“Morbius” was one of the most talked-about films of the summer for internet denizens, but not for the reason you’d think. Now, “Morbius” is getting its third (yes, third) act as it debuts on Netflix for viewers in the U.S. and India.
A new installment in the Marvel Comics Universe, “Morbius” was probably expected to make bank at the box office. But as we learned from the disappointing, nonsensical “Fantastic Beasts” spinoff movies from the “Harry Potter” series, you need more than just popular IP to make a good movie.
Upon release, critics panned the movie. The Chicago Reader’s Catey Sullivan wrote, “If it were just a ride in a theme park, Morbius would be fun enough. But it is not.” Thrillist’s Esther Zuckerman wrote, “It’s not bad in the ha ha you have to see this it’s so ridiculous kind of way. It just feels underbaked.”
So, “Morbius” became one of the funniest memes of the summer — but the butt of the joke was that no one was actually watching the movie. Potential moviegoers eschewed their attendance in exchange for making up things that maybe happened in “Morbius,” which no one could refute, since no one had seen the movie. If you’ve seen stray tweets making jokes about how it was so cool when Jared Leto, starring as Dr. Morbius, said, “it’s Morbin’ time,” now you’re in on the joke.
“Morbius” bombed twice in theaters, a rare but not unsurprising occurrence as the Jared Leto-led film had everyone who actually watched it cringing. After six delays in its release date, “Morbius” made its debut on April 1, 2022 — an April Fools’ joke that no one really wanted. The movie had a budget of $75 million and earned $163 million worldwide and $74 million domestically. To make a decent profit, the film had to make three times its budget. It’s possible Sony turned to the internet to boost its ego, likely mistaking memes for audience demand. Two months later, “Morbius” was subsequently “memed” back into theaters. The film was re-released to more than 1,000 theaters across the U.S., only making $85,000 in one day, just $270 per theater, Forbes reported.
For both new and legacy brands, going viral online is a stroke of luck that can make or break a franchise. But “Morbius” went viral in a way that discouraged viewers from actually seeing the movie — it was funnier to not see it while joking that the movie would sell 1 trillion tickets.
Three months later, “Minions: The Rise of Gru” hit theaters, sparking another movie-inspired viral meme: the Gentleminions. Groups of teenage boys dressed up in formal attire to attend screenings of the children’s movie as though it were their senior prom. Some groups took the meme a bit too far, throwing bananas at movie screens and generally causing everyone around them to have a terrible time. But whether due to the Gentleminions, or merely the fact that “Minions” is a massively popular franchise, “The Rise of Gru” broke records to become the biggest opening over the July 4th holiday weekend, earning $125 million domestically in just four days.
Will “Morbius” memers finally watch the movie, now that they can stream it from the comfort of their own home? Maybe. But as for the future of the meme-to-box-office pipeline, we just can’t wait to see how the fate of “Don’t Worry Darling” pans out.