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The Tragicomic, Never-ending Saga of ‘Morbius’

The Jared Leto–starring, maybe-related-to-Spider-Man superhero movie has officially been delayed more times than ‘New Mutants’—and now it’s coming out on April Fools’ Day

Sony/Ringer illustration

2021 was such a unique year for pop culture that one of its standout performers was Jared Leto, an actor whose historically grating Method style translated into scene-stealing performances opposite the likes of Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Lady Gaga, and Al Pacino. His accent in House of Gucci may not have completely absolved him of, say, sending rats, condoms, and anal beads to former castmastes, but it did garner a little more intrigue for his next project. After crashing and burning as the Joker in the DC Extended Universe with hilariously scant screentime, the actor is set to return to the world of superheroes with Morbius, Sony Pictures’ origin story for the brooding antihero and occasional Spider-Man villain Morbius the Living Vampire.

But when this Leto vehicle will see the light of day has become an ongoing mystery. For anyone who’s ventured to a movie theater since the start of the pandemic, the existence of Morbius is nothing new: The only thing more enduring (and perplexing) than Nicole Kidman’s AMC Theaters promo are trailers for the film, which have basically screened before every movie for the past 12 months. That’s because Morbius, like many blockbusters before it, has dealt with constant release date changes on account of the pandemic and the latest COVID variants disrupting a return to normalcy. In another timeline—Doctor Strange, where you at?—perhaps Morbius would’ve met its original release date of July 10, 2020.

All told, Morbius had its release date shifted six times in three years before recently settling on January 28, 2022. That Sony was willing to put the film at the tail end of Dumpuary—historically the month when studios relieve themselves of projects they have little faith in—signaled that either it hopes Morbius will feed off of the record-breaking success of Spider-Man: No Way Home or that the studio is waving the white flag, because the movie looks, well, pretty bad. Maybe it’s both—and I’m not just saying that because I’ve seen the Morbius trailer approximately 200 times against my will, though being Clockwork Orange’d into watching Jared Leto as a moody vampire definitely hasn’t helped the film’s case.

But even though Morbius is arguably the least interesting superhero project in a year that’s full of them, Leto has earned the benefit of the doubt after a rousing 2021. If the actor can salvage movies as varied as The Little Things and House of Gucci by playing an utterly creepy suspected serial killer and a paunchy failson, respectively, then Morbius could—key word, could—clear the very low bar of being watchable nonsense. And if all else fails, Morbius is still primed to feast on Dumpuary like a player padding stats on a bad NBA team.

Unfortunately, fate (and COVID) has once again intervened. With the omicron variant leading to unprecedented positivity rates across the globe, Morbius is being pushed back for a seventh time, and is now slated to open on April 1, 2022. Yes, the most cursed superhero movie since New Mutants could be coming out on April Fools’ Day, a perfect punch line for a film that looks so mediocre that Dylan O’Brien, of all people, is making fun of it on Twitter.

Aside from being blindsided by the star of Teen Wolf, Morbius’s perpetually delayed journey to the big screen seems like an appropriate fate for a project that lacks an identity or purpose outside of Sony’s trying to capitalize on the hype of its Spider-Man and Venom franchises. (If there are Morbius Heads out there counting down the days to the film’s release, they aren’t very vocal; maybe good Wi-Fi is hard to find in Transylvania.)

One thing that Sony could do to salvage Morbius’s reputation, both as an on-screen product and its tragicomic state of being even more delayed than New Mutants, is provide a little clarity on the continuity of its so-called cinematic universe. It’s unclear whether Morbius takes place in the universe that features Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock or Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, because by all accounts it can’t be both. As No Way Home confirmed, Eddie and Venom are part of their own universe, and Doctor Strange’s spell inadvertently—and temporarily—sent them to the MCU, where they hung out with bartender Dani Rojas in Mexico. In short: Venom’s universe (the Venom-verse? Sony-verse?) is separate from the Spider-Man of the MCU, and outside of a little symbiote goo being left on the bar, that appears to be the plan for Hardy’s character going forward. Meanwhile, after releasing by far the most successful film in the pandemic era in No Way Home, Sony seems willing to do whatever it takes to make a bajillion more Spider-Man movies, even if it means tethering the character to the MCU and grinding Tom Holland into dust.

How does this relate to Morbius? An FBI agent refers to “that thing in San Francisco” in the latest trailer, which indicates that Morbius takes place in the same universe as Venom, as if Leto’s eponymous antihero’s brief (and very bad) Venom impression to scare a criminal wasn’t enough. And yet, Morbius will also have Michael Keaton reprise his role as the Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming, which, coupled with some slightly outdated Spider-Man street art in the trailers, suggests that this movie takes place in the MCU. As the film struggles to find a release date to call home, nothing quite makes sense—and I’m not just talking about Jared Leto walking through the streets of New York City in a prison jumpsuit.

Is it a self-own to overthink a movie as silly-looking as Morbius and create a conspiracy board about Sony’s ongoing relationship with the MCU? Probably, but unless Morbius is going to incorporate Doctor Strange’s multiverse hijinks into its plot, then the film has some explaining to do. If the pandemic disrupted Morbius much like the MCU’s original schedule of programming, then perhaps this expansion of the Venom-verse is stuck in the past—or perhaps Sony’s desire to have another meal at the box office was more important than pesky things like continuity or internal logic.

Of course, to confirm any of these suspicions, it would help to actually get to see Morbius. As long as the omicron variant is kept under control, we’ll know on April Fools, of all days, whether Morbius can ride its polarizing lead actor’s recent momentum and transcend its lowly expectations to become a surprise hit like Venom. In any case, please, for the love of god, just let this film finally come out on the seventh time of asking. Vampires might be immortal, but moviegoers can endure Morbius trailers for only so long before plunging a stake through a projector screen.