If you haven’t heard of the titular character Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) chances are, you’re not alone. But, with the introduction, the story revolves around Morbius, a medical doctor and scientist who suffers from a rare and fatal blood disease. A disease that has no name or context to how Michael has come to having it. Off to a great start. Screenwriters Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless leave it to good faith that we as the audience will overlook the lack of clarity or any significant character development for that matter and just blindly accept the diagnosis as is. All Morbius ends up being is a mishandled and directionless narrative that despite many pushbacks feels rushed and incomplete.
Every now and then the superhero genre must show some cracks in the foundation. It keeps things interesting. What’s a mountain without a valley? As fans we can’t have only highs, right? Maybe Thanos was right, superhero movies like life need balance too. And after the magical Spider-Man: No Way Home has done the impossible of bringing the masses back to theaters in a post-pandemic world, Morbius finally, after numerous delays reminds us to live in the moment with the films that we all know are the best the genre has to offer. The result is a forgettable entry into the genre that will serve as a blueprint of what not to do with a comic book property very few have ever heard of before.
Like most people with a conscious, I try to bury the memory of ever seeing 2015’s Fantastic Four or 1997’s Batman & Robin but flashes come and go across my retinas, continuously reminding us of the worst the genre has to offer. Morbius, though not the worst comic book adaptation made, will be in the conversation along with The New Mutants, Dark Phoenix, Suicide Squad, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Not very good company to keep as all have become forgotten relics no one should ever have to willingly watch.
Since the gold standard of shared universes, the MCU, continues to release movies and now series, other studios have salivated at the prospect of doing the same with the same success rate that Marvel Studios has had. What looks immaculate and effortless has proven difficult to duplicate. 2018’s Venom has claimed to kick off a shared universe that includes Morbius and currently in-development Kraven the Hunter and Madame Webb but the question on everyone’s mind is why? Maybe the question is too little too late to ask but its valid, nonetheless. And with the number of release dates that Morbius held and moved to, the verdict remains, it was not worth the wait.
Over the span of his life, Michael has clung to the hope of one day finding a cure for himself and his surrogate brother Lucien (Matt Smith). Nicknamed Milo, with still no context, the two are separated – Michael heads off to medical school in New York while Milo is cared for by mentor and father figure Dr. Emil Nicholas (Jared Harris).
Never mind the poorly developed story, what will surely be the most disappointing aspect are the performances from a mostly talented cast. Finding any emotion is a lot to ask for apparently with so much self-brooding that its sure to make anyone depressed just by watching the events play out. As a protagonist, liking Michael is more tedious than it should be, and Leto makes it that much harder to root for him as an underdog against his nameless fatal blood disease. Out of the 104-minute runtime, disliking him comes within the first five – being awarded the Nobel Prize and turning it down, while on stage in front of the entire world as Dr. Nicholas is presenting the highest honor in the science community. Talk about Sony self-sabotaging their own film.
Devoid of any charm or charisma, Morbius just exists. It’s there for anyone brave enough to withstand the life being sucked out of them – uninspired, humorless, and bleak with nothing interesting to say or showoff that hasn’t been done before.
Finally released on April Fool’s day, the joke is on anyone who willingly watches this trainwreck. Nearly every technical aspect is resurrected from early 2000’s versions with poor CGI, special effects, creativity, and even poorer lore to the character. Sony has once again fooled us all again with an attempt to expand their Spider-Man universe. Yes, there’s a villain present in Matt Smith’s Milo who attempts to inject some flavor and style into a sour lemon but overall, his motivations are even less developed. All of this because he likes it. Sure, whatever you say Milo.
The real villain is the studio for getting our hopes up for a killer vampire film that’s just as lifeless as the folklore character it hopes to bring to life.
From the opening credits on, it’s clear that director Daniel Espinosa lost control of his film. What sane person shakes a litter box to get a cat’s attention? That must be the funny part we were supposed to crack a rib to. Said character, FBI agent Al Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and his partner Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson) add nothing to the story. What kind of FBI agents are they? Constantly showing up late just to have the scene cut away – they’re useless.
I haven’t decided if I’m angry that I spent nearly 2 hours of my time watching Morbius painfully suck the life out of me or if its disappointment. Unknown characters to the masses present a lot of untapped potential, Sony and by extension Morbius failed to deliver on a fraction of that potential.
A piece of advice – save your money, give it to a film that deserves your time.
Written By: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Directed By: Daniel Espinosa
Music By: Jon Ekstrand
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson
Release Date: April 1, 2022
Running Time: 1 Hour 44 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
My Score: 1 out of 5
Based On: Morbius, the Living Vampire by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane