CAST: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson, Joseph Esson, Michael Keaton, Corey Johnson
RUNNING TIME: 108 mins
BASICALLY…: In an attempt to find a cure for his rare illness, Dr. Michael Morbius (Leto) gains supernatural, but deadly, new powers…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
With the massive box office success of Spider-Man: No Way Home proving that everyone still loves Marvel’s web-crawling superhero (especially when there’s three of them on-screen at the same time), it appears that Sony is now more emboldened than ever to reignite its own Spider-centric cinematic universe, after the disastrous first attempt during its aborted The Amazing Spider-Man series. So far, Sony’s Spider-Man Universe – as it now appears to be officially called – has produced two financially-successful Venom movies, with new ones about other Spider-Man villains like Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web and the Sinister Six all in development, but arguably its biggest test to date comes with Morbius, a film about one of Spidey’s adversaries who isn’t as well-known as Venom, but still highly-regarded enough in the comics to be given his own solo outing, as part of Sony’s attempt to branch out its web-slinging rogues’ gallery.
Unfortunately, Morbius has more in common with another failed cinematic universe, the now-infamous Dark Universe which conked out after one disastrous Tom Cruise-led Mummy reboot, for this oddly lifeless studio mandate feels like it was recycled from a script intended for that universe’s version of Dracula – but it still isn’t good enough to justify reinventing, or in this case introducing, the legend in such a way.
The film follows Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a world-renowned physician who has dedicated his life to finding a cure from a rare genetic disease he has suffered from all his life. Hope comes from an experimental serum crafted from the blood of bats, but upon testing it upon himself Morbius suddenly transforms into a vampiric monster with a number of powers, from physical strength to echolocation, but also the need to feast on human blood. Now, Morbius must find a way to keep his deadly powers under control, which proves difficult when his lifelong friend Milo (Matt Smith) gets hold of the serum and begins preying on civilians for their blood.
Clearly wanting to be this Jekyll and Hyde story but lacking the nuance or complexity to really give itself any kind of depth, Morbius is a film that you can blatantly tell was tampered with a lot during post-production to rid it of its teeth. For one, a number of scenes from the trailers – the first one dating all the way back to January 2020 – aren’t even in the final theatrical movie, heavily implying that there is probably a whole other movie’s worth of unused footage just sitting there on a USB drive somewhere on the Sony studio lot (though I don’t like the odds of there being a Snyder Cut-esque version in the future). What remains is a lack of consistency in the editing, which frequently skips back and forth between scenes (no matter when in the film’s timeline they may be taking place) to hide the fact that so much appears to be missing. Important details are instead relayed through clunky – and clearly ADR’d – exposition dumps, such as the numerous scientific achievements that Morbius has made throughout his apparently successful career, and even the inconsistent number of powers that the good doctor acquires after becoming the monstrous vampire. The film’s action sequences, most of which are already marred by aggressive and incomprehensible CGI, are unforgivably bloodless, which is pretty bad for a film where human blood forms an important role in the story, with people’s throats being slit but absolutely nothing gushing out, and others have their stomachs sliced with only what appears to be black goo drenching their clothes instead of the actual stuff, all in the name of needlessly trimming it down for a PG-13 rating (in the States, anyway; it’s a 15 over here, which makes the lack of bloodshed even more noticeable).
As much as Morbius really doesn’t work, either as a standalone film or a universe expansion pack, parts of it actually manage to remain consistent. Jared Leto, for instance, ironically delivers one of his more grounded performances in years as a blood-sucking vampire, and it’s easy to see the actor’s passion for the role as he often performs as though he’s out to get another Oscar, and truth be told he is actually quite good here (it’s certainly a stronger comic-book performance than the last one he gave). Matt Smith, too, is having an absolute blast as the movie’s villain, with the former Doctor’s magnetic screen presence carrying so much of the movie even in a lot of parts where it’s working way less than intended. There is also promise in the film’s central monster-movie premise, which does set itself apart from something like the Venom movies which are a lot goofier by comparison. However, as good as the lead actors are, and as much as the actual premise isn’t all bad, the problem rests on the script giving even these positive components absolutely nothing to do, other than surface-level character studies and rote dialogue which renders some of their motivations null and void. Other actors like Adria Arjona, Jared Harris and Tyrese Gibson are all wasted in thankless roles (which, again, suggests there’s a lot more of them in whatever ended up being edited out), while director Daniel Espinosa is clearly just earning an easy paycheque here with a bland, uninspired visual style that continues throughout the entire movie.
Then, there’s the mid-credits sequences which are bound to confuse and irritate a number of Marvel fans. It’s no surprise who’s involved in them – their presence was strongly highlighted in the trailers – but it’s how they’re involved, and what they end up doing during their limited screen-time, that end up making absolutely no sense, given how a certain previous Marvel movie concluded. Such scenes also contain dialogue exchanges that feel like they were written by a six-year-old playing with his action figures; it’s just embarrassing to watch, and does not bode well for whatever Sony has coming up next in its new cinematic universe.
Then again, despite occasional moments of okay-ness, Morbius already isn’t the best example of what Sony has on the cards when it comes to this new cinematic universe of theirs. Right now, it’s looking pretty toothless.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Morbius is a lifeless supervillain origin which, despite an invested lead turn by Jared Leto, is marred by blatant post-production tampering, a script that barely skims the surface of its characters, and mid-credit sequences that are embarrassingly nonsensical.