Based on the trailer that recently dropped for Morbius, it looks like the suits at Sony forgot to tell director Daniel Espinosa that he’s not making a Batman film. As Jared Leto stood in a cave surrounded by an agitated colony of bats (colony is the correct term, you can look it up) flying around him as if in kinship, I couldn’t help but think of how eerily similar they were to scenes from Batman Begins which was released, ah yes, let’s see… fifteen years ago. Well, that flew by.
It seems that the fluke success of Venom, which managed a box office of over $800 million in its theatrical release alone, has emboldened the Spider-Man film rights holders over at Sony to spin that roulette wheel once again, and hope that the movie-going public rewards them for making a film of which the best that can be said was that it wasn’t a total dumpster fire. And I mean, if we’re being honest with ourselves, the only real reason Venom wasn’t completely dead on arrival was that with all the talk of production issues, audiences were expecting a complete train wreck and were surprised when they didn’t feel the need to boil their eyes in bleach afterwards to try to wipe away the residue of it from their optical nerves (also known as The Suicide Squad Effect).
So now we’re being graced/inflicted with another movie focusing on a Spider-Man villain, this time Morbius, The Living Vampire, a character that Jared Leto seems to have been born to play. I would have also said that about the Joker until… well, we all saw how that turned out. And I don’t fault Leto for that particular dumpster fire; Jared Leto is an amazing actor, but it’s up to the director to hone the kind of raw, creative energy that Leto brings to a project, and that’s the kind of thing that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the Fantastic Fours from the Avengers.
Is it possible that Morbius will turn out to be a good or even great film, transcending the the comic book movie genre? Absolutely. Is it likely? Well, that’s another question entirely. And listen, I don’t want to rain on anybody’s parade; Spider-Man fans are finally getting to see a lot of their beloved characters on screen, which is definitely a trip, and hopefully for their sake especially this whole endeavour turns out for the best. But with their indirect visual references to Batman Begins and their apparent linking of the film to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with a surprise cameo at the end, the trailer seems to be practically begging us to associate it with successful film franchises, which to me doesn’t bode well, but I suppose only time will tell.
The other thing that give me pause is that it seems clear from the Morbius trailer and the Venom film that Sony is absolutely scared to death to make any Spider-Man villain an actual villain. It seems that somebody, somewhere whispered the word “antihero” into some executive’s ear at some point, and they twisted it into a corporate buzzword up there with “innovation,” “synergy,” or “corporate responsibility”: important sounding, but completely meaningless. I don’t mind narratives about actual antiheroes, but to Sony, “antihero” seems to mean a watered down, toothless version of a villain that they re-imagine as a hero because they’re too risk-averse to actually make movies about villains and make them villainous to establish them as bad guys deserving of an ass whooping by Spider-Man in the Sinister Six movie they’re clearly trying to build up to.
All that being said, as a lover of movies, I never actively root for a movie to fail; I watch films to be entertained but also to be educated, challenged, or provoked (and occasionally, aroused). I don’t have high hopes for Morbius, but I will hold out final judgement until I can experience the final product. Until then, I can sustain myself with Tom Hardy’s “turd in the wind” line from Venom and the promotional material for Morbius, knowing it can’t be worse than that. Right?