As 2018 winds down, the inevitable best-of lists start come out and the picture of which movies were winners and which were losers becomes clearer. For the MCU, DCEU, and others, these successes are often measured on box office receipts. In that regard, Sony had at least one clear winner in Q4: Venom. Despite somewhat mixed reviews, Venom is closing in on $850 million globally (as of the first week of December) on a budget of approximately $100 million. If that isn’t an insanely good return on investment, then we don’t know what is. All of this leads to the speculation of what Sony might do next. A sequel? Prequel? Or will the villain be somehow tied into a larger universe, akin to what Marvel has been building for years?
What we do know is that Venom producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad have confirmed that Morbius the Living Vampire is their next live-action project to begin shooting, likely in February of 2019. They’ve also confirmed that the title character will be played by Jared Leto (Suicide Squad, Requiem for a Dream, Dallas Buyers Club). Beyond that, zero details about Morbius have been confirmed, but its very existence on-screen makes it a great subject of discussion. With a wealth of canonical comic background to draw from, it’ll be interesting to see which elements from the comics they keep, which ones they alter, and which ones they ditch entirely. Keep in mind that the following points are based on speculation and rumors at this point, but it’s still fun to debate which points have merit and which ones don’t have any teeth. See what we did there? A dad joke!
20 HOPE TO SEE: IT WILL CONNECT TO VENOM SOMEHOW
Morbius is confirmed to be Sony’s next superhero film and Venom producers Matt Tolmach and Avi Arad are on board to helm this one as well. As another movie focused around an antihero/villain as the main protagonist, Morbius has the potential to share worlds with Venom. One of the reasons why Morbius got the green light was due to Venom’s recent success and the desire to create franchises around both characters.
Tolmach and Arad noted that they loved Tom Hardy’s commitment to the Venom character, particularly his ability to make the villain his own thing. They’ve said the same thing about Jared Leto, who is the only cast member thus far confirmed for Morbius. If Sony truly wants to rebuild their comic book presence, they’re off to a decent start.
19 STAY OUT: MORBIUS WILL EVENTUALLY FIGHT TOM HOLLAND’S SPIDER-MAN
After all, Morbius is a Spider-Man spinoff and the two have crossed paths in the comics a lot. The problem most fans will have with this rumor is the idea that Morbius could fight Tom Holland’s version of Spider-Man, a character infinitely connected to the new MCU and not tied down to Marvel/Sony’s ugly crossover past.
Fortunately, this one is unlikely to come to fruition anytime in the near future as Holland is already reprising his role in both Avengers 4 and Spider-Man: Far From Home next year. While plot details on those two flicks haven’t been released yet, it’s doubtful Marvel will want to throw away everything it’s done to build Spidey back up without exploring even more MCU sequels first.
18 HOPE TO SEE: THERE WILL BE A BLADE TIE-IN
This one is pure speculation and takes a bit of connecting the dots to pull together, but give it a second. It would be insanely cool if Blade makes a cameo or somehow ties into the Morbius universe. Not only has the original Blade trilogy reached a cult-like status in the years since it’s been released, but the character is obviously a great choice to make an appearance in Morbius considering both are (at least part) vampires.
Recently, Wesley Snipes has been tweeting about an upcoming role, teasing fans about what Blade projects he might soon be working on. With Morbius heading into production in the next few months, it’s lead to some speculation that Snipes will at least have a cameo in the film.
17 STAY OUT: IT WILL TAKE AWAY FROM JARED LETO’S ABILITY TO PLAY THE JOKER
Between acting in multiple movie projects at once and singing in his rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars, Jared Leto is a busy man. He’s signed on to do more movies as the Joker, with one of them possibly being a Suicide Squad sequel or a cameo in next year’s female villain flick, Birds of Prey.
However, the juggling act can only go so far. We know that Morbius starts production in early 2019 and that Leto is excited to play the character, but what if the film actually takes off? Hopefully, it won’t take away from his ability to deliver us more Joker goodness, as his (and Harley Quinn’s) scenes in Suicide Squad were the best parts of the movie.
16 HOPE TO SEE: MORBIUS WILL HAVE A LOVE INTEREST
While Leto is the only confirmed actor to be involved in Morbius, sources say there’s a strong female lead in the film. It’s rumored to be Martine Bancroft, Morbius’ fiancée in the comics. Bancroft first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #102 in 1973 and the character has gone through some development since then.
Not only was she one of Morbius’ first victims (thus becoming a vampire herself), Bancroft has been ended and resurrected a number of times in the comics. No rumors yet of who could play her, but adding a female lead could give the film a nice balance in what could otherwise be a very masculine and brooding movie.
15 STAY OUT: IT’LL BE TOO MUCH OF AN ORIGIN STORY AND NOT ENOUGH PLOT
There’s almost nothing known about the plot details of Morbius at this point, but we do know that the team of Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama (Dracula Untold, Gods of Egypt, The Last Witch Hunter) has been hired to write the script. Rumor has it that Morbius will be an origin story, so if history is any indication, that could work against it.
