This article contains Morbius spoilers.
The superhero vampire movie Morbius is now available on Netflix. It’s an unremarkable movie (at best), but it’s gained notoriety through memes and bad reviews. But thanks to Netflix, more eyes will be on Matt Smith’s sexy dance moves and Jared Leto’s slow-motion, brushstroke-enhanced acrobatics than probably in the entirety of its disappointing theatrical run.
Morbius is a Marvel Comics character who has menaced Spider-Man on the page since 1971. The Morbius post-credits scenes involve Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture, who was last seen in the 2017 MCU movie Spider-Man: Homecoming. This could be confusing for some and it may have them asking whether or not Morbius is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, is it?
Well…no. But also yes. Morbius is MCU adjacent, so kind of.
For those who have been playing along for the last 14 years, rolling your eyes at the title of this article and immediately jumping to the comments section, the answer is painfully obvious. But the thing is, it’s been 14 years. Not everybody is all caught up on the dozens of movies and TV shows, while understanding the knot of movie rights issues that have made Marvel (particularly its relationship to the Spider-Man franchise on screen) so complicated. Just because you’ve seen the second season of Iron Fist doesn’t mean everyone is caught up. Much like the Ultimate Marvel comics line eventually did, the MCU has become unruly over time and it’s occasionally hard to get a grasp on. This goes especially for newcomers who can’t tell Ronan from Ronin.
So just what is Morbius’ connection to the MCU?
It’s worth going back to the mid-1990s, where Marvel Entertainment was hurting for money and getting dangerously close to bankruptcy. An easy way to make money was to sell movie rights to willing studios. Marvel was years away from even considering making their own movies and they weren’t owned by Disney yet, so there was no drawback to selling the movie and TV rights to their characters to various bidders.
But those rights come with a clause that the winning bidder would have a limited amount of time to produce a film or the rights revert to their original owner. This goes for sequels as well, so if you complete some kind of trilogy and decide that a fourth movie isn’t worth the effort, then those rights will eventually go back to square one. By the time Marvel released Iron Man in 2008, Sony had the rights to Spider-Man, 20th Century Fox had both X-Men and Fantastic Four, and there were some complications involving Universal and the Hulk that could take a whole other article to properly unpack.
As a result, the MCU couldn’t touch Spider-Man unless Sony allowed it (the actual logistics of how the two studios came to share Spidey are unimportant for the purposes of this article), so Peter Parker was off the table for years. Not that it hurt the MCU too much, as they were able to create a strong expanded universe containing comparatively less-popular superheroes and a feeling that everything was connected. Various movie studios, including Sony, learned the wrong lesson from this success and fumbled into disastrous attempts to recreate this formula. Sony wanted to make an expanded universe out of Spider-Man characters, but the sloppy Amazing Spider-Man 2 made that seem unattainable.
After the critical and commercial disappointment of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony allowed Disney to put a rebooted Spider-Man into the MCU. Tom Holland as Spider-Man was introduced in Captain America: Civil War and then appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, where he took on Michael Keaton as the Vulture. While this Peter Parker got to hang out with the Avengers, Sony still had the rights to a number of other villains and supporting characters who came with the Spider-Man rights. As a result, they decided to go with perhaps the most recognizable of those Spidey-adjacent characters and create a Venom movie…sans Spider-Man.
The Tom Hardy-starring Venom movie ended up becoming a pretty big success and earned a sequel (not to mention additional Spidey-less villain flicks like our pal Morbius), which ended with a confirmation that the movie took place in a separate continuity from the MCU.
The trailers for Morbius played it coy with where the movie and its title character fit in to the MCU. References were made to three different cinematic Spider-Man continuities, as well as the Venom movies. Almost all of those Easter eggs were dropped in the finished film. In the end, Morbius takes place in the same universe as Venom and Venom: Let There be Carnage.
But wait, if that’s the case, then why is Adriam Toomes, a character from the MCU Spider-Man movies appearing in Venom?
The answer to that comes in Spider-Man: No Way Home, the third MCU solo Spider-Man movie. As part of a magic spell that went wrong, various villains from previous Spider-Man movie continuities, as well as the Spider-Men themselves, were brought into the MCU for a couple of days. Oh, and Venom was there too, but as we learned in the No Way Home post-credits scenes, he just got drunk. By the end of the movie, via magic again, all the non-MCU characters were sent to their home worlds.
The same magical, sky-tearing effect from the climax of Spider-Man: No Way Home was shown in the Morbius mid-credits scene. Apparently, as the rules of the spells made little sense in No Way Home’s own narrative, the second spell caused the Vulture to teleport to the world of Venom and Morbius. It was probably linked to him knowing Spider-Man’s secret identity or something, but don’t think too hard about it. The writers clearly didn’t.
Now Vulture is stranded in the Venomverse and for some unexplained reason is working with Morbius. It’s just as well, since his plot thread in the MCU doesn’t look like it was ever going to lead to anything. Considering Sony wants to build up a continuity made up of Spider-Man-related characters in a world that may or may not have its own Spider-Man, it appears that they’re trying to build up to a Sinister Six team-up movie much like how the MCU made a ton of money with Avengers.
In the end, this means that Morbius is not part of the MCU itself, but a neighboring universe. It’s connected to it. But given how the MCU is using the multiverse as a plot device in various TV shows and movies (hell, the current era of Marvel projects has officially been dubbed “The Multiverse Saga”), one could make the argument that Morbius is indeed part of the MCU, just not in the 616 universe of the big screen. Your mileage, of course, may vary.
This means that while Disney may never even acknowledge Morbius himself, there is always the chance that he might get roped in for the sake of fan service. Having Kang the Conqueror or Doctor Doom casually vaporize Jared Leto is something I think we can all get behind.