[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers for “Morbius” and its post-credits scenes.]
Let’s get this one out of the way: Despite appearing in marketing materials for “Morbius” (and appearing second-billed on the film’s IMDBb page, likely the product of some overeager fans), Michael Keaton does not actually appear in the vast majority of Daniel Espinosa’s film. In fact, depending on your stance on post-credits scenes, the beloved actor (and star of both Marvel and DC properties) doesn’t appear in the film at all. Instead, he takes center stage in a pair of post-credits scenes.
Espinosa’s film, which stars Jared Leto as the eponymous vampire/doctor/haunted soul Dr. Michael Morbius, occupies some weird space in the growing Spider-Verse. Like the “Venom” films — the film nods to it in a few offhand comments — “Morbius” is set in a universe in which Spider-Man (at least as we know him) doesn’t exist. Instead, this universe is home to at least two classic Spidey villains — Venom and Morbius, of course — who seem to be on some sort of studio-mandated crash course.
And, it seems, Keaton’s Adrian Toomes (aka The Vulture), who served as Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) primary nemesis in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.” This is where things get a little squicky, and a deep knowledge — or at least a deep understanding — of the different ways in which the Marvel Cinematic Universe proper and the adjacent Spider-Verse are starting to overlap is essential.
Read: This is confusing stuff, and the appearance of Keaton in a pair of post-credits scenes does little to help the sense that “Morbius” is mostly incoherent, or at least very at odds with whatever it’s trying to say. Let’s try to parse it.
[One more time: Spoilers ahead for both “Morbius” and its post-credits scenes.]
“Morbius” ends with Dr. Michael Morbius having gone through quite a few changes. To wit, he’s turned himself into a vampire while in pursuit of a cure for a chronic blood disease that has ailed him his entire life; had to kill his best friend Milo (Matt Smith), who also turned himself into a vampire and was a real jerk about it; and turned his professional partner (and maybe more!) Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) into a vampire, too. His exploits — killing a bunch of dudes on a ship right after he “turned” — and those of the nefarious Milo have made Dr. Morbius something of a pariah in New York City, where he’s (stupidly) referred to as “the Vampire Murderer.”
It’s not clear where Michael goes from there, but we can assume he’s not going back to his old way of life. Neither is Adrian Toomes, it seems.
Cue big purple sky rift over Manhattan, cinematic language for “Doctor Strange’s spell that ripped open the Multiverse in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home'”! In the last Spider-Man film, the spell sent a series of Spidey baddies — from other cinematic universes! — straight into the lap of a very baffled Peter (Holland). Eventually, the spell provided our current Peter a hell of a gift: the much-ballyhooed arrival of previous (read: other movies’) Peters, including Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire.
“No Way Home” hinges on that Multiverse mix-up, but it’s also been referenced elsewhere in the Spider-Verse: namely, in “Venom: Let There Be Carnage,” which includes its own post-credits scene that sees Eddie (Tom Hardy) and Venom briefly dropped into the Spider-Verse proper, before being yanked back out in the post-credits scenes from “Far from Home.” Chew on that for a bit.
Anyway! In Morbius’ universe — which, again, is also Venom’s universe — the sky rift opens and the film cuts to an empty prison cell and the appearance of a confused Adrian Toomes. He’s a little stunned (wouldn’t you be?), but he soon gets very good news as a newscast tells us that this strange man who has randomly been discovered in a cell is about to be freed. Presumably, there is no Adrian Toomes in Morbius’ universe, and as such, there’s no convicted madman locked up for his bad deeds. Of course this wacky stranger should be let loose!
The film’s second post-credits scene picks up after Adrian has been freed. Apparently Michael has taken his act on the road and, as he speeds along a strip of moonlit desert highway, he seems eager to get to somewhere new. Or, as is the case, someone.
Out of his fancy sports car and in the middle of the desert, Michael suddenly encounters The Vulture (i.e. Adrian in his winged suit, albeit a slightly updated one from his “Homecoming” appearance, which begs all sorts of unanswered questions about the provenance of this new get-up). Adrian is honest: He has no idea how he got into this other universe, but he thinks it might have something to do with… Spider-Man! (Important to note: Michael would not know about Spider-Man, so… what could this possibly mean to him? Mystery!)
Not only that, but Adrian thinks that people like him and Michael should “team up and do some good.” (Another note: Michael, for all his mistakes and bloodsucking tendencies, has just spent an entire film trying to be a good guy; why would he possibly team with some winged stranger from another universe?) Ah, no matter, because Michael has an answer at the ready: “Intriguing.”
None of this makes much sense in the context of “Morbius,” but it sure does serve Sony’s long-running intent to build out a Sinister Six movie focused on some of Spider-Man’s primary baddies. Even before Holland stepped into Peter’s tights, Sony was trying to make a spinoff focused on the supervillains, and even nodded to it in the post-credits scenes of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” Two films were planned, with Drew Goddard on board to write and direct. But, as fate would have it, that second “Spider-Man” series ended after just two films, cancelling any spinoffs in the process.
Still, it seems Sony has not given up that idea just yet, and is setting the stage for its own bad guy team-up, complete with Spider-Man’s greatest foes (even if this all feels quite muddled).
A Sony release, “Morbius” is now in theaters.