Neo (real name Thomas A. Anderson, also known as The One, The Anomaly, and Mr. Anderson) is a fictional character and the protagonist of The Matrix franchise, as well as having a cameo in The Animatrix short film Kid's Story. He was portrayed by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Trilogy and The Animatrix. Andrew Bowen provided Neo's voice in The Matrix: Path of Neo. In 2008, Neo was selected by Empire as the 16th Greatest Movie Character of All Time. Neo is also an anagram of One, a reference to his destiny of being The One who would bring peace.
Thomas A. Anderson was born on March 11, 1962 in Lower Downtown, Capital City, USA according to his criminal record seen in the film. His mother was Michelle McGahey (the name of the first film's art director) and his father was John Anderson. He attended Central West Junior High and Owen Patterson High (named after the film's production designer). In high school, he excelled at science, math and computer courses, and displayed an aptitude for English and History. Although he had disciplinary troubles when he was thirteen to fourteen years old, Anderson went on to become a respected member of the school community through his involvement in football and hockey.
At the start of the series, Thomas Anderson is one of billions of humans neurally connected to the Matrix, unaware that the world he lives in is a virtual reality. In his legitimate activities, he is a quiet programmer for the "respectable software company" Metacortex; but he is also a computer hacker who penetrates computer systems illicitly and steals information under his hacker alias "Neo". During his time as a hacker, Anderson has learned about something known only as "The Matrix". It is described by Morpheus as a vague notion that Neo has felt his whole life that "there is something wrong with the world".
During the years prior to the events of The Matrix, Anderson has spent his time trying to find the one man who he thought could tell him what the Matrix was: a supposed terrorist known only as Morpheus. Anderson is suddenly contacted by Morpheus via a cell phone mailed to his office, but is almost immediately captured by the virtual reality's Agents, led by Agent Smith. After refusing to co-operate with the agents, Neo has an electronic bug implanted within his Matrix-simulated body so that his actions can be tracked and those seeking to make contact from the free world can be traced and destroyed. He is then contacted by Trinity, freed from the bug, and taken to meet Morpheus.
Neo is offered a choice to remain in his everyday life and forget about the Matrix or to learn what the Matrix really is. Choosing to learn what the Matrix really is, he takes a drug (commonly called the "red pill") designed to disrupt his body's neural connection to the Matrix, and wakes up disoriented and alarmed to find himself weak, hairless, naked in a pod full of red liquid, and connected to many wires.
Neo is rescued in the real world and his body is healed of the effects of his atrophy suffered in the power plant. Once Neo regains consciousness and is able to walk around, Morpheus tells Neo the truth about the Matrix: that it is a simulated world to which humans are connected, and that humanity is used as a power source for giant intelligent machines. He also tells Neo about The One, a human with the power to manipulate The Matrix, who has been foretold to end the war between humans and machines, and says that he believes Neo is The One. The next day, Neo begins his "training", becoming knowledgeable in many forms of combat and ship operations by having various training programs uploaded directly into his brain. He also receives further instruction from Morpheus on subjects such as "freeing his mind" from the restrictions of the Matrix and the existence of its Agents.
After several days aboard the Nebuchadnezzar, Neo is taken to meet the Oracle, who has the power of foresight within the simulated world. She tells him that he has the "gift", but appeared to be waiting for something, and that in his present life he is not the one. The Oracle warns him that a situation will arise when he will have to choose between saving his own life or that of Morpheus.
On their way back to the hard line, which serves as the exit for "red pills" to leave The Matrix, the crew of Morpheus's ship is betrayed by Cypher, a "red pill" who seeks to return to the Matrix to escape the bleak, harsh life lived outside the Matrix. Morpheus is captured and held by Agents within the Matrix. Escaping death at the hands of Cypher, Neo and Trinity learn that the Agents seek to hack into Morpheus's brain, forcing him to tell them the access codes to the hidden rebel city Zion mainframe. After refusing to sacrifice Morpheus to prevent this, Neo decides to attack the building where he is being held. He and Trinity proceed to fight their way to the roof level of the building, where they are confronted by Agent Jones. Neo unloads two entire magazines of ammo on Jones only to see every one of them dodged effortlessly. When Jones returns fire, Neo proves capable of dodging bullets himself, fluidly moving in a way that only an agent was thought to be capable of. Jones is then shot by Trinity at point-blank range. Using an armed chopper, Neo and Trinity successfully rescue Morpheus. Having just completed a successful rescue mission in a building protected by heavily armed guards and agents, a feat never before achieved, Morpheus takes this as evidence confirming that Neo is indeed The One, dismissing the Oracle's words by saying that she merely told Neo what he needed to hear.
