‘Morbius’ Review: A Frankensteined Vampire Movie
Morbius was released into theaters on April 1, so I have to ask: Are we sure it isn’t some kind of elaborate April Fools’ Day prank? At the very least, it feels like one. There are very few times in my life I have seen a film this poorly performed, this awkwardly written, this obviously taken apart and reconstructed in the editing room. It may be about a vampire but it feels more like the work of a cinematic Dr. Frankenstein; sutured together from bits and pieces of different storylines and characters that don’t fit, and then zapped into unholy, disjointed life.
Its title character, played by Jared Leto, has spent his entire life grappling with a rare blood disease. This incurable illness’ name and exact symptoms are not really explained; all that really matters is that it makes the perpetually weak and sickly Michael Morbius and his good friend Milo (or Lucien; he seems to have two names for some reason) need constant transfusions. As a child, Morbius was treated by a kind doctor (Jared Harris) at a private hospital in Greece; when he grows into his full Letohood, he becomes a doctor and scientist himself. Driven to find a cure for his condition, he invents a kind of synthetic blood that saves millions of lives.
Then Morbius gets obsessed with vampire bats and their unique ability to metabolize blood. He collects a swarm of vampire bats and then heads out into international waters — literally, a title card onscreen reads “INTERNATIONAL WATERS” — and he injects himself with a vampire bat serum. You’ll never guess what happens to him next.
Okay, so you already know what happens; Morbius becomes a kind of superhero vampire. He needs to drink blood every few hours, but when he does he becomes inhumanly fast and strong, and can even fly through the air on wind currents. Of course, Morbius’ childhood buddy Milo, now a billionaire (and played by Matt Smith) wants some of the cure for himself, and he doesn’t care about the minor side effects like the insatiable hunger for human plasma. Morbius refuses to give Milo the serum, but he gets his hands on it anyway, and soon there are two vampires running around New York City,
These broad strokes sound sensible on paper, but words do not adequately capture just how sloppy and disorganized Morbius is. Director Daniel Espinosa seems to have cut the context, nuance, and character development out of every scene until all that was left was stunts, action, and Leto and Smith in CGI vampire makeup hissing at each other. Jared Harris, for example, is barely in the movie; if his doctor character ever served a larger purpose in the story, it’s long gone. Likewise, Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, who previously served as the villain in Spider-Man: Homecoming and featured prominently in all of Morbius’ trailers, appears onscreen here for maybe 45 seconds total.
In fact, based on Morbius’ trailers, it seems like it was conceived as a totally different movie. In those trailers, Tyrese Gibson’s character, an FBI agent named Simon Stroud, has a big robotic arm. In the film, he’s just an ordinary guy, and he only pops up occasionally to examine Morbius’ crime scenes. He also has a line in the trailer about how Morbius “has been missing for two months” something that never happens in the finished movie, which appears to take place over the course of a couple days.
Some of the changes are just baffling. In one trailer released last year, Morbius attacks a group of thugs and says “I... am... Venom!” before quipping “I’m just kidding, it’s Dr. Michael Morbius at your service!” That’s a dumb joke and a pretty shameless attempt to connect this movie to the wider Sony Spider-Man universe, but at least it’s something. In the actual film, Morbius still says “I... am... Venom!” but that’s it; the punchline is completely missing. Why would he call himself Venom? What is the point? What is the point of any of this?
Just a few months ago, Sony was riding high on the success of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which brought together different Marvel franchises into a singular movie that somehow became more than just fan service; it was a legitimately moving film about heroism and brotherhood. No Way Home was like watching a wire walker pull off a seemingly impossible physical stunt; there was all this tension and excitement, followed by absolute elation when they actually pulled it off. Morbius is like watching an incompetent juggler throw six knives in the air and then get stabbed by each of them on the way down.
-If you thought the rest of this movie was incomprehensible, wait until you get to the post-credits scenes.
-Morbius is rated PG-13, which means it is a film about a bloodsucking monster in which there is basically no blood. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?