MCU fans weren’t exactly thrilled to see The Amazing Spider-Man rehash the same Spidey origin story we’ve seen a million times. At least Morbius is a fresh, new character but the film still needs a clear plot and antagonist to make sure it doesn’t fall back into Sony’s horrific Spider-Man 3 territory again.
14 HOPE TO SEE: THE SCRIPT WILL BE BETTER THAN THE WRITERS’ PREVIOUS EFFORTS
Unfortunately, Sharpless and Sazama don’t have the greatest track record when it comes to writing movies. They’re mostly known for their aforementioned b-movie dark fantasy films, with the 2017 Power Rangers reboot being their most recent feature-length film.
It doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence for Morbius, but at least the duo is heading in the right direction. Power Rangers was their best effort to date and they also helmed the Netflix reboot of Lost In Space, so at least their trajectory is heading in the right direction. Tolmach and Arad seem confident in their vision as well, leading us to believe there’s a better script in the works than we might expect.
13 STAY OUT: ANOTHER DIRECTOR TURNED IT DOWN, SO IT’S NOT VERY GOOD ALREADY
Typically when a director turns down a high-profile project or quits the film mid-shoot, it’s because their vision didn’t line up with those of the producers. To be clear, Morbius hasn’t started production yet, but its rumored there’s already been at least one prominent director that turned it down: F. Gary Gray.
Gray, whose credits include The Fate of the Furious, apparently mulled the idea of doing Morbius but eventually turned it down, though he hasn’t confirmed this himself. Another rumor is that Antoine Fuqua was approached by Sony to do it as well, but wasn’t interested either. If either of these are true, it’s not a great sign.
12 HOPE TO SEE: EMIL NIKOS IS THE MAIN VILLAIN
One of the recent casting calls for Morbius asked for males between the ages of 30 and 40, with Riz Ahmed and/or Rami Malek in mind as prototypes for the role. It’s rumored that the second lead Sony is looking for is that of the main villain, rumored to be a friend of Dr. Michael Morbius until Morbius turns on him.
That friend could possibly be Emil Nikos, a lab assistant in the comics who gains the same powers and enhancements as Morbius. A vampire vs. vampire plot could no doubt make for a great climax, as well as stay true to the canonical Morbius storylines.
11 STAY OUT: THE VILLAIN IS AN ALTERED CHARACTER NAMED LOXIAS CROWN
An opposite rumor notes the main villain to be a different friend of Morbius’ named Loxias Crown. In the comics, Crown appears in Spider-Man #76 in 1997, taking on the alias Hunger and squaring off against the team of Morbius and Blade.
He’s a mutant vampire, but the film version supposedly has Crown dealing with the same issues as Morbius and taking an experimental serum that transforms him into a vampire. There’s nothing worse than a villain with an excessively complicated backstory and lack of motivation, but until we know who’s been confirmed as the antagonist, it’s anyone’s guess on how prominent the villain will be in Morbius.
10 HOPE TO SEE: MORBIUS WILL BE A VILLAIN YOU CAN ROOT FOR, RATHER THAN A HERO
When talking with Collider, Arad explained that Morbius can be an antihero but still share a connection with the viewer. “What you have to show is, what is the motivation?” he says. “Was he born like that, or its someone we should feel for, because if you are succeeding to make a villain we should feel for, jackpot.”
Previous interviews have shown Tolmach and Arad’s liking for Venom, another antihero with a tortured soul who comes together with an alien symbiote to form an interesting character. As a vampire, it would be neat to see Morbius retain some of his villainous qualities without having to resort to full superhero cheesiness.
9 STAY OUT: IT’LL BE IN THE STYLE OF A HORROR MOVIE
Morbius director Daniel Espinosa filmography is short but cohesive. His breakout film Easy Money (2010) was a Swedish gangster movie abd he followed it with the Ryan Reynolds vehicle Safe House, and most recently helmed the sci-fi/horror movie Life.
Although not an official synopsis, Morbius has been described as a “horror action story,” where the title character is sickened by his own thirst for blood and therefore targets criminals. With the potential for copious amounts of violence, Morbius could easily shift into the sci-fi/horror realm of Espinosa’s most recent work. But hopefully it leaves the cheap thrills and sudden scares at home.
8 HOPE TO SEE: HIS POWERS/BACKSTORY WILL BE TRUE TO THE COMICS
What little details we do know about the plot of Morbius are that it’s about Dr. Michael Morbius, who in the comics is a scientist with a rare blood condition who attempts to cure himself but instead is turned into a vampire. He also develops fangs and super strength, and goes on to battle Spider-Man before eventually turning into a hero.