Reaching the hard line, Morpheus and Trinity return to the real world, but Neo is trapped by Agent Smith. Rather than run, Neo stands his ground and fights Smith. Neo skillfully engages Smith in combat, almost seeming to be Smith's equal. In the end Neo is beaten and held by Smith as a subway approaches, but at the last minute Neo is able to get free from the tracks and Smith gets hit. Smith, however, possesses the body of the conductor and emerges from the train and Neo, realizing that he cannot win this fight, runs from the subway station.
Pursued by Smith and his fellow Agents, Neo is able to evade them and reach the location of the hard line, just to be ambushed and fatally shot by Smith. Trinity, seeing Neo die in the real world while his mind is still in the Matrix, tells his evidently lifeless body that the Oracle had foretold that she would fall in love with The One. When kissed by Trinity, he comes back to life as The One; when the Agents try to kill him again, Neo causes their bullets to freeze in mid-air and drop to the ground. It is then shown that he is able to perceive, interpret, and alter the computer code of the Matrix. Fully believing in his newfound powers, he effortlessly fends off Agent Smith before forcing himself into the agent's body and destroying it from within, causing the other two agents to run away.
Neo is then seen leaving a message for the machines via phone, a warning that he plans to oppose the machines by freeing as many human minds as possible. He then hangs up and flies into the sky.
The Matrix Reloaded
Approximately six months between the events of the first film and The Matrix Reloaded, Neo is now fully confident in his ability to manipulate the artificial world within the Matrix. Not surprisingly, he no longer uses firearms and instead prefers martial arts. Dispensing with the long black trenchcoat and black shirt he wears at the conclusion of The Matrix, Neo now prefers a cassock with a high-rise mandarin collar. He and Trinity are now lovers. Neo seeks more advice from the Oracle, unsure of his purpose, while Zion prepares for a massive attack by the Machines from over 250,000 Sentinels – giant jellyfish-like machines. The Oracle directs him on a quest to find the Keymaker, a personified program that has access to numerous backdoors within the system. The Keymaker will be able to lead Neo safely to the Source, the programming heart of the machine world, which contains the programs sustaining the Matrix.
As the Oracle leaves, Agent Smith (now known simply as Smith) appears, and it is revealed that Neo had separated Smith from the rest of the Matrix code by shattering him, giving him a life independent of the machine's systems, and now the two of them share a "connection" to each other. Smith is no longer an Agent of the Matrix, but has become more virus-like, able to insert his code into other systems and infect other programs and human minds to make copies of himself. Neo fends off hundreds of these Smiths and escapes. Later, he, Morpheus, and Trinity steal the Keymaker from his keeper, The Merovingian. During this time, Neo stays behind to fight off the Merovingian's men and becomes separated from the others. He flies off to help them and only arrives in time to save Morpheus and the Keymaker from two agents crashing two semis together.
The Keymaker explains that two power stations elsewhere in the Matrix must be disabled in a short time window to successfully disable the security system of a building where the door to the Source will appear, allowing Neo to reach it. This task is accomplished; but the Keymaker is killed, a hovercraft is destroyed, and Trinity is put in jeopardy by Agents of the Matrix; a vision that Neo has seen earlier in his dreams. Entering the door, Neo finds himself confronted by the Architect, a program which created and designed The Matrix.
The Architect presents Neo with a radically different explanation of his origins and purpose, claiming that Neo is actually the sixth "One". He goes on to say that Zion has been destroyed by the machines five times before; faced with the dilemma of allowing humanity to be destroyed, or allowing the machines' preferred status quo to be reconstructed, Neo's five predecessors have helped reload, or restart the Matrix, before being allowed to rebuild Zion with a handful of freed humans. The productive output of the Matrix is based upon this repeated cycle of destruction and recreation, to keep the human minds which power it in a stable structure. The Oracle is as much part of that self-perpetuating design as the Architect, Neo is told, and the prophecy of The One is designed to ensure it runs smoothly each time.
