I almost skipped posting a trailer because in the last three years, probably everyone who comes to this site has seen a trailer for this film several times. Surprise! the film is finally in theaters after being bumped from the schedule six different times. Many people have taken that as a sign that Sony had no faith in the film and as a result, there has been a high level of low expectations for the movie. This is a Marvel Film, but it is in the Sony Galaxy of the Marvel Universe, you know, that part of the Multiverse where Venom lives and Spider-Man visits. The film looks more like Venom than an MCU Spider-Man film, and that may be another reason that so many are skeptical about it.
There is no gentile way of saying it, “Morbius” is not a very good film. In spite of the fact that it is not very good, that does not mean it is bad or garbage. For people who are looking for an hour and a half of mildly entertaining comic book action with a dark flare, it works well enough to justify your time. If you have no interest, you will not lose anything by skipping the movie, but if the idea of a living vampire, engaging in battle with evil forces while knocking holes in the city around them is something you can get behind, then this is fine.
Actually, the first half hour or so of the movie is a pretty good origin story that sets up the main characters for the story, the exigencies that lead to the scientific cross pollination of blood and DNA, and the setting that it all takes place in. Things don’t start to go off the rails until we get on the boat where the main transformation takes place. I can’t say it was intellectually sound, but it makes as much sense as the “Spider-Man” science. The problem with the story at this point is that it has to develop some place to go. Batman and Spider-Man have motivation, Superman has enemies, Iron Man and Captain America have political objectives. “Morbius” is a creature created without a reason for being. We get a Jekyll/Hyde figure who is not really conflicted so much as distracted. An enemy is created for him to be in opposition to, but that feels like a mechanical step to simply fulfill the expectations of the genre.
In aesthetic and story, the film feels like a throwback to Spawn, The Fantastic Four, and Judge Dredd. Sometimes they look cool, but in a way that a drawing or painting holds your eye, rather than an organic story. The concept itself can’t be the movie, you have to have something to make the audience care, and this film for the most part lacks that spark. Jared Leto as the lead is perfectly fine, with the right look for a dark character and convincing in the early segments as the infirm doctor looking for a cure to his own blood disease. Frankly, the biggest drawback to his performance is the manbun he adopts to keep his long hair out of the way when he is in the lab or clinic. Matt Smith as his childhood friend suffering from the same disease, is never as convincing in that role, but as his part evolves, he is a lot more animated than the lead is, and that is not always for the best. The tone of his performance and the character arc might work well in a different movie, the question becomes which film are they making here? Is this a dramatic brooding vampire’s story or is it a comic book action film? “Morbius” can’t quite make up it’s mind.
The film also feels like chunks have been taken out of it to make it lean, but those chunks contain exposition that might have clarified some of the things that are happening or they could have added more character to the lead roles. Either way it leaves the movie feeling undercooked, and the set ups in the end credit sequence make no sense in light of what we saw before. There is a desperation to the effort to connect this to the Spider-Man/Venom part of the universe and it does not do the movie any favors. Al Madrigal as Agent Rodriguez provides a little bit of humor, and Tyrese Gibson is trying to inject a little bit of gravitas to the proceedings, but those ingredients are not sufficient to lift this movie out of the classification of mediocre.
Those of you who expect to hate this probably will, so stay away. Those who think it is going to be fun stupidity like the Venom films, be prepared for a letdown. But those of you, who like me have no preconceptions about the movie, will tolerate it at times, enjoy it for some moments and then forget about it until we stumble across it on cable or streaming and wonder what it is that we have forgotten.