Morbius Drains Its ‘Living Vampire’ Antihero of Life

Give Sony Entertainment some credit. They’re bound and determined to expand a peripheral Spider-Man shared universe populated by the webslinger’s rogues. Even after their Amazing Spider-Man franchise crashed and burned, Sony persisted with two dicey Venom movies. After a long and winding road to a theatrical release, Morbius has finally arrived. And with Disney rebooting Blade, comic book fans can’t help but hope Dr Michael Morbius makes an MCU appearance. Unfortunately, Morbius’ critical woes may have put a stake through the heart of this intellectual property.

Synopsis

For years, Dr. Michael Morbius has labored to find a cure to his rare blood disease. Fearing that he’s running out of time, Morbius conducts a series of dangerous experiments on himself using the DNA of rare Costa Rican vampire bats. But the experiments work and Morbius is cured – at a price. Now a living vampire, Morbius possesses superhuman strength and a hunger for human blood that’s quickly taking over him.

Morbius is a Shiny, But Empty, Superhero Origin Story

After watching Morbius, you may re-consider Sony’s Venom movies. While they’re supremely silly – and something of a departure from the comics – Tom Hardy’s eccentric performance at least makes them interesting. In contrast, Morbius is a rote exercise in superhero origin filmmaking. Writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) may have taken the ‘living vampire’ a little too seriously because this is a soulless movie. Each act of the movie rigidly adheres to just about every first entry in a superhero franchise. Everything from the effect-laden finale to the villain who mirror the hero is present. Morbius is almost cynical in its formulaic approach.

Writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (Dracula Untold) may have taken the ‘living vampire’ a little too seriously because this is a soulless movie.

On the plus side, Sony Entertainment gifted Morbius with a decent budget. As a result, the superhero movie looks polished. Moreover, director Daniel Espinosa (Life) keeps the movie moving along at a brisk pace. Unlike many movie in the genre, Morbius doesn’t suffer from a bloated running time. There’s even some early promise in the first few scenes. Espinosa leans a bit on some PG-13 horror and ‘mad scientist’ vibe. Too bad the movie abruptly shifts back to all of the worst excesses of the superhero genre. As expected, Morbius eventually becomes a special effects spectacle that sacrifices inventiveness for video game sensibilities.

Not Even a Great Cast and a Game Jared Leto Can Bring This Anti-Hero to Life

Making his second comic book movie appearance, Jared Leto (Urban Legend) is the least egregious part of Morbius. Sazama and Sharpless’ screenplay strips Michael Morbius of any complex nuances. So desperate is Sony to build its own stable of anti-heroes that the movie goes to great lengths to make sure we know Morbius is a ‘nice guy’. Yet Leto somehow invests the character with as much energy as the screenplay allows. He’s a charismatic performer and he makes sure that his ‘living vampire’ has a bit of life in him. If the movie is bland, you’d still like to see more of Leto in the role – just in a much better movie.

Yet Leto somehow invests the character with as much energy as the screenplay allows.

Just about everyone else in Morbius feels wasted. Though Matt Smith (Last Night in Soho) has a bit of fun as the villainous ‘Milo’, his character is woefully underdeveloped and his screen time lacking. And Adria Arjona and Tyrese Gibson feel like they’re just on hand to fill roles in future sequels. But no one is more criminally wasted than poor Jared Harris. His only purpose in the movie is seemingly to ensure audiences know how villainous Smith becomes in the third act. Not surprisingly, Morbius includes two post-credit scenes that desperately remind you that Sony still really wants to make that Sinister Six movie.

Morbius a Bland, Paint-by-Numbers Superhero Entry

On one hand, Morbius isn’t quite as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes score. Leto’s compelling and at least opens the door to the possibility of the character. And Espinosa keeps things moving briskly alongside topnotch production values. Rather it’s just that everything about this superhero movie feels perfunctory. This is what filmmaking by committee looks like. Stuff happens because it needs to and it looks good – you just wont ever feel emotionally involved or on the edge of your seat. By the time the credits finish rolling, you have may forget what you just watched. Maybe Sony Entertainment should just Marvel have their toys back.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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