After being delayed since mid 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Morbius is finally out in cinemas long after films that should have followed it, namely Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home have made their mark. The story about a brilliant doctor who turns into a living vampire after taking an experimental treatment to cure himself of a blood illness sounds like a surefire hit in theory, but the final film pales next to existing superheroes movies thanks to an underwhelming story and over-reliance on subpar CGI action.
For now, Morbious is only partially related to the growing Spider-verse of films, but it’s hard to imagine this character existing in the same frame as the Web Crawler, let alone in the same universe.
Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has a rare blood disease that will eventually kill him and his best friend Milo (Matt Smith). He has dedicated his life to finding a cure and with time running out for him and Milo, he tests an experimental treatment on himself under the supervision of his girlfriend and fellow scientist, Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona).
The treatment however is flawed. While it cures Morbius of his blood disease and provides him with superhuman abilities, he soon learns that he has effectively become a living vampire with a need to consume human blood in order to survive.
Fortunately for Morbius, the artificial blood technology that he created is able to sustain him for the near term while he finds a solution to his feeding problem that won’t deplete the population. After all, he’s a nice guy and doesn’t want to kill people in order to stay alive. Unfortunately, the intervals the artificial blood sustains him gets shorter with every meal so it’s only a matter of time before he must feed on human blood. So the clock is ticking once again.
If that wasn’t enough of a problem, Milo has also taken the same experimental treatment (surprise, surprise) and become a living vampire too. But, unlike Morbius, Milo loves what he has become (surprise, surprise) and revels in the bloodlust and awesome powers he now possesses. Morbius now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being hunted by the authorities while having to find a way to stop his best friend from killing more innocent people.
To be fair, Jared Leto isn’t terrible as Dr. Michael Morbius. It’s just not a particularly interesting role. The first part of the film plays out like any superhero origin story where we see the character in their normal state, then something happens to change them, then we see how buff they are with their shirt off now that they are changed and then we get a sequence of scenes where they learn how to use their powers, blah blah blah. We’ve seen this a million times before and it’s become stale.
It’s even more stale because Leto is playing a scientist who takes a scientific approach to learning about his abilities. I think the superhero genre is mature enough by now that we can move on from this stereotypical and cliched narrative. This year’s The Batman starring Robert Pattinson is a great example of this break away from spelling out a character’s origin. So while Leto does an OKAY job portraying a goody two shoes, analytical scientist, there’s not much for him to work, resulting in a bland and uninspiring performance.
Matt Smith also suffers from the same problem as Leto with the character of Milo being uninteresting. However, making his character worse is how predictable and two-dimensional he is. One second he’s essentially a crippled, dying man who wishes for a cure to his condition and is best friends with Morbius, to suddenly being the bad guy with no remorse, who kills at will – even those close to him – and turns on his lifelong “friend” at the blink of an eye.
It’s terrible script (from writing duo Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, who’ve produced nothing but crap thus far) is unfortunate because a good superhero story needs to have a decent villain or it’s not worth watching. Given how Milo is a garbage role in a bland, predictable story, there wasn’t much Smith could really do with it.
Director Daniel Espinosa (Life, Child 44) has made a bland, uninspiring film that tries to make up for an uninteresting plot by relying more on incredibly poor CGI than deft filmmaking, CGI vampire faces, CGI fighting, CGI falling through the sky, CGI mist/smoke/whatever (not sure what it’s supposed to be) that drifts off the vampires as they move fast, lots and lots of CGI…just not with the budget or skill of those who handled The Avengers.
I’ve nothing against CGI effects, even poorly rendered ones, but given there’s supposed to be some kind of horror element to this movie the abundance of fake-looking CGI really takes away from any kind of dread or fear the audience should feel. What’s supposed to be a frightening image of Morbius or Milo roaring while revealing their “monstrous” faces with fangs bared ends up being quite comical. It happens multiple times and it simply lands flat as it feels like a bad video game overlay on the actor’s faces.
I would have settled for creepy, but it just feels off and I would have preferred if the filmmakers had tried to use some form of prosthetics to compliment the CGI.
Espinosa also fails at delivering superhero action which is unforgivable given the plethora of existing superhero films to draw inspiration from and to see where the bar is set. The CGI action scenes in Morbius look like scenes from an old video game or a film from 10 years ago. At one point in the final battle of Morbius, I was reminded of the messy and confusing action scenes from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen where it was hard to make out what was actually happening with all the CGI “action”. Shaking the camera around CGI debris is not action. And once we reach the film’s climax (if you can call it that), we are presented with more CGI that doesn’t even involve direct fighting between the characters.
Morbius is a disappointing, underwhelming superhero movie that doesn’t do much for the genre, except send it backwards. I’ve never read the comics so I can’t say if it reflects the tone of them but if they’re anything like what’s been put on the screen, I’d never want to. With a lazy script that hinders the ability of its talented cast and an over-reliance of subpar CGI for its action, this is the rare superhero movie I wish could be banished into the far reaches of the multiverse where we could forget it ever existed. I’m sure Marvel wishes they could.