After a legacy of fifty years of comics, Morbius the Living Vampire will finally make his big screen debut in this year’s eponymous solo film. It’s a Marvel movie that perhaps no one saw coming a few years ago, although the development of a Morbius The feature dates back to 2000, when Artisan Entertainment teamed up with Marvel to offer fifteen of its comic book properties for feature adaptations, which included this title. But this character’s theatrical legacy goes back further than that, almost as far back as Marvel movie history itself, as the character was originally slated to debut in late 1998. Blade.
Blade was, of course, only Marvel’s second big-screen venture after 1986. Howard the duck—and much more success, at that. Although the credit usually goes to x-men and Spider Man for the massive comic book movie boom that’s now been going on for two decades, Blade did so much to open the door for these two films to happen in the first place. It was a film about an obscure character, a big gamble, and it paid off. Because the film was so risque, it’s actually a little surprising that director Stephen Norrington and writer David Goyer thought of setting up a sequel in the first place, even though that tease was ultimately cut.
To refresh someone’s memory if they need it, Blade as we know, it ends with the Vampire Hunter and the human Karen emerging on a rooftop after their battle with Deacon Frost. Karen, who has cured herself of the infection, offers to help cure Blade as well, but after reigniting his bloodlust, he only suggests that he make him a stronger serum instead, as he still needs of his abilities to do his job. The film then cuts to Moscow, where we see Blade ready to eliminate Russian vampires.
Initially, in the deleted ending, that rooftop scene lasted a bit longer. Blade always tells Karen to keep her cure because, as he puts it, “I still have work to do.” This time, Karen then tells him “You’re on the clock”, revealing a figure watching the conversation from the top of a nearby building. This character is none other than Morbius. All in all, this blatant sequel to an ending might be a little too on the nose, but it’s also delightfully cheesy.
This ending was filmed and was available to watch online in fairly low quality for years. Unfortunately a high resolution version never surfaced, although I would love to see any kind of behind-the-scenes footage or photos of what was filmed, if they even exist.
However, imagine that: Morbius making his debut at the end of Bladedirectly to tease a sequel in which he would be a central character, even before we had Spider Man on the big screen. More than that, it’s the kind of blunt, blatant sequel setup the MCU is known for and it was shot a full decade before the release of Iron Man. Heck, Marvel wouldn’t even attempt another credits sting until X-Men: The Last Stand in 2006. So what happened? Why was this incredible setup scrapped in the first place?
The question is mostly answered by writer David Goyer in the DVD commentary. The ending was meant to set up a sequel in which Morbius would be the main antagonist. It was the brainchild of Goyer and director Stephen Norrington and would have formed the backbone of its sequel; but when Norrington left, that idea went with him. Guillermo del Toro came on board to direct Blade II instead and naturally wanted to do his own thing. It resulted in what most fans consider to be the best movie ever. Blade franchise.
It’s interesting to think of Morbius as the villain in the Blade sequel and what it might have looked like. Yes, the character got his start as a Spider-Man villain, and he has a long history of rivalry with Blade, but he’s never been that likable. It would be surprising to see him portrayed as an outright antagonist, though it’s also possible that this hypothetical long-dead Blade II could have seen the two anti-heroes take on a bigger threat. Morbius not being quite a vampire – or at least someone who came to vampirism through wildly unconventional means – and often struggling to keep his bloodlust in check, he has a lot in common with Blade. I’ve often assumed that their long-standing hatred for each other stemmed from how much of themselves they saw in each other, since there were so many similarities between the two of them. After all, vampires tend to get irritable at the thought of looking in the mirror.
Everything about what this version of Blade II may have involved is pure speculation, unfortunately, as it never seemed to even make it to the script stage, despite filming the Morbius intro. Sequel ideas have also been floated to feature comic book characters Frank Drake and Hannibal King, with the latter possibly appearing in Blade Trinity played by Ryan Reynolds. Stephen Norrington turned down the offer to direct the sequel, and del Toro came up with his own vampire mythology, with obviously excellent results. Norrington, however, played a much bigger role in introducing Morbius at the end of the original. Blade which most fans would probably never think to guess. I had always assumed the role of Morbius in this scrapped cameo played by an unnamed stuntman, but the truth is much more interesting because the person wearing the puffy cloak of Morbius in this final cut is none other than director Stephen Norrington himself.
It’s both amazing and utterly surprising, as it meant not having to hire someone for an incredibly brief role, as well as the fact that you can’t really make out the details of Morbius, except of her long, black hair.
After his departure from Blade, Norrington ended up attaching himself to countless other projects, including a few more Marvel movies. In 2001, he was attached to the production Ghost Rider, before the project moved from Dimension to Columbia. The same year, he signed a contract to direct The Hands of Shang-Chi: Master of Kung Fu, which had been in development for years, but never actively, and Norrington was replaced as director by Yuen Woo-ping in 2005. In 2007, he was to direct the remake of Clash of the Titans which he left on the grounds that he had never grown up with the original, leaving the reins to The Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier instead. In 2008, Norrington announced that he would be directing a remake of The crow and remained attached for several years before leaving in 2013. Several other filmmakers have come and gone from this project since. Norrington was also said by Robert Englund to have been attached to Freddy versus Jason in 2001. Just before Norrington was attached – and just after Rob Bottin disappeared from both that film’s development and the industry as a whole – Englund noted that another filmmaker had come on board the project in talking to Horror Online at the time: “I think they were going to leave with Guillermo del Toro, whom I love. I liked Chronos and Imitate. But he’s busy with Blade II now.”
By this timeline, Norrington would have refused Blade II, leaving del Toro to come in and replace him, del Toro leaving Freddy versus Jason in the process, leaving Norrington to replace him on that. Which, if true, is an incredible perfect circle of developmental hell. Unfortunately, aside from Englund’s quotes, none of the directors’ involvement ever seemed to be substantiated, so it’s possible that none of them were ever as seriously involved in the project as rumored. let the fans believe.
Norrington’s last film as a director was in 2003 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. As a big fan of this first Blade, however, I would like to see him finally achieve something else that actually gets done. While Blade would certainly have been obvious to bring Morbius on the big screen, it’s crazy to see the character debut in his own solo movie two decades later. It’s a natural instinct to think it crazy that comic book culture has grown to such a massive size that characters like Morbius can get their own movie, but the truth is, thanks to their connection to Spider- Man and where they belong in the animated 90s. series, Morbius was probably a better known character than Blade when this movie came out. Although Blade also made a few appearances in this cartoon, these were smaller guest appearances, like many other Marvel heroes.
Between then and now there was another one release which is rumored to see Morbius make its live-action debut: the ephemeral Blade: the series. This show, which only lasted thirteen episodes on Spike, was canceled after an extreme cliffhanger. David Goyer and everyone involved seemed to think a second season was all but guaranteed and there were concrete plans for what the second season would have entailed. Although the rumors of Morbius inclusion have been circulating for a long time, they have never been confirmed and there is almost no way they are true, because at this time the Spider Man The franchise was in full swing and the character was firmly entrenched at Sony. Nevertheless: Blade: the series was set to mark the live-action debut of another Marvel character long before they finally hit the screen, as supernatural vigilante Moon Knight was set to appear in the second season, if it had. Moon Knight now has a series headed to Disney+.
For a character (and movie) who is almost never mentioned alongside other fundamental Marvel heroes, Blade has done a ton to make this hero climate possible in ways that are unconventional, crucial, and sadly largely overlooked.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 16, 2020.