Morbius Proved That There Is An Art To Post-Credit Scenes

The Marvel Cinematic Universe wasn't the first film franchise to incorporate hidden reveals for audience members who stay around after the end credits, but they did popularize the idea. These days, there are so many post-credit scenes that theaters put out signs indicating films whose credits viewers need to stick around through.

Morbius has undergone a critical drubbing. Most of its positive attention has been ironic, while critics seem to be very sincere in their distaste for Jared Leto's big superhero debut. The obvious Hail Mary for a failing project would be to, through whatever means necessary, chain and bolt itself to the most successful media empire in modern history.

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For the uninitiated, Sony's Spider-Man Universe, referred to today as the SSU, is in the process of an acrimonious strategic marriage with the MCU. Venom: Let There Be Carnage ended with a slightly confusing moment in which Eddie Brock finds himself dropped into what appears to be the prime MCU universe. This is the first moment that the two realities reveal themselves to be in some way related, but it will not be the last. Following its example, Morbius ends on a slightly jarring version of the same concept. After the action, Michael Keaton's Vulture finds himself dropped suddenly into jail in an alternate reality. Like Venom, he reacts with a shocking lack of surprise and comfortably settles into the SSU. The subsequent second post-credit scene sees Adrian Toomes, in an unexplained new Vulture suit, approach Michael Morbius and pitch a team up to The Living Vampire.

The post-credit scene is far from subtle. The SSU has supposedly built toward a Sinister Six film for almost a decade now, and recruiting Spidey villains from across the multiverse will fill the ranks easily. The primary purpose of the modern SSU scene is to tease the audience with the possibility of more MCU characters popping up. There are a ton of things that a post-credit scene could be used to establish in a film, but they're rarities these days. A post-credit scene could heighten the tension, introduce some intrigue, or even just pay off a joke, but that isn't how the technique works today. This one seeks primarily to mimic Iron Man's sudden reveal of Nick Fury and the Avengers Initiative moment, with limited success. Morbius might be the film that finally proves that the technique isn't just a poorly placed advertisement, because everything it does is wrong.

First and foremost, the trailers for the film completely gave away almost every shot of the post-credit scene. There's a scent of desperation with which Michael Keaton's face was plastered on every poster and stretched across the first few seconds of every ad. It's two brief scenes, Keaton doesn't appear in the rest of the film, and his brief showcase adds nothing to Morbius. It's like a celebrity cameo at a charity event, but theoretically set to pay off in a future project. Even that loose context may become untenable, as the film's financial return wasn't as impressive as Sony seems to have hoped. Hanging the hopes of the entire project on a pair of post-credit scenes ruins both the film and the scenes. The fact that the audience has already seen the content makes them pointless and the fact that the film needs that level of help implies that Sony has no faith in the project.

Whatever the merits of the individual Marvel or Sony superhero movies, they do need to stand on their own as films. One of the most common critiques of the cinematic universe model is the fact that viewers now need to have a functional knowledge of far too many characters and events to follow each film. Morbius is free from that criticism; everything that happens in it is entirely self-contained, right until the end-credits scene. Beyond the traditional need to be aware of every film's predecessor and the dozen films that cross over with it, Morbius' post-credit scene requires viewers to understand films completely unrelated to it. This boils down an already distasteful pop-cultural movement to its most insufferable form. It isn't world-building, it isn't establishing a new narrative, it's barely even advertising. It is franchise management as filmmaking.

The worst thing about enjoying a Marvel film is often beyond the content on-screen. It's having to think about the corrosive effect that franchise filmmaking has over the entirety of cinema. A handful of companies own all the profitable IP, and use that guaranteed income to ensure they never have to let the artists they hire take a risk. Morbius' end credit scene is a sad and flailing attempt at putting a friendly face on the most powerful force in culture claiming yet another victim in its incalculable grasp. Fans can only hope that future efforts from the MCU and the SSU learn from its many mistakes.

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