Morbius (Jared Leto) in Columbia Pictures' MORBIUS.

Morbius is a character in Columbia Pictures.


The first trailer for Morbius was released in January of 2020. I wrote at the time that the reception to the next Spider-Man film would be a chance to show that Venom wasn't a flop. The question remains, 1.5 years later, with a not-awful $39 million domestic debut but genuinely terrible C+ Cinemascore and record (for a big comic book flick), a 74% second-weekend drop. Is there hope or life in the Sony Pictures Universe of Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage?

Hollywood has been thinking over the last ten years. The tenth anniversary of The Avengers, a film that made over a billion dollars and sent Hollywood on a path to chase cinematic universes and prioritize superhero stories, is coming up. Audiences didn't care about the abstract idea of thecinematic universe, they just loved The Avenger and the MCU. Audiences don't like superhero stories, they just like the characters in the brands. Hollywood's reaction was to retrofit existing intellectual property into superhero stories and connected universes in order to allow streaming to replace theatrical moviegoing in modern pop culture.

The film was savage from the start. Venom was a clear hit because it was more popular than critics would have you believe. After Venom, Into the Spider-Verse, and two Spider-Man flicks, Morbius also opened, but with false hope.

Two years ago, we knew thatJared Leto wasn't a good draw, and that he didn't have the whole thing. In films like The Drop or Child 44, he wasn't a draw, but he was well-liked in Mad Max:Fury Road, The Revenant and Chris Nolan's films. Venom is a well-known and popular Spider-Man villain while Morbius is not, and that is one of the main differences between them.

Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock in 'Venom: Let There Be Carnage'

Eddie Brock is played by Tom Hardy in Venom: Let There Be Carnage.


Venom was so popular that Sony would eventually force Sam Raimi to include the character in Spider-Man 3. Morbius, the living vampire, is well known for getting his ass kicked by Blade and appearing in the Spider-Man cartoon where he has holes in his hands and screams about needing plasma because the show wasn't allowed to say so. Venom is a smash and Morbius will be lucky to crack 2.5x its $75 million budget, which is similar to the success of Beauty and the Beast.

Maybe if Morbius were a better, more coherent movie, or at least offered as much shamelessly goofy dumb fun as the first Venom. Sony's triumph with Venom is in crafting a franchise with a specific appeal, a gonzo goofy Tom Hardy essentially flirting with himself amid campy violent comic book adventure, even for those who don't care about the brand. It doesn't need Spider-Man as a carrot. The brand and/or brand's connection to the Spider-Man universe was the root of the sale for Morbius. The failure means that the films from this not-quite-MCU universe have to deliver on their merits.

I don't know what will happen with the Kraven the Hunter movie. J.C. Candor has my benefit of the doubt, but I don't think he's a great draw. Kraven is known as a Spider-Man villain, but he has a lot of other identities. Sony can tease him eventually kicking Peter Parker's ass, but making audiences sit through an anti-hero origin story first seems like a recipe for a sequel. Madame Web, starring Dakota Johnson and Sydney Sweeney, has to be worth it even if I don't care about the goods.

Spider-Man: No Way Home, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, and Uncharted all made more money than the Morbius. If Kraven and Madame Web don't click artistically and commercially, maybe Venom was less about Spider-Man villains than it was about Kraven and Madame Web. The Dark Universe was not meant to be a result of the audiences flocking to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.