For a fair few years now, groups of moviegoers have criticised Disney-backed Marvel films for having a cookie cutter quality. While each standalone adventure or superhero team-up has its own unique traits and twists adapting the characters at play, each movie follows a certain template of style and tone – allowing these features to blend into one another as part of a shared universe. Some fans like it more than others, but for the experience at hand, being entertained and at least having a good time is a usual guarantee. Sony-made Marvel films, however, are a whole other story.
The latest in their exhausting line of what feels like store-brand Marvel adaptations; The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Venom, and Venom: Let There Be Carnage; Morbius is another example of what happens when Sony tries to make a superhero film on their own: something terrible. As if you’re being taken back to the pre-MCU era of Hollywood, Morbius is the most mid-2000’s movie you would never expect to see in 2022. Failing to learn the lessons of their past misfires, the greed of hastily building their own shared comic book movie universe has once again taken priority over decent filmmaking. Even for a vampire film, Morbius is a lifeless, soul-sucking watch.
This Morbius Review is entirely spoiler-free.
What is Morbius?
Stricken with a blood disorder from birth, Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is set to find a cure both for himself and his best friend, Milo (Matt Smith). When his experiments turn to using vampire bats, the doctor unsurprisingly becomes a monstrous hybrid. Coming to terms with his new abilities, controlling the compulsion to feed, and what it means for those close to him, Morbius as a film sounds interesting on paper. In reality, poor pacing and writing make it so you’re not only unsure what’s entirely happening, but you don’t really care about anyone involved either.
In its brisk approximate 90-minute runtime pre-credits, at least the first half-hour is almost entirely an exposition dump. Even more so with the dull information drops scattered through the second and third acts. The only elements to alleviate these overloading, heavy scenes are not only cringey dialogue, but rushed character development as well. Despite feeling like one of the longest hour and a half films ever, we’re expected to buy into these people’s stories for no believable reason whatsoever.
The Cast – Is Jared Leto Good as Morbius?
Sadly, the performances barely help. Jared Leto, normally excelling at giving lively, energetic performances (at least trying to) – is almost as dull as the namesake lead as Morbius itself. Occasionally delivering what’s supposed to be the odd line with wit and magnetism, instead brought with a monotone and uninterested vibe – reminiscent to Star Wars fans remembering Hayden Christianson in the two final films of the prequel trilogy.
The only sources of charisma lie in Matt Smith as Dr Morbius’ best friend, Milo, and the amazing but criminally under-used Jared Harris playing the pair’s adoptive father and mentor.
Skilled in bringing an eloquent British charm mixed with a composed madness just under the surface, it’s easy to argue that Smith should have been the one to play the play the titular role. Nevertheless, even the talent the actor brings to Morbius’ best friend role is squandered with an arc that’s even more absurdly paced, and a screenplay laced with clunky attempts at humour and horror – only being laughable in the worst possible way.
As far as the film’s story and leads go, Morbius is even worse than Venom. And that’s saying a lot. Whilst Venom does have the delightful buddy comedy charm to engage audiences, despite otherwise being completely mundane, Morbius possesses none of this relief. Although, there is a police detective in place as the film’s joke machine, any attempts at humour come off with more of a “how do you do, fellow kids” meme impression. Not all movies need to be heavy on the comedy to be entertaining, but when one is as stale as this, you definitely need something at least of substance.
How Was the Action and Horror?
A blood-sucking vampire, Morbius as a character would make anyone believe the movie adaptation would be R-rating. Especially with how it was advertised. Of course, like with Venom again, an out-of-touch decision by who we assume to be Sony executives, settled on a PG-13 rating – and it shows to the film’s further detriment. Almost all “feeding” scenes are replaced my Leto’s Morbius drinking from bags of blue, artificial blood – of which Leto always looks like he’s doing a beer bong. Any major wounds or slashes inflicted on victims show little to none whatsoever. The worst of all, the Sony-verse’s typical use of shaky cam-heavy cinematography – making almost all action scenes incomprehensible to the eye.
The one good scene in Morbius is actually in a hospital hallway adorned with flickering lights, building up tension around a chased victim – a chilling, 2-minute instance where you’ll feel like you’re watching the horror film Morbius should be. Besides that, the transformation scenes backed by some stellar effects are pretty intriguing to look at. But, that’s about it. Any fight scenes, entirely filtered in cringey slow-mo and black shadow effects when flying at superspeed – immediately undo any excitement you might have been feeling – reminding you that you’re watching nothing but a CGI action fest, with no heart to give it any meaning.
Should You Watch Morbius? Final Thoughts
Among his decade-long filmography in US-made films, the works of director Daniel Espinosa have received nothing beyond mixed-to-poor reception – criticisms honing in on screenplays and use of action scenes. Watching Morbius, even that level of praise still a surprise. With only a couple of good positives to its name, Morbius manages to actually transcend to the “it’s so awful, it’s fantastic” level of films. Nonetheless, with a 2022 superhero blockbuster, coming off of stellar unique takes on the genre like The Batman, this is not what we should be expecting.
Comparing to the Sony-Marvel partnership that brought us the brilliant Spider-Man: Way Home, watching the exclusive Sony-made Morbius is metaphorically similar to a child in a supermarket. It might be nice to let the little one pick out a couple of things. Some cereal, maybe. A pack of pop tarts, sure. But you don’t let them take charge on the whole weekly shop. Otherwise, trashy food is all you’ll be left with – and with Morbius, trash is what we got.
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Featured Image Credit: Sony Pictures