Last week, Sony announced that its upcoming film, Morbius, was going to be delayed a little over two months. While no reason was given, it’s safe to assume that the sudden delay was attributed to the rise of COVID cases throughout the country. However, the general reaction online to the delay was one of apathy. To be blunt, not a lot of people seem to care about Morbius or even care about its delay. That may even include Sony, which had intended to release it in January for the love of God, the month where all new releases go to die. In this sense, Morbius is starting to sound a lot like another superhero movie that was released dead on arrival: The New Mutants.
The two movies share several similarities actually, even if some of them are coincidental. Both films dabble in horror iconography as their unique hooks, of course. Both films also come from studios that tried and failed to adapt to the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s dominance over superhero movies, with Fox hoping that The New Mutants would revitalize interest in the fading X-Men franchise and Sony trying to make its Spider-Man cinematic universe a thing without really featuring Spider-Man in it.
However, the real reason Morbius is going to suffer the same fate that The New Mutants suffered is straightforward: Both films anticipated that they were going to be successful just because they were comic book movies associated with Marvel properties.
It’s no secret that superhero movies are popular. Movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home prove how willing audiences still are to go to a movie theater to experience big-budget superhero action. Both Morbius and The New Mutants recognized this enduring popularity, and just as Morbius has plans to expand as a franchise, so too did The New Mutants — before it bombed. Being associated with brands that were successful doesn’t automatically generate success.
Well before production even began on the film, director Josh Boone had planned for The New Mutants to be the first film in a New Mutants trilogy. Likewise, while it hasn’t been confirmed that Morbius will become a trilogy, actor Tyrese Gibson has gone on record that he signed a three-picture movie deal upon joining Morbius. Then you also have lead actor Jared Leto citing his desire to cross over with the MCU, specifically for Morbius to meet Mahershala Ali’s Blade, which Leto “could see … happening.” But a lot of setup and hopeful discussions don’t immediately create contracts and films, lest we forget about the Dark Universe.
If you’re chasing movie trends, you need to strike while the iron is hot, but Morbius and The New Mutants are known for their delays. The New Mutants was originally set to release on April 13, 2018, but owing to a combination of the Disney Fox acquisition and the pandemic, it released on August 28, 2020 to negative reviews and an abysmal box office. Disney could have delayed the film to a more opportune time, but The New Mutants was a part of a franchise that it had no interest in continuing, was not likely to enter the zeitgeist at a later date, and was just collecting cobwebs on the shelf. So Disney figured it might as well release it and generate some revenue from it.
I would argue Morbius is in an even worse position than The New Mutants was. At least with The New Mutants, its failure felt less dramatic since the X-Men franchise had already floundered with 2019’s Dark Phoenix. But Spider-Man fever is all the rage now thanks to No Way Home demolishing the box office and becoming one of the most talked about movies of 2021. Sony was smart to try to pivot a Spider-Man-adjacent release both before and after No Way Home’s release. It paid off for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which made over half a billion dollars at the box office and released two and a half months before No Way Home did. Of course, Venom had the benefit of being a sequel, but it still stood to reason that following No Way Home with Morbius a month later should be an easy win.
But the most recent delay of Morbius — its sixth delay at that — tells us one of two things. One, Sony didn’t believe the film was going to be successful due to the uptick in COVID cases, or two, the film is a dud and not even being connected to everyone’s favorite Web-Head is going to be enough to save it.
I highly doubt it’s going to be the first option because, despite the uptick in COVID cases, No Way Home has made over $100 million domestically in 2022 alone. The film is still profitable, and audiences are still flocking to it in droves. And even if Sony was worried about competition, its only competition is Scream, of all things.
In all likelihood, Sony has probably realized that Morbius isn’t going to benefit from brand association and has opted to delay the movie to try to regroup with a different marketing strategy. Why else would you delay a movie outside of January, the dumping grounds of the film world? The only reason I can think of would be to pivot the film as a summer blockbuster, because otherwise, the film has no shot.
But no matter how much Sony wishes to have a shot with Morbius and to launch its own Spider-Verse, it’s becoming more and more obvious that it isn’t going to happen. Like The New Mutants before it, the interest just isn’t here now, and whatever interest there was is on life support. Both Sony and Fox were too ambitious in assuming that audiences will eat up any superhero slop thrown their way, and upon realizing that they had a dud on their hands, they tried to do whatever they could to salvage it. Delays, marketing tactics, and claiming it could be associated with the MCU wasn’t enough to save The New Mutants, and it won’t be enough to save Morbius.