Covering the lore established in all four movies and a wealth of ancillary material that ties into it, here is The Matrix timeline explained. While the bulk of The Matrix‘s main events occur in The Matrix 1-4, the exposition given on the big screen is only a proverbial drop in the bucket compared to the conflicts that preceded the story. The Matrix explains various periods of time leading up to the events of the first film, including the infamous Machine Wars. That being said, little is revealed in the trilogy about this time period, despite The Matrix‘s events relying heavily on the past.
The Matrix timeline before the trilogy and The Matrix: Resurrections is mainly revealed in the animated special The Animatrix. This special, which can be watched in a variety of places, chronicles the all-important events in the timeline leading up to the first film. Without The Animatrix, The Matrix timeline becomes downright confusing, as before its advent, people were forced to piece together various bits of information revealed throughout the films. Various The Matrix villains have appeared over the timeline, from the Analyst, to the Architect, to Agent Smith, with much of their creation not being tied to a specific point in history. Here is The Matrix timeline explained and how each movie and its events fit into it.
The Second Renaissance [2090-2139]
While there is no set beginning to The Matrix timeline seeing Neo’s evolution into the One, it is best to trace back to a point before the simulated world of the matrix came into existence. Referred to as the Second Renaissance, this era spanned between 2090 and 2139, a time period that harkened machine prosperity and human decadence. The events that transpired during the Second Renaissance led to the eventual subjugation of the human race, which was triggered when the Machines turned against their makers after years of persecution.
After several bouts of robot massacres in The Matrix timeline and the trial of B1-66ER, who had killed its master in an apparent act of self-defense, tensions between the factions grew and led to the creation of the machine city, 01. 01 brought about the beginning of the end, as the mass production of cheap, high-quality goods within the city led to the devaluation of the human currency, and eventual economic breakdown. What ensued was later dubbed as The First Machine War, a long-standing global conflict between humanity and the Machines, which took place during the mid-22nd century, between 2139 and 2199.
The First Machine War & Operation Dark Storm [2139-2199]
The emergence of 01 in The Matrix timeline brought about revenue for the Machines, allowing them to produce highly advanced artificial intelligence that could be integrated within global consumer constructs and society as a whole. Ultimately, 01’s supremacy brought about the utter collapse of global nations and their economies, spurring an emergency economic summit by the United Nations Security Council. Although the Machines offered the humans the chance to integrate contributing members to solve the economic crisis, the U.N. delegators rejected this offer and violently attacked the Machine ambassadors.
This drastic measure was further exacerbated by the decision to bomb 01 in The Matrix timeline, however, the nuclear assault failed to annihilate the machine race. This was due to the fact that their inorganic structures rendered them resistant to radiation, or any form of electromagnetic heat. This triggered the Machines’ agenda to annihilate most of mankind, birthing the first Machine War. In response, the U.N. came up with a final solution, namely Operation Dark Storm, which was a mission to block out the sun’s rays from Earth’s path to plunge the world into darkness and bring an end to the war.
However, this decision had wide-ranging repercussions for humanity, as the absence of sunlight inevitably led to the death of all vegetation and phytoplankton, along with universal crop failure. While the Machines were affected to a considerable extent as a result of Operation Dark Storm, they soon started to create and deploy legions of new machine models, which were neither dependent on solar energy, nor assumed humanoid forms – the precursor of the Sentinels seen throughout The Matrix Trilogy.
Armed with these new weapons in The Matrix timeline, the Machines saw themselves turning the tide of the war in their favor, and quickly began experimentation on human prisoners of war. A startling revelation ensued, wherein it was discovered that the machines could exploit bioelectricity, thermal, and kinetic energies from the human body, and harvest them for their own means. This is referenced directly in The Matrix when Neo is shown escaping his harvest pod, and the fact that countless humans were rescued by Zion operatives through the years.
Machine Domination & The Birth of The Matrix [2200 – Undefined]
Soon after, the Machines succeeded in enslaving all of humanity in The Matrix timeline, going as far as to create synthetic humans for the purposes of energy harvesting. In order to keep the humans under a false lull of comfort and security, the Machine-program named the Architect created a simulated reality meant to imprison humanity in an endless loop. Although the first few renditions of the matrix were deemed critical failures due to the many algorithmic errors and glitches that crept in, the Architect was able to create a stable matrix on the third or fourth try. The key ingredient to creating a sustainable and incident-free matrix was to grant humans the illusion of free will, which allowed them to be manipulated by the Machines in a much more effective manner.
