Marvel is digging deep into their rich catalog of superhumans in their film adaptation of Morbius. The backstory of Dr. Morbius is a complicated one that crosses the paths of several other Marvel heroes and villains: mainly Spider-Man, but also Blade, X-Men, Dr. Strange, Ghost Rider, and The Punisher, among others. Michael Morbius was born in Greece with a rare blood disease that the left the young boy isolated from others, and due to his condition, he was also left with unseemly facial features and physical frailties. The young Morbius excelled intellectually and through his education studied endlessly in the fields of human and animal biology, as well as hematology (the study of blood), in order to try and find a cure for his rare incurable condition. Trying to cure himself, the now Dr. Morbius attempted an experiment with vampire bat DNA and electroshock therapy, which instead of curing him, gave him pseudo-vampirism. This new awful condition came with superhuman capabilities. This origin story of Mr. Morbius starring Jared Leto as Morbius, endured several several delays, from March of 2021, to October 2021, Morbius is set to be released in theatres nationwide on January 28th, 2022.
Like most stories involving vampires, Morbius has the usual pale skin, sensitivity to sunlight, and a rich lust for fresh human blood consumption. However, this is where the similarities seem to dovetail. Morbius’ bones, through his experiment, are now hollow, giving him the ability to move quickly and glide through the air. He does not necessarily fly, but he is able to do something called transvection, which allows Morbius to glide weightlessly through the air with the help of wind currents and intuitive knowledge of how to move about. In addition, his pseudo-vampirism gives him superhuman strength and echolocation. All of these traits come in handy when he’s hunting for fresh blood, trying to cure himself, and somehow never become a hero or a villain.
The introduction of another darker character into the Marvel universe or MCU, is a smart move from the Spider-Man SONY production company. We won’t get into the confusing nature of how MCU is different and who controls the rights to which characters, the important part is that short of Deadpool, there has not been a real dark storyline as a headliner to compete with DC’s more character driven, darker films. It is fair to say that Marvel has a stranglehold on the superhero movie market, but at this point their films are more quantity, not quality. Hopefully Morbius will change the narrative of the MCU making simple entertaining movies and possibly add some depth to their repertoire.
Jared Leto’s Transformation
Jared Leto is no stranger to drastically changing shape for a role. Since his early toles in films like Fight Club and Requiem for A Dream, Leto has gained and lost dozens of pounds to properly get his body into the right frame to match the characters he’s personally developing to play. Leto also works intensely on character development. While preparing for his role as Harry Goldfarb in the 2000 Requiem for a Dream, Leto lived on the streets of New York City for weeks to adapt to his characters lifestyle as a drug user— losing an unhealthy amount of weight in the process. In 2007, in preparation for his role as Mark Chapman in the film Chapter 27, Leto gained 67 pounds and it took a tole on his then much younger body. The unhealthy weight gain produced intense pain in his feet, which relegated him to using a wheelchair at times to mitigate the pain. His recovery from this role, “took about a year to get back to a place that felt semi-normal.”
The physical transformation Leto signed himself up for in Morbius is a similarly grueling one. Along similar lines as his regiment to prepare for playing the Joker, Leto eats meals every two hours and works out several hours a day— focusing on martial arts, boxing, and bodybuilding exercises to increase muscle mass. Though Leto is a vegan, and has been for decades, this has not held back his positive weight gain in the slightest. Drawn to food that appeals to most, like tacos and popcorn, Leto eats a carb-heavy diet, and often, for stamina throughout his workouts and shooting.
The Endless Possibilities of Dr. Morbius
This movie is especially exciting for the Marvel franchise because it opens up several different new plotlines from the 1970’s original comics that have yet to be explored. As mentioned, the comic series cross paths with Blade, but also lesser-known characters like The Midnight Sons, and The Outlaw (basically the British Punisher). If Marvel is looking to expand into the darker desires of its audiences, as there has been an entire generation that has grown into adulthood with Marvel, now would be the right time to do so. By simply watching the trailer of Morbius, we can assume that this film will be the start of many films, not necessarily just with Dr. Morbius, but in the Spider-Man universe that is now expanding with the end of the Avengers franchise. In the trailer there is a reference to “that thing in San Francisco”, which is a direct reference to Tom Hardy’s character in Venom, as well as the Spider-Man production credits strewn across the screen, tell us that this film will somehow weave its way into the Spidy-verse, if not tie entirely into the fathoms of MCU. Towards the end of the trailer there is a bit of a teaser including Michael Keaton. Despite the YouTube comments, claiming that this is an attempt to bring a DC crossover back with one of the original actors who played Batman, the character that Keaton plays is Adrian Toomes, aka Vulture. Vulture is a supervillain we will surely see more of. Vulture, with the help of his harness, gains precision flight and super strength capabilities, these are available to Toomes only when he uses his harness. These capabilities coupled with his intellect makes Vulture a formidable opponent that has appeared all throughout the Marvel Universe in comic form. One common thread amongst Morbius, Vulture, and Spider-Man is there pronounced appearance in the 2005-2006 Marvel Zombies comic series. Vampires, zombies, horrible diseases—I think Marvel might have their thumb on the pulse of popular entertainment culture with these choices.