It’s been nearly 20 years since we last entered The Matrix, with Revolutions bringing to a divisive close one of the most iconic and influential action series of all time… or so we thought. On December 22, audiences will be jacked right back into the post-apocalyptic, tech-forward world of kung-fu revolutionaries raging against the machines.
With Keanu Reeves set to return to the fight alongside original mastermind Lana Wachowski, things have been kept pretty hush-hush since the project was announced in summer of 2019. That's par for the course for a franchise whose mystique has half the charm since it debuted in 1999, changing the cinematic landscape with its sleek digital-noir design and bullet-time action sequences.
Here's everything we know so far about The Matrix 4.
When will The Matrix 4 release?
While originally slated for April of 2022, last year the release date was bumped up to December 22, 2021. The news came as a surprise, both because it revealed how far along the project was, but also because it came with the revelation that Matrix 4 — like all Warner Bros. properties this year — would debut on HBO Max the same day as its theatrical premiere. While there has been some speculation that HBO Max could backtrack on the release model now that theaters are open, so far it's held fast that The Matrix will be viewable at home upon release.
What is The Matrix 4 about?
Like the secret world of machine-domination and human batteries introduced in the original film, details about The Matrix 4 are extremely hazy and shrouded in layers of secrecy. However, a recent tweet from an anonymous Twitter user claiming to have seen the film says the long-gestating follow-up will be titled The Matrix: Resurrections.
While any test-screening "leaks" should be taken with a grain of salt, the title does make sense. When we last plugged into The Matrix, Reeves' prophetic "Chosen One" was extremely dead, striking a Christlike pose for good measure after defeating Hugo Weaving's destructive Agent Smith and granting salvation to both mankind and the machines that enslaved it. Carrie Anne-Moss's Trinity, meanwhile, had also been slain before the big melee. Both characters are set to return for the film, lending credence to the Resurrections title (and all the Biblical imagery that precedes the movie).
Further down the rabbit hole, rumored plot points are many, but most point to a film that takes place some time after Neo brokered peace and sacrificed himself to achieve balance between the humans and the machines. Given the frahcnise's roots, it's safe to say that a new Chosen One will emerge once a new threat arises.
There is no word on whether the events of The Matrix Online — the popular online game that immersed players in the film's world from 2005-2009 — will inform the new movie, though the game did deal with the aftermath of the third film's climactic sacrifice. Unlike other games based on the property, it was not written or supervised by the Wachowskis.
Who is returning for The Matrix 4
Reeves and Moss are the topline stars rising from the dead to headline the film, though whether it will be as flesh-and-blood versions of themselves or new programs based on their personalities remains to be seen.
Jada Pinkett Smith's Niobe — a character who appeared briefly in the sequels but factored heavily into the game's video game spinoffs — will return alongside Lambert Wilson as French information-trafficking program The Merovingian and Daniel Bernhardt as the villainous Agent Johnson.
Lana Wachowski is back on board to direct and co-write, this time without her co-creator sibling Lily Wachowski.
Just as interesting as the returning actors is the fact that two of the original series' stars are not returning. Hugo Weaving reportedly declined to don his iconic black suit and sunglasses once again as Agent Smith, while Laurence Fishburne — whose Morpheus is one of the original series' most memorable characters, and the lone survivor of the first-billed cast — was not asked back, saying in an interview with ReelBlend, "I’m not involved. The only thing I can tell you is that Lana Wachowski can answer those questions for you better than I can."
All is not lost: Fishburne will still re-join Reeves in the upcoming John Wick 4.
Who is joining the cast?
While some fans are preemptively upset by casting omissions, the new roster of actors is generating enough excitement to all but guaranteed most will take the red pill.
Christina Ricci was recently announced as a co-star, joining Neil Patrick Harris, Jonathan Groff, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Ellen Hollman.
The new face with the most buzz is Watchmen and Candyman rising star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who many are speculating is playing an old face: Morpheus. While it's unsubstantiated at this point, online rumors and fan theories suspect that Abdul-Mateen will be playing a program based on the character — or star as the sage-like mystic's younger self in flashbacks to the uprising against the machine. Reeves, however, put an end to any time-travel theories, telling IndieWire there's "no going into the past."
The cast also includes a meaty role for Jessica Yu Li Henwick, who previously appeared in Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Netflix defunct Marvel series Iron Fist and The Defenders. Though her role, like the whole film, is still a mystery, she recently told Empire that her action scenes required the type of intense training the original trilogy was famous for: "I haven’t seen a cut of the film, so I don’t know what’s in it and what isn’t, but I trained every day for months."
The Matrix 4 debuts December 22 in theaters and on HBO Max. Rumors, theories and speculation are scheduled to bombard the internet daily up until that point