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Morbius release date, trailer, cast and plot

Sony Pictures intends to capitalize on the surprise success of Venom, expanding its universe of Spider-Man characters by bringing in a vampire. It might feel a little odd up front, but then again, maybe a vampire is less weird than an alien symbiote that forces a man to climb into a lobster tank. The franchise may not be ready to slip the webhead himself into the mix just yet, but that's little trouble when all of these antiheroic personalities need to be built up as a full-fledged characters themselves. 

Maybe Spider-Man will give Sony the sort of pseudo-Dark Universe franchise Universal can't quite get to work, complete with a bunch of half-good guys duking it out with each other. Morbius, the next man-slash-creature to enter this lineup, is nearly ready to stop waiting in the wings. Here's some of what we can expect from the Living Vampire when he swoops into theaters.

When will Morbius be released in theaters?

Morbius was initially set for release on July 31st, 2020. That date would have conveniently avoided overlapping both Black Widow and The Eternals' release dates, which Sony and Marvel may well have hashed out together as part of their tumultuous shared custody of Spider-Man. It was a bold choice, too, to put it right in the middle of the tentpole season. Of course, like the rest of the summer 2020 movie season, Morbius found itself a new date, with Sony moving the Living Vampire all the way back to March 19, 2021.

Venom 2 currently remains slated for October of 2020. Any possibility of a crossover between them, either through the body of the plot or some post-credit revelation, is still very much up in the air.

Jared Leto transforms into Morbius

Filling the lead role Dr. Michael Morbius is Jared Leto. Yeah, we know, we're worried about what his particular flavor of method acting might do in this role, too. However, we've yet to hear any particularly upsetting behind-the-scenes stories about Letoesque hijinks on the set of Morbius. After Suicide Squad, one would assume tabloids would be all over that kind of hot gossip like white on snow, but the information came out later during that film's press tour, so we'll see.

You may find it encouraging to know that Leto has a long history of consuming vampire-centered media of various stripes, and has a lot of passion for the genre. If coming from a place of sanity, being inspired by examples like Interview with the Vampire (both the book and films, according to Leto) and Bram Stoker's Dracula is actually quite a boon. These are works uninterested in being gritty or unstylized — they're big, languid, and stuffed to the gills with aesthetic, while never forgetting the innate monstrous truth of vampirism. Morbius as a character never takes joy in his affliction, but that doesn't mean the movie can't have ostentatious flourish.

Adria Arjona stars as Morbius' fiancee

Adria Arjona has been cast as Martine Bancroft, Morbius' fiancee. As a supporting character to the Living Vampire, who is himself generally not a leading man, it's no surprise that there isn't exactly a wealth of knowledge about her to glean from the source material. She often exists (we have to admit with some discomfort) purely to die or be mind-controlled into joining cults, thus making Morbius sad before inevitably being resurrected. She ultimately seeks to become a true mythical vampire, turns on Morbius, and permanently dies. Let's hope that particular sexist tradition is avoided in the film adaptation. The fact that this lesser-known comic property doesn't have an expansive lore could actually work in the project's favor, as it permits a lot of flexibility and wholesale invention.

Arjona herself may not be a household name, but has much to recommend her as she enters the superhero genre via Morbius. She is fresh off the massive success of Good Omens as Anathema Device, but she also has other notable genre chops exercised in Pacific Rim: Uprising and True Detective. 

Matt Smith grows some fangs of his own for Morbius

Matt Smith has been cast as the antagonist of Morbius, best-friend-turned-enemy Loxias Crown, who also suffers from the same blood disease as the Living Vampire. We don't know much about the motivations of this character played by the former Doctor, but the disease is fatal, so Crown certainly has a lot of desperate motivation to become the creature Morbius is... even if it means sacrificing his own humanity.

Now, there is no character strictly named "Loxias Crown" in Marvel canon. There is a lesser-known Spider-Man villain named Crown, but he goes by the moniker Hunger. This character has only appeared in seven issues, but he too is a pseudovampire created by capturing Morbius and experimenting on him to gain his powers. Loxias could possibly be a blend of this villain and Morbius' comic-canonical research assistant Emil Nikos (who is murdered by Morbius in the chaos after his accidental transformation). If we're to be treated to a dissolved friendship over mortality, how about throwing in a little bit of Interview With The Vampire love-hate relationship, maybe, just for fun?

Jared Harris and Tyrese Gibson round out the cast of Morbius

Two casting choices for Morbius' supporting characters have piqued our curiosity. Tyrese Gibson, cast as an FBI agent referred to as "Agent Stroud," is tasked with chasing Morbius down in the wake of his murders-as-nutrition. Mad Men and Chernobyl's Jared Harris, meanwhile, has been cast in an as-yet undefined role that may or may not be Morbius' career mentor and/or Wolf-Man, if current rumor ends up holding any weight. When asked about what drew him to joining Morbius, Harris pointed to the joy of reuniting with his friend Matt Smith (whom he got to know while working on Netflix's The Crown) and the fact that he has always loved comic books. If that doesn't warm even the coldest dead heart over and foster interest in this project, we're not sure what will.

