To say that VENOM was a monster success would be an understatement. Naturally, there’s a sequel on the way, but there’s also another horror-tinged Spider-Man spinoff coming to theatres this year, oriented around a very different but equally beastly character: MORBIUS.
Long-time fans of Spider-Man comic books already know the vampiric title character, but if you're looking for a primer on the summer release, we're here to help. Jared Leto stars as the dark anti-hero in a movie from LIFE director Daniel Espinosa. It's a mix of sci-fi, superheroes, and horror, with a healthy dollop of action. MORBIUS looks like a notable successor to VENOM in the extended Spidey universe. Let’s get to know the latest character from the wider world of the web-slinger.
MORBIUS comes to theatres on July 31. That means we get a summer superhero movie and a horror film at the same time! And perhaps this will also somehow help lead in to VENOM 2, which opens on October 2.
Daniel Espinosa directs MORBIUS from a script by IRON MAN writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway. Espinosa's previous film, LIFE, was also released by Sony — and, amusingly, prior to release, that film was jokingly theorized to be a "stealth prequel" to VENOM. LIFE is not, in fact, related to VENOM in any way, but it's fun to know that Espinosa was linked to a Spider-Man spinoff long before he actually directed one.
[Image credit: Sony Pictures]
There's a lot going on in the first MORBIUS teaser trailer! If it weren't for the "in association with Marvel" logo at the top, you might not even know this is technically a superhero movie for the first half of the trailer. You might also not know that it is technically a vampire movie!
This first MORBIUS trailer only teases the film's action. It has hints of a few sequences where Leto's character embraces his newfound physical abilities, but we expect to see far more outrageous action in the movie.
As with some of the best comic book villains (see also: Venom), Morbius began as a straight-up bad guy but eventually turned into a fascinating anti-hero with a tragic story. The character's full name is Michael Morbius. He was a brilliant biochemist stricken with a rare blood disorder. In an effort to cure the disorder, Morbius underwent an experimental treatment of his own design.
Rather than cure him, the treatment gave Morbius superhuman abilities similar to those of a vampire, earning him the name “Morbius, the Living Vampire” – even though he’s not technically an actual vampire, at least not in the supernatural sense. He still has an irresistible craving for blood, but he’s not immortal. Most of the Marvel Comics stories focus on Morbius’ attempts to cure himself while struggling with his vampire-like alter-ego.
There was also a rather dark storyline in which Morbius became a violent vigilante. And yes, of course, he had run-ins with your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
Jared Leto, star of SUICIDE SQUAD and Oscar-winning co-star of DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, plays the title role in the new Spider-Man spinoff. Taking a page straight from the comics, Michael Morbius’ origin story is pretty much the same: He’s a brilliant scientist with a rare blood disorder who becomes afflicted with vampire-like attributes following a failed experimental treatment. But instead of playing an outright villain from the get-go, this Morbius is more like Tom Hardy’s Venom: He’s an anti-hero whose human and vampiric alter-egos are at odds with one another.
As with VENOM and its upcoming sequel, we originally thought MORBIUS takes place in the same world as SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING and FAR FROM HOME. The appearance of Michael Keaton at the end of the trailer certainly suggests that link!
But we have some big questions. That image above, for example, paints Spider-Man as a murderer… but that looks like the suit from the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies rather than any of the costumes worn by Tom Holland in more recent films. Does that mean this movie is linked to a different timeline than the Tom Holland films? Perhaps there's a Spider-Verse link? Honestly, we don't know! Since the image is reportedly sourced from the PlayStation 4 Spider-Man video game, perhaps that is just a stand-in image that will eventually be replaced.
Regardless, don't expect to see Tom Holland’s Peter Parker swinging by. Since Marvel Studios is collaborating with Sony on the new Spider-Man movies, they have a big say in where and how Spidey appears. Think of VENOM and MORBIUS not so much as spinoffs, but stories that take place in the same world. It’s just a darker, more grown-up world that young Peter Parker isn’t a part of just yet.
In the comics, the treatment Morbius creates to cure his blood disorder contains the DNA of bats. When the treatment failed, that bat DNA combined with Morbius’ human DNA, creating a hybrid of sorts – not unlike Spider-Man and some of his other notable villains, including Lizard (who has yet to appear in a Spider-Man movie). If MORBIUS honors this part of the comic book story, it’s possible that we may see him interact with other Spider-Man villains like the Lizard, or even Venom.
Adria Arjona, who appeared in Amazon’s recent “Good Omens” series, plays Morbius’ fiancee, Martine Bancroft. In the comics, Martine helps Morbius create an antidote, but it only cures people infected with the vampiric virus – not Morbius himself. Our anti-hero will also have a little help from his mentor, played by veteran British actor Jared Harris, who recently appeared in HBO’s critically-acclaimed series "Chernobyl."
Former "Doctor Who" star Matt Smith plays Loxias Crown (that’s quite a name!), a dear friend of Morbius who is also suffering from the same rare blood disorder. Unfortunately, it seems that Morbius’ treatment doesn’t work out very well for Loxias, either, and he becomes the main villain of the movie. Rounding out the cast is FAST & FURIOUS favorite Tyrese Gibson as Simon Stroud, an FBI agent investigating Morbius. Will he eventually partner with Morbius to take on Loxias Crown, or will he stand in his way?
All images courtesy of Sony Pictures.