‘The Matrix Online’: How a 2005 MMORPG explained that Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus doesn’t appear in ‘Matrix Resurrections’
The question after the release of the first trailer for ‘Matrix Resurrections’ -which, very much in the tradition of the franchise, has provided more enigmas than answers- has assailed a good number of fans: we have Neo and Trinity, but … where is Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus? Yahya Abdul-Mateen II appears to be a youth version of the cicerone of Neo in the virtual worlds in the first trilogy, but … is there any justification?
Fishburne’s absence, however, has been known since 2019, where the actor was already commenting that he would not be in the new film, and that Lana Wachowski would know why. There are many possible reasons behind that absence, from plot needs to behind-the-screen misunderstandings, but perhaps exosya one that makes all the sense in the world, and that is in an official video game, ‘The Matrix Online’, canceled since 2009, and that reached PCs around the world in 2005.
What was ‘The Matrix Online’ about
At a time when the MMORPG was a fairly popular genre but was not as assimilated by the mainstream of videogames, and where transmedia it was not yet a method of recycling stories at the service of entertainment corporations, ‘The Matrix Online’ was conceived as a way to continue the story of the original trilogy after ‘The Matrix Revolutions’, 2003. The players would be recently liberated humans who would have to choose a faction in the fight against the machines, meeting with characters from the movies such as The Oracle or Morpheus.
The involvement of Morpheus in the plot is as follows: after the truce with the machines agreed in the third film, the machines have not returned Neo’s remains to Zion. Morpheus decides to rebuild Neo’s Residual Image, his virtual avatar, to resurrect him, but is unable to. So decides to detonate a series of “code bombs” in the Matrix, to force the machines to return Neo’s corpse. It is in one of these missions when Morpheus is cornered and annihilated by a program called Assassin.
Should the death of a character in a video game that is currently impossible to play to begin with be considered canonical? It seems like this: absolutely all the products derived from ‘Matrix’ that we could taste in their day are part of the canon, and that includes, very obviously, direct spin-offs like ‘Enter the Matrix’ – the rather lazy PS2 video game that explains scenes from ‘Revolutions’ and includes 40 minutes of scenes with actors directed by the Wachowski -, but also pieces of ‘Animatrix’ or the webcomics of the franchise, most with very little to do with the adventures of Neo and company.
‘The Matrix Online’ was developed by Monolith, responsible for ‘Condemned’ and ‘FEAR’, and now owned by Warner, and like any other MMORPG, it gave users the freedom to stumble around a huge open stage at will. In this case Mega City, a huge city within the Matrix, where you can be part of one of the three opposing factions: humans, machines or the Merovingian army.
The game, despite its cancellation, was not without innovative ideas: for example, its class system, which, taking up one of the most memorable features of the movies, could be improved if a player from the Programmer class provided new abilities in places called Hardlines. There the skills could be configured to suit the player, allowing the three basic classes, Hacker, Programmer and Operative, to acquire extraordinary flexibility.
The question is whether Lana Wachowski has resorted to this byproduct of the films – clearly unknown to most potential viewers of the fourth installment – to justify the absence of Morpheus, or is there some extra reason. For now, and until we know the real reasons (if there are any, and it is not simply, well, that they wanted a juvenile Morpheus) It is not a bad idea to remember the many ramifications that the original plot of the trilogy experienced.