'The Matrix Resurrections' Explained: Why The Film Has a New Morpheus and Agent Smith

The Matrix Resurrections is on HBO Max and in theaters now. The fourth Matrix film combines familiar faces like Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss with new versions of characters from the original movies.

Though Reeves and Moss return as Neo and Trinity, their former co-stars Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving do not come back as Mopheus and Agent Smith – reportedly, because Lana Wachowski did not ask them to be in the film.

The actors do not appear in the film (except through the many clips of the original movie that are edited into Resurrections), but their characters do. The film gives us updated versions of Morpheus and Smith that are crucial to understanding exactly what it is going on in the movie.

Obviously, we cannot explain the role the new Morpheus and Smith have in the film without going into the plot of The Matrix 4, so plot spoilers ahead.

Who is the new Agent Smith in The Matrix Resurrections?

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Jonathan Groff as Smith in "The Matrix Resurrections." The character is a reimagined version of Agent Smith. Warner Bros.

This is the easiest of the two casting changes to explain. For the new film, the role once inhabited by Hugo Weaving is now played by Jonathan Groff of Hamilton, Looking and Mindhunter.

To reason why Weaving has been replaced is down to the central plot of Resurrections – that after Neo and Trinity died at the end of Revolutions, they were revived (resurrected) and connected to a new, different Matrix.

In this new computer program, Neo is Thomas Anderson, a computer programmer himself who gained worldwide fame for creating a video game called The Matrix. Smith, meanwhile, is disguised as Neo's business partner, so he can keep constant tabs on Neo.

This is not the only change made to prevent Neo breaking out of the Matrix again. The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) has made some changes to the code so that Smith can now tap into any consciousness in the virtual world without morphing them into a simulacrum of himself, creating the mass "swarm" that Neo and Trinity fight in the film's final act.

Who is the new Morpheus in The Matrix Resurrections?

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Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in "The Matrix Resurrections." His version of Morpheus is an entirely new character. Warner Bros

That would be Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, of Watchmen and Candyman fame. His, however, is a very different version of Morpheus than the one played by Laurence Fishburne.

When we meet Anderson at the start of Resurrections, he is looking at the code of his video game of The Matrix. Using that game's engine, he is running a loop of game action which mimics the scene in the original film in which the agents come for Trinity.

One of these agents, as established later in the game, was created by Anderson as a combination of his memories of Morpheus and Agent Smith. As such, the Morpheus of Resurrections is not the real Morpheus, but a version of him made of computer code, reconstructed from Neo's memories of his former friend.

Why did he do this? The film posits that this was Neo's unconscious mind giving him a way of escaping the fake reality he is trapped in. By creating an agent character who had a little bit of Morpheus within him, Neo knew that that character would be smart enough to realise he was in a video game, and then would be able to break out of that game and help Neo/Anderson escape the new Matrix. This, of course, is what ends up happening after Bugs (Jessica Henwick) hacks into the game and teams up with Morpheus.

As is typical of some of the ideas in The Matrix Resurrections, this makes less sense the more you think about it. The film also tells us that the makers of the Matrix Neo is trapped in created The Matrix video game as a way to explain away the flashbacks he kept having to his previous life.

The Analyst tells him that he is prone to psychotic episodes in which he cannot distinguish between "reality" (that is, the reality of the Matrix Neo is trapped in) and the fiction of the video game – whereas the truth is that the video game is a fiction designed to hide the reality of Neo's life. (Still keeping up?)

Why would the makers of this new Matrix create this video game story to control Neo, only to allow Neo to place a character in it that eventually allows him to escape? And who really created the video game, Neo, or The Analyst? The film does not find time to explain in the many (many, many) minutes of exposition within the film.

What happened to the real Morpheus? In The Matrix Online, the character died in his attempts to get Neo's body back from the machines. Resurrections does not mention this, but it is heavily implied that the character is dead when Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) takes Neo to what looks like a memorial for the one-time captain of the Nebuchadnezzar.