Sony’s Morbius is a bad film that gets worse the more it is discussed. Moon Knight is a promising show that improves with analysis. This illustrates the basic mistake film companies outside Marvel Studies continue to make when producing comic book intellectual properties (IPs).
Each of these characters can arguably be considered B level at best. From this vantage point, we can discuss how the respective companies seem to have developed their project. Yes, Marvel’s Moon Knight is a six-part television season rather that a feature film like Sony’s Morbius, but both function to establish the character’s origin and position him as an ongoing part of a larger fictional universe.
Why each company produced works featuring a lesser known character is similar as well: they want to grow their already lucrative franchises. Neither surprise nor complaint there. Film studios are in business to make successful films. It is how they work toward that goal that seems to cause problems.
Marvel clearly proceeds from the position that great storytelling equals success. Sony repeatedly has provided evidence to suggest they believe boardroom decisions equal success and story is less important than spectacle.
We see a pattern of Sony cramming too many characters into their films, under-developing their scripts, and shoehorning scenes into films that are meant to force sequels rather than seed plot points that pay off satisfactorily in later films.
This ruined the Andrewverse, Venom, and now Morbius. Some may argue that it didn’t ruin Spider-Man: No Way Home, but that was developed with Marvel, with a script holds up beautifully under close scrutiny. Morbius collapses under casual post-viewing discussion; a study would annihilate it.
Moon Knight can also withstand the storytelling microscope. Is it perfect? Nah, no story is. But this project, like so many Marvel IPs, has been developed with the amount of care and respect needed to make a lasting tale that fans can play with intellectually and emotionally. That makes all the difference.
Does Marvel have an immaculate record of doing this? No. Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Eternals are examples of when they didn’t quite get there.
The former fell victim to the sort of corporate interference Sony and DC films seem hamstrung by, where commands from on high as well as boardroom goals of marketing and franchising seem to receive more time and attention than the actual stories.
The latter sought to introduce and develop too many characters at once, not allowing us time to become familiar with and decide to root for them (and it committed the cardinal sin of changing a character considerably without immense justification – the shortcut plot twist never works). The Eternals would have worked much better as a six-part (or longer) series on Disney+ rather than in theaters.
The most sadly intriguing difference between Morbius and Moon Knight is that the Disney+ show stands up better to scrutiny than the Sony film even though we have only seen one episode so far. That is damning not only to the Living Vampire’s potential but to Sony’s interest in telling the Marvel stories available to them. They seemed far more interested in spectacle and setting up their long-held goal of ramming a Sinister Six movie down our throats than in telling a compelling tale. And Morbius, with its classic monster myth structure, could have been so much more than it is.
The regrettable result is I, at least, will remain reluctant to plunk down cash to see any future Marvel story told by Sony. And I would much prefer to applaud their good story well told.
Sony, please pay more attention to the main rule for storytellers: SERVE THE STORY. As Marvel continually shows us, once you get the story right, everything else (marketing, franchising, toy sales, box office success) can happen.