It’s fair to say that Morbius – an upcoming
superhero anti-hero movie about a largely unknown and not particularly popular Spider-Man villain, minus Spider-Man – is a pretty unusual prospect. But could it also be the movie that ties Sony’s films to the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
That’s the question on many fans’ lips after Morbius’ teaser trailer was released this week, which gave us our first look at Leto’s scientist-turned sort-of vampire – as well as a surprise cameo from an MCU character suggesting that the film will connect to Marvel’s wider universe after all.
But first, a bit of backstory. A long time ago in a galaxy very close to our own (OK it’s our galaxy, this one) Marvel wasn’t the world-beating media company it is now. Instead, the comic-book publisher was close to bankrupt, and ended up selling the rights to some of their prime superhero characters to make some money.
Sony ended up with the screen rights to Spider-Man and created their acclaimed series of films starring Tobey Maguire and directed by Sam Raimi, while Marvel ended up starting their shared movie universe with some of the characters it had left (or whose rights had reverted to them over the years) – Iron Man, Thor, Captain America et al.
Later, Sony rebooted Spider-Man with a new lead (Andrew Garfield) and director (Marc Webb) and planned their own cinematic universe based around all of Spidey’s ancillary villains and allies (characters like Black Cat, Madame Web, the Sinister Six et al) – but after The Amazing Spider-Man 2 performed poorly at the box office, it scrapped these plans and eventually cut a deal with Marvel Studios so the latter could finally include Spider-Man in the MCU.
Meanwhile, Sony started building the foundations of a separate cinematic universe with the characters it had left, releasing Venom in 2018 (based on a popular Spider-Man villain) and planning all sorts of other movies. Later, the deal between Sony and Marvel seemed to break down, and Sony apparently planned to bring Tom Holland’s Marvel Spidey back into their universe.
As we all know, eventually Sony and Marvel cut a new deal – and based on this Morbius trailer, it seems like the two universes might mesh together a little more closely from now on. You see, at the end of the trailer we’re greeted by the surprise appearance of Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, the villain of Spider-Man: Far From Home, who appears to be greeting Leto’s Morbius after the latter turns to villainy/bloodsucking.
Also in the trailer, we see a piece of Spider-Man graffiti naming the web-slinger a murderer, presumably referencing the events of 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home when Peter Parker was framed for Mysterio’s death.
So does this mean Morbius is officially a part of the MCU? Well, not necessarily.
While Keaton’s involvement does tie the two universes together, there’s no confirmation that this is the same Adrian Toomes we saw in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Sony’s movies are in a separate universe, one of many (as established by the company’s animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), so why couldn’t there be more than one Toomes? Yes, he’s played by the same actor, but JK Simmons has played J Jonah Jameson in two separate movie universes before – there is a precedent!
And the Spider-Man picture also slightly muddles the issue. As we’ve written elsewhere, the picture is actually of Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man rather than Tom Holland’s, which opens the (slightly confusing) possibility that the film could somehow be tying into that universe instead (assuming it wasn’t just a mistake, or an issue Sony had in getting the rights to Holland’s costumes, which are presumably tied into the deal with Marvel).
So here we have one movie universe featuring a character from another, and a costume design from a third. It’s all a bit confusing, but does it mean Marvel and Sony are operating in the same continuity?
Well, honestly… we don’t know. As it stands, it seems unlikely that Marvel would allow another studio to take some control of their carefully maintained sandbox, and the discrepancies between the movies Sony is making or has made and Marvel’s own suggest a certain level of separation is still there.
However, we can’t deny the fact that Morbius is adding MCU characters and Spider-Man himself into their world, which will one way or another tie everything together. Maybe Sony’s plan is to make a universe that echoes Marvel’s and nods to it without explicitly being part of the same continuity – a version with a rift in time and space so that some details and characters slip through without upending Marvel’s main plans. (And yeah, that probably means a Tom Holland cameo in the Venom films at some point.)
On the other hand, we could be overthinking this whole thing, and Sony and Marvel have a super thought-out plan for their new mega-shared universe. Maybe the whole thing has been signed off by Kevin Feige. Who knows? Until Morbius is released this summer, we’re all, rather appropriately, in the dark.
Morbius is released in UK cinemas on the 31st July