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Matrix 4: What happened to Laurence Fishburne and who's the new Morpheus?

The Matrix 4: Morpheus isn't Laurence Fishburne anymore
(Image credit: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow)

The Matrix 4 (The Matrix: Resurrections) arrives nearly 20 years after “The Matrix: Revolutions” hit theaters (going to the movies, what a concept), and fans of the iconic sci-fi action series such as myself are strapped up for a return to the digital (un)reality. And we were met with a surprise.

Those who couldn’t wait for Thursday’s “The Matrix: Resurrections” trailer were not disappointed. Sure enough, Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss had reprised their roles as Neo and Trinity. And then about 70 seconds into the trailer, a character who seemingly represented Morpheus appeared, but it wasn’t the Morpheus we remembered.

Laurence Fishburne apparently doesn't know why he's not in The Matrix 4

Fishburne, who played Morpheus in the first three Matrix movies, confirmed earlier this year that he wouldn’t be back in this upcoming installment. The actor, when asked about the questions he got, told Collider "It would make sense that people would ask me that, so it doesn’t get old. I am not in the next ‘Matrix’ movie, and you’d have to ask Lana Wachowski why, because I don’t have an answer for that."

Don't think that the new Morpheus is a younger version, Keanu Reeves told The One Show" that the film isn't going to be rewinding things back, stating "No, no. No going in the past."

And so we hope that Lana Wachowski some day explains why Fishburne isn't in The Matrix 4.

Who is the new Morpheus? 

And then actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, the man who looks like Morpheus in the trailer, took to social media to clarify things (at least on his end). The below Instagram post, a photo of him with two guns criss-crossed, one firing, is captioned "MORPHEUS ⁣#TheMatrixMovie" to make sure we all know that the role has definitely been passed on.

You may recognize Abdul-Mateen II from such films as Aquaman and the 2021 version of Candyman. He's proven his acting and action chops in those movies. But this still doesn't seem right.

Analysis: What The Matrix 4 loses without Fishburne 

Some online sites have offered a canonical suggestion as to why he’s missing, but the fact that we’re asking why when it comes to the Morpheus we know and love is ironic. The first Matrix movie presented us with a series of existential questions, and essentially is an existential crisis. Who guides us through that crisis? Fishburne. “All I’m offering is the truth,” he famously says.

The first thing this presumed incarnation of Morpheus said in Thursday’s trailer was, “Time to fly.” It seemed promising, especially when we saw Neo choose the red pill over the blue pill in the next frame. But much in the way that this character, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, wore compelling, but casual-fitting attire, he just didn’t fill the suit.

Fishburne’s Morpheus didn’t become Neo’s peer until much later in the initial series. He spent much more of that time being a guide and a sage. When I think of Morpheus and flying, I think about the role that the Nebuchadnezzar hovercraft played in not only Neo’s liberation, but the liberation of Zion. I think about Morpheus’ faith in Neo, and how it never wavered, even when Neo expressed doubt in their first action-packed office sequence, nor did Morpheus delay to save “The One” when they were ambushed in Cypher’s trap.

The Matrix 4: Morpheus isn't Laurence Fishburne anymore

(Image credit: Warner Bros./Village Roadshow)

The nearly 3-minute trailer also revisited the sparring session between (the new) Morpheus and Neo, and while the back-and-forth might have suggested that Neo as we knew him may be a little different, the clips of the “fight” that we saw were unquestionably one-sided. I’ll just say it like this – the Morpheus I know wouldn’t have allowed Neo to pull a “super move” on him that thrashed the whole dojo. And this Morpheus doesn't sound like the sage we knew.

While we were all figuring out what the hell was going on in the first movie, it was Fishburne giving us (and Neo) perspective, saying:

The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Even with Fishburne absent, that quote still rings in our ears when we watch The Matrix 4's trailer when we see a group of people in an elevator, with everyone except Neo (and the overlords above) were enamored and entrapped in their phones. And I think that will be my solace as the series transitions without Fishburne. Even though he’s not in the movie, the ideology and wisdom that Fishburne gave voice to will continue to endure. We just hope that this Morpheus is still the wise man the original was.

Ken Makin

Ken J. Makin is a tech and entertainment writer for Tom’s Guide, and has nearly 20 years of experience as a journalist. He’s an avid podcaster and freelancer for various sites, including ESPN’s The Undefeated and The Christian Science Monitor. When he’s not podding or writing, Ken is likely spending time with his wife and children.