Since Sony is sharing Spider-Man with Disney/Marvel and still owns the rights to the property, they’ve been doing their own thing with his world, separate from the MCU. Besides the fantastic Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (with a sequel currently scheduled for October 7), they also made the not-so-fantastic Venom and its sequel. After one Spider-Man villain was spun-off with commercial success, they decided to give it a go with less well-known characters from this universe. First up is Morbius, about a doctor with a fatal-blood condition whose attempt at creating a cure results in him turning himself into a vampire.
Morbius finished filming in June 2019 and was originally scheduled to be released all the way back in July 2020. Due to COVID, then reshoots, then not wanting to interrupt the tremendous run of Spider-Man: No Way Home, it has been moved six different times before finally showing up in theaters now. It is difficult to say how much it has been edited during this process, but it certainly seems like a lot. At 93 minutes (plus a pair of mid-credits scenes), it feels like it is missing a bunch of plot and character development that would have made the story feel far less rushed. Or maybe the filmmakers intended to make it this way. With some extra material, it would likely still be pretty boring, though it would possibly make more sense.
In this form, the finished product is quite uninteresting. It feels like something that only exists because the studio was convinced it would sell. If anyone involved was trying to create something entertaining, as opposed to just filling a release date, it is definitely not apparent. Not only is it superhero formula, it is really dull superhero formula put together in a way that doesn’t bother to be fully coherent. As presented here, Morbius is neither sympathetic nor engaging as a protagonist. A man who lives to help others getting turned into a blood-craving monster could be fertile ground for violent drama. There is little drama in Morbius.
Dr. Michael Morbius, desperate to discover a cure for his rare condition, experiments with the blood of vampire bats. It works with the side effects of super-strength, super-hearing, flight and the need to drink human blood. Now Morbius is searching for a cure for the cure, while fleeing from the authorities and hunting his best friend, who contracted vampire-itis as well and has no interest in giving it up.
Jared Leto plays the doctor with little emotion and no sense of humor. He seems to be going through the motions with the character. On the other hand, Matt Smith, as Morbius’ childhood friend Milo, injects some passion into the production. Both men are suddenly free after being trapped in a broken body their whole lives. Morbius doesn’t even take a second to marvel at how he feels before returning to his brooding. Milo may be evil, yet his excitable reaction to his physical powers is slightly more understandable. The movie flies past any parallels between them (despite them having far more similarities than differences) to get to a very derivative “good guy versus bad guy” plot that it does nothing to actually build to.
Morbius is technically better than Venom; it at least sticks to a tone and every actor is on the same wavelength. However, it is not as much fun. Venom is a ridiculous mess; bad but amusingly so. Morbius is merely bland.
1½ out of 5
Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius
Matt Smith as Milo
Adria Arjona as Martine Bancroft
Jared Harris as Emil Nikols
Tyrese Gibson as Simon Stroud
Al Madrigal as Agent Rodriguez
Directed by Daniel Espinosa
Screenplay by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless