Turns out, he wasn’t lying. The first trailer for Matrix 4 (now officially known as The Matrix Resurrections) arrived on September 9, and Fishburne’s Morpheus is notably absent — though a different bald Black man played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II appears to have taken his place.
But what happened to the original Morpheus? Hopefully, Matrix Resurrections will have the answer, but we may already know it thanks to a little-remembered Matrix video game that did the unthinkable back in 2015: it killed Morpheus.
Why Morpheus isn’t in Matrix 4
In 2005, a few years after the film trilogy ended with Matrix Revolutions, Warner Interactive released The Matrix Online, a massive multiplayer online role playing game that picked up where the movies left off. In the game, players learn that after Neo’s death, the robots and humans broker a deal in which people can freely leave the Matrix — but only if they knew it wasn’t the real-world in the first place.
This causes problems after the robots refuse to return Neo’s body to the humans, which leads Morpheus to start setting off “code bombs” in the Matrix that reveal the truth about the simulated world. Of course, the robots don’t like that so they send a freaky assassin after Morpheus.
Long story short: just a few months after Matrix Online was released, the game killed Morpheus in a major event that almost no one remembers anymore.
Is The Matrix Online canon?
Good question! The truth is, we have no idea. The game wasn’t particularly popular, and it was shut down a few years later in 2009 due to a lack of interest. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not canon. The Wachowski’s were involved in Matrix Online’s development early on, and there’s a high chance they essentially pulled the trigger to kill Morpheus. So, at the very least, Resurrections director Lana Wachowski is likely aware that according to this mid-2000s game, Morpheus is dead.
Of course, it’s also completely up to Wachowski and her co-writers to decide what’s canon and what’s not. And considering that Neo and Trinity also died in The Matrix Revolutions, it’s not like death is permanent in this world, right?
Matrix Online and the plot of Matrix 4
Assuming Matrix Online is canon, it could reveal a few things about this upcoming movie. For one, if peace has been brokered between humans and robots, that means the stakes of Resurrections could be totally different. Are the robots reneging on their deal? Are the humans continuing Morpheus’ campaign to free every last person? With the war between man and machine ostensibly cooled, we could be seeing more of a Cold War scenario where violence only occurs within the Matrix itself while the opposing sides scheme and negotiate in the real world.
Additionally, one of the biggest changes in Matrix Online was the reveal that red-pilled humans could now die in the Matrix without dying in the real world. This was a helpful mechanic for a video game, but it could be a total game-changer for Resurrections. (Side-note: the bullets that killed Morpheus were specially encrypted “kill codes,” which is why his death was permanent.)
So if Matrix Online still counts, that means the rules of the Matrix are about to be very different from the movies you remember. Then again, maybe not. Maybe Lawrence Fishburne really is in the movie and he’s just lying to us. In the Matrix, anything is possible.
The Matrix Resurrections premieres on December 22, 2021.