The Architect warns of the annihilation of all human life in and out of the Matrix if he did not enter the Source door to reload the Matrix, but unlike his predecessors, Neo does not enter the door to the Source; he chooses not to believe the Architect's dire warnings of consequences, and to save Trinity instead. He saves her, just before she falls to the ground from the top floor of a power plant. However, as she was shot before she fell, she dies of her wounds. It is at this point that Neo displays the ability to heal/resurrect a person, as he reaches into her virtual body and restarts her heart.
Together, they exit the Matrix and return to the real world. Neo tells Morpheus that the Prophecy was merely another system of control, and that Zion's destruction is imminent. A group of Sentinels begin to converge on their hovercraft, so that Neo and the others are forced to abandon it and flee. Neo, realizing that he can now sense the sentinel, stays behind, and is able to deactivate the Sentinels by a hitherto unknown ability, to control objects while outside of the Matrix. The effort of doing so renders him unconscious.
He and the crew are rescued by the hovercraft Mjolnir/Hammer, the crew of which is dealing with a mystery in the form of Bane, a crew member from another ship, who is the only survivor of an ill-fated attack by the Zion fleet. Unbeknownst to anyone, Bane has become caught and infected by Smith.
The Matrix Revolutions
The Matrix Revolutions begins immediately after the events of the second movie. As a result of his struggle with the Sentinels, Neo returns to consciousness to finding himself caught in an isolated train station-like limbo only accessible by order of the Merovingian, from which his mind is unable to free itself. He remains trapped until freed by Trinity (assisted by Morpheus and Seraph), who threatens the Merovingian in a Mexican standoff unless Neo is freed.
Neo determines, through his new abilities of foresight, that in truth the Oracle's prophecy was correct in that The One was predetermined to return to the Source to stop the war. The Architect, however, altered the prophecy and forced Neo's predecessors to end their path with Zion's destruction and the reloading of the Matrix. After a final visit to the Oracle, Neo learns it is not the approaching Sentinels that he should fear, but Smith, whose clones are multiplying and threaten to destroy both the Matrix and the real world. Building on the Oracle's previous explanations about the nature of choice, Neo learns that the Architect's assertion that his choice to save Trinity would inherently lead to the extinction of humankind was incorrect, due to his nature as a purely mathematical being. Having told Neo that he now has the power to choose to end the war and defeat Smith, the Oracle then states "Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo". Neo must now go to the heavily-guarded Machine City in hopes of stopping the Sentinels and Smith. But soon after Neo leaves, hundreds of Smiths come and assimilate Seraph, Sati, and the Oracle.
Neo and Trinity are given the Logos, a hovercraft commanded by Morpheus's former lover, Niobe, in what seems to others as a suicidal journey to the Machine City. Meanwhile, Captain Roland and the Nebuchadnezzar's surviving crew of Link and Morpheus in the hovercraft Hammer/Mjolnir return to Zion, which is now besieged and losing to the Machines. Neo and Trinity are ambushed by the stowaway Bane/Smith, who blinds Neo, but is killed when Neo discovers an ability to 'see' programs and Machines independently of his eyesight. Neo, with Trinity as pilot, guide the Logos past the Machine City's defenses, but in the effort the Logos crash-lands, and Trinity sustains fatal injuries and dies.
Neo encounters the Deus Ex Machina, a Machine construct, and offers Smith's destruction in exchange for a truce. The offer is accepted; Neo enters the Matrix to find that the Smith program has copied itself throughout the simulated world, and has turned it into a rainswept dark simulation. One of the copies of Smith, having assimilated the Oracle, has become Neo's equal and therefore becomes his opponent. Neo baits Smith into assimilating him, which allows Neo to destroy all the Smith clones from the inside, the same way he defeated Smith in the first movie, but it is too much for Neo and he dies.
Neo's body is respectfully taken away by the Machines in the Machine City, while below in Zion, the Machines stop their attack and retire in deference to the peace that Neo bartered. Neo then dies, his primary code being inserted into the Matrix which allows it to reboot.
Although the fate of Neo was never truly revealed in the MMORPG sequel, The Matrix Online, his influence nevertheless had a strong impact on several key events throughout the game.
In the beginning, scattered code fragments of Neo's "RSI" (Residual Self Image) were found on the bodies of the impostor Agents who appeared across the Mega City during Chapter 1.1 (later revealed to be Sentinels under the command of The General program). When held, these fragments echoed some of the final thoughts of Neo inside the redpill's mind. Each of the three main post-war political organizations inside the Matrix realized the possible significance of these fragments and began fighting amongst themselves to gather as many as they could.
