Agent Smith was the central antagonist of the Matrix trilogy, but he may not appear in The Matrix 4, which could focus instead on the larger Machine threat. Beginning with 1999's The Matrix, the series depicts a dystopian future in which an awoken subset of humanity, subsisting in the underground city of Zion, contends with the rule of world-dominating artificial intelligence, which keeps the rest of the population sedated by a computer simulation called the Matrix in order to harvest energy from them. Agent Smith, as portrayed by Hugo Weaving, has become an iconic example of the soulless, calculating Machine faction, despite the fact that his character was far from being a typical Agent.
The Machines control most of the physical world, and their capital of 01, or the Machine City, can be glimpsed when Neo goes to seek the Deus Ex Machina entity. Agents, however, functioned specifically within the virtual reality of the Matrix. Smith began as one of countless such programs, enforcing the will of the Machines and addressing anomalies, until his (first) destruction at the hands of Neo irrevocably altered him. As a revenant computer virus, Smith grew to be a threat to both the humans and the Machines and was the main motivator for a tenuous truce between the two sides which Neo brokers at the close of The Matrix Revolutions.
While Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss will return as Neo and Trinity, respectively, Hugo Weaving won't appear in The Matrix 4 due to a scheduling conflict with a theatrical role. Director-writer Lana Wachowski has suggested that Smith was initially an integral element of the upcoming film's story, so there has been speculation that another actor, namely Jonathan Groff, might be portraying an alternate aspect of the character. However, if Weaving's unavailability results in a significant rewrite, Smith's absence could have the felicitous benefit of allowing for a greater focus on the Machines and the other Agents in particular, who he came to be so distinct from.
Following Smith's revival, he becomes in many ways Neo's counterpart, and a great deal of significance is given to their parallels as rogue manifestations of previously stable systems. Although this was necessary for the mythic gravitas that underpinned the Wachowskis' ambitions, such narrowed focus had the consequence of making the other Agents of the Matrix not only less defined but less impactful, and while the former may have been an intentional choice, as the Agents were meant to be representations of a faceless force, it left the specific and considerable threat that the Machines as a whole posed to humanity feeling less tangible, all while the story's concepts and themes became more grandiosely abstract, contributing to the somewhat unmoored feeling of the sequels.
It is unclear what place the Agents will have in the new paradigm that Neo created with his sacrifice at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, but some vestige of the old guard will evidently still be present after a fashion, as actor Daniel Bernhardt reprises his role as Agent Johnson from The Matrix Reloaded. Beyond the Agents that have already been shown in the trilogy, a larger, slightly more detailed culture of the Machines of the Matrix has been explored in other media, such as The Animatrix, and it could also be interesting to bring more of this to the feature film, fleshing out the world past the reach of the original trilogy. Even if Smith is brought back in some way, The Matrix 4 would still necessarily be taking a new approach to the character, and hopefully, one that allows for a fuller picture of the malignant ecosystem that makes the Machines so menacing.
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