Morbius Review – More BS in Latest Sony/Marvel Collab

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Sony’s latest foray into antihero fodder, the Jared Leto lead vampire-actioner Morbius, shortchanges story and visuals to fast-track an expanded Spider-Man universe; creating a simultaneously meandering “horror” that lacks bite.

Hellbent on finding the cure to a life-threatening blood disease that leaves him requiring frequent blood transfusions and walking with the support of crutches, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) resorts to extreme and unethical measures – the genetic splicing of a rare vampiric bat located in South America – in the hopes of expelling his ‘curse’. We know from his dedicated bedside manner and disregard for accolades that Morbius is a man determined. So too sharing this immense desire to help patients improve their lives is fellow doctor and partner to Morbius, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona).

Given the means to execute his controversial treatment offshore, the financial support coming from lifelong best friend (their closeness expressed in the constant reference to being Spartans) and experiences the same illness as the titular vamp, Milo (an engrossing Matt Smith), Morbius is the first cab off the rank to be trialed with this battish panacea. In true Jekyll and Hyde nature, the experiment goes awry with Morbius now capable of transforming in and out of a Vampiric being imbued with superpowers and an insatiable appetite for blood. (The latter being temporarily relieved through Morbius’ own concoction of synthetic blood.)

Morbius feels like the shell of a complete vision reduced by a desire to contribute to a franchise. In what could have been a poignant exploration about living with illness told within the confines of a superhero (or horror!) genre, Morbius is a film of interesting ideas that are cut off before they sprout. Director Daniel Espinosa’s vision feels like a body-horror experiment upon itself, miss-matching genre upon genre to create a semi-complete vision that stumbles upon itself; offering little payoff in terms of gore, humour, heart or action.

Hopefully in future iterations of the character there are efforts made to improve the quality of Morbius’ movement, with the decision to couple his fast-moving nature with a smokey effect making fight scenes extremely difficult to decipher. It relies on momentary and gawkish freeze frames to offer some coherence as to what is happening, with the nighttime setting – an issue also present in Venom (2018) – only intensifying this lack of visual clarity.

That said, there is a gritty charm to the vampiric look of its central character, with the visual effects meeting somewhere between Planet of the Apes and General Palpatine. (Props should also go to the films willing to not hide behind editing when watching characters shift between human and vampire.) 

While Jared Leto has become an open target for scorn given his extravagant approach to method acting, Morbius is not the film where he unleashes full Leto energy. What is to be admired by Leto, and also extended to his fellow performers, is the cast’s willingness to go there with respect to the necessary temperature of the scene. It is just a shame these performances become entangled in baffling dialogue and a perfunctory story that creates action for action’s sake. (Also, Bancroft deserves both more and better.) 

The vampires in Morbius rely on draining the life force out of living creatures. Unfortunately, so does the film.

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Cast: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona

Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless

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