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MORBIUS [Review]

I saw Morbius purely out of a sense of obligation. I was less interested in the movie itself than how it connected to the MCU and Spider-Man: No Way Home. The short answer is that it really doesn’t, and all the trailers and previews suggesting it would were all a ruse to get your butt in the seats for Morbius. The long answer involves a lot of spoilers but basically comes down to someone at Sony being determined to make a Sinister Six movie, even though No Way Home already did it first and will likely be far more fondly remembered than everything that comes out of Morbius.

The screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless stays remarkably close to the title character’s origins in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) suffers from a rare blood disease that requires daily transfusions for him to live. His work inventing synthetic blood saves millions of lives (including his own) and earns him a Nobel Prize, but he still seeks a full cure for his condition. This leads him to secretly develop a desperate (and illegal) treatment involving the saliva of vampire bats, which transforms him into a “living vampire” with a thirst for blood, killer abs, super strength, echolocation and gliding abilities.

Morbius Transformed

Morbius is an important character in comic book history because of his unique status as the first effort to blend the worlds of superheroes and horror, as Marvel Comics was making their first exploratory steps into horror comics following the revisions to the Comics Code Authority that allowed the depiction of vampires. Unfortunately, the film Morbius doesn’t really do much to differentiate itself, indulging in the cliches of both genres. As a result, even the movie’s best moments feel incredibly generic and Leto is uncharacteristically muted when he isn’t snarling at the camera in fake fangs and heavy make-up.

As such, Morbius is true to the character, but hardly memorable, though the sequence in which a blood-crazed Morbius hunts a team of armed mercenaries after his transformation is an effectively directed ‘monster in the dark’ sequence. Unfortunately, Daniel Espinoza’s direction is more often devoted toward setting up slo-mo fight sequences with dramatic freeze-framed “splash pages.” Granting these moments do look like comic book pages come to life, the CGI sequences getting to those moments look incredibly goofy at times.

Of course the movie can’t all be brooding and trying not to kill people, so we have to have a villain to provide conflict. Enter Milo (Matt Smith), the financier of Morbius’ research and best friend since childhood, who suffers from the same rare blood disease and doesn’t see being transformed into a blood-sucking parasite as a negative side effect. Smith gives a strong performance, somehow managing to make Milo more sympathetic than Morbius. This may be because his evil plans are limited to going out and picking up women. Granted, he does kill a few stockbrokers along the way, but at least he had the decency not to make the obvious joke about eating the rich.

Beyond that, the rest of the cast is largely wasted. Adria Arjona has the thankless role of Martine Bancroft, Morbius’ assistant and moral compass. Also taking up space are Al Madrigal and Tyrese Gibson, as the FBI agents whose task it is to hound the hero far beyond the point it’s obvious he has nothing to do with all the dead bodies they keep finding drained of blood. Jared Harris has some good moments as Morbius and Milo’s childhood doctor and foster father, but his role is largely limited to offering exposition and dying so as to give Morbius one more reason to stop his best friend’s low-key rampage. And Michael Keaton is here, in a role that will surprise no one, setting up a future movie that may or may not happen.

The best thing I can say about Morbius is that it defied my expectations. To be clear, I expected it to be memorably bad. For the most part, however, it was just boring and I struggled to stay awake for most of its runtime. The film’s bigger sin, however, is how utterly pointless it seems except as a stepping stone to something else.

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