The Matrix Trilogy: The Resistance, Zion, & The Rise and Fall of Neo [2200-2703]
The introduction of choice in The Matrix timeline, or by extension, free will was brought about by the Oracle, along with the concept of the One, or the Prime Program. In order to combat the marginal instability brought about by the simulated world, a chosen one was birthed within the matrix with the source code embedded within them. This directly led to the creation of the Prophecy, which Morpheus believes is about the rise of the One, who will lead humanity towards a new world and true freedom. As the death of the One is integral to the functioning of the matrix, and the various times it “reloads” successfully, there are several versions of the One before Neo, as explained by the Architect himself in The Matrix Reloaded.
Just like Neo was offered a choice in The Matrix timeline, every rendition of the One is offered a choice between saving humanity by reloading the matrix or saving 23 humans to create a new Zion, or remain within the matrix until death. On the other hand, there were a small percentage of humans who rejected the program altogether, who in turn, formed the guerilla resistance in Zion, with the mission to free more humans from the matrix. However, these free humans are unaware of the fact that they are not the first ones to have claimed freedom, as they are not privy to the Machines’ plan of the matrix being reloaded sporadically.
It is the presence of Neo, the sixth One in The Matrix timeline, which breaks this endless cycle, as he chooses to save Trinity instead of returning the Prime Program. Instead of allowing Zion to be destroyed, Neo ventures into the Machine world, and offers a truce between the two factions in exchange for stopping yet another growing threat to the Machines — Agent Smith. After Smith is destroyed, Neo sacrifices himself in order to save both the real world and the matrix, which finally marked the end of the Machine war.
The End of Neo’s Truce & The Second Machine War [2704 – Undefined]
Fearing the inevitable end of Neo’s truce, either due to a continued distrust of the Machines or the possibility of a new threat, the city of Zion began to make preparations to abandon their home and build a new home unknown to the Machines. However, the new location is soon discovered by a group of Cypherites in The Matrix timeline, who are disciples of Cypher. The new city is destroyed and the Architect is alerted about the situation. Hence, the truce came to an end and the Second Machine War began. Although the aftermath of Neo’s truce is not part of the canonical trilogy, it is unfolded in considerable detail in The Matrix Online.
The Return Of Neo [Unknown]
The Matrix: Resurrections saw the return of Neo, however, The Matrix timeline, in this case, becomes complicated. Both Neo and Trinity are restored by the Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), but this time placed in the Anomaleum, complete with new identities after their memories are wiped clean. Neo comes back as videogame developer Thomas Anderson (who created a videogame known as The Matrix) and Trinity comes back as a wife and mother named Tiffany. Since their bond is what created dangerous repercussions for the Machines, rather than individually, the only place the two are allowed to see each other is at a coffee shop.
Bugs (Jessica Henwick) discovers that Neo is alive, and is able to extract Morpheus to help hunt Neo down. He is extracted from the Matrix and travels to a new city called Io after it’s been revealed that Zion has been destroyed. An elderly Niobe tells Neo that sixty years have passed in the human world since his sacrifice, but the exodus of humans leaving the Matrix caused a power shortage, leaving Machines to fight over limited resources. An attempt to free Trinity from the Matrix sees Neo regain his abilities as he fights with a new and improved Agent Smith (Jonathan Groff). However, Neo/Thomas Anderson’s therapist appears, revealing he is The Analyst, a program meant to study the human psyche.
The Analyst explains that manipulating Neo helps the Matrix produce more energy, and that his code anomaly is due to his connection with Trinity. In the meantime, Sati (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) develops a plan to free Trinity. Neo makes a deal with the Analyst, saying that he will agree to return to his pod if he cannot convince Trinity to leave the Matrix. After Neo speaks with Trinity, she is freed of her identity as Tiffany, and the Analyst, realizing he’s lost, tries to kill them. In a shocking twist, Agent Smith attacks the Analyst for his own perceived imprisonment and lack of autonomy. Trinity finds she has control over the Matrix, and she and Neo return to thank the Analyst for resurrecting them, as they promise to rebuild The Matrix as they think it should be.
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