If there’s one thing that can mercifully be said for Morbius, it’s that it wastes no time making its character into the “Living Vampire.” The scene when this happens is also its best, as it was clearly the set piece that director Daniel Espinosa had his heart in. POV scenes of a monster hunting mercenaries, who are present for no reason other than to be eaten, are the only remotely cinematic thing about this entire exercise of a film, though. There’s also Morbius’ goofball echolocation effects, a preposterous mist that surrounds him — which seems like a studio note to make him look kind of like Venom — that makes the visual language of the action nearly incomprehensible throughout; however, there’s a moment where Morbius slashes someone’s throat open and blood spatters on the camera lens that elicited a sensible chuckle from yours truly. This was the only time to laugh with the movie, as the times to laugh at the movie only multiply.
Jared Leto stars as the titular character, delivering a performance that feels like he’s barely even trying. For all the faults you can pin on something like House of Gucci or Suicide Squad, at least Leto was doing something with those roles. There’s also, naturally, the gross display of Leto playing a disabled character on screen, though the film’s quick pace gets him off his crutches fast, yet it’s still a facet of the identity of this role that drives him, and one of many moments in the movie that are deeply misguided. Opposite Leto is actress Adria Arjona, given the herculean task of playing his scientific partner and, at the drop of a hat, his love interest. Their relationship seems platonic until the movie needs it to no longer be that way, becoming at least beat #44 in the story that occurs because it needs to happen and not because there’s a reason within the narrative for it to occur.
There are countless examples across the framing of Morbius that fit into this lazy and grating style of storytelling. Take, for example, Al Madrigal and Tyrese Gibson, who star as a pair of FBI Agents on the hunt for Morbius, and are subjected to some of the most baffling plot developments of the entire movie. A brief reference to the events of Venom apparently gives these detectives all the confidence they need to leap to “a vampire did this,” which is both hilarious as a viewer and baffling from the outside perspective. Matt Smith also has the tragic burden of starring as the film’s antagonist, given the comical name of “Milo,” and some of the worst CGI effects to make him appear monstrous. Morbius needs a foil and all three of these characters are supposed to function as roadblocks for him, but the story barely has a foundation at all to even support antagonists against its lead.
The spurts of genuine entertainment in Morbius are few and far between, and are so sporadic, in fact, that they could be accidental. What Morbius ends up being is a model of the lowest common denominator of cheap, studio, franchise filmmaking. It’s not that Morbius is a bad idea for a movie, but the execution perpetrated within this film seems to believe that scraping the bottom of the barrel with comic book Easter eggs and CGI-heavy action will score this a guaranteed box office and fan interest. Marvel movie fans have developed an attachment to these storylines on the big screen because they’re invested in what happens next with the characters and they like the spectacle, neither of which Morbius can brag about; or in the case of something like Sony’s Venom movies, fans are getting something they won’t get elsewhere. Morbius isn’t doing anything you haven’t already seen executed better.
All of that is to say that Morbius has the worst sequel-bait for a movie in years, featuring an abrupt conclusion that feels like reshoots and pre-viz have become intertwined. Fans eager for connectivity to other Marvel movies and Spider-Man will also be greeted with perhaps the most hastily planned attempt at a tease that will only cause headache-inducing speculation. Spoiler alert: it’s leading to nothing but confusion, as not even Sony knows what they’re doing with it. The best possibility here is for none of us to ever find out what would happen next, because, frankly, who cares?
Rating: 1 out of 5
Morbius lands in theaters on April 1st.