This year saw the release of Morbius, the latest comic book film set in Sony’s Spider-Man universe. Due to its constant release date pushbacks and the lack of iconography surrounding the character, criticism was almost a given. However, the trailers promised a film that may have found its footing in terms of genre and tone, similar to Venom. However, upon release, it was met with major backlash, critically and financially, that would put the film in the category of one of the worst in the sub-genre, but could the criticism surrounding the picture tie to an issue that could affect all comic book films.
Expectations are a given with films that are highly anticipated or a part of a larger franchise. In the case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there has been a steady increase in both popularity and success. Since Avengers: Endgame, the stakes have only continued to rise with films of a much larger and more diverse scale growing in terms of style and tone. 2022 alone has shown how films like Spider-Man: No Way Home and batman could create strong narratives and high-octane action that have proven to fans what is possible. In the case of Morbiusthe film isn’t without its flaws, but even though it isn’t perfect, the film isn’t nearly as bad as others from a statistical standing.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, Morbius sat at a 16 percent critics score with an audience rating of 70 percent. On average, this will place the film in a realm that isn’t great or terrible. Comparatively, 2015’s Fantastic Four sat at a 9 percent rating for critics and 16 percent audience score. While the latter is often an example of what a “bad” superhero film would be, it also lacked many comic book influences that helped propel the characters to fame. On the other hand, Morbius was one of the most faithful adaptations of a comics character in recent memory, but even though the film isn’t No Way Home’s levels of success, what has kept it from at least being a passable entry in the genre?
Because expectations for huge spectacles or intense narratives have become the norm for comic book films, the classic popcorn film has gone to the wayside. Now, should one of these entries enter this category, it’s more likely to be treated with disdain rather than for the fun that it could be. Of course, even films like Venom aren’t without their criticisms, but aside from the middle-of-the-road films not getting a chance to shine, there’s also a larger matter growing through ridiculous expectations that could hinder the future creativity of comic book films.
Eternals is considered one of the most divisive films in the MCU due to its expository plot, huge cast of characters and the tone feeling nothing like what has come before. However, even though critics have given some interesting takes, the movie itself offered great visuals, a diverse cast and an indie flair that has helped make the picture a standout among its contemporaries. However, because it failed to match the expectations set by its predecessors, it’s been placed at a lower-tier rather than appreciated for what it dared to do for the medium. Should this trend continue, even more films that fail to make the cut of an event picture or niche narrative may enter the range of “bad” rather than be appreciated for what they offered, warts and all.
Morbius is far from a perfect film when compared to the other comic book movie powerhouses that have been released, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will likely showcase this even more. That said, the expectations that a film of that magnitude will bring may only widen the gap in terms of what fans expect from these films and what will likely be offered. All films may strive for greatness, and not all of them will reach that goal, but the ones that made an honest attempt and provided entertainment to their audiences shouldn’t be treated like the ones that may have failed on a larger scale. While it’s a matter of opinion, there’s no denying that ridiculous expectations raise a bar that may eventually reach a ceiling and impact the medium in a way never seen before.
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