In 2019, the world at large learned a little more about Arthur Fleck, aka the Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips and starring Joaquin Phoenix, the movie not only won countless awards but blurred the lines between hero and villain. For fans of the Batman movie franchise, the Joker has always been the bad guy. Running amuck and causing destruction everywhere he goes, we basically knew him as the complete opposite to Batman. However, thanks to Joker, it’s not such an open and shut case anymore. Yes, he’s still a bad guy. But, in some ways, we now have a touch of sympathy or, at least, understanding as to why he’s like that.
Peeling back the layers of comic book bad guys is the in thing and Sony Pictures have jumped on that bandwagon. Using its licensing partnership with Marvel Studios (which operates under Disney), Sony Pictures is giving us the story of Morbius. For those not in the know, Morbius was once an enemy of Spider-Man and, like his counterpart, he has certain non-human powers. In this case, he’s part bat. After working on a cure for his own rare blood disease, Dr. Michael Morbius turns himself into a pseudo-vampire.
He’s a Vampire, But Not Quite
What’s a pseudo-vampire? Well, it’s like a vampire but not quite as powerful. As we can see in the trailer (see video below), Morbius has many of a vampire’s best attributes. From strength and echolocation to an ability to glide (due to hollow bones), he’s almost a full bloodsucker. However, his Achilles heel is blood. Unlike full vampires, Morbius isn’t dead – he’s a living vampire. This means he doesn’t drink blood for fun but, rather, to repair and stay alive. So, while he is stronger, faster, and more durable than a human, he needs fresh blood to overcome the inevitable damage he suffers.
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Jared Leto plays Morbius which, depending on your perspective, could be a good or a bad thing. Among comic aficionados, he’s regarded as a bit of a joke. Although his portrayal of the Joker wasn’t awful, it’s regarded as one of the more forgettable performances, especially in the wake of Heath Ledger and the aforementioned Phoenix. Be that as it may, Leto is back and looking for redemption (both onscreen and offscreen). Perhaps the one thing he and audiences can cling to is the fact Marvel does vampires well. From its version of Dracula, who first appeared back in 1972, to Varnae, Blade and Jubilee, the vampiric gene is strong within Marvel’s DNA.
External Forces Can Make Morbius a Hit
External forces could also help to make Morbius a hit. Vampires are scattered throughout history and, indeed, modern culture. Take, for instance, the LA Opera Orchestra’s live performance of music from Dracula adaptation, Nosferatu. On TV, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the catalyst for a generation of good-looking bloodsuckers. This trend reached its peak in the noughties when Robert Pattinson brought Stephenie Meyer’s character Edward Cullen to life. The book-to-movie transformation made Twilight a mainstream hit in 2008. From there, the saga was born and continued for another five movies before concluding in 2012.
Off the back of this, game developers have embraced vampires. A look through some of the most popular online slots reveals a thirst for something more than money. Titles such as Night Vampire and Fangtastic now sit alongside industry hits such as Starburst and Gonzo’s Quest. Like their counterparts, these games feature the usual combination of reels, symbols, and prizes. However, in line with the genre, each one has some added bite. Indeed, when you take a spin on Fangtastic, dark animations and eerie backdrops create a sense of trepidation that plays right into our love of vampires.
Will Morbius Suck the Life Out of Us?
With a variety of forces working in its favor, Morbius has a shot at becoming a hit. However, the jury is still out on whether it will match Joker. The final judgments will be made when the movie is released in 2021. Until then, we can only speculate on how it will fare at the box office. We know there’s a precedent for vampires in the world of entertainment. What’s more, audiences love a backstory.
But, we also know that Leto has missed the mark when it comes to comic characters. Moreover, there’s just something about Morbius that doesn’t get the juices flowing. Yes, he’s got some powers but they’re not really as inspired as others. Morbius might drain us of more than blood or it may get the red stuff coursing through our veins. For now, we can only speculate on what we’ll see when the movie comes out in 2021.