Sony’s latest entry in its Universe of Marvel Characters, Morbius, is finally set to hit theaters on April 1st. The film, which follows in the weirdly popular footsteps of Venom, will feature the origin story of its leading character, a pseudo-vampiric antihero by the name of Dr. Michael Morbius. With the casting of Jared Leto in the title role, and constant studio hints at some sort of coming crossover event, it’s likely the movie will set Morbius up as a major recurring player in the future of superhero cinema (or at least, Sony’s future of superhero cinema). Yet, despite the many years it spent in development hell, a solo Morbius flick was not always the plan for the character’s first live-action appearance. In fact, his cinematic roots date back over two decades to a franchise that helped start it all.
Blade, a 1998 Wesley Snipes vehicle based on the iconic Marvel character, is still a cult favorite with fans. Not only did it permanently redefine its titular vampire hunter, but it also ushered in a new generation of comic book adaptations that would eventually transform into the cultural powerhouse that it is today. It told the story of Blade, a vampire-human hybrid known as the “Daywalker,” who funneled his supernatural abilities and born hatred for the bloodsuckers into a lifelong war aimed at their extinction. Its success would lead to two sequels, Blade II and Blade: Trinity, before the franchise petered out and entered an extended hiatus. The trilogy’s chief creative, David S. Goyer, would eventually go on record to say that it was always his intention to craft a three-film saga, and a little-known deleted scene from the end of the first film might just prove it.
After defeating the villainous vampire lord Deacon Frost and getting his love interest, Dr. Karen Jenson, to safety, Blade is offered the chance to cure his vampirism and live a normal life. As the finished product goes, Blade rejects the offer and travels to Russia to continue his eternal war against the damned. However, an alternate version of the ending was filmed in which, after hearing Blade’s rejection, Karen looks across the rooftops to see a shadowy figure watching them from afar. Though the mystery man is not wearing any identifying clothing, he was meant to be none other than Dr. Michael Morbius – in the flesh.
The scene was available on YouTube for quite some time in low-quality, though it seems to have been recently removed. Obviously, the stinger would have laid the foundations for a sequel with Morbius as the big bad, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe popularized this method of promoting films that haven’t been made yet. Unfortunately, the ending was cut in favor of the Moscow action bit, which Norrington later revealed to be the studio’s choice. While no real reason has ever been given for this, it’s likely that New Line simply wanted a safer epilogue in case the project flopped and the story was never continued.
Speaking on the cut scene after Blade‘s release, Goyer confirmed that Morbius was always his plan for the second installment. Though some have speculated that the change in directors between films resulted in a creative overhaul of Blade II that kicked Morbius to the curb, that doesn’t seem to be the case. When filmmaker Stephen Norrington, who actually played Morbius in his brief cameo, backed out of his involvement with the sequel, the idea was still for maestro Guillermo del Toro to use a version of the character in his movie. Plans only changed when Marvel told del Toro and New Line outright that they would not allow the use of Morbius in a Blade film, as they wanted to reserve the villain for another franchise. Ultimately, del Toro and Goyer would rewrite their script to replace Michael Morbius with an original villain named Jared Nomak, a genetically enhanced vampire who gives Blade quite a lot of trouble.
Though not revealed specifically, it would make the most sense if the “other franchise” Marvel referred to was its then-upcoming Spider-Man series with Sony. As the new films will probably spell out, Morbius is truly more web-head adjacent than he is connected to Blade, despite the evident vampire relation. Known as “The Living Vampire,” Michael Morbius made his debut in a Spider-Man comic as a scientist with a rare blood disease. A series of unfortunate events would lead to Morbius becoming less of a true mystical vampire and more of a failed biology experiment, but dangerous nonetheless. He’s spent the majority of his history both fighting and partnering with the wall-crawler on numerous occasions but has had a few notable encounters with Blade as a member of the Midnight Sons. In the comics, he’s even the one responsible for biting Blade and turning him into a “Daywalker,” an ability the character was shown to birth within the movies.
Whatever the case, the Spider-Man franchise would go through two reboots and multiple versions of the same villains without ever once using Morbius like they claimed might happen in 1998. Now, all these years later, Sony has retained the rights to the character and is giving him his own picture, with a big screen meeting between Living Vampire and Human Spider a fairly certain deal down the line. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios has given an official Blade reboot the go-ahead with Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali now wearing the famous leather ensemble. With the way the Marvel multiverse is going, it seems any character interaction is on the table, so perhaps fans may one day get to see Blade and Morbius duke it out in cinemas after all. Funny how that works out.
Source(s): Revolutions, Bloody Disgusting, Take a Look Around