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Here's Why We Didn't See Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus In The Matrix Resurrections

Characters can define a franchise. For "The Matrix," its legacy is built on memorable roles and actors that audiences love. Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne, is just one of those characters that has seemingly found its way into pop culture as much as it has film history. The Nebuchadnezzar captain and Neo's (Keanu Reeves) guide to all things real has been the subject of everything from parodies to best-of lists, and his impact is in no small part due to Fishburne's memorable performance. 

The fourth film, "The Matrix Resurrections," which was released in theaters and on HBO Max on December 22, seeks to add another chapter to franchise lore, as themes explored in the previous three films are as prominent as ever. Once again, Neo is given the choice to confront perceptions of reality vs. illusion — but it's not without a surprising subtraction to the cast list. While Reeves' Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity are both back for the thrilling film, Fishburne is notably missing. It's an absence that has many fans questioning what happened, but the actual reason may be far less complicated than the many theories accompanying this definitive film series.

A creative change signaled a new path for Morpheus

Speculation was rampant after the first announcements come out concerning "The Matrix Resurrections." One element that seemed to be a no-brainer was the return of the series' best-known characters. After all, Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus are commonly associated with all things "The Matrix," but some of the storylines and twists of the third film didn't exactly make it easy for them to return.

As anticipation built for the project, it fell on Fishburne to tamp down expectations. The actor quickly put rumors of his return in "The Matrix Resurrections" to rest. "I have not been asked to join them, which is fine," he told Entertainment Tonight, continuing by saying, "I am hopeful that it will be wonderful and it will satisfy audiences and that people will love it."

Reasons why he isn't returning point to a creative change for the character, but the actor thinks that the ultimate answer lies with "The Matrix" co-creator Lana Wachowski. "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," Fishburne said during a Collider interview.

The actor behind Morpheus' new incarnation

Much like its name suggests, "The Matrix Resurrections" attempts to bring back what is seemingly lost. The film swerves through the usual tropes to move its main characters in an unconventional direction. This different take requires a new perspective for Morpheus, and director Lana Wachowski went with actor Yahya Abdul-Mateen II to do just that. He's currently a very in-demand performer, also earning acclaim for playing the role of Black Manta in DC's "Aquaman" films.

Taking over for a well-known and influential actor such as Laurence Fishburne proved to be no easy task. Abdul-Mateen II came to the project well aware of what Fishburne did for this powerful role, and it was a subject that he reflected on while speaking to Entertainment Weekly. "Laurence already did what had to be done," the actor said. "I think what the script provided was a new narrative and some new opportunities that did make room within the Matrix universe for a new Morpheus." Well, it's now up to fans to decide if Abdul-Mateen II does the character of Morpheus justice.