The official trailer for “The Matrix Resurrections” is jam-packed with footage of Keanu Reeves’ Neo, Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity, and gravity-defying action scenes, but what’s missing is driving the most conversation. That would be Morpheus, the freedom fighter played by Laurence Fishburne in the original “Matrix” trilogy. But is he missing? Fishburne is not confirmed to star in “Resurrections,” but rumors have persisted for months that a younger version of his character is featured. The casting of “Watchmen” Emmy winner Yahya Abdul-Mateen II only fueled speculation, and now the trailer is designed to bait fans even more by visually presenting the actor as a younger Morpheus without confirming any details.
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II shows up in “The Matrix Resurrections” trailer wearing Morpheus’ trademark black sunglasses. That his character is holding up a blue pill and a red pill so that Neo can decide which path he wants to take only connects Abdul-Mateen II more directly to Fishburne’s character, who served the exact same plot function in the original “Matrix.” The new “Matrix” also includes a scene in a dojo where Abdul-Mateen II and Reeves fight, mirroring an identical (and iconic) sequence in the original.
The theories around Abdul-Mateen II playing young Morpheus have been unavoidable in the lead up to the film’s trailer release, so it doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Warner Bros.’ marketing team is leaning in so heavily into one of the biggest question marks about “Resurrections.” Abdul-Mateen II is never called Morpheus, but the footage he’s featured in directly ties back to Fishburne’s character. In other words, Warner Bros. just guaranteed itself several more months of theories and speculation.
Abdul-Mateen II has repeatedly turned down talking about the specifics of his “Resurrections” role in interviews, but he did post a photo of himself from the trailer shortly after its release with the caption “Morpheus.” Part of the reason fans had been convinced about young Morpheus appearing in the film is because Warner Bros. allegedly always wanted to revive “The Matrix” franchise centered on a young version of Fishburne’s action hero. Long before the studio confirmed “The Matrix 4” with Reeves, Moss, and Lana Wachowski all returning, rumors circulated that Michael B. Jordan would be playing young Morpheus in a new “Matrix” movie.
Reeves mentioned in a previous interview that there would be “no going into the past” in the fourth “Matrix” movie, which seemed to downplay rumors about a young Morpheus factoring into the plot. But just because the movie doesn’t travel into the past didn’t mean a character from the past can’t arrive in the film’s present timeline.
Fishburne himself has gone on record saying he is not involved with “Resurrections.” The actor revealed to Vulture last summer that he was not invited back to play the character in the new sequel. Fishburne added, “Maybe that will make me write another play. I’m looking for the blessing in that. I wish them well. I hope it’s great.”
Fishburne doubled down on his well-wishes for “The Matrix 4” team in an August 2020 interview with Entertainment Tonight. Even if “The Matrix 4” is bringing Morpheus back via Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Fishburne said he hadn’t been told any details, adding, “I have not been asked to join them. I am hopeful that it will be wonderful and it will satisfy audiences and that people will love it.”
More recently, Fishburne told Collider he was at peace with the decision not to have him return. When asked if he was tired of being asked “Matrix 4” questions, the actor responded, “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.”
There’s always a chance Fishburne is fibbing and that he does eventually show up in “The Matrix Resurrections,” which a certain section of the fandom is surely hoping for. Some outlets, including IGN, have pointed to the canonical video game The Matrix Online MMORPG to explain Fishburne’s absence, as it was revealed in the game that Morpheus died after the events of “The Matrix Revolutions.” All will be revealed when “Resurrections” opens in theaters and HBO Max starting December 22.