After several teases and bits of viral marketing, Warner Bros. has released, the long-awaited return of the sci-fi franchise from . Ever since the film’s production began in 2020, there’s been a lot of speculation among fans as to what the fourth film will be about, and how characters like Neo and Trinity will return after the conclusion of The Matrix Revolutions.
The new movie shows some exciting action sequences while also displaying nostalgic callbacks to the original 1999 film. However, the online discourse for The Matrix Resurrections took a surprising turn when hardcore fans of the series brought up the fate of Morpheus in the franchise’ forgotten spinoff game, The Matrix Online, and how that could tie into the next film.
As it turns out, Morpheus actor Laurence Fishburne is so far confirmed not to be in the film. In the trailer, we see a slate of new characters, played by franchise newcomers Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff and Neil Patrick Harris. However, one actor of note is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, who has a striking similarity to Morpheus in his appearance and role as the one to guide Keanu Reeves’ character to the truth about the “real world.”
All right, this is where things get a little strange, so if you’re worried about spoilers for The Matrix Revolutions and The Matrix Online — and how that could tie into the new film — tread carefully from here.
As it stands, the current discourse happening online is about whether the events of The Matrix Online still has a place in the larger lore of the franchise, regardless of how much it has aged and how it’s a mostly-forgotten spin-off of the films. Considering that The Matrix franchise deals with repeating cycles of oppression, The Matrix Resurrections seems to point at this being a new cycle for The Matrix, which The Architect from The Matrix Reloaded revealed was a recurring process.
Concerning The Matrix Online, The Wachowskis said that the massively multiplayer online game, or MMO, was the intended continuation of The Matrix franchise after the films. The online multiplayer game let players create characters and enter The Matrix to take down Agents, rogue AI, and other rival players in the virtual world. The Matrix Online also made some bold story choices with some legacy characters, including Morpheus’ fate after the third film.
In its first year, The Matrix Online introduced a storyline that saw Morpheus assassinated by a mysterious AI antagonist. This event was in response to missions players could take on from Morpheus, which involved dismantling machine-controlled power plants to compel the opposing force to return Neo’s body after the events of Revolutions.
The assassination of Morpheus sent ripples throughout the community, and players could even attend virtual funeral ceremonies for Morpheus, with other key Matrix characters like Ghost and Niobe in attendance. This event was considered canon — consistent with the narrative of the films — and it led to further storylines where players could track down the assassin, opening up some threads that hinted Morpheus might’ve survived in the world outside The Matrix. However, The Matrix Online would eventually lose its player base, and it slowed down on the more ambitious storylines. The MMO was eventually closed in 2011.
Back to The Matrix Resurrections: We see characters like Neo and Trinity make a return, though things are very different. They don’t know each other, and Keanu Reeves’ character seemingly repeats his similar call to action from the original film, with different deviations and obstacles — and there’s now a “new” Morpheus.
The trailer seems to imply that the film is about the resurrection of many legacy characters in a new, updated Matrix — a simulated world where self-aware machines enslave humanity. This video even showed a brief glimpse of Neo following the end of The Matrix Revolutions, with his eyes burned and surrounded by machines — his fate was also a point of contention in the story of The Matrix Online.
This debate regarding the events of The Matrix Online, a long-dead MMO that no one can play now, has put the spotlight on the franchise’s more ambitious spin-offs. It’s an interesting debate, one that many Matrix fans have been itching to have for some time. If The Matrix Online does matter, what we could learn from its story might have an impact on our understanding of 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections. We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for the film once it comes out on Dec. 22, 2021, in theaters and on HBO MAX streaming.