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"I'm not sure how I got here," declares Adrian Toomes/Vulture (Michael Keaton) in the now infamous mid-credits scene for Sony's Morbius film (currently playing on screens worldwide after six high-profile postponements). "Has to do with Spider-Man, I think."
This line — which perfectly sums up confusion on the part of both Toomes and the general moviegoing audience — takes on a strangely meta quality when filtered through the lens of a recent interview conducted with the project's director, Daniel Espinosa (Child 44, Life). When asked why a number of Keaton-focused moments from the trailers did not end up in the finished cut, the filmmaker laid the blame at the feet of the friendly neighborhood wall-crawler, or, more specifically, the hero's most recent standalone offering: No Way Home.
"Most of these movies [evolve]," Espinosa told Entertainment Weekly, going on to hint that No Way Home had as much to do with Morbius' final theatrical delay as the exhibitor devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"But most of the big evolution was, luckily enough, pre-pandemic," he continued. "We were following that timeline, and then the pandemic hit. And then we had to make some changes toward the very end because Spider-Man came out, and it had a certain kind of visual language that you had to hold on to, to have some kind of unilateral concept. But otherwise, most of the ideas of having connections to different worlds came before the pandemic."
Last seen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Toomes shows up in the parallel dimension that is home to Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), Eddie Brock/Venom (Tom Hardy), and the upcoming Kraven the Hunter (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) by way of Doctor Strange's multiversal spell over in the MCU. Don't ask us how the rules work on this — we have no clue either.
Unfazed by the fact that he just left a young daughter behind, Toomes somehow gets his Vulture suit back (or builds a new one, presumably, even without alien tech), arranges a rendezvous with the Living Vampire, and suggests they found a group of like-minded individuals. Did we say "like-minded"? We meant to say "sinister," as in the Sinister Six, because that's clearly what Sony is laying the groundwork for. None of this was hinted at in the trailers, which teased a prison-based conversation between Toomes and Morbius, in which the latter tells Michael to embrace his new gifts.
"How they wanted this encounter to happen between those two people, that evolved and changed," Espinosa added. "But I mean, those things happen. Scripts for these movies are always evolving."
Flying in the face of negative reviews (and an abysmal 16 percent on Rotten Tomatoes), Morbius still managed to close out its opening weekend with a decently sizable $84 million worldwide. While it's too early to tell whether the studio will green-light a sequel or not, Espinosa has alluded to a grand plan of rallying these standalone villain stories around a Spider-Man in the Sony-owned corner of the Marvel Universe.
"What's fun with Marvel is that it's kind of like a high school field, where you have your friends and the people you don't like, and you can choose who you want to hang out with," he concluded.
"Based on their performance — not only at the box office, but also their popularity with critics and moviegoers alike — some films are naturals to be green-lit for a sequel, even before the ink is dry on the evaluation of their opening weekend performance," Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst at Comscore, tells SYFY WIRE. "Generally, if all three of these criteria are met, then an automatic green-light is in the cards, but for a film like Morbius, which faced strong critical headwinds, it may be more of a judgment call by the studio and producers of the film. However, Morbius still fared well at the global box office and thus, the film will likely be profitable, with fans seeming to give it a thumbs-up. Thanks to a combination of the Marvel halo effect, an interesting offbeat character, and a unique movie that challenged and fascinated audiences, it would seem a good move to swing for the fences and give a Morbius 2 a greenlight."
Morbius is now playing in theaters everywhere.