Sony continues to explore their corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with their Spider-centric tales, and their latest foray into the universe is Morbius. Right out of the gate they have a lot working against them, Morbius, the Living Vampire isn’t a higher tier, or particularly well known character, and even in the iterations of his character that have graced the pages of Marvel Comics his character’s actions and motivations can vary wildly depending on the needs of the story.
He can shift from a brooding figure to all out homicidal maniac who is struggling, vainly, with his bloodlust, so the creative team behind the film had to figure what approach to take. Then they had to create an engaging on-screen origin story for the character, set up history, motivation, characters but also, apparently, get to the action as quickly as possible (while inserting a few nods to previous vampires; there’s a sequence that pays direct homage to Bram Stoker’s original novel, Dracula, a nod to the director of Nosferatu, what feels like a line reading from The Lost Boys, and what feels like a few visual and audio nods to the Batman movies).
And that’s to say nothing of the plot holes, and the lack of chemistry between the cast, though Matt Smith as Milo seems to be having a great time.
While Leto is a solid actor there is nothing in his portrayal of Morbius that makes him easy to empathize with. One could argue that you don’t do that with an anti-hero, but it’s hard to believe that he cares about anyone but himself, as he seems to be willing to put anyone who is not him, in harm’s way. Unless you’re Martine (Adria Arjona), a fellow doctor, he has a romantic interest in (though we have to be told that as opposed to shown) or a young patient he’s overseeing. Everyone else is fair game.
The story is flawed, and for an origin tale, is very transparent. You know exactly how things are going to play out before the end of the film, and while the journey can be interesting this film flounders because of a lack of character development and from not trying to do something new with the character.
In a number of the comics, Dr. Morbius, who has worked hard to develop a cure for a blood disease he has, and tests it on himself, he transforms into a living vampire, who is able, at first to live off an artificial blood replacement, but soon realizes that to survive, he has to feed off human blood. This puts him in a real quandary, he wants to do good in the world, with his science, and now, his new abilities, but he’s also forced to feed off humankind, making him a monster. It’s an interesting dichotomy that isn’t given the opportunity to be explored on the big screen.
The film’s climax is a special effects extravaganza, but feels rushed, and is being used to set-up (they hope) a sequel. Then there’s the post-credit scenes, which feel like they are in a completely different movie altogether. And the idea of a team-up? Morbius isn’t really a villain, but he seems to be settling into the position of one if the film’s epilogues are any indicator, and that’s a disservice to the character, though there is comic book evidence to support it.
At best, Morbius is an uneven film that could have been improved with a longer run time, allowing the characters to grow and develop, setting a mood, and tone that reflected the split nature of Morbius, at worst, it’s arguably the most Marvel movie (I’m not saying it is, but it could be argued that way).
As a whole, the film feels too rushed, tries to gloss over it’s plot holes, lacks any sense of fun. Marvel fans will be the target market for this one, as there may not be a lot of name recognition of the title outside of the fanbase, so I’m sure the film will do well. But it could have done better.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
- Release Date: 4/01/2022
- Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
- Starring: Adria Arjona, Bentley Kalu, Corey Johnson, Jared Harris, Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Michael Keaton, Tyrese Gibson
- Produced by: Avi Arad, Lucas Foster
- Written by: Burk Sharpless, Gil Kane, Matt Sazama, Roy Thomas
- Studio: Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment