MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Superhero/ Stars: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson, Corey Johnson, Michael Keaton, Bentley Kalu, Charlie Shotwell, Joseph Esson/ Runtime: 104 minutes
I think it is fairly safe to say that the genre of movie magic that is the comic book film is one that has seen pretty phenomenal leaps and bounds in the past two decades. Of course, with all of these advancements people often forget that in the shadow of such films as 1998’s Blade, 2000’s X-Men, and 2002’s Spider-Man, a trinity of slices of cinema that managed to completely change how the film industry viewed superhero films as a whole, that Hollywood then made the choice to release a collection of one-note and by and large lackluster cinematic superhero entries that were fairly painful to watch. Thankfully Kevin Feige’s Marvel Studios arrived on the scene in 2008 with the promise of treating these characters properly and respectively, and with that the era of comic book film crapola faded into the background. Suffice it to say that as the amount of potential that could be mined from a superhero movie has now been made aware of by the major studios, so too are the vast majority of superhero slices of cinema being made with the exact goal on mind of making a movie that has an appropriate amount of dimensions and pathos to go side by side with all the superheroic shenanigans. As a result, the narrative regaling in this has managed to become exponentially better which in turn has made it easier for movie goers across the planet to see in the flesh what comic book lovers like myself have been able to see in our imaginations for years and years now. It was this wonderful pop culture phenomenon I had to regularly keep myself in mind whilst engaged in the act of viewing the latest slice of superhero cinema, and the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, Morbius from film helmer Daniel Espinosa. That is because with all the moments of both awe and wonder that we as movie goers have been treated to by comic book cinema in the past 15 years, this is one slice of superhero cinema that seems to hint that whoever was behind this one might want to check and make sure their brain wasn’t turned off the whole time they were making it. Indeed in an era where cinematic super heroics and villainy is wonderfully more dimensional than they have ever been, this is one slice of superhero cinema that is easily the most yawn-worthy, most one-dimensional, and most groan-inducing take on this character that it could be. Not only that, but when your slice of cinema is unable to give you a single character that is either engaging or riveting enough to make you actually care about them to say nothing of providing action beats that are no more and no less than doom and gloom shadow that is highlighted with colorful puffs of smoke then what you are left with isn’t just a misfire of a superhero film, but a terrible piece of cinema period.
The plot is as follows: “Based” (and believe me I am using that word to its loosest possible extent for the purposes of this review) on the Marvel Comics character of the same name, Morbius gets underway as we are introduced to our titular main character who is a scientist that we learn has been tragically since he was born stricken with a blood ailment that he has desperately tried to find a cure for. Thus, with his lady love Dr. Martine Bancroft and his New York City (huh wonder if that’s important) rooted company Horizon Labs, we see that our sourpuss of a scientist has started to consider an intriguing possibility. Namely that maybe he should try to mix a human being’s DNA with that of a vampire bat to see if maybe the anti-coagulants present in the bat’s blood stream could be the key to eliminating his ailment once and for all. All he needs is a human being on which to test the procedure on so *naturally* he chooses himself. Of course, because the procedure is one that the medical community views as being highly unethical let alone potentially illegal, we see that our “hero” is forced to acquire funding from a shady childhood chum who is stricken with the same ailment (what are the odds?) by the name of Milo. Of course, his friend agrees to help out and as a result it’s not that long before our moody scientist is on a voyage on a ship with his lady love and….a squad of mercenaries who are all packing some serious heat. Why do they need that much heat you might be wondering? Well I honestly don’t know, but if you figure it out please feel free to let me know. Anyway, it should come as no surprise to learn the procedure goes awry and our mad scientist is turned into a lethal creature who now needs a consistent supply of human blood to keep his more….wild side in check (apparently animal blood was never considered as a viable alternative). Of course things soon go from bad to worse when Milo takes a dose of the “cure” only to become a vampiric beast as well with the extra caveat that he, unlike Morbius, has no qualms about killing as many people as possible thus leaving it up to his former blood brother (literally) to stop him.
Now if I wanted to be nice to this slice of “superhero cinema”, (though I really don’t want to be) I could tell you that it is quite methodical in how it regales movie goers with its narrative. At the same time though that could also be seen as me throwing shade at the film since that same efficiency also is able to take away any degree of edge to this film’s 104 minute runtime. Indeed not only is there no style on display, but there is literally next to no moments throughout which provide any meaningful analysis into the people besides what is going on at that exact moment in the film. Along with that is the fact that this slice of cinema’s script chillingly just goes from narrative beat to narrative beat whilst falling flat on its face when it tries to do anything more meaningful than just give us a run of the mill superhero origin saga. A method to the madness that is made even more questionable by what it chooses to “conveniently overlook”. For example we learn in the film that Morbius has a fake human blood that affects him on a different level than when he drinks real human blood, but at no point does the film choose to go into any further detail on that. Along with that, we also learn that the amount of time this “solution” is proving to be effective is continuously getting less and less, but all the movie chooses to do with this is just make it a consistent race against time before Morbius goes full on vampiric beast once more. Yes I know a lot of other superhuman individuals have had the same origin saga, but the pair of writers who came up with this one desperately show they have trouble trying to make Morbius’ entry into this supposedly bigger universe actually distinguishable other than “he might have a bigger role to play in the future, but we’ll see what happens with this one box office wise”. Suffice it to say that in virtually every respect, this is one slice of cinema that only exists since it needs to for reasons that might matter later down the road and boy does it show.
