Review of Morbius

Morbius tries to soar, but he lands with a thud instead.

To be fair, the look of Venom, which introduced a new subset of the Spider-Man villains, didn’t attract much attention when it was released in 2018, but the oddball chemistry between Eddie Brock and his symbiote made up for the lack of originality in the rest of the story. Although Morbius isn’t as well-known as Venom, it does feature a campier, scene-chewing performance from its protagonist. For all of it, it’s a lot worse.


Following Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Sony’s MCU-adjacent superhero universe returns with Venom: Let There Be Death. Rest assured that Morbius is still a part of established canon, despite the absence of any symbiote or mention of the webhead. We’ll have to wait and see if that helps the character in the future.


Jared Leto plays a doctor named Michael Morbius, who suffers from a rare form of anaemia. Morbius transforms into a vampire, albeit a “science vampire” rather than a “horror vampire,” in his quest to discover a cure derived from vampire bats. As a result of his condition, the doctor is forced to feed on humans in order to quell his more monstrous impulses (or artificial blood he created).


In light of the source material, Leto gives a restrained performance. A quiet, contemplative man, Morbius is self-assured when inhabiting the body of an ordinary human being. It’s almost as if he’s a cardboard cutout with no unique characteristics beyond his morality and intellect. Whatever one thinks of Leto’s portrayal of the Joker or his performance in WeCrashed, it’s impossible to deny his talent. Is there a reason he’s given so little in this film? As a vampire, Morbius is mostly a CGI lump, denying Leto the opportunity to show off his acting chops.


As a whole, the film suffers from a dearth of character development. Anyone unfamiliar with the source material would be forgiven for not realising the significance of Tyrese Gibson’s portrayal of Simon Stroud, a character featured frequently in the comics alongside Morbius. A string of vampire killings has left Gibson and Al Madrigal unable to do much more than play detectives investigating the case. Similarly, Adria Arjona’s Martine Bancroft receives scant screen time, which is all the more shocking given that she is the only female character in the film. Morbius and Milo’s caretaker/father figure Emil Nikols (Jared Harris) feels like an afterthought.


It’s clear that Smith is having the most fun in this role, relishing the opportunity to play a baddie. In Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho, he brought a level of menacing charm to his character, but here he is really letting loose. Although his transformation from childhood friend to arch-nemesis is so abrupt that it’s difficult to feel any real tragedy behind him and Morbius’s duel, he’s still fun to watch.


There are no teeth in those vampire fight scenes. Zack Snyder-style slow-motion intersperses the mostly black, incomprehensible CGI. In fact, the movie’s action scenes are hampered by shoddy camerawork and special effects. It’s obvious that the Morbius team opted for almost entirely computer-generated effects rather than attempting to incorporate any real-world stuntwork. This creates a sense of weightlessness, blurry motion, and no impact. Morbius’s echolocation power is also rendered using particle effects that look like they could have been created by any YouTube VFX artist.


No matter how much blood is spilled or bodies are decapitated, there will be no gore in the PG-13 rating. It’s odd that this movie chose to focus so much on the violence rather than relying more on the tension and what isn’t shown, given that it was never going to get a hard-R rating.


Morbius, which clocks in at just over 100 minutes, moves at a brisk pace, but it never feels like much is happening in the story. As a result of so many superhero movies dumping their origin stories in favor of jumping right into the action, this film is a refreshing change. Everything is done with a lot of telling rather than showing, including the discovery of new powers, and it never really tries to be anything else. There are a few small teases for future appearances as well, but it ends abruptly.


“Is this movie related to Tom Holland’s Spider-Man?” is the most pressing question on the minds of most moviegoers. A resounding “kind of” is the answer. That’s not necessarily a spoiler, given how prominently Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes/Vulture was featured in the advertising for Morbius, who is in fact in the film, but not in the capacity that audiences might expect him to be in. The lack of Easter eggs in Morbius, as well as all of the other hints from trailers, may be disappointing to anyone who sees the film.


Although Morbius isn’t exactly the worst recent blockbuster to come out, it’s certainly the most forgettable. The rest of the film, despite a solid lead performance, doesn’t feel all that significant. Venom and this movie both feel like they were made in a time before the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was born. In spite of its post-credits scenes, Morbius doesn’t need to be seen in order to enjoy it. This game ends up feeling more like Sony is trying to resurrect an idea that died with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 than a new one. That may not be the best idea, based on the performance of this living vampire.


In theatres on April 1, the film Morbius will make its debut.

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