Let's step back and enjoy this delightful dichotomy for a moment. The man known for playing Moriarty in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes films will possibly share a screen and (please, please) dialogue with the man best known for being the butt of a joke in the Fast and Furious franchise. That's a wide spectrum to appreciate in an edgy vampire film. Additionally, if this "Agent Stroud" turns out to be comic-canonical Simon Stroud, will Gibson be running around in a magnificent bright blue suit and red ribbed turtleneck as the original character does? Good lord, we hope so.

The Morbius trailer offers some surprising revelations — including an MCU connection

The first trailer for Morbius arrived in January of 2020, with all the dark, brooding mood you might expect — plus a few interesting surprises. Overall, the trailer summarizes Morbius' motivation for the film: he's terminally ill and desperate to find a cure, permitting Jared Leto to shine as one of those gaunt, waxy, haunted characters he so clearly loves. Hubris is an underlying theme, too, with several shots of Morbius receiving awards yet feeling unsatisfied with the slow progression of his research. That's what drives him to undertake the absurd steps he does to cure himself with bats, no matter what his mentor or colleagues say. 

There are a few intriguing revelations to be found in the first Morbius trailer — including a Spider-Man Easter egg and the return of Michael Keaton's Vulture — but the biggest surprise might be the revelation that the source of Morbius' vampirism seems far more mystical than one would have initially anticipated — he has a weird-looking ceremonial knife and everything. Coupled with interesting bits of cinematography that are a blend of horror and Inception-like inversions of perspective, this humble little origin story of a lesser-known antihero is shaping up to perhaps get a little pleasantly weird.

The most encouraging turn by far has the character of Martine Bancroft take a prominent role in the trailer not simply as romantic interest, but research assistant to Morbius in his lifelong attempt to cure his own ailment. Hopefully she will be given a quality role in the story reflective of modern ideals, surpassing her existence in the original comics. We only get a little taste of Tyrese Gibson and Matt Smith as Simon Stroud and Loxias Crown, respectively, but their whole deal is surely yet to come in a fuller trailer once we encroach more closely upon summer.

What is the plot of Morbius?

If you're introducing a new character into a superhero universe, they've gotta have that sweet, sweet origin story, right? Morbius is no different, and Sony wasted no time setting the tone with a very basic synopsis of the plot: it is a "horror action story of a scientist who, in trying to find a cure for a rare blood disease, accidentally transformed himself into a living vampire who, though disgusted by his own bloodlust, chooses to prey upon criminals he deems unworthy of life." 

Dr. Michael Morbius at first lives as a normal man and Nobel-Prize-winning biochemist stricken with said disease that dissolves his red blood cells. In comic continuity, he attempts to cure it by inventing a serum distilled from the vital fluids of bats, then hooking up to an electric line to shock himself. As you might expect, this harebrained idea goes a bit awry and whoops, now Dr. Morbius is a sci-fi vampire. That's why he's the Living Vampire, you see — because science. 

All of this is kept from Morbius' fiancee, Martine Bancroft, until he disappears. When and where the truth might be revealed in the film versus the comics will probably be different, but in the source material, it involves a werewolf named — no joke —  Jack Russell. Comics: gotta love 'em. Somewhere in the midst of all this, Morbius and his bestie Loxias Crown will have a falling out that will become the major conflict of the film. All in all, it's a pretty standard out-of-the-box origin story format, plus vampires. 

Who is directing Morbius?

At the helm of Morbius is Daniel Espinosa, who was attached at virtually the same time Leto joined the project. His most recognizable director credit in the United States is for the 2017 alien horror-thriller Life, which (while it performed well enough financially) received middling critical reviews. We say "in the United States" because he is a native of Sweden, where his career originally took off directing the Swedish-language film Easy Money (in Swedish, Snabba Cash) starring Joel Kinnaman in 2010. His American filmography also includes Safe House, an action thriller starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds, and Child 44, a Cold War-era drama starring Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy. 

That's a whole bunch of major Hollywood heavy-hitters to show off on your directorial CV, but the trouble is that all of these previous films have kind of been forgotten, we're sorry to say. Sometimes that's worse than being remembered for one extremely bad movie. There are many reasons this can happen to any director, as seems to be the case for Espinosa — budget issues, poor scripts, reshoots, and other post-production issues — but one has to wonder just how high the bar should be placed in anticipation of Morbius, despite the fact that Espinosa is once again being given a star-studded cast.

Who wrote the Morbius script?

Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, the scribes behind the screenplay for Morbius, have worked as a team for much of their careers, sharing credits on Gods of Egypt, the 2017 Power Rangers reboot, The Last Witch Hunter, and Dracula Untold. In all honesty, you may not remember some of these projects, and if you do, you don't remember them as — to put it gently — box office successes. Their filmography is stacked with similar genre content, yes, but not movies commonly seen as... well, good. Each of these titles has an underwhelming score on Rotten Tomatoes. Now, the two did executive produce Netflix's revival of Lost in Space, and that has been somewhat better received, but it's not exactly a home run, either. 

We're not out to unnecessarily disparage any hard-working screenwriter, but from a purely financial perspective, Sony's choice in two writers with a thin and underperforming CV is... unusual. We're not quite sure what to think of this particular production choice, but then again, Venom's writers have similarly uneven credentials, and while the finished product was a little rocky, it definitely was fun and paid off.