Friday, December 23, 2022

All I Want For Christmas is Morbius 2

With Christmas just around the corner, I know Morbius 2 will not magically arrive in theaters within the next two days. However, in the spirit of making holiday wishes, I'm putting it out there that I hope that we get an announcement for Morbius 2 at some point. Yeah, it won't be before Christmas or even New Year's for that matter. To be honest, it might be never but I'd love to be wrong about that. 

The #1 cinematic punching bag of 2022, Morbius was adopted by the internet as a punchline even before its release. Why that is, I'm not quite sure. While it's no Top Gun: Maverick, the derision it's received has been way out of proportion to the movie itself. Morbius is a pedestrian movie, not a cinematic travesty. In terms of comic book adaptations, we've become spoiled over the last twenty years or so. We get multiple Marvel and DC adaptations a year and every year at least a few of those movies are exceptionally good with few, if any, being out right bad. I actually think that annoys critics, who would be happy to just dump on these movies at will so when Morbius gave critics a ready opportunity to unload, they took it.

Morbius would have played much better in the late '90s/early '00s when the comic book genre as we know it was still emerging. Years ago, Morbius still would have been received as a competently made, intriguingly darker edged comic book adaptation. These days, the bar is set so much higher. One might say that just means that filmmakers have to work harder to clear that bar but I say an ok movie shouldn't be eviscerated for not being exceptional. 

Ahead of its release, the collective public mood was primed to come down on Morbius. Not only is it an adaptation of a fairly obscure Spider-Man villain (and sometimes anti-hero!), which set it up for a barrage of "why was this even made/who asked for this?" attacks but the repeated delays it suffered due to both Covid and reshoots cast a preemptive pall of failure over it. The constant release date changes, five in all that took it all the way from July 10th, 2020 to April 1st, 2022, gave it the vibe of being an inferior product, a movie that was in need of repair. After all the delays, Morbius would have had to have been outstanding to overcome the sentiment that it was bad and, well, it wasn't. It was ok. But ok for Morbuis was enough to have it be labeled as terrible. Even its box office performance, which was also fine, was perceived to be disastrous. While it wasn't a massive blockbuster by any means it made $167 million worldwide on a $75-83 million dollar budget. That's hardly an embarrassment. Moonfall was a bomb. Strange New World was a bomb. Bros was a bomb. Amsterdam was a bomb. Babylon was a bomb. In comparison, Morbius did damn good. 

Save for their Spider-Man films - whether it be the live action ones currently produced by Kevin Feige or the animated Spider-Verse films - Sony Picture's other attempts to exploit the properties at their disposal in the Spider-Man world are operating at a disadvantage. But it's their unlikeliness as box office contenders that I find appealing. Venom was the easiest sell of the bunch, with the character having such a fanbase, but when you're talking about trying to make the likes of Morbius, Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web, and even El Muerto and Hypno-Hustler into franchises of their own, you're in weird, unpredictable territory - something that I think is worth pursuing because you never know what's going to come of it. It's all wild card stuff.  

People love to complain that comic book movies are commercially calculated product, which I think is unfair - after all, every single movie is made with the hope that it will be commercially viable. But if there is any truth to that, wouldn't you want to bring as many offbeat offerings into the genre as possible? Rather than more stories about good vs. evil with the universe at stake, let's have more quirky, oddball offerings. I'm all for seeing Sony spend their wad on crazy long shots. Good or bad, the chances are high that they'll be interesting. 

Marvel's other venture into horror this year was Werewolf by Night which, unlike Morbius, was met with near universal acclaim. Personally, I preferred Morbius. When it comes to adapting Marvel's horror characters, I want the pulpy energy that Morbius had. Morbius did a better job of being true to the feel of the grungy '90s, Midnight Sons era of comics that Morbius flourished in than Werewolf by Night did in capturing that character's shaggy '70s exploits. For all the snarky memes it inspired, the fact is that Morbius performed well enough at the box office to earn a follow up. With most comic book movies, it's not hard to guess what route a sequel might take. With Morbius, though, I have no idea what a Part 2 would look like and that's what makes me want one all the more. 

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