Last month production on Morbius began, with Jared Leto appearing as the titular character Morbius, the Living Vampire, in the first photo from the set of the film. Longtime fans of the fanged villain now debate how the source material will be treated when it comes to the film’s tone and storyline.
Following on the heels of the polarizing Venom, will this film be an introspective look at a supervillain, or continue with the trend of turning a lethal, dangerous force into a sympathetic antihero? Perhaps more importantly, can a character as obscure as Morbius even be successfully adapted to film in this era of high profile comic book superheroes? Morbius is set to hit theaters in 2020.
Much like with Venom, Morbius will be a film completely disconnected from the Spider-Verse or anything related to the MCU. This comes down to Sony’s licensing agreement, and its desire to make its own Universe of obscure comic book characters that do not relate to larger events going on with high profile Marvel heroes like the Avengers.
This could be a good thing, considering it gives them the artistic license to take a slightly less formulaic approach, but it could also torpedo any chance of Morbius becoming a character we see again as part of a franchise.
Though movies like Logan and Deadpool enjoyed a lot of success for being granted an R-rating, Morbius most likely won’t have one. Venom was granted a PG-13 rating, allowing Sony to inject just enough savagery into Venom’s speech and actions to bear a passing resemblance to his source material, but not be offensive.
Given that Venom performed decently at the box office, it’s a safe bet that Sony will want Morbius to also get a PG-13 rating, because he is a murdering vampire after all. Just a family-friendly one.
Fresh off of his mediocre foray into the Fast and Furious franchise, Tyrese Gibson has signed onto the film, portraying an FBI agent hot on the trail of Michael Morbius once he starts murdering people in cold blood.
Noted British thespian Jared Harris (Mad Men, The Crown) also joined the cast, though his role is being kept a secret for now. Adria Arjona (True Detective) will portray the fiance of Michael Morbius, Martine Bancroft, who fights to find a cure for his blood disease even as he becomes a bloodthirsty Living Vampire.
Sony has described Morbius as a “horror action story”, and has heavily implied that Morbius will be less of a supervillain and more of an anti-hero. Like Venom, he will have a ravenous appetite that he must suppress in order to do the right thing.
The right thing by Michael Morbius’s standards is to eat humans that he feels are unworthy or unwilling to repent for their criminal histories. It’s still murder, but because these are bad guys, it’s vindicated. Like Hannibal Lecter, Morbius is simply a serial killer ridding the world of rude people.
Hot on the heels of playing an unbalanced sociopath in Suicide Squad, Jared Leto ditches the clown makeup of The Joker to sink his teeth into the character of Michael Morbius, famous scientist turned Living Vampire. Originally a supervillain in the Spider-Verse, Morbius will be conflicted about the moral imperatives of his newfound affliction, and become mentally unstable.
Jared Leto, usually an indie darling, will put his method acting abilities to the test. The role should let him do what he does best; transform and disappear into a role known for mood shifts and dynamic theatrical range.
From the very beginning, Morbius was a vampire distinguished by his origin story. Once Michael Morbius, noted Greek scientist, he attempted to find a cure for a fatal blood disease by injecting himself with a serum derived from bats. This goes spectacularly wrong, and he is transformed into a vampire with a taste for human blood.
In this way, Morbius is a vampire that is only truly similar to the supernatural predators of legend because of his sharp fangs, clawed hands, and feral ferocity when feeding on his victims. But he is a “Living Vampire” with a heartbeat and not the “Undead”.
Since the film has Morbius as an anti-hero, he has to go up against an actual supervillain. Matt Smith, who was the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who on the long-running Doctor Who series will play Loxias Crown. He is Morbius’s best friend who suffers from the same blood disease and is searching for a cure.
Since Matt Smith is known for playing good guys, it will be nice to see him stretch his range in a villain role, one which may be the basis for the villain “Hunger” in several Spider-Man comics that also acquires vampire-like powers but uses them for evil.
After succumbing to the effects of the bat-derived serum he thought would cure his blood disease, Michael Morbius finds himself in possession of certain abilities. Namely, super speed, super strength, and incredibly healing powers.
It’s important to note that these aren’t to be confused with the mystical powers of typical vampires. He can’t turn himself into smoke, or a wolf, or a dozen bats, and he can’t hypnotize people by staring into their eyes. He also can’t live forever, because he’s a human with vampire characteristics, not an immortal creature.
Since his debut in the ‘70s with The Amazing Spider-Man #101, the origins of Michael Morbius haven’t changed. Stan Lee specified that he be a costumed character, in the vein of Dracula, but beyond that, editor Roy Thomas and penciler Gil Kane could envision anything they wanted.
Their choice was to make a villain that dressed like Dracula and looked like Western star Jack Palace (Shane, City Slickers). He was a sympathetic antagonist at first, but later became more bloodthirsty as his vampire affliction fought for control over his more human side.
Given that Morbius the Living Vampire came into being in the ‘70s, a time when Hammer Studios horror films reigned supreme by adapting highly melodramatic pieces of gothic literature, the vocabulary and tone of the comics were very theatrical.
Modern incarnations of Morbius with him wearing more contemporary clothing have not been as popular as the uber gothic version of the past, and the success of other moody films like Interview with a Vampire and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as well as series like Castlevania might indicate they choose that vintage gothic ambiance.