CS Soapbox: What Does THAT Morbius Trailer Cameo Mean?
Sony’s debut trailer for Morbius is making every comic book fan’s head spin and for good reason… the trailer alluded to larger connections to Sony’s Spiderverse (which is what we are going to call Sony’s Marvel Universe) and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.The announcement of ex-Joker Jared Leto’s turn as vampire Michael Morbius has had fans dissecting the film’s pieces for months. However, no one saw THAT big cameo coming, i.e. Michael Keaton as Vulture. Does this mean that Morbius -and in turn, Venom– take place in the MCU? The easy answer is no. The more convoluted answer is as follows.
Adrian Toomes, AKA Vulture, was of course the primary antagonist of 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming. A salvage contractor who is run out of business by Tony Stark, basically. Toomes then uses alien technology from the Battle of New York to make his Vulture suit. He is ultimately defeated by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and incarcerated. In that film’s post-credits scene, Vulture is seen discussing a possible team-up with MacDonald Gargan, AKA Scorpion (Michael Mando), which is a tease for the Sinister Six.
Sony has been wanting to create a Spiderverse ever since the days of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man. Those movies were laced with various Sinister Six teases that amounted to nothing once the central character was rebooted. However, Sony has never stopped craving that dark and disturbing universe. The studio owns all Spider-Man-related characters, and there are a lot of them. The unique thing about those characters is that, aside from Spider-Man, they’re mostly villains. Piggy-backing off the success of the MCU, Sony is now building its Spiderverse.
The first film in Sony’s extended universe to be released was 2018’s Venom starring Tom Hardy. That film never addressed anything about a larger universe until its post-credits scene, when Hardy’s Eddie Brock visited Woody Harrelson’s Cletus Kasady, AKA Carnage, in prison—the latter promising “carnage” (naturally). That tease and the announcement of Naomie Harris casting as Shriek pretty much confirms a Maximum Carnage (climatic story from the comics) arc for down the road. There will be a lot of anti-heroes/villains and obvious ties to the Sinister Six. On top of this, Holland’s Spider-Man is HEAVILY rumored to be making an appearance in Venom 2 (Vegas odds: green means go).
Now let’s touch on that Spider-Man tease in the Morbius trailer: Before we see Keaton’s Vulture, we see Michael Morbius walking down the street (wearing prison garb—do him and Vulture meet in prison?) and past a piece of Spider-Man street art in NYC that reads “murderer.” This picture of Spider-Man isn’t the Tom Holland Spider-Man, this Spider-Man is wearing the costume worn by Tobey Maguire in the Sam Raimi films. Also, the exact same image was actually used as a promotional one for the Sony PS4 Spider-Man game. So, what does that mean? It could mean that every Sony-related Spider-Man story we’ve seen over the last two decades is coming together in one big universe or… it could mean absolutely nothing. It’s probably just a goof that will be changed before Morbius actually comes out.
The “murderer” part of the graffiti most likely refers to the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, where Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) frames Holland’s Spider-Man for his murder. This compounded with the fact that when we see Vulture in that same trailer, he’s wearing the prison clothes we see him in at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, appears to imply that this is all happening IN THE MCU. That would be cool, but it’s not. At one point, Sony wanted to bring Venom into the MCU and Kevin Feige SHUT THAT DOWN. Marvel’s president will not have changed his mind.
The precarious working relationship between Sony and Marvel is no secret. Last year negotiations between the two studios nearly collapsed entirely, prompting Spider-Man to leave the MCU and be confined to Sony’s Spiderverse. Thanks to Disney CEO Bob Iger and a few tears shed by Tom Holland, Spider-Man stayed and now has the ability to jump universes. The thing is, Spider-Man isn’t the only character with this ability. While Spider-Man can appear in non-Spider-Man MCU movies (a deal has been made with Sony for at least one more appearance), all other Spider-Man-related characters can appear in Spider-Man standalone and Sony universe films. Any character that has appeared in a Tom Holland Spider-Man movie (that hasn’t shown up in another MCU movie) is technically fair game for Sony.
This is where things get complicated. Sony can use their Spider-Man characters but they have to do it in a way that ignores the MCU—think parallel universe. That’s exactly what Sony’s Spiderverse is: A parallel universe where all of the same Spider-Man characters exist as in the Spider-Man standalone films but in a way that erases MCU-centric things (or they can just not mention Tony Stark and they’ll probably be fine).
So what does Keaton’s Morbius cameo mean? It means that Sony is gathering all their villains like Infinity Stones for a Sinister Six team-up. It means that Keaton is not playing a different character but he is playing a different Vulture. One that knows nothing about the Battle of New York or Tony Stark, but does know Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. It means that we will probably be seeing Sony’s larger universe build very quickly in upcoming films like Venom 2, Spider-Man 3, Nightwatch, Jackpot, Silk, Silver Sable, and Black Cat.
Outside of the Sinister Six and MCU teases, the Morbius trailer was kind of…ok? A pretty standard looking origin story, aesthetically similar to Venom, featuring a high-caliber actor that will most likely be underutilized. The idea of a parallel universe is intriguing to be sure, however that idea will never be explored in a Star-Trek-y way, it merely exists to serve the contractual arrangements between two studios.