Come hell or high water, Sony is committed to making as many movies as possible with their library of Spider-Man characters. Yet, despite the unlikely financial victory of the studio's 'Venom' films, their strategy is seriously flawed. The push to create an expanded universe centred around the supporting characters partly robs them of their appeal. Most of us would rather see these villains interacting with the webhead. But moreover, it means that anyone tangentially related to Spider-Man is now a serious proposition for their own film — irrespective of whether there's a reason for it. So, with such intentions, let it be no surprise that their latest endeavour, 'Morbius', delivers the expected result. It's another sloppy, shallow antihero tale spawned solely to cash in on the hero he should be fighting.
Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto, 'The Little Things') is a renowned biochemist who has dedicated his life to curing the blood disorder that afflicts him. After years of research, he believes he's finally found the answer in bats. Michael believes that by placing the DNA of vampire bats into his bloodstream, the way these creatures process blood will absolve him of his illness. His experiment appears to be a success, but as these things always go, Michael starts to develop some alarming side effects. He has the strength of a god, the ability to fly, and an overwhelming desire to consume blood. Michael has turned himself into a vampire - and as he deals with his new cravings, he must battle a friend who becomes an even greater foe.
'Morbius' is a colossal misfire. It feels like it's from the era of Ben Affleck's 'Daredevil' and Nicolas Cage's 'Ghost Rider' when, aside from a few outliers, studios were yet to crack the code on how to handle these characters correctly. But while those films have earned a sense of charm over time, 'Morbius' has no excuse for being this misconceived in this epoch of superhero cinema. This is a film where every scene is in a rush to get to the next thing, rarely allowing any time just to breathe. Additionally, the plotting is predictable, the jokes are poor, and the characters lack depth. I can't even say there's some fun to be had in how bad it can be. Regrettably, it's just inert to the point of monotony.
But what's more frustrating is its total lack of personality. The score composed by Jon Ekstrand is a near note-by-note theft of the score from 'Batman Begins'. Furthermore, the antagonist being a mirror version of our hero is so derivative it's become a trope in itself. But the most damning thing is that 'Morbius' exhibits no passion for its lore or an ounce of directorial verve, which makes it feel like anybody could have made it. When I think of the best superhero films, they're enhanced by the love and style of their directors. Think Sam Raimi, Zack Snyder and Christopher Nolan. Say what you will about their work, but you could never label their entries to the genre as interchangeable. Nothing about 'Morbius' showcases that director Daniel Espinosa is interested in the story he's telling or aims to impress his audience.
'Morbius' is a colossal misfire.
And still, the problems compounding 'Morbius' don't end there. In spite of the talent attached, the cast has very little chemistry with each other. Adria Arjona ('Triple Frontier') puts in a sturdy performance as the scientist Martine Bancroft, but as the love interest to Leto's Morbius, the pair often fizzle in romantic moments. It's also hard to believe Matt Smith (TV's 'The Crown') and Jared Leto have this tight-knit bond as best friends despite how often they bring it up. While remarkably, Leto himself offers very little to the titular role. For someone known for his operatic tendencies, it was dispiriting to see him dial it down in favour of a more subdued performance. He offers little charisma and can never sink his teeth into the part.
Occasionally, there are glimpses of what the better version of this film could have been. Some sequences try to evoke the horror inherent in the character. There's a hallway scene, in particular, that does well to place you in a state of dread as a vampiric threat moves closer to a suspecting victim. But unfortunately, the film can never make good on its promises. The characters often devour artificial blue blood in a move that feels made to secure a lighter classification. And while it ponders some horror ideas, eventually, it reverts to the conventional superhero-style action of mammoth effects and garish imagery. At times, 'Morbius' appears to be on the precipice of doing something interesting, but can never fully indulge in the scarier elements of the living vampire himself.
If 'Morbius' is a preview of what's to come in the upcoming slate of Spider-Man adjacent Sony movies, it's going to be a long couple of years. 'Morbius' isn't presented with any care, and despite being billed as the arrival of the next Marvel legend, the film is just a soulless effort manufactured in the hope that those who saw Spider-Man would flock to this too. Based on marketing materials, it looks like a lot of footage was left on the cutting room floor, but I honestly don't know how much of a difference it would have made. 'Morbius' is another indictment of Sony's efforts to utilise the obscure characters at their disposal, and what else can I say? It sucked.