When I sat down to watch Marvel’s and Sony’s new superhero offering Morbius on Friday morning, a group of teenagers behind me discussed with each other if they needed to have seen other movies before this one. Fifteen years ago, this would have been an absurd question. But in the world after MCU, it is a valid question. How does this superhero movie connect to the dozens I may have missed? Morbius does and does not. It tries to be a standalone venture, while including Easter eggs from the larger Sony-Marvel universe. The only problem is that it does all that pretty awful and in the most boring way imaginable. Also read: Morbius’ early reviews are painfully bad, calling the Jared Leto player “worst Marvel superhero movie in a long time”
Simply put, Morbius is the worst deal from the Sony-Marvel movies. Given that Sony has previously released forgettable movies like Fantastic 4, it’s a pretty low level. In terms of how much it sucks, Morbius can compete with even the worst deals from DC.
The starting point for Morbius is simple. The film is about the biochemist Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) who infects himself with a form of vampirism while trying to cure himself of a rare blood disease. Director Daniel Espinosa gives our hero strong support in the form of Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson and Jared Harris. But everything fails because of fuzzy writing.
Morbius uses all the tropics that superhero movies made in the 90’s – a tortured hero, a friend who became an enemy villain, a good-looking scientist / doctor who is the main character’s love interest and the father figure played by a famous actor. The thing is, in 2008, Marvel started the Cinematic Universe and replaced or improved these troops (Guardians of the Galaxy) or Thor (Thor). DC also grew over time and gave us The Batman just four weeks ago. In the face of all this, Morbius feels terribly out of place and outdated.
The film does not waste any time determining the characters or their motives. Wait, let me rephrase it. It does not matter at all to do so. The key to the story is the bond between Michael and his surrogate brother Milo (Matt Smith) and Michael’s desire to save their lives, but you never care about that bond. So when the latter falls apart, you really feel nothing. The romance between Michael and his subordinate Dr Martine Bancroft (played by Adria) is forced. You invest so little in the characters that a few die and you feel nothing. That makes the story pretty bland.
There are references to Venom and Spider-Man peppered in the story. It makes sense because Morbius was associated with these characters in Marvel Comics. But it feels like a bad product placement here. Morbius even tries to build a larger universe with its multiple post-credit sequences, where it introduces an MCU character. But considering how Marvel has perfected the art of making sharp post-credit scenes, Morbius falls flat here too. The scenes feel like a forced attempt to connect Morbius to a larger universe. It does not feel organic at all.
One can hope that if the film does not have the heart in place then maybe it can compensate for it with some visual effects. Unfortunately, you would be wrong! The odd blur effect used to show Morbius and Milo’s elevated senses as they transform vampires distracts from the visual, and the dark tone does not help. The film really needs a color correction.
The saddest thing about the film is how badly it wastes its artists’ talent, especially Jared Harris and Matt Smith. Why Jared even took on this role is wise. And Matt, my heart cries over how Hollywood does not seem to know what to do with an actor of his caliber. The man has been The Doctor, Prince Philip, and even did American Psycho in theater. Yet Hollywood only seems to remember him when it wants to cast a cunning villain. They tried it out as a cameo in Terminator: Genisys and in a full-fledged way here in Morbius. And Matt removed it. He is the film’s brilliant light, which also partly overshadows Jared Leto. But he deserves better. And one can only hope that this experience would not turn him off from Hollywood.
And when it comes to Jared Leto, he has to rethink his career choices. An actor with so much talent should not be reduced to doing what he is. In recent years, much of what he touched has turned to ashes. His Joker was sandwiched between two defining portrayals of the character of Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix. And I fear that his Morbius will soon surpass when MCU reveals its second vampire – Mahershala Ali’s Blade. Go back to doing more of The Little Things, Jared. You’re too good to make ugly vampire movies.
It’s rarely a movie gets almost everything wrong. And Morbius manages to achieve this spectacularly. Just watch Morbius if you’re an avid Marvel fan or like pointless action movies, or simply want to see something so bad that it’s funny. Morbius, produced by Columbia Pictures in collaboration with Marvel, and distributed by Sony Pictures, was released in theaters around the world on April 1. Wait a minute, is this an April Fool’s joke?
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Throw: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris and Tyrese Gibson