Every time news about Sony’s Universe of Marvel Characters has dropped, we here at FSR have inevitably scratched our heads over this amorphous, uncertain film franchise. To its credit, though, it hasn’t necessarily begun on a wrong foot. In kickstarting this series of live-action Spider-Man spinoffs, the Tom Hardy-starring Venom did incredibly well at the box office in 2018 in spite of rocky reviews. A sequel is even on the way.
That said, a single relatively successful project isn’t indicative of how the rest of Spidey’s rogues’ gallery will fair, especially when the hero in question seems to be bound to Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe right now. Sony’s existing roster of upcoming movies includes installments for Silk, Jackpot, Kraven the Hunter, Nightwatch, and Morbius: the Living Vampire and spawns from characters buried beneath more salient, popular comic book fare.
Therefore, attachment buzz actually feels like everything for these potential films. Remember when Spike Lee was once thought to be taking the helm of the Nightwatch movie? Although that’s now completely debunked, it definitely inspired intrigue. And this is exactly what Variety’s recent Morbius update has done yet again. They revealed that Matt Smith of Doctor Who and The Crown fame is in final negotiations to portray an undisclosed main character in Sony’s film.
Smith joins Jared Leto, who has been tapped to play the sinister titular character, as well as Adria Arjona (Pacific Rim: Uprising). Based on writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane’s 1971 creation for Marvel Comics, Morbius will follow an eponymous scientist whose attempt to cure himself of a blood disease goes horribly wrong. In conducting his failed biochemical experiment, Dr. Michael Morbius becomes a pseudo-vampire.
The character exhibits some traits commonly associated with the classic supernatural creatures, including the need to ingest blood to survive. At first, Morbius was introduced as one of Spider-Man’s foe. As he continued to develop, he began to inhabit the role of a tragic figure, instead.
Morbius has met his fair share of non-Spidey Marvel characters as well, a few of which could figure in Sony’s film. Of the more prominent ones (who aren’t Blade), there’s Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, whose supernatural bent and antiheroic stance encourages a bond between both characters. Furthermore, rogue CIA agent Simon Stroud is often seen as a Morbius antagonist.
Smith could easily bring his usual intensity and flair to either of those roles. His talent for finding nuance and, even at times, bizarre likability in a variety of fictional characters is a testament to this. The world was properly introduced to Smith as the 11th incarnation of the lead character in Doctor Who. Smith brings kooky warmth and deep pathos to the 900-year-old alien. Admittedly, as his tenure on Doctor Who progressed, the quality of the show’s plots waned. Nevertheless, every time a silly Steven Moffat loophole happened, Smith brought the show back to a necessary grounding center.
We can find evidence of Smith’s impeccable skill in many other projects since. He may depict a distinctly unpleasant version of the Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown, but he substantially does so with gusto. Smith can be absolutely terrifying, as showcased in his erratic role in Ryan Gosling’s divisive Lost River. Moreover, reviews from the Venice Film Festival highlighted the charisma and horror that he exudes as Charles Manson in Mary Harron’s Charlie Says.
On the other hand, Smith can be undeniably charming and passionate, such as when he starred in Christopher and His Kind. He also steals the show in a supporting role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, being exceptionally funny despite the insufferable nature of his character, Parson Collins.
I just wish that (what could have been) Smith’s big-budget movie break didn’t fall so far short. Much of Terminator Genisys is best left to collect dust in our memories, including the fact that Smith depicted the physical embodiment of Skynet. Frankly, he is barely in the film as it is, ostensibly to set up more storytelling down the line. But Terminator Genisys is simply too muddy to salvage.
Despite already gaining momentum on the small screen — be it among prestige TV fans or Whovians — I do believe Smith deserves a decent do-over with blockbusters. His filmography definitely displays his capacity for delivering the acting goods regardless of the character type he’s immersed in. Smith’s opportunity could very well come about just as he returns to space in Star Wars Episode IX. Could Morbius feed him into a comic book universe in a discernibly memorable way, too?
Given the fact that I did enjoy Venom, I want to believe it can. Ruben Fleischer’s horror-comedy-tinged antihero flick draws out excellent performances from all its main players above all else. We can only hope that Morbius director Daniel Espinosa will do the same.
Either way, comparing Smith’s casting to Leto’s already elicits an amusingly different reaction from me. At least where comic book adaptations are concerned, I’m not a fan of what Leto does and how he’s done it. Nonetheless, you do a lot for your faves, and as Smith is one of mine, my interest in Morbius is piqued.