Does Neo’s hair in The Matrix 4 prove one of the biggest fan theories surrounding Keanu Reeves’ return? The Matrix trilogy might’ve finished on an upbeat note in 2003, but the open-ended, ambiguous nature of the story ensured a revival was always on the cards. The Matrix 4 is now in production, currently set for 2021, and will once again star Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss. These two leather coat veterans will join the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Jessica Henwick in a Lana Wachowski-directed adventure, the details of which remain a closely guarded secret at present, despite an abundance of theories.
Reeves has previously been spotted on the set of The Matrix 4 with his usual long-hair-and-beard combo – familiar to fans of John Wick, but less so for Matrix followers. Interestingly, however, more recent photos show a drastic change of appearance – Reeves has reverted to the clean-shaven buzzcut that Neo would sport while in the real world throughout the first three Matrix movies. Within the simulation, Thomas Anderson and Neo share a reasonable head of black hair, but after taking the red pill from Morpheus, Neo awakens completely bald from his pod, and his hair grows back steadily during his time in Zion. What can this new (old) hairstyle suggest about The Matrix 4‘s plot?
Curiously, Neo’s trim is more in-keeping with the original 1999 Matrix movie than 2003’s The Matrix Revolutions. By the final installment, Neo had grown his real-world locks to virtually the same length as his Matrix hair, but Reeves’ current style is the buzzcut Neo wore after being unplugged for the first time. This supports the popular theory that The Matrix 4 will feature elements of time travel. Even before the sequel was officially announced, reports claimed a Matrix time travel story was being concocted, and Yahya Abdul-Mateen is heavily rumored to be playing a younger Morpheus. Fans were already theorizing how The Matrix 4 could circumvent Neo’s death by plucking the character from the past, and Neo’s shaven head adds further weight to the idea, possibly indicating some Back to the Future Part II-esque interaction with the events of the first movie.
The hairstyle change also supports a conflicting theory – that Keanu Reeves is playing an entirely new version of The One, not the Neo fans know and love. During his conversation with the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded, Neo learns that the Matrix has been rebooted multiple times, with each version containing its own One program. Since the Matrix was rebooted at the end of the original trilogy, it’s possible that the current simulation has another “Thomas Anderson,” completely oblivious to the reality of the Matrix and his importance to the world. In The Matrix 4, Trinity would have to awaken this man, just as she did with Neo, and unplug him all over again, which would explain Reeves’ new buzzcut. The simulated avatar of Reeves’ new character looks like John Wick, but his physical body is as bald as everyone else’s. This fits with past on-set photos, which appeared to show Trinity “teaching” Neo about the limitless, unreal nature of the Matrix, as if Neo has no recollection of past events.
Unless it transpires that Keanu Reeves has actually finished The Matrix 4 filming and just fancied a cleaner look, the resemblance between these latest images and Neo in the 1999 Matrix movie is unlikely to be coincidental. The purpose of showing Neo dropping bald and naked in his pod is to liken him to a newborn. Neo’s life only truly begins after being unplugged from the Matrix, and this is represented by his clinical, hairless appearance at the start. Returning to this look in The Matrix 4 is no mere fashion choice, and could carry those same connotations, whether for a past version of Neo, or a completely new character.