The Oracle reveals a secret society of exiles known only as the Shapers, who are the only ones able to bring the Fragments together in any significant way and that they must be protected from the impostor agents' corruption. The redpills' distrust and organizational differences prove too much for any strong unity, so that a Shaper fell into the captivity of the false agents. His power was used to encode some part of The One's being onto them, creating the powerful, pale-skinned "N30 Ag3nts".
In Chapter 1.2, Morpheus states that though the Machines never returned Neo's physical remains (Neo's body in the real world) to Zion, they did not "recycle" them: a reference to the first film, in which Morpheus tells Neo that the machines liquefy deceased occupants of the Matrix to provide organic sustenance for its living inhabitants. This would be the driving force behind Morpheus' descent into fanatical terrorism against the System in an attempt to force the Machines to reveal Neo's fate, ultimately leading to his assassination.
The subject of Neo then fell to the side lines for other struggles until the arrival of The Oligarchs in Chapter 9. The original intruder, Halborn, was notably intrigued by the life of The One and was personally shocked about the implications of Neo's ability to affect Machines outside of the simulation had on his search for what he called "The Biological Interface Program".
After Halborn's removal in Chapter 10, little more was questioned until the revelation of the Trinity project, originally headed by The Oracle, in Chapter 12. It was revealed that both Neo and Trinity were actually the culmination of decades of Machine research into translating human DNA perfectly into Machine code, allowing them to interface directly with technology without the need for simulated interfaces.
Powers and abilities
Neo has carried, since his inception, the Matrix's source code known as the Prime Program. This gives him the ability to freely manipulate the simulated reality of the Matrix, similar to the authority a system administrator has over a given system. He manifests these abilities as various superhuman powers.
The power Neo exhibits most often is telekinesis, in that he seems capable of manipulating any object in the Matrix through will alone. By focusing this ability upon himself he can fly at amazing speeds and jump great distances. Whilst his speed is never specified, he flies from the Merovingian's mountain manor to the highway "500 miles due south" in a very short time. His speed of flight is further exemplified by his ability to escape explosions, and the sonic boom left in his wake has the power to overturn rows of heavy vehicles. He has used this ability multiple times to stop several bullets in mid flight, first against the Agents and again against the Merovingian.
Further, Neo possesses superhuman strength and agility, and is invulnerable to many attacks. His reflexes are great enough to dodge bullets. Although he could block a sword with the edge of his hand, he received a small cut, indicating (as the Merovingian pointed out) that he was still human despite his powers. His endurance is also finite: when confronted by masses of Smith clones in the second film, Neo was forced to escape rather than continue fighting.
Neo was able to revive the recently deceased Trinity by gently applying pressure on the heart, and thus making it operational once again. Though the extent and limits of his ability to revive within the Matrix are not known.
A more subtle application of Neo's ability is a heightened awareness of the simulated nature of the Matrix, enabling him to easily detect Agents, Exiles, and other anomalous phenomena (such as the presence of explosives). He is even capable of a limited form of precognition. This has been described as "seeing the world without time" by the Oracle.
In addition, Neo (like most Red Pills) utilizes the Resistance's combat programs, which grant combat abilities equivalent to a martial artist with decades of experience. Neo is able to run an unprecedented number of these programs simultaneously; he is therefore a master of multiple martial arts and fighting styles, including Kung Fu and Kempo styles, Jujitsu, Karate, Eskrima, Drunken Boxing, and Taekwondo (the Nebuchadnezzar's ship operator Tank uploads each of these martial arts programs to Neo's brain during his training in the first movie). In training for the series, Keanu Reeves' fighting arsenal, as well as the entire cast's, emphasizes Wushu.
In the real world, Neo does not display any of the aforementioned abilities. Neo does have some degree of wireless connectivity with the Matrix system: he eventually learns to sense the presence of the Machines, and even interfere with their function. This capability overwhelms him at first after he disables a squad of sentinels, causing him to collapse and sends him to limbo without the equipment normally used by the Resistance. According to the Oracle, "The power of The One extends beyond [the Matrix]. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from". Apparently because of his status as The One, he has a direct connection to the Source, and can therefore affect everything connected to it. After he is blinded in the fight against Smith/Bane, Neo begins to perceive everything connected to the Source, including the Machine City itself, as silhouettes of golden light.