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There’s quite a lot for us to sink our teeth into. This morning, Sony released the first teaser trailer for Morbius, starring Jared Leto as the titular living vampire. Directed by Daniel Espinosa (Life), this film is the second live-action entry in Sony Picture’s Universe of Marvel Characters (SUMC), following Venom (2018). While it was always assumed the film would tie in to Venom, which is receiving a sequel, it wasn’t clear just how big the scope of Morbius was until today. Morbius isn’t just carving out its own corner in the ever-growing list of comic book adaptations; it is the connective tissue that will bring Tom Holland’s Spider-Man into the fray. The film is a bridge between the SUMC and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a significant step for both franchises given that the shared use of Spider-Man between Sony and Marvel Studios almost ended last year before a new deal was reached. Who would have imagined that this new day for Marvel characters onscreen and cinematic interconnectivity would be forged by a creature of the night?
Like Venom, Morbius began as an adversary of Spider-Man before going on to become an anti-hero in the ’90s, when he gained popularity as one of Marvel’s darker, street-level heroes and a member of the Midnight Sons. Created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, Morbius first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man No. 101, in which Peter Parker was infamously dealing with the fact that he had grown four extra arms (which is what happens when you take an untested serum to try to cure yourself of spider powers). Like Parker, and the Lizard, who also shows up in that issue, Morbius’ monstrosity is created by a mishap of science. His vampirism, the result of genetic tampering, gives him an insatiable lust for blood and violence, super strength, and an inability to survive in daylight, but he lacks the weaknesses associated with supernatural vampires: stakes, crosses, garlic, etc. Tormented by his instincts and his killing of innocents, Morbius received a slight revamp in the ’90s that saw him imbued with demon blood and a mission to prey only on the evil and corrupt.
The trailer delivers a largely comic-book-accurate take on Nobel Prize-winning scientist Michael Morbius’ transformation into a living vampire after his attempt, with the help of his fiancée, Martine Bancroft (portrayed by Adria Arjona in the film), to cure himself of a rare and fatal blood disease. Morbius’ experiments with vampire bat genes and electroshock therapy left him mutated. While the specific nature of his experiments in the trailer aren’t fully explained, they look to be along similar lines, though perhaps with an added bit of gothic flair, and a strange cave in the wilderness. There are brief glimpses of some of the characters who will flesh out Morbius’ world, including the minor Spider-Man villain Loxias Crown (Matt Smith), government agent turned vampire hunter Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson), and Morbius’ mentor (Jared Harris), whom we’re expecting to have some kind of comic book tie. Along with Morbius’ final vampiric appearance and footage depicting him hunting for a meal on a ship that’s directly pulled from Amazing Spider-Man #101, we have what looks to be a source-material-friendly adaptation. And that’s before we even get to the giant spider in the room.
At 2:10 in the trailer, Morbius walks past graffiti featuring none other than our very own friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, except it has been tagged with the word murderer. The suit is from Sam Raimi’s films, but we’ll just chalk that up to a fun Easter egg and artistic license. What’s more interesting is the suggestion that Morbius takes place after Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), in which Peter Parker has been outed and framed for murder by Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal). The MCU connection and Morbius’ place in the timeline are officially confirmed in the final moment of the trailer, in which Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), shows up to goad Morbius.
Morbius is clearly setting up a larger Spider-Man story, one that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll see the living vampire join the Vulture in an iteration of the Sinister Six but does point to the groundwork being laid for a Spider-Man event that could see the villains from his MCU installments and the Venom and Morbius movies give the young hero a run for his money. It seems fitting, after some concerns expressed last year and just last week following the departure of Scott Derrickson from the Doctor Strange sequel over creative differences, that the thing to add a little more flavor and unexpected value to the nature of the shared universe is this kind of cinematic Venn diagram that Sony and Marvel appear to be creating. If Morbius works as well as the trailer suggests, this renewing of vows between the studios could be the transfusion of new blood that will allow for even greater creative freedom to explore these characters we’ve grown to love.
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The Gilded Age