-white binary as The Architect does. This is the crux of their conflict: The Architect, by nature of his existence as the creator of the Matrix, believes in the inevitability and the rigorous structure of choice. The Oracle, on the other hand, understands the nuance of human behavior as a result of being so close to them, and urges Neo to choose his own path, advice that becomes integral in Neo’s success at the end of The Matrix Revolutions.

Who Was The Little Girl With The Oracle

The inclusion of Sati in The Matrix Revolutions was one that confounded a lot of people upon the movie’s release, with the film offering little in the way of straightforward answers regarding her importance. However, there’s a lot of key dialogue and interactions with other people throughout the franchise that contextualizes who she is, as well her importance. Firstly, when Sati appears at the beginning of The Matrix Revolutions, it’s during Neo’s forced imprisonment in Mobil (an anagram for Limbo) Ave., the plane of reality between the Matrix and the Machine City. After meeting the little girl, she introduces Neo to Rama Kandra and Kamala, Sati’s parents as well as two programs trying to smuggle her into the Matrix through a deal with The Merovingian.

Related: How The Matrix 4 Can Redefine Sci-Fi Movies (Again)

Since Sati is a program without a purpose, she’s marked for deletion. When Neo asks the two parents why they want to save her so desperately, they respond by telling Neo that they love her, or rather that they feel a strong connection to her that they define as love. They successfully get her to The Oracle, which takes her in due to the belief that she will be an extremely important component of the future for both humans and machines alike. She and The Oracle are both assimilated by Smith halfway through the film, but after the Matrix is rebooted at the end, the two of them are seen resurrected and sitting on a bench together.

In keeping with the Buddhist symbolism in the movie, Sati’s Matrix replacement name translates to “mindfulness” in Pali. Buddhist practices are primarily used to gain wisdom and awareness of the world, something that, according to Buddhist teachings, alleviates suffering – the ultimate goal of Buddhism. Sati in The Matrix Revolutions, therefore, represents the profound effect that Neo’s presence has on the rest of the system. Since Neo is the first incarnation of The One to experience an intimate love for a singular human being, this emotion begins to ripple outwards and change the very nature of the programs within the Matrix. Sati’s unique blend of emotion and programming, therefore, provides an indication that we may see more creations like her in the future of the Matrix borne from Neo’s transcendent sacrifice.

What’s Next For The Matrix And Freed Humans?

While the setting after The Matrix Revolutions ends with a tentative peace established between the humans and the machines, there’s evidence to suggest that this may not always be the case. During their meeting at the end of the movie, when asked by The Architect whether or not she believes the peace that Neo died for will last, The Oracle responds with “for as long as it can,” indicating that she herself is uncertain whether or not the new status quo can be maintained. That may certainly be the case, as not everyone in Zion believed in the prophecy of The One, so Neo’s sacrifice might not do much to sway those who are already committed to a hatred of the machines.

The Matrix Online, a licensed MMORPG that the Wachowski Sisters have previously confirmed as canon, already gave fans a semi-cynical continuation of the ending of The Matrix franchise. While the peace between humanity and the machines does initially last, several militant and extremist organizations sprout up in the aftermath of Neo’s sacrifice. Some of them, such as the E Pluribus Neo faction, demand that all humans be released from the Matrix into the real world, sometimes forcibly. On the other hand, the Cypherites believe that humanity should be reinserted into the Matrix to maintain a blissfully ignorant status quo. In the midst of these conflicts come the appearance of new Agents, militant rebels from both the machines and the humans, as well as the ever-constant scheming of The Merovingian.

Related: Every Matrix Actor In The John Wick Movies

How Neo Can Return In The Matrix 4

Even though the Wachowskis confirmed in 2004 that The Matrix Online was a canon continuation of the story, whether or not it’s retconned by The Matrix Resurrections imminent release remains to be seen. Due to the fact that both Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves have both been confirmed to return, signs seemingly point to The Matrix Online being quietly decanonized, as the first major story arc of the game involves several different factions rushing to collect leftover fragments of Neo’s “residual self-image.”

As it stands, several major theories abound as to how Neo could potentially return in The Matrix 4. Since The One is part of The Source, and because the machines never return Neo’s body back to Zion, there’s a possibility that Neo could once again return, this time as part of the physical manifestation of The Source. There’s also the idea that Neo didn’t exactly die at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, and that he merely transcended the physical plane in the same way that he transcended the regulations of the Matrix at the end of the first film.

Currently, the most popular theory regarding Neo’s return is that The Matrix Resurrections could Neo him mentoring the next incarnation of The One in the pre-established seventh cycle of the Matrix. In a similar way to how Morpheus exposes Neo to the truth of reality in the first Matrix installment, Morpheus and Neo could switch roles, with the latter taking on a similar position for a new generation of leads in the next movie. The confirmation of a young Morpheus in the latest Matrix Resurrections does little to dissuade the burgeoning possibility that in this next cycle of the Matrix, Morpheus, not Neo, could be The One incarnate.

What The Matrix Trilogy Was Really About

Above all else, the true intent and meaning of The Matrix franchise is to impart the inherent value of free will among sentient life. In the first movie, Thomas Anderson (aka Neo) discovers that his entire life has simply been the simulation of decision-making; all of his choices have been made for him by machines. 1999’s The Matrix ends with him rejecting this outcome and choosing to accept his destiny as The One, which he believes allows him to forge his own path. However, The Matrix Reloaded ultimately subverts this belief, as Neo once again discovers that his destiny is not his own: The Prophecy of The One is merely a role that the machines designed.

Related: The Matrix Cast: Actors Who Almost Played The Main Characters

The Matrix Revolutions, in turn, rejects The Architect character’s theory of a binary choice and has Neo forge his own destiny, one in which he saves everyone by piously willing a third option into existence. The franchise presents The One as a Christ-like messianic figure, and it may seem like Neo’s sacrifice at the end of the final film brings him full circle as the ultimate Jesus parallel. However, Neo’s arc is defined more accurately as a combination of Christ’s allegory coupled with Buddhist teachings. While he does sacrifice himself for humanity in a method similar to Christ, unlike Jesus, the nature of his sacrifice is not a predestined plan that he resigns himself to. Through Neo’s sacrifice, he transcends the idea of predestination and the two “lesser evils” told to him as The One by The Architect, ultimately saving the world by simply choosing to.

This is a decision that creates massive repercussions for the rest of the world. The machines, forced to exist in a binary “evil” connotation, are allowed to forge a tentative peace with humanity, while humans are given the freedom to leave the Matrix for the first time in over 100 years. In this way, the Matrix canon establishes that even programs have started to experience a tentative form of freedom, evidenced by Sati’s existence. Neo’s sacrifice breaks the shackles of an arbitrary concept of “purpose” and allows everyone to finally experience free will, establishing a new status quo for The Matrix franchise.

More: The Matrix Movies, Ranked Worst To Best

  • The Matrix Resurrections (2021)Release date: Dec 22, 2021


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About The Author

Chrishaun Baker
(172 Articles Published)

Chrishaun Baker is a Feature Writer for Screen Rant, with a host of interests ranging from horror movies to video games to superhero films. A graduate of Western Carolina University, he spends his time reading comic books and genre fiction, directing short films, writing screenplays, and getting increasingly frustrated at the state of film discourse in 2020. You can find him discussing movies on Letterboxd or working up a migraine over American politics on Twitter.

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