Before I proceed any further, this is a spoiler-free review. That means I won’t be discussing any specific plot points related to Morbius.
After what seems like an eternity, the long-delayed Morbius is finally here. I remember the first time I watched the trailer two years ago and I didn’t like it at all. The whole footage sure looked like it was made in the 2000s era. The bygone era where the quality of comic-book movies was largely erratic at the time.
And so, I chose to go in with the lowest expectation because who knows, Morbius might turn out not as bad as it looks. But first, the story: We learn that Dr Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is suffering from a rare blood disease. His only chance for a potential recovery is to inject himself with an experimental cocktail of vampire bat DNA. A result that does not only give Michael superhuman strength but also turns him into a pseudo-vampire, where he has to sustain himself by drinking artificial blood.
You see, Michael has a conscience and he wouldn’t go as far as killing people and sucking human blood, unlike his best friend Milo a.k.a. Lucien (Matt Smith). Like Michael, Milo happens to suffer from the same rare blood disease. He also turns out to be a wealthy man, who is responsible for financing Michael’s costly experiment. Long story short, conflict ensues between Michael and Milo, where the latter becomes Michael’s adversary. There’s an obligatory (and lengthy) flashback too, going back decades ago to see how Michael (Charlie Shotwell) and Milo (Joseph Esson) first met when they were kids.
First of all, Jared Leto doesn’t overact as he did as The Joker in Suicide Squad (2016) and last year’s House of Gucci, where he plays Paolo Gucci with his god-awful Italian accent. His performance as the titular character in Morbius is subdued by comparison. But too bad the script — credited to Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless — fails to give him anything substantial to work with. I find it hard to feel sympathy or genuinely care about Michael Morbius’ fate. His overall character arc comes across as largely superficial.
The film even botches the chance of delving deeper into Michael and Milo’s friendship and their subsequent rift, where they end up becoming enemies. Everything here is confined to a surface-level way of storytelling while it’s kind of baffling to see why Sazama and Sharpless were even enlisted to write the script in the first place. Not especially they were responsible for writing some of the worst genre films ever made in the 2010s including Dracula Untold (2014), The Last Witch Hunter (2015) and Gods of Egypt (2016).
Morbius marks Daniel Espinosa’s first foray into the comic-book movie territory. Having seen some of his works in the past, he’s a journeyman filmmaker who has hopped from one genre to another with varying degrees of success. I wasn’t a fan of his two popular films, Easy Money (Snabba Cash) and Safe House. But his last directorial effort in his first Alien-like sci-fi horror, Life, was the only time I enjoyed his work.
In Morbius, however, his direction is largely pedestrian. He’s more like a work for hire rather than a visionary filmmaker with a distinct visual style, even though he does offer some cool action moments. This is particularly evident during the scenes where the film showcases the character’s leaping and pouncing abilities in slow motion, complete with a cloud of colourful smoke puffing in the mid-air. The CG-heavy sequences are visually inconsistent, notably some of the vampire transformation effects and the incomprehensible final fight between Michael and Milo.
Matt Smith seems to be having some fun playing the antagonist role while Adria Arjona and Jared Haris both deliver respectively decent support as Morbius’ fellow doctor and lover, Martine Bancroft and Morbius and Milo’s father figure, Emil Nikols. Tyrese Gibson shows up as one of the FBI agents investigating the case but his character is sadly reduced to a thankless role.
Morbius ends with not one but two mid-credits scenes and all I can say is it made me feel like they are shoehorned for the sake of justifying its existence. Frankly, I’m not sure how everything is going to tie up altogether within Sony’s Spider-Man Universe. I guess we just have to wait and see but right now, Morbius is off to a lacklustre start.