MORBIUS Review; "A Terrifying Reminder That Spider-Man Is Better Off In The MCU With Marvel Studios"

The review embargo for Morbius has finally lifted, and we're disappointed to report that after the fun joyride that was Venom: Let There Be Carnage, this is the worst example of a comic book movie...

In 2018, Venom proved to be a crushing disappointment for many comic book fans. Despite failing to do the character justice, plenty of moviegoers did embrace Tom Hardy’s madcap take on Eddie Brock, and after it earned a whopping $856 million at the global box office, Sony’s Marvel Universe was born. Since then, a number of intriguing projects have started taking shape (including Kraven the Hunter and Madame Web), while Venom: Let There Be Carnage was such a huge improvement over its predecessor that it was hard not to start getting excited about this apparent alternative to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Throw in Spider-Man: No Way Home an absolute masterpiece of a movie - and Sony has built up a lot of goodwill these past few years. Unfortunately, Morbius just about obliterates it.

Telling the disjointed story of Dr. Michael Morbius, we follow the title character as he embarks on a poorly explained mission to use vampire bat DNA that will somehow cure an unnamed disease that’s slowly killing him. The movie certainly doesn’t get bogged down in the details, and it doesn’t take long at all until the Horizon Labs scientist is transformed into a Living Vampire. Morbius is never really scary (and a PG-13 rating makes this a rather bloodless affair), but it certainly does its best to make the anti-hero feel like a terrifying force of nature in a handful of standout moments that pay homage to his horror-inspired adventures on the page. Action scenes also impress, with director Daniel Espinosa unleashing some thrilling choreography, colourful effects, and exciting scenes in the midst of a story that mostly underwhelms. In the ways that really matter, this is an unremarkable movie, and Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless’ screenplay is lacking on original ideas. As a result, Morbius does too often feel like just another vampire. Espinosa does his best to elevate the material, but bad jokes ("Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry") only serve to make this even more tedious viewing. The final battle is a sight to behold, but with such a weak villain, it's simply not enough to save the day.

That big bad is Milo, an amalgamation of Loxias Crown and Emil Nikos. He takes aim at Morbius after his childhood best friend refuses to share the cure that’s given him an insatiable appetite for blood (hardly unreasonable). After stealing the vial and letting his newfound bloodthirst get the best of him, Milo goes on a killing spree, all while Michael is left to try (well, sort of) and clear his name. That’s about all there is to this one, and there’s a lot of meandering before we get to the final battle and far too much time spent dealing with Milo’s transformation rather than Michael’s. Morbius very much feels like a movie that’s been put through a blender, with several key scenes from the trailers missing and some blatant reshoots scattered throughout. Remember Tyrese Gibson’s robotic arm that generated such a great deal of speculation online? The actor even said in an interview that the "arm has all kinds of special effects and powers" and "it’s my first time ever officially being a superhero." Well, here, he’s just a regular FBI agent who keeps his hand in his pocket throughout the movie before you catch a glimpse of his arm - not intentionally, we’re assuming - during his final scene. That’s it. There’s clearly a different version of Morbius out there, but we wouldn’t bank on it being any better.

On the plus side, Jared Leto’s take on the Living Vampire is an enjoyable one, and while the actor doesn’t quite get the chance to show enough of what he can do as this character, he seems to be having fun exploring this mild-mannered doctor’s transformation. We’d have loved to see Leto get really weird with this anti-hero, but the Oscar winner's take on the Marvel Comics creation is compelling enough to kind of make us hope there could be more stories to tell down the line. Adria Arjona is very good as Martine Bancroft in a role that’s mostly thankless, but Jared Harris, Tyrese Gibson, and Al Madrigal are all non-factors. However, the standout - and not in a good way - is Matt Smith. Not only is his villain awful, but after stinking out the joint in Terminator Genisys, the Doctor Who alum outdoes himself here with work that’s so terrible, he’d best be praying his return to television pays off in House of the Dragon. Whether Smith just isn't cut out for these blockbuster roles or is simply a bad actor (which seems a little harsh) is up for debate, but there’s really nothing good to say about his performance in Morbius, and his bizarre habit of breaking into dance or, really, being anything but intimidating ensures this villain won’t stick with you for any good reasons.

It’s a shame Morbius is a disappointment, but a bigger shame that the movie ultimately serves as a reminder that Sony still isn’t quite sure what to do with these characters. Perhaps that’s because they can’t truly work without Spider-Man, but there are comic books that prove otherwise, so who knows? Watching Morbius and comparing it to the teaser suggests plans to bring the wall-crawler into this world were scrapped when it became clear that fans want Tom Holland's Peter Parker to remain exclusively in the MCU. Either way, two post-credits scenes teasing Morbius’ future and bigger plans for this world may be what Avi Arad thinks fans want, but the're likely to frustrate and confuse in equal measure. Whoever thought these stingers were the right way to lay the groundwork for what’s coming next has to be incredibly misguided, and while we certainly wouldn’t be against seeing more of Morbius, it’s never good when a post-credits scene feels more like a threat than a tease of something actually worth getting excited about. They're that bad, and this is a movie that's probably about as much fun to endure as a bloodsucking courtesy of the Living Vampire himself.

Jared Leto’s transformation makes for compelling viewing, but the Living Vampire can’t elevate a disappointing story that serves as a powerful, dare we say terrifying, reminder that Spider-Man is better off (and safer) in the MCU with Marvel Studios.


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