Roughly 95 million comic book movies come out every year, and they obviously can’t all be good. Intellectual property holders make them all, from the best to the worst, as a means of making money, furthering the brand. Occasionally you get some that transcend the mere commerce of it all. Recently we’ve had stuff like The Batman, The Suicide Squad, and Spider-Man: No Way Home, which are all very different, with different artistic goals, but all succeeded far more than they had any right to. And then there’s Morbius, a perfunctory, sloppy, paint-by-numbers attempt to remind audiences that Sony has the rights to these Spider-Man villains and by golly they’re going to use them.
We had a bet in the Nerdist offices about whether Morbius even existed given how long ago it finished shooting. Recent interviews with director Daniel Espinosa indicated Avengers: Endgame hadn’t even come out when they were shooting, and that feels like a lifetime ago. At any rate, the movie does exist and is here for people to see. And that’s about it. It’s not particularly good, but it’s also not so incompetent as to elicit laughter, nor so baffling as to produce consternation. The movie doesn’t make any sense, don’t get me wrong, but it’s the kind of nonsense that we’ve seen before, so nothing really stands out that much.
Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has suffered from a debilitating blood disease for his entire life. Apparently his condition requires so many treatments so often that as a child he has to live in a special hospital in Greece run by a kindly physician (an absolutely wasted Jared Harris). Early on, another young boy with the same affliction moves in to the bed right next to Michael. His name is Lucien, but Michael calls him Milo. Cut to 25 years into the future and Morbius is a famed biochemist who has spent his entire life attempting to cure his and Milo’s illness. Grown up Milo (Matt Smith) is very wealthy for reasons and has bankrolled Morbius’ work.
Eventually Morbius and his colleague-slash-love-interest Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) hit the jackpot through a strange source. They create a serum using vampire bat DNA. Morbius injects himself and very quickly he gets better. Well “better” is a relative term, of course. He also has an inexplicable reaction which bestows upon him several incongruous bat powers. He’s super strong and agile, natch. His hearing becomes a kind of (his words) “bat radar,” even though the word sonar has existed for a long time. His appearance changes instantly and then goes back to normal depending on the last part… he needs to inject blood to stay alive. Ruh roh.
And that’s kind of the movie. Morbius becomes a monster but doesn’t want to be one; Milo becomes and monster and loves it. CGI versions of them jump around with CGI vampire faces creating some kind of CGI smoke (?) for some reason. The dialogue and characterizations are absolutely inert while the action scenes are little more than digital noise. Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal show up as federal agents (or detectives, the movie seems confused) who ostensibly investigate the rampant vampire murders, but whatevs, man.
The lone bright spot in the otherwise turgid excuse for a movie is Matt Smith who actually gives a performance. He seems to relish his time as the villainous vamp so very much. A scene halfway through finds Smith dancing around his penthouse, admiring his new physique and powers and it is nothing short of delightful. He’s too good of an actor not to give it his all, but next to the plank of wood that is Leto, he’s a beacon of excellence. The whole movie should have been about him.
Morbius is just not good. There’s no two ways about it. It just feels lazy and unfinished. Milo has no last name; we never know what kind of disease he and Morbius have; they can’t seem to agree on what Morbius’ vampire face should look like from scene to scene. I didn’t like the first Venom movie but at least it felt like someone made it; Morbius feels like a movie that was willed into existence by the incepted dreams of Columbia Pictures execs. It needs to be in order for one more member of the Sinister Six (who are just antiheroes, obviously) to join the squad.
Waste not one more ounce of time thinking about Morbius, friends. It’s not worth it.
2 out of 5 solely for Matt Smith