Avi Arad may not be a name you’re familiar with. If you recognise it all it’s likely because you’re a massive nerd or you saw him mentioned at the end of Spider-Man: No Way Home as “The One True Believer”. So who is he? Well, depending on who you ask he’s the man who killed Spider-Man…twice. It was reportedly his decision to nix development on a fourth Sam Raimi-led Spider-Man and it was he who had creative control of the Amazing Spider-Man duology. The sequel to the latter performed poorly enough that Sony pulled the plug on a threequel, although the Sony E-mail hack likely didn’t help. Avi’s name is now also attached to the bland, indecisive blood-fest that is Morbius.
The story of Doctor Michael Morbius, whose blood genome deficiency is killing him, and his bat-blood-based cure sounds cool on paper. He gains bat-like abilities such as sonar and flight so when his equally ill but morally bankrupt friend Milo takes the same cure it should lead to an intense rivalry but this isn’t the case. The film’s tone is inconsistent, switching back and forth between horror and comedy without ever properly settling on either. It’s a shame because Morbius is apt at both and, had it gone fully down the horror right, it could have felt akin to 1998s Blade. Instead, it feels the need to inject MCU-esque humour, perhaps in an effort to full the audience into thinking that it takes place in the same expansive universe.
It doesn’t, but the marketing sure wanted to believe it did. Trailers had references to Venom, all 3 iterations of the silver screen Spider-Man, and a conversation between Dr. Morbius and Adrian Toomes of the MCU. All of these had been cut by the time the film was released, with the interaction between Morbius and Toomes being completely re-shot to act as a mid-credits scene. As mid-credits scenes go, it’s abysmal. Toomes spends the entire thing in his Vulture wingsuit, with his helmet covering his face. This is likely due to the ability to dub over any poorly scripted lines and the inability to get Michael Keaton back on set. One can only imagine what kind of state this film was in before re-shoots and 2 years of delays.
As it is, it looks interesting enough. The visual representation of Morbius’ powers is excellent, particularly when it comes to his sonar. The choice to shroud him in smoke as he flies is visually intriguing, even if it goes unexplained and doesn’t fit the style of the film. The city is dark and grimy, closer to Gotham City than any location in the MCU. It feels like there’s a good film buried in here buried under interference higher-ups, which so often seems to be the case, especially with Sony’s Spider-verse. Yes, Avi’s name is attached to some of the most notable so-called failures like Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Morbius but it’s also attached to some bigger successes. He’s credited as producer on Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and even Iron Man, although his misses far outweigh his hits.
The fact is that there’s no knowing exactly how films like Morbius come to be. A lot can be gleaned from behind-the-scenes footage and maybe somebody will someday unveil all the hot gossip, but those of us in the present are left in the dark. All we can do is hope that, when these films fail, they do so in a way like Venom instead of Morbius.
Of course, it would be appreciated if they could make something like Spider-Man 2 again.