"Morbius" stars Jared Leto, Adria Arjona, Matt Smith, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson. Releasing on April 1, 2022, the film is about a scientist who gets vampiric abilities while attempting to cure himself.
The film is directed by Daniel Espinosa, who also directed "Easy Money", "Safe House", "Child 44", and "Life". It is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name created by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. Ever since Spider-Man joined Disney's Marvel Cinematic Universe, the folks from Sony have been doing whatever they can to keep their own Spider-Man Universe alive. The best way to do that is by making solo films based on the web crawler's villains. 2018's "Venom" kickstarted this cinematic universe on the right foot financially despite its negative reviews, and last year's follow-up didn't do too bad as well. Now, Sony is setting its sights on another Spider-Man villain who didn't get the big-screen treatment until now. The villain I'm talking about is Morbius, the Living Vampire. Long story short, Morbius is a scientist who has vampire-like abilities and serves as an anti-hero and enemy to both Spider-Man and Blade. He has made several appearances in comics, video games, and television, particularly animation. So it was only a matter of time before he got a chance to show his teeth on the big screen, especially after being cut from the 1998 film adaptation of "Blade". I honestly don't remember Morbius as much as the other villains like Venom and Doctor Octopus. However, Jared Leto's involvement and the Spider-Man connections were enough to get me curious about this latest Marvel outing. So does it have enough bite to satisfy the comic book fans' thirst for superhero action? Let's find out.
The story follows Michael Morbius (Leto), a scientist who helps patients with incurable illnesses. Unfortunately, he's also diagnosed with a rare blood disease that's slowly killing him. One day, he attempts to perform a dangerous cure involving bats that would hopefully eliminate his life-threatening sickness for good. Unfortunately, it does more harm than good. He wakes up to discover that he has a form of transgenic vampirism, which gave him vampire-like abilities, but none of the weaknesses associated with vampires. This leads Morbius to find the line between hero and villain while controlling his thirst for blood and battling his surrogate brother Milo (Smith), who also gains vampiric powers.
With specific superhero movies being praised for their quality storytelling and character-driven moments, it's becoming more challenging to make one just to entertain its audience and provide some escapism. As mentioned before, "Venom" has been negatively received by critics for its plot, but audiences adored it for its entertainment values, hence its commercial success at the box office. I was one of the people who enjoyed "Venom" despite its noticeable flaws. It's far from a perfect movie, but I was entertained by its scenarios regardless. "Morbius" appears to have run into that same situation, as it looked like something we usually see in the mid-2000s: a silly popcorn flick with superhero elements. If that is the film you desire after the grim and overly serious take on Batman, "Morbius" has a few moments that'll satisfy your thirst. Unfortunately, they may not be enough to fulfill your hunger completely.
The movie's plot is a by-the-numbers superhero origin story that has Morbius dealing with the consequences of his scientific quest to cure himself. Throughout the film, we see him attempting to control his vampiric nature and having to fight Milo, who's also suffering from the disease and is obsessed with being "normal". Unfortunately, there are very few surprises in this formulaic and obsolete take on Marvel's anti-hero. It's predictable to a fault, and the narrative is mediocre in its characters and scenarios. It's easy to admit that it's not in the same realm as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and that is fine as long as it provides some enjoyment in its brainless CGI-filled storyline. However, "Morbius" shows that it's easier said than done. It had some promise in its themes and concept, but it was quickly sucked dry by its rushed character development and bland storytelling.
The main problem with "Morbius" is it's attempting to be its own thing while cashing in on the elements that worked in the "Venom" movies. The movie goes for a more horror-like approach in messing with scientific findings one can't understand while maintaining its superhero elements for young audiences. Seeing that Espinosa handled the genre before in his previous movie "Life", this doesn't surprise me that much. I thought Espinosa did a solid job delivering a tense and terrifying experience with that film, so I was intrigued in seeing if he could make Leto's vampiric form as scary as a man-eating organism. Plus, I got a kick out of the humorous moments from "Venom", mainly the scenes with Tom Hardy and the symbiote. Sadly, Espinosa's execution doesn't do this mixture justice, with the horror elements being mildly lackluster and the comedy feeling out of place and corny. Admittedly, I did laugh at a couple of moments, but only because of how dumb they were. From its weak dialogue to its poor editing, this balance is a disjointed mess that's more inconsistent and less fun than the first "Venom" film.
The movie's cast also struggled to make it more enticing than it should have. However, I would say that I liked Jared Leto's performance a bit more than the supporting cast. Leto has always been known for his compelling method acting approach in his previous films, notably Joker in "Suicide Squad" and Paolo Gucci in "House of Gucci". Here, we see him take a more dramatic and humane approach regarding his role as the title character. The result is far from perfect, but he's serviceable enough to resemble the character's agony towards his vampire curse. Matt Smith's Milo is another villain who combines their threatening persona with their devilishly amusing wordplay. Unfortunately, his one-dimensional arc makes him yet another forgettable Marvel antagonist. Jared Harris was also okay as Nicholas Morbius, Michael's father figure, while Tyrese Gibson acts like he's only there for his paycheck and nothing else. Aside from Leto, the film has a well-intended cast of talented actors that felt completely wasted regarding the mishandled concept.
Another thing that I thought was decent enough was the CGI work. There's nothing too groundbreaking about it, as some of the CGI looked iffy at times, mainly Leto's vampiric face. However, the visuals worked well in providing a worthy take on Morbius's echolocation ability and making the film's subpar action sequences somehow enjoyable. The scenes involving Morbius fighting his opponents were nicely visualized and swiftly frenetic, but they weren't enough to compete with what the MCU offered in their movies. The other issue I had with the fight scenes was the final confrontation between Morbius and Milo. It suffered from the same problem that "Venom" had regarding its direction. It takes place at night, and the camera movements were pretty headache-inducing in trying to keep up with the CGI vampire men. Compared to the previous sequences, this showdown was a poor way to cap off its already disappointing origin story.
Overall, "Morbius" is a soulless vampire that sucks the fun and charm out of its superhero concept, like how it sucks the blood out of its victims. It had the potential to be another crowd-pleaser like the two "Venom" movies. Sadly, despite some solid work from Leto and decent visuals, that potential was rapidly overshadowed by its dullness and shallow narrative. With its weak supporting cast, formulaic plot, rushed character arcs, and inconsistent direction, the film is another heroic misfire from Sony and Marvel. That alone might be enough for everyone to question Sony's strategy for their Spider-Man universe outside of Disney's MCU. Maybe the studio will try to turn things around with the upcoming "Kraven the Hunter" film, or perhaps another "Venom" sequel? Only time will tell once we get to that position. The movie should offer enough to quench your thirst if you don't mind the movie's flaws and just want to see Jared Leto become a vampire for less than two hours. Otherwise, wait for "Doctor Strange".