Heck on top of all of the previously mentioned issues, this slice of cinema also shows that it can’t even give audiences action beats that are potent to say nothing of comprehensible though that can also be attributed to the fact that this slice of cinema is having to operate within the boundaries of a PG-13 rating. A bit problematic really since between the amounts being drank and the amount being spilt, there is quite a bit of blood in this slice of cinema. Unfortunately because the MPAA won’t permit a PG-13 rated film to show that much blood, this slice of cinema tries to work around it by having all the bloody shenanigans that ensue go down either in the dark of night or in shadows. Unfortunately by doing this, the film also makes it absolutely impossible to know what the heck you are supposed to be seeing. Indeed it is quite disheartening to see a superhero film fail so bad in this department especially after the phenomenal work in this department possessed by The Batman. Indeed, unlike that film’s vibrant yet bleak take on Gotham and her denizens, this slice of cinema is a dour film that is so dark that it isn’t that hard to see people lose any interest in seeing this due to having no idea what is going on visually. Of course, it certainly does not make things any better by any stretch that this slice of cinema contains VFX touches that seem like they were added in courtesy of a paintbrush and which are meant to show the sonar and flight abilities possessed by our main character. Yes I know it’s supposed to be injecting some flair into the proceedings, but all these wind up doing is making things even blurrier even worse than they already were.
Yet perhaps the most calamitous fallout from how bad the work done behind the camera of this slice of cinema is in regards to what it does to the cast of characters who find themselves literally pile-drived into one-dimensional archetypes. Indeed there is not a role in this film that can be described utilizing in no more and no less than a pair of words. A fact I will now validate by telling you that this movie has Jared Leto playing a moody vamp, Matt Smith playing a gleeful vamp, Milo Adria Arjona playing a devoted partner, the always welcome Jared Harris playing a father figure, Tyrese Gibson playing the uptight cop, Al Madrigal playing the quippy cop, and a surprised to be here Michael Keaton playing the brief cameo. Yet even though this ailment strickens the whole cast, it still should be said that I do not blame in the slightest the cast of performers who have been assembled here since not only do I know they can and have done better, but because they are doing as much as they can with the material they were given. Now although virtually all of Morbius feels like it is just either checking off the necessary boxes or is going through the motions, there is one component that is almost inspired. That being the work done by Matt Smith in the role of Milo. Indeed here is a performance from someone who looks like he just came directly from the gonzo insanity of the Venom movies and as a result permits his stylish shady adventurer to be a bit of colorful that this slice of cinema urgently requires. Indeed Smith’s passion and vibrance makes for such a delightful contrast to Leto’s moody and uninteresting mad scientist that whenever the pair has scenes together, it is Smith who manages to walk away with the scene with ease despite the movie being called Morbius rather than Milo. Suffice it to say that Smith does such a darn good job as the bad guy that he almost (key word there) makes the rest of this slice of cinema tolerable to sit through.
All in all the 2022 slice of cinema that is Morbius is one that proves to be so unoriginal and unspectacular in virtually every single way that the finished product is a complete and utter waste of what potentially could have been, in better hands, a curious mix of supernatural terror and superheroic shenanigans. Yes there is perhaps is a single scene that might, keyword being might, remotely remind you of the 2016 horror film Lights Out in a manner that maybe send a chill down your spine, but other than that anything horror-related is left to no more and no less than godawful puns about legendary vamp Dracula (who has had so many better movies made about him incidentally). That by the way is the take that the entirety of this slice of cinema chooses to go down. Indeed there is not a single ingredient in this that doesn’t give off a vibe of being either extraneous and/or not really all that desiring to give movie goers any kind of engaging narrative regaling because the truth is that what this slice of cinema is really aiming to achieve is to get to the post credits scenes where what little heart that this slice of cinema has can be found. Put another way: Morbius chooses to concentrate so heavily on further fleshing out the jumbled up Spider-Man Universe that Sony is so dead set on making possible to say nothing of further follow-ups to this film that it has a complete and utter hole in its memory which says that “audience engagement insert here”. Thus with all of that in mind, I find myself very much pleading with each and every one of you who read my work to not go see this movie and instead let it go out as quickly and horrifically as possible. Indeed this is not a movie that is fun nor is it one that is the proverbial “so bad that it inadvertently turns out to be good”. Rather it is heartless, soulless, passionless, gunk that resembles the slimy ooze from The Blob and if you can help it you should definitely take care that you don’t fall prey to it. Make of that therefore what thou will dear reader. On a scale of 1-5 I give Morbius “2022” a solid 2 out of 5.