Here's Why Morpheus Looks Different In The Matrix Resurrections

"It's the question that drives us. It's the question that brought you here."

"What is the Matrix?"

And why does Morpheus look different in "The Matrix Resurrections?"

With his pince-nez glasses, black trench coat, and measured diction, Laurence Fishburne made an indelible impression as Morpheus in "The Matrix" in 1999. Fishburne went on to reprise his iconic role in the 2003 sequels "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," and he and his co-star, Keanu Reeves, have since reunited in the "John Wick" film series. However, Fishburne is one of several principal cast and crew members from "The Matrix" trilogy who haven't returned for the newly released fourth movie, "The Matrix Resurrections."

Others have explained their reasons for not returning. Hugo Weaving, who played the original Agent Smith, had to back out due to a scheduling conflict. Lilly Wachowski, who co-directed the first three films with her sister, Lana Wachowski, said that she found the idea of revisiting her past work "expressly unappealing." Fishburne, on the other hand, has said he wasn't invited back. "You'd have to ask Lana Wachowski why," he told Collider, "because I don't have an answer for that."

Fishburne is 60 now, so it's possible that the sheer physicality of the Morpheus role may have been a factor in the recasting. Reeves is 57, however, and he's right there onscreen in "The Matrix Resurrections," saying, "I still know kung fu" and practicing it with the new Morpheus, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (who is 35).

Whatever behind-the-scenes reasons there might be for Wachowski recasting Morpheus, "The Matrix Resurrections" and the broader canon of "The Matrix" franchise also reveal some narrative reasons why she may have decided to go this route. Spoilers for "The Matrix Resurrections" below.

Morpheus Is Dead, Long Live Morpheus

The video game "The Matrix Online" — which was considered a canonical part of "The Matrix" saga and still appears to be so — actually killed off the character of Morpheus back in the mid-2000s. The decision to discard the messianic narrative of Neo (Reeves) as the One had already somewhat deflated the character of Morpheus, since his whole thing was that he believed in the Prophecy of the One, "a man born inside the Matrix who could remake it as he saw fit."

"The Matrix Reloaded" confronted Neo and Morpheus with the harsh truth that the Prophecy was merely another "system of control" implemented by the Matrix. There had been others who held the title of "The One" before Neo; he was part of a cycle that kept resetting itself without most of humanity ever being freed from its enslavement to the Matrix. At the end of that movie, Morpheus — who takes his name from the Greek god of dreams — was left saying, "I dreamed a dream ... but now that dream is gone from me."

If you've seen "The Matrix Resurrections," you'll know that Abdul-Mateen's Morpheus is a digital construct, programmed by Neo in his guise as a game designer. Neo mixed some of his old nemesis, Agent Smith, into this construct, which is why Morpheus first shows up looking like an Agent and spouting Smith's old lines. He soon explains to Bug (Jessica Henwick) how he had his mind unlocked in front of the bathroom mirror. Even though he's an artificial intelligence, he's still self-aware — much like this very meta "Matrix" movie.

For more on the new Morpheus, check out our spoiler review of "The Matrix Resurrections," which is in theaters and on HBO Max now.