I would still like to see a Matrix trilogy.
Yes, the Wachowskis made three movies with the word “Matrix” in their titles, but no one who loves The Matrix is satisfied with the sequels. They weren’t really sequels so much as a weird sort of meta-fan fiction. They didn’t continue any of the themes of the first movie and they didn’t really continue the story. They told a different (much less interesting) story that looked like the original but had a completely different core.
I am not interested in the rumored reboot–The Matrix is a near perfect film that should be left alone–and I wouldn’t trust anyone to try finishing the trilogy at this point. But, in an alternate universe where a real trilogy was made…
The Matrix II picks up right where the first left off, with Neo rocketing into the sky and people on the ground looking up in awe, wondering if what they see could possibly be real.
Neo is invincible within the Matrix, and the Machines know it, so they don’t try to actually fight him there. At first Neo feels like he’s already won, but he gradually comes to the realization that, even though he can kill Agents easily and work all manner of spoon-bendy miracles, the Machines still have the upper hand. They have all of humanity as hostages, and they have the ultimate propaganda tools to keep their slaves loyal to them. Neo struggles with how to actually use his power to save mankind, and mankind factions over whether or not to accept the One’s revelations as truth or continue to believe in the “the real world.”
And, of course, Neo is still vulnerable in the (real) real world, and the Machines are hunting him down.
Without Neo really planning to do so (but not discouraging it either) the One becomes a Messianic figure. Morpheus and others from Zion become the One’s apostles, explaining to the residents of the Matrix about the real world, about the oppressive Machines, and promising that the One will free them if they have faith in him. A significant minority embrace this new religion, but the majority reject it and rally around the Machines, who pretend to be a benevolent human government, promising to protect “our way of life” from the threat of the One and his malevolent cultists. The Machines also produce false prophets and false messiahs to discourage the people from hearing and believing the One’s message.
Zion has no ability to extract the millions of believers, so they are obliged to remain in the Matrix despite their having rejected it. This tests their faith, and some fall away, reasoning if the One were legitimate, he could take them to the real world now.
The existence of so many believers begins to affect the Matrix. The minds of skeptical people are more observant and therefore more difficult to deceive. Now that many people are looking for flaws in the Matrix, the system becomes strained, overloaded. Glitches become more noticeable and more frequent. This is a problem the Machines must solve.
The Machines cannot simply unplug all of the believers because they need the believers for power, and also because doing so would confirm the One’s claims about the Matrix. But they can’t let the One’s religion spread either. So the Machines begin a campaign of intense persecution against the believers. Neo cannot save them from this. Despite his great power, he can still only be in one place at a time, and he has no hope of protecting everyone.
To save the believers, Neo must somehow free them and also evacuate them from the power plants all at the same time. This seems impossible, because Zion cannot access the power plants, because they do not have the ability to unplug people en masse, and because unplugging such a large number of people will crash the Matrix and kill everyone before they are fully out. The Machines gloat that, despite all his power, the One still cannot save humanity. Even a godlike human is ultimately irrelevant.
The second movie ends with the One ascending into the clouds, promising that he will come again, and that when he does he will bring salvation for all who believe in him. (This is mostly a bluff: Neo does not know how he can save anyone, and he fears that his promise to the believers is hollow.)
The Matrix III is set mostly in the real world and is more or less a quest story. Neo discovers why he is the One, and he discovers that the source of his power in the Matrix is a unique ability that was previously unrecognized: Neo can unplug from the Matrix without using a “phone.” He can, in fact, enter and leave the Matrix at will, without even needing a physical connection. It is discovered that he can transfer this ability to other people… but at the cost of being able to use it himself.
Trinity codes a new kind of red pill, and Neo’s apostles in the Matrix begin distributing red pills to the believers. These pills are a program that allows anyone who takes one to receive Neo’s unplug ability. But the Machines are able to detect this program and recognize those who have integrated it, and they begin targeting anyone who has taken a red pill. The Machines’ persecution of the believers intensifies into an all-out war.
Just as the Machines are about to overwhelm the believers and apostles, Neo returns to the Matrix and destroys their army. He battles his way into the Matrix’s virtual control center while the forces of Zion battle into its real-world analog. Once there, Neo distributes his unplug ability to all of the redpills. Then, in the real world, Morpheus pushes a big red movie button and unplugs everyone from the Matrix at the same time.
Deprived of power, the Machines die. All of the unbelievers who did not accept a red pill are unplugged “hard” and die along with them. Neo, having given up his ability to the redpills, suffers the same fate. All of the believers who took the red pills wake up in their pods in the power plants, opening their eyes for the first time.
With the Machines dead, the people of Zion can access the power plants and rescue the believers. They begin collecting them from their pods and setting up shelters for them on the Earth’s surface.
Trinity watches as humanity is “born again.” In a shot that mimics the Pietà, she cradles the body of Neo, the god-man who sacrificed himself to save humanity from its prison of delusion and bring them to the real world.
A ray of sunlight pierces the clouds.