Movie Review: Morbius

Despite what Sony keeps trying to tell you, there is no such thing as the “Sony’s Spider-Man Universe”. Tom Holland’s Spider-Man was clearly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe the whole time, even with the up in the air nature of No Way Home’s conclusion, and Tom Hardy’s Venomhasn’t had much to do yet. But Morbius, one of the most deserving victims of the multiple COVID-19 influenced delays, has finally been born. It adds nothing to the cinematic canon, the comic book movie canon, or the Marvel cinematic canon. It can’t add nothing to the Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, because that does not exist.

Michael Morbius (Jared Leto, House of Gucci), the world’s foremost expert on blood-borne diseases, has been trying for years to cure his own debilitating illness. After synthesising the DNA of Costa Rican vampire bats, Morbius manages to temporarily cure himself, at the expense of a permanent lust for blood. While Morbius tries to fight his urges, he also has to dissuade his childhood friend Milo (Matt Smith, Last Night in Soho) from taking the cure himself.

There’s not a lot to Morbius. At 104 minutes it’s practically compact for the genre, but it feels longer because it stretches its material near breaking point without ever fleshing it out. Morbius is a non-character, and a lot of the movie comes down to your tolerance for Jared Leto. His vanilla Morbius gives shades of his dying swan in Dallas Buyer’s Club, and then his superhuman form is just shirtless. There’s an extended segment of just Leto talking himself through his experiments, which is neither cool nor interesting, unless you want to watch an inexplicable Academy Award winner close his eyes and catch a ball.

Director Daniel Espinosa (Life) has managed to sneak in a couple of arresting visual sequences: a suspense scene in a darkened corridor has a real sense of tension, and there’s a chase in a train tunnel that twists at an alarming angle. These are two moments in a sea of little else: much of Morbius reads like a watered down Venom, which itself often read as a watered down Spider-Man, and has nothing more to recommend it. The Morbius effects are workable, but strangely the production team didn’t seem to settle on an aesthetic for Milo’s descent, leaving Smith — who is easily working the hardest, method be damned — at a massive disadvantage.

Whatever Morbius has going for it is unintentional: Smith brings a degree of homoeroticism to his Eurotrash Milo, his inexplicable fortune and garish wardrobe. You keep expecting Milo and Morbius to kiss, but they never do. The actual relationship that made it to the screen isn’t any more or less deep than any of the others (with the exception of Jared Harris’ [TV’s Foundation]walk on role), and that’s the problem: the entire movie is barely even surface level, and everything slips off.

The script, supplied by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless (TV’s Lost in Space) is proof that you only need to have sold a script before to be able to put your name to a $75 million blockbuster. It’s not that Mobius is incoherent, but rather that parts of its script are missing without logical edits to cover the holes. The majority of Milo’s actions are uninformed, and one action does not follow the next. The sole blessing is that the FBI agents investigating Morbius, led by Tyrese Gibson (Dangerous), accept from the beginning that they’re pursuing a vampire. It’s the only economy the entire movie affords itself, so of course it’s the only one that works. The other liberty it tries to take is by featuring the worst non-ending a tentpole movie has had in years, and that goes down far, far worse.

Morbius threatens to be the start of something new. Where Venom: Let There Be Carnage’s most engaging element was its mid-credits scene that was ultimately undone almost immediately, Morbius has mid-credits elements that both instil a sense of dread and feature material that was prominently featured in the trailers. Morbius doesn’t have anywhere near the good will, name recognition or cast to make a hit, and if it does strike big it will feel like a miracle. The industry is long overdue for a sequel cull, as the great YA massacre of the ‘10s was so long ago. Morbius has probably given rise to The Sinister Six, but that doesn’t mean you have to like or watch it.

Morbius opened in Australian cinemas on March 31, 2022.

Directed by: Daniel Espinosa.

Starring: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson and Jared Harris.

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