Movie Review: ‘Morbius’

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson

Plot: Dr. Michael Morbius has spent his life seeking a cure for a rare blood disease suffered by him and his best friend and source of funding, Milo. Upon finding a cure, Morbius takes on the qualities of a vampire.

Review: After the character of Venom took a very brief vacation in the MCU, we get our first proper expansion of the Sony Marvel Universe with the addition of Morbius, the living vampire. Venom and it’s sequel suffered for its attempt to mash together whacky comedy and grimdark horror, failing to maintain a consistent arc. Morbius, on the other hand, does the same thing but worse somehow.

The problems begin right off the bat (haha) with the main characters of Michael Morbius (Leto), girl character Martine Bancroft (Arjona) and bad guy Milo (Smith) in that they don’t have character. We get introduced to Morbius and Milo when they are children, suffering the same unnamed blood disorder that leaves them physically weak and requiring blood transfusions to not die. When we jump ahead we see that Morbius is a highly successful medical researcher and Milo is funding his research for a cure. That’s all we know about the characters, and they don’t develop past this except one is noble and the other is inexplicably evil.

To highlight how badly these characters are developed, we can compare Dr. Michael Morbius to a similar MCU character, Dr. Stephen Strange. Not only do they share alliterating names, but they both begin their stories as egocentric highly acclaimed doctors who are advancing the science whilst also serving their own interests. We get to know Dr. Strange by seeing him doing his job, demonstrating his intellect playing games with his peers, revealing his charms through interactions with his friends, and he’s rounded out further by seeing him in his home. He has a collection of expensive watches, plays grand piano, displays his awards, puts effort into his appearance. Morbius, conversely, acts like an asshole and everything else we learn through characters talking about things he did off screen (great use of your visual medium). We never see him at home, talking to friends or doing anything but miscellaneous science things. He wears black or a lab coat, and sits around in a sterile, generic lab.

Dr. Michael Morbius wins a Nobel prize, but ‘disses’ Sweden and turns it down. We don’t see this happen, we get told about it after it happens. Why he did this is unknown, especially considering they rely on external funding and this wouldn’t brought in money. He looks after a sick child, but this plot thread goes nowhere and she’s seemingly forgotten about. Milo is rich, but we don’t know why. Martine is Morbius’ co-worker, they have absolutely zero romantic exchanges, but then they share a passionate, romantic kiss about five minutes before her life is put in danger to motivate him. The entire story is without passion, it’s simply ticking over the plot points needed to keep the movie ticking along.

Ok, there is some passion. It’s restricted to Jared Leto’s performance. He is certainly giving it his all. That said, there’s no consistent tone or escalation of the tension during this film, so Leto’s bug-eyed melodrama comes across as silly.

Another factor that contributes to the jarring pace is the number of scenes that serve no purpose or feel like they’re in the wrong order. Towards the start of the movie, Milo laments not having a romantic partner and comments on Morbius spending time with his female co-worker. Much later in the movie, Milo is standing outside Martine’s apartment but waits for her to sneak into her old lab to ambush her. Later, when Morbius and Martine are sharing their one romantic scene, Milo is shown to be watching them is what is presumed to be a jealous manner. That is the full extent of this story thread in the movie. You may notice that Milo and Martine only share one scene together, but they’re both treated as being integral to the story.

When Morbius first gains his vampire powers we get a scene of him leaping about in super-slow motion and killing people. In the next scene a group of mean men are running about scared in a cargo hold while Morbius picks them off one by one from the shadows. You may recognise this as the scene from every Batman movie where we build up to the grand reveal of our hero. You may also notice that they give us a big, slow-motion reveal of our hero BEFORE the build up to the reveal. Unfortunately this is the most coherent action sequence, as the rest are best described as a maelstrom of shadowing CGI characters and particle effects.

Almost forgot – there’s Tyrese Gibson and Whacky Comedy Sidekick as FBI agents hunting Morbius. This plot thread goes nowhere.

I get an increasing sense that Sony are confused about what to do superhero movies. They make some perplexing choices. Case in point – they asked us not to reveal the post credit surprise for Morbius, which we’re not going to spoil here. On the other hand, we don’t need to because Sony put it in the trailer. They don’t want us to reveal the end credits twist…which is in the trailer. Very confusing.

It would be better if every superhero movie didn’t act as a launching point for a half dozen sequels and spin-offs, if they maybe focused on creating some interesting characters. Morbius, much like Venom, feels like it’s trying to appeal to as many age demographics as possible and delivers a routine and bland experience as a result. Matt Smith appears to be having a good time, but everything else falls flat. The jokes don’t work, the characters don’t engage the audience, and the action scenes feel generic by 2003 standards. Even though this was a small screening, a half-dozen people left during the third act. It just felt like a slog.

Rating: TWO out of TEN