The superhero movie machine is still playing catch-up. As evidence: Morbius, the next chapter of Sony’s Marvel sub-universe, is still awaiting its moment in the movie theater spotlight. It even had an October release date at one point, but moved once again to 2022 – a full two years after it released its first teaser.
Beyond its distribution problems, though, the film is interesting as the first true attempt on Sony’s part to spin its nascent Spider-Verse, which it now calls “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe,” into a true multi-film franchise. Is Morbius the Living Vampire a strong enough character to pick up the baton left by Venom? Let’s take a look at everything we know about Morbius to see if the film will continue the momentum of Sony’s Marvel mechanism.
(Photo by ©Sony Pictures)
Created by Roy Thomas and Gill Kane in 1971, Michael Morbius was meant to be a new villain for for Spider-Man, but soon evolved into a tragic anti-hero. Suffering from a rare blood disorder, the brilliant doctor theorized a way to reverse the course of his condition and underwent an experimental treatment. The process certainly saved his life, but it also made him something between human and vampire, with an appearance to match.
It also gifted him many of the enhanced abilities associated with the mythical creatures with few of their drawbacks, beyond a taste for human blood. In the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man and other Spider-books, he would continue to work on a way to remove the side effects while he battled it out with (and occasionally helped) Spidey. The character appeared throughout the Marvel Universe – and starred in Adventure Into Fear in the mid-’70s – before finally getting his own solo title in 1992.
From the teaser released nearly two years ago – and the trailer that dropped on November 2 (see above) – it appears the character will try to use a more direct form of vampirism to cure his disease, and he’ll suffer from the same ill effects. In the new trailer, Morbius explicitly mentions enhanced strength, speed, and “some form of bat radar” as some of the powers granted to him, and we watch him discover he can fly. It remains to be seen, though, if he will use his abilities to be an ally of good, a villain in the grander scheme, or someone like Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) – a reluctant member of a growing band of anti-heroes. The 2021 trailer heavily implies Morbius will wrestle with that very question, as it claims the film will blur the line between hero and villain.
The setting of the film is a far more interesting question than one might expect. The older teaser made it clear the film exists in a world where Spider-Man not only exists but is wanted for murder, and the Vulture (Micheal Keaton) is looking to befriend the title character. Since the images of Spider-Man in the teaser resembled the character’s design in the PlayStation 4 Spider-Man game or the Raimi Era costumes, it was easy to assume Morbius’s adventure took place in its own, discrete world apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the one seen in Venom. That said, a reference to “that thing in San Francisco” and Morbius claiming to be Venom in the 2021 trailer pretty much tie the two film worlds together.
But is it possible that this is, in some strange way, the MCU? Originally meant for release well before Spider-Man: No Way Home, Morbius will now come after it, so the original intention may end up massaged in light of the altered schedule. Indeed, there were reports of reshoots occurring as late as February of this year. Also, the Venom: Let There Be Carnage stinger scene clearly positions Eddie and Venom in the MCU. All that taken into consideration, it is possible the film takes place in the MCU – a move which would have been unthinkable in 2019 – or, at least, in the Sony Spider-Man Universe resulting from the events of No Way Home.
Of course, it could still take place in its own universe, with Morbius moving to the same plane of existence as Eddie and Peter Parker (Tom Holland) during the closing credits. Based on a shot of the Daily Bugle analyzed by eagle-eyed denizens of the internet, it does indeed appear to take place in its own reality. And, as it happens, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said it is possible for Sony’s Spider-Man Universe characters to “cross cinematic universes” and play in the MCU, so you never know when the Living Vampire might show up. If only Marvel were planning a film about a vampire hunter…
(Photo by ©Sony Pictures)
Jared Leto stars as Michael Morbius. The actor was said to be drawn to the moral implications of an anti-hero with a bodily requirement to drink blood, but it remains to be seen exactly how that will translate to the screen. Just look what he did with the Joker back in 2017’s Suicide Squad or the mysterious replicant manufacturer Niander Wallace in Blade Runner 2049. Dedicating himself to characters to an almost absurd degree, Leto seeks out these big genre projects; perhaps Morbius is the fit he’s been looking for all this time.
Matt Smith makes his Marvel-ish debut in Morbius as Loxias Crown – aka The Hunger – a man who suffers from the same condition as Morbius and, presumably, is very interested in the result of the doctor’s self-inflicted human trial. The character, created by Howard Mackie in the 1990s, was a Hydra agent intending to experiment on the Living Vampire. Instead, Morbius fed on him and left him with similar abilities, which he used to create a vampiric horde in the New York sewers. We’re going to assume Crown is getting elevated to archvillain status in the film as his superhuman abilities offer a mirror to Morbius; a common trait in Marvel movie villains.
(Photo by ©Sony Pictures)
Other cast members include Adria Arjona as Martine Bancroft, Morbius’s fiancée; Jared Harris as the doctor’s mentor; Al Madrigal as the FBI agent tasked with locating and minding the Living Vampire; Michael Keaton as The Vulture; and Tyrese Gibson as Simon Stroud, a CIA agent who eventually joins the NYPD under mysterious circumstances (well, in the comics anyway). According to Gibson, the character is more of a tech-infused superhero, and considering Stroud’s comic book tendency to hunt creatures like Morbius, it isn’t impossible for him to be heroic; we just imagine Morbius will have a different point of view on the matter.
(Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
Behind the camera, Swedish filmmaker Daniel Espinosa serves as director. His previous films include Easy Money (with Joel Kinnaman), Safe House (with Ryan Reynolds) and 2017’s Life. The script comes courtesy of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, the duo behind such films as The Last Witch Hunter and Gods of Egypt. They also served as showrunners on Netflix’s Lost in Space remake and are part of the development team behind Sony’s Madame Web film, also based on a Marvel Comics character.
Other talent includes director of photography Oliver Wood (Face/Off, The Bourne Ultimatum), production designer Stefania Cella (Moon Knight), composer Jon Ekstrand – a longtime Espinosa collaborator – and producers Avi Arad, Matt Tolmach, and Lucas Foster.
(Photo by Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Barring any further changes to the schedule, Morbius will finally bow on January 28, 2022 – two years after the release of that first trailer. It will still serve the purpose it was meant to when it was originally planned for a July 2020 release: build on Sony’s Spider-Man Universe and establish another deadly foe for the webslinger. From what we can tell, Morbius will need to go on a journey before he can really take a seat in the rogues’ gallery or, perhaps, join a cinematic Sinister Six. And should Spider-Man really transfer to the Sony universe in the wake of No Way Home, Morbius will present just one of the threats waiting for him.
Morbius releases in theaters on January 28, 2022.