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The confusing way Sony’s Morbius ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

Is this Phase 3.5 of the MCU?

Jared Leto as Michael Morbius holding up his sliced-open hand in Morbius Sony Pictures
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

The latest trailer for Morbius has arrived and it turned out to have a few more surprises than we would have expected. Sony gave fans a front row seat to the transformation of Jared Leto’s sorta-vampiric mostly-villain, but it also wasted no opportunity to show off the fact that the movie seems to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A helicopter shot of New York City gives a glimpse of the Oscorp building, workplace of CEO Norman Osborn, best known as the Green Goblin. A shot of the front page of the Daily Bugle shows us that the print arm of the classic Spider-Man news rag is thriving in the world of Morbius. An FBI agent jokes about “that thing in San Francisco,” a reference to the events of Venom, with the symbiote and Eddy Brock referenced by name in the trailer’s stinger.

But one key reference to Spider-Man and his foes gives us an idea of when in the MCU Morbius might take place.

The trailer has another look at a scene in which Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius, who seems to have already broken bad at this point, runs into Michael Keaton, who tells him “Hey, Doctor Mike, you and I should stay in touch.”

Michael Keaton in Morbius, probably playing Spider-Man villain Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture Image: Sony Pictures

Since Keaton played Adrian Toomes, the real identity of the Vulture, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, we have to assume that’s who he is here as well. If that’s true, then Morbius is definitely set in the same universe as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man — and by extension the rest of the Avengers in the MCU.

But the cameo leaves us with a few more questions than that. Like, why is Toomes wearing a lab coat? Did he get out of prison and put his engineering know-how to good, non-criminal use? And why’s he crossing paths with Morbius, didn’t he protect Spider-Man not too long ago? In the comics Morbius has occasionally been more of an anti-hero rather than an outright villain, so maybe Toomes helps to set him on a better path.

Our other big clue about how Morbius fits into the larger cinematic superhero landscape comes when, when Michael Morbius walks by a poster of Spider-Man that has the word “murderer” scrawled across it (image appears to be a direct copy-paste from promotional art from Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 video game, rather than anything from the MCU). Based on this, alongside the Vulture cameo, we can assume that Morbius takes place sometime after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which ended with the webslinger being blamed for Mysterio’s drone attacks.

Jared Leto’s Morbius walks through an alley with a Spider-Man poster in the background Image: Sony Pictures

If the MCU and Morbius really are connected than it would seem that that Thanos and his snap could have played some part in the Sony superhero universe. Of course, there is always the possibility that Morbius takes place in an alternate universe, in which Spider-Man is a wanted criminal; the Daily Bugle, and Oscorp all exist; Vulture looks like Michael Keaton, and Thanos didn’t invade Earth ... but that seems like a bit of a stretch.

All of these crossovers and references feel especially important, given Sony and Disney’s disputes over the rights to Spider-Man and his rogue’s gallery. Sony owns the film license to Spider-Man — who is a Marvel character — but the studio has an agreement with Disney to co-produce Spider-Man movies. The compromise allows Sony’s Spider-Man to be a part of the MCU.

The two studios briefly split ties in 2019 after failing to come to an agreement over contract issues. However after a reported plea from Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, Sony and Disney agreed on a contract that kept the Spider-Man universe and the MCU connected.

With Morbius, it seems that Sony is beginning to draw stronger connections between its extended superhero universe and the current Spider-Man franchise that fans already love — and, interestingly, to Tom Hardy’s Venom franchise.

Before the first film’s release, Sony said that Venom would not be part of the MCU, but Morbius seems to be trying to make a crossover feel more likely. It’s worth mentioning that Kevin Feige doesn’t appear to be a producer on Morbius, and it’s impossible to say whether Spider-Man will play any significant role in the movie at all.

Morbius will hit theaters on January 28, 2022, after the release of the next Spider-Man movie that is definitely set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Spider-Man: No Way Home.