HEAT VISION

'Morbius': One Thing Missing From the Trailer

The angst of the comic has been replaced with determination from Jared Leto's character.

The trailer for Sony’s Morbius leans heavily into the horror roots of the character, ensuring that the audience knows that he’s a man who became a vampire in a misguided attempt to cure himself of a debilitating disease, only to become a monster in the process. So far, so faithful to the comic book origins of the Spider-Man villain. But there’s just one thing missing to make it entirely true to the source material: unhealthy heapings of angst.

That the comic book Michael Morbius was given to endless self-pitying monologues about his secret pain shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. After all, he debuted in 1971’s The Amazing Spider-Man No. 101, during an era of Marvel where angst was seen as the key to popular characterization — with The Amazing Spider-Man being a series that had done arguably more than any other to prove that to be the case.

No surprise, then, that Morbius — ostensibly a villain, albeit a tragic villain — would announce his feelings by saying things like, “Once more, I hear the death-cries of the men I have slain — wailing like souls lost on a sea of torment. Yet, only in the clear light of day so I hear those anguished voices — that grim, accusing chorus of the damned. If only it could be always night — always night — !” Even the flashback to his origin began with a thought balloon declaring, “No! I didn’t mean to kill you — not any of you!”

(The origin, as originally revealed in The Amazing Spider-Man No. 102, is far less gothic than what’s glimpsed in the trailer, and far less dimly lit; Morbius is transformed into a living vampire in a garishly colored lab wearing a space suit. File under, “Things we wish Jared Leto would have been up for in the movie.”)

Even when Morbius escaped the role of supervillain and became a solo star in his own right, in 1973’s Vampire Tales No. 1, he didn’t escape the angst-ridden attitude, bemoaning his existence as “a mad predator — a vampire.” “Michael Morbius — gone from Nobel laureate to prize fiend — fighting all who stand between him and his lust for blood!” is how he describes himself a page later, wonderfully. Even as the character slowly turned into an antihero in a series of increasingly bizarre pulp horror tales, the melodrama of his internal pain was as much a constant as his perpetual need for blood.

Whether or not this defining characteristic is truly missing from the movie will likely be unknown until its July 31 release, but it’s certainly missing from the trailer, replaced by external concern for his well-being and grim determination on his part. The result is something that more closely resembles the tone of the latter Morbius comic stories, which pushed more in a generic horror direction, lacking the charm of those original appearances.

That the pic won’t match the comic book debut of the character isn’t a surprise — he first appeared in the middle of a storyline in which Spider-Man has four extra arms and was fighting the Lizard, after all, and was a bit player instead of the star of the story — but, judging from what the trailer teases, it’s possible that Michael Morbius’ early onscreen adventures won’t even match the attitude of his comic book beginnings.  

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