The Matrix Reloaded ending saw Neo destroy sentinels in the real world, and exactly how he did that was never explained in any real way. The sequel to the 1999's ground-breaking sci-fi movie not only expanded on the mythos and explored profound questions about free will, but it also gave Neo new powers outside the Matrix - something no one thought possible. Because of that, Neo was able to protect his friends when their ship was coming under attack.

Towards the end of the sequel, after rushing to save Trinity, Neo wakes up aboard the Nebuchadnezzar and senses sentinels approaching to attack. Although the ship was ultimately destroyed, the crew managed to escape as Neo disabled the machines with his mind. The effort, however, puts him in a coma. The Matrix had previously established that characters needed to be physically plugged into the Matrix to access it, but Neo’s powers proved otherwise, since those were believed to be the result of him being The One. But by blurring the lines between reality and simulation, The Matrix Reloaded left the door open to Zion simply being another part of the Matrix. This would explain Neo’s control over the sentinels – just as he can could bullets inside the Matrix, he would be able to force the machines to obey him by manipulating their code.

The idea that Neo never left the Matrix gained a lot of traction at the time and is still a popular theory to this day, but it negates far too many elements from the trilogy in order to be considered factual. However, there's a much more conclusive reason for Neo's new powers at teh eend of the sequel. After reaching the Source of the Matrix and finding the Architect, Neo learned he wasn't the first Chosen One. The previous versions were given the same choice he did: reboot the Matrix and save humanity or risk the lives of everyone connected to the simulation by breaking the cycle of control. Neo, compelled by love, chose to save Trinity even if it meant the destruction of Zion. He was the first One to pick that option, and in doing so, he effectively upgraded himself.

The moment Neo left the Source, he became something entirely new. By reaching, essentially, the mainframe of the Matrix, he gained unprecedented access to the overall system. His mind became connected to the Machine City’s network, and after that, he didn't need to be physically plugged into the simulation to communicate with the sentinels anymore. The connection between Neo and the machines was wireless, so to speak, which was why he could “see” them even after being blinded in The Matrix Revolutions.

Considering the Matrix to be part of a greater machine network – a wireless hive mind – Neo’s abilities don’t seem as far-fetched. His new “system admin” privileges allowed him to control sentinels and forced them to shut down even outside the Matrix. However, the sci-fi trilogy is famous for placing more importance on philosophical questions and themes over the logistics of its plot. So it could very well be that Neo's powers were simply a result of his Christ-like role in The Matrix Reloaded.

The Matrix 4 (2021)
Release Date: May 21, 2021