Morbius Defined 2022 In Movies

Jared Leto's Morbius may have flopped, twice, at the box office this year, but the culture around the film defines the social media of 2022.

By TeeJay Small | Published

jared leto morbius

Whether your 2022 was good or bad, we can all agree that it was truly a Morbin’ time. Our second-going-on-third year of a pandemic-inspired upheaval led to a number of, let’s call them, bizarre outcomes for culture at large, as expertly pointed out by Jeremy Mathai of Slashfilm. Jared Leto’s titular bloodsucker took Morbius from a forgettable money-pit movie to a meme-worthy goldmine in a move that defied every expectation an audience could have of a competent movie studio.

It all began with the first teaser for Jared Leto’s Morbius film back in January 2020. Like almost everything else that happened in the months leading up to the global lockdown, this teaser is chock full of ironic foot-in-mouth missteps which would almost immediately appear hilariously optimistic with the benefit of hindsight. From the teaser’s promise of a July 2020 release to its hiring of an actor who, by all accounts, crashed and burned at the chance to play another iconic comic book villain in 2016’s Suicide Squad, the inception of Morbius seemed to baffle audiences, leaving the film’s primary demographic more confused and cautious than excited. The teaser, or others like it, would of course proceed to play at the start of nearly every film that managed to squeak into theaters for the following two years, before Morbius finally arrived in all its Morbin’ glory on April 1, 2022.

It was almost as though the Sony executives who greenlit this project intended the release date as a tongue-in-cheek reference, suggesting the culmination of their own hard work and decision-making was in fact an intentional joke to be laughed at. Sony’s brilliant idea to bring the vampiric villain to the big screen, and hire Jared Leto to take on the task, failed to account for the already nauseating canon of Spider-Man after the recent Sony/Marvel agreement that allowed Kevin Feige to incorporate Tom Holland‘s now iconic Spider-Man into the ranks of the MCU.

Rebooting the Spider-Man franchise now three times in under 10 years, not counting Into The Spider-Verse, as well as establishing a standalone Tom Hardy-led Venom film, left fans wondering where Jared Leto’s Morbius would fall within the expansive multiversal timeline. The answer was, much to the surprise of nobody, that the executives pulling the strings for the film hadn’t given it as much thought as the average fan, and simply assumed they could sweep things like consistency or continuity under the rug in exchange for some sly banter and a superpower vs. identical superpower final battle cliche.

matt smith morbius
Matt Smith in Morbius

All this is to say, that Jared Leto’s performance as Morbius would have floundered and flopped had it not been for the cabin fever-addled minds of a mass of chronically online youths, whose brains have become rewired to find the utmost joy in two things: posting ironic memes buried beneath layer upon layer of obscure reference humor, and toying with wealthy executives for being out of touch. Miraculously, after flopping at the box office the first time around, Morbius rose from its ashes like a phoenix, destined, or perhaps doomed, to emerge in its unchanged form, for yet another round of lampoonery, as it was announced that the critically panned film would return to theaters on June 3, only to flop for the second time this year.

It isn’t enough to say that Morbius defined 2022, it seems as though Morbius defines the growing divide between out-of-touch executives and true fans of both comic book adaptations and cinema writ large. The film is a growing testament to the inability of some to properly interpret the language of sarcastic internet posts, in a world becoming increasingly dominated by it. A true tale of how, when you Morb into the void, the void Morbs back.