It seems like the film version of Morbius will be true to the comics at least in terms of backstory, but where the film goes from there is anyone’s guess. Comic book fans are a passionate bunch though, so if anything is out of whack, it’ll surely be noticed.
7 STAY OUT: IT WILL BE PART OF THE EXTENDED MCU SOMEHOW
Avengers 4 is supposed to be the end of Marvel’s grand plan to release movies in different phases. It’s a busy universe with multiple characters, storylines, and details interlocking at every moment, so it’s hard to picture the MCU and the Sony Extended Universe coming together any time soon.
We do know, however, that there is at least some desire for Sony to create its own interlocking world, one where Venom, Carnage, Morbius, and possibly others could come together. Some people have suggested Tom Holland’s Spider-Man could fight Morbius, but for now, it’s best if the MCU remains a separate entity.
6 HOPE TO SEE: JARED LETO WILL LOOK COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Jared Leto is a master at changing his look to match the role he’s playing. Whether it’s being rail-thin in Dallas Buyers Club or the deranged gangster criminal Joker in Suicide Squad, he’s always been able to adapt his image to meet the needs of the film. He’s also a method actor, often remaining in character even when cameras aren’t rolling – as he did while shooting Suicide Squad.
Morbius should be no different, with Leto already expressing excitement towards playing the titular antihero. He posted a video on social media showing him shaving off the wooly beard that has become his signature over the last few years. While we haven’t seen any teasers of Leto in full Morbius makeup yet, it’ll be exciting to see what the director envisions for such a committed actor.
5 STAY OUT: ITS ACTUAL TITLE WILL BE LONGER THAN IT NEEDS TO BE
Right now, it’s very unclear what the actual title of the Morbius movie will be, with some sources referring to it simply as Morbius and others calling it Morbius, the Living Vampire. With production set to begin in February 2019 and a targeted release date of mid-2020, the title could obviously change a million times, but it would be unwise for Sony to pick something longer than it needs to be.
Venom was a short and sweet title that made it easy for audiences to reference. Other superhero films, like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, have cumbersome titles that fans typically shorten anyway. While the title alone won’t determine whether or not Morbius is a success, a clunky title usually doesn’t help in this day and age where time is precious and attention spans are short.
4 HOPE TO SEE: IT WON'T BE PG-13
While any sort of guidelines on what rating Morbius could be haven’t been established, co-producer Matt Tolmach is at least open to the idea of it being not PG-13. That’s good news for comic book fans, who know the Living Vampire as a bit of an animal. It would be incredibly hard to make a Morbius movie without generous amounts of violence, something that often warrants higher ratings than other metrics like coarse language.
In a recent interview, Tolmach stated: “Look, we’ve all seen, as you’ve said, the R-Rated versions of these movies are now working. So that’s out there. You can succeed to a staggering degree.” Let the reign of blood begin!
3 STAY OUT: IT’LL BE TAME ENOUGH FOR KIDS TO WATCH IT
On the other hand, Tolmach’s Morbius production partner Ari Arad has explained that the needs of the story will determine if the movie warrants a more adult rating. He’s actually not opposed to the film being PG-13, as movies like Sony’s own Venom have recently proven to be successful and appeal to a broader demographic if they are rated as low as PG-13.
In the same interview, Arad noted that he has kids and grandkids and that they all want to see some of the new comic book movies coming out. He adds: “I took my grandson, seven, to the recording session of Venom. And he had the time of his life.” Let’s hope Morbius isn’t so tame that it stifles the character.
2 HOPE TO SEE: IT WON’T BE IN THE SAME UNIVERSE AS SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE
Though it’s not a live-action feature, Sony’s next superhero venture is technically the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, set for release on December 14th. The Spider-Verse storyline was introduced in the comics in 2014, an alternate dimension where multiple alternate versions of Spider-Man come under attack from Morlun.
Without knowing what Sony has up its sleeve, it’s unlikely that Morbius will have anything to do with it. There’s been talk that the Living Vampire won’t even be set in the same universe as Spider-Verse, which would make the most sense since Morbius’ best bet is to start with a clean slate.
1 STAY OUT: SOME OF THE VOICE ACTORS FROM SPIDER-VERSE WILL REPRISE THEIR ROLES
Without any confirmed cast members besides Jared Leto, it’s way too early to tell how actors (or voice actors) from either Venom or Into the Spider-Verse could play into Morbius. We know that Tolmach and Arad might be working on plans for an extended universe, potentially dubbed “Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters” (cringe!) and with other movies like Black Cat, Silver and Black, and Nightwatch supposedly in development, you just never know how all of these pieces could come together.
Until the plan is firmed hashed out, it would be wise for Sony to keep the Spider-Verse characters out of Morbius. Again, it’s a new franchise with a fresh (anti) hero, one that deserves to be seen on his own without the pressure of having to conform to some greater plot points or multiple movie phases.