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The confusing way Sony’s Morbius ties into the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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Is this Phase 3.5 of the MCU?

Jared Leto as Michael Morbius holding up his sliced-open hand in Morbius Sony Pictures

The first trailer for Morbius has arrived and it turned out to have a few more surprises than we would have expected. Sony gave fans their first look at Jared Leto’s sorta-vampiric mostly-villain in the new trailer, but it also showed off the fact that the movie seems to take place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A few key references to Spider-Man and his other foes even give us an idea of when in the MCU Morbius might take place.

The biggest surprise of the whole trailer comes in its closing seconds when Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius, who seems to have already broken bad at this point, runs into Michael Keaton, who asks if the doctor got tired of, “doing the whole good guy thing?”

Michael Keaton in Morbius, probably playing Spider-Man villain Adrian Toomes, AKA the Vulture Image: Sony Pictures

Since Keaton played Adrian Toomes, the real identity of the Vulture, in Spider-Man: Homecoming, we have to assume that’s who he is here as well. If that’s true, then Morbius is definitely set in the same universe as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man — and by extension the rest of the Avengers in the MCU.

But the cameo leaves us with a few more questions than that. Like, why is Toomes wearing a lab coat? Did he get out of prison and put his engineering know-how to good, non-criminal use? And why’s he crossing paths with Morbius, didn’t he protect Spider-Man not too long ago? In the comics Morbius has occasionally been more of an anti-hero rather than an outright villain, so maybe Toomes helps to set him on a better path.

Our other big clue about how Morbius fits into the larger cinematic superhero landscape comes near the middle of the trailer, when Michael Morbius walks by a poster of Spider-Man that has the word “murderer” scrawled across it — the post also appears to be a direct copy-paste from promotional art from Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 video game, rather than anything from the MCU. Based on this, alongside the Vulture cameo, we can assume that Morbius takes place sometime after the events of Spider-Man: Far From Home, which ended with the webslinger being blamed for Mysterio’s drone attacks.

Jared Leto’s Morbius walks through an alley with a Spider-Man poster in the background Image: Sony Pictures

If the MCU and Morbius really are connected than that means this movie would take place later than any other MCU movie so far, and that Thanos and his snap played some part in the Sony superhero universe. There is always the possibility that Morbius takes place in an alternate universe, in which Spider-Man exists and is a wanted criminal, and Vulture looks like Michael Keaton, but Thanos didn’t invade Earth ... but that seems like a bit of a stretch.

All of these crossovers and references feel especially important, given last year’s disputes between Sony and Disney over the rights to Spider-Man and his rogue’s gallery. Sony owns the film license to Spider-Man — who is a Marvel character — but the studio has an agreement with Disney to co-produce Spider-Man movies. The compromise allows Sony’s Spider-Man to be a part of the MCU.

The two studios briefly split ties last year after failing to come to an agreement over contract issues. However after a reported plea from Spider-Man actor Tom Holland, Sony and Disney agreed on a contract that kept the Spider-Man universe and the MCU connected.

With Morbius, it seems that Sony is beginning to draw stronger connections between its extended superhero universe and the current Spider-Man franchise that fans already love. As yet, however, it’s unclear if this connection also includes Tom Hardy’s Venom.

Before the first film’s release, Sony said that Venom would not be part of the MCU, but this Morbius trailer seems to make a crossover feel a little more likely. It’s worth mentioning that Kevin Feige doesn’t appear to be a producer on Morbius, and it’s impossible to say whether Spider-Man will play any significant role in the movie at all.

Morbius will hit theaters on July 31 this summer. The only Marvel Cinematic Universe film release before then is Black Widow, a prequel that isn’t likely to touch on the MCU’s larger story, or Spider-Man.