A brilliant doctor suffering from a rare blood disease goes to extreme lengths to find a cure and becomes a monster who craves human blood in the first trailer for Morbius, based on the popular villain (and later, antihero) in the Spider-Man comic books.
Sony’s film adaptation of the character is intended to be part of a new shared universe of films along the lines of the Marvel model. The studio hopes to spin-off the Sony Marvel Universe (SMU) from its successful Spider-Man franchise. The 2018 film Venom kicked off the series, starring Tom Hardy in the title role. Critics slammed it, but Venom went on to gross over $850 million worldwide, and a sequel is slated for release this fall. So Sony decided to move forward with the planned Morbius movie, tapping Daniel Espinosa (Life) to direct—a solid choice, since Espinosa clearly knows how to merge science fiction and horror. Jared Leto will play Morbius.
Based on the trailer, Morbius will focus on the character’s origins. Per the official synopsis:
One of Marvel’s most compelling and conflicted characters comes to the big screen as Oscar winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero, Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder, and determined to save others suffering his same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. What at first appears to be a radical success soon reveals itself to be a remedy potentially worse than the disease.
The trailer opens with a flashback to Michael Morbius as a young boy, already ill and on crutches, being bullied by obnoxious schoolboys. He finds solace in chess and a mentor in Jared Harris’s character. “You have a gift, you always have,” the mentor tells an adult Morbius. “If there’s an answer to your disease, you’ll find it.” There are scenes of Morbius winning a Nobel Prize, working with a sick patient, and spending hours in the laboratory in search of a cure. Acknowledging that he ought to have died years ago, Morbius wonders, “Why am I still here, if not to fix this?”
And despite living longer than expected, he’s quickly running out of time.
Morbius decides that desperate measures are in order—something “not exactly legal.” We see him land via helicopter in a remote location, cut his hand to draw blood, and extend that hand at the entrance to a cave. A swarm of bats flies out, and somehow Morbius is transformed into the Living Vampire. (This looks like a departure from the original comics, in which Morbius is transformed via a failed biochemical experiment involving radiation rather than magic.) Now he feels “more alive than ever,” with increased strength, speed, and echolocation abilities. The downside: “an overpowering urge to consume blood.”
We also catch glimpses of Matt Smith as Loxias Crown, a friend to Morbius who suffers from the same rare blood disease, and Michael Keaton, reprising his role as the super villain Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming. Adria Arjona plays Morbius’s fiancée, Martine Bancroft, and Tyrese Gibson plays FBI agent Simon Stroud, who is hunting the doctor-turned-murderous-monster. His partner, Alberto Rodriguez, is played by Al Madrigal.
This actually looks like a great role for Leto, whose Joker portrayal in 2016’s Suicide Squad has been rendered largely irrelevant (fairly or unfairly) in the wake of Joaquin Phoenix’s masterful, Oscar-nominated performance in Joker. Morbius is a different kind of complicated character—a man struggling to reconcile his conscience with the desire for a cure that turns him into a monster—that’s perhaps better suited to Leto’s brooding style.
“How far are we allowed to go to fix something that’s broken?” he asks his mentor, who replies, “Until the remedy is worse than the disease.” But who gets to decide when that threshold has been crossed?
Morbius hits theaters July 31, 2020.
Listing image by YouTube/Sony Pictures