The Friendly Film Fan Breaks Down Sony Pictures’ Latest Comic Book Movie Release.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Sony Pictures’ latest Spider-Man spinoff universe movie, Morbius – a frankly lifeless adaptation of Morbius the Living Vampire – was meant to come out pre-pandemic, or even that its first delays were due to production issues and reshoots, rather than Covid itself, but what no one should be forgiven for is insisting on a theatrical release when its VOD numbers likely would have been much higher, and far more appropriate given its quality. Theatrical selection is far more specific now than it used to be, what with Covid-19 still being around – though in far less fatal quantities – and patrons being more likely to be choosy about how much time they want to spend in a movie theater given what we’ve all been through over the last two years. Time is precious to individual and collective alike, which is why Morbius may well be the most offensive film to see right now in that context. That’s not to say that it’s awful, or outright trash; in fact, it’s not even the worst comic book movie I’ve seen over the past few years (though not for lack of trying). It’s just a colossal waste of time, continually insisting that it’s far cooler than it is and entirely incognizant of how needless its existence ends up being.
The film begins with Jared Leto’s titular character (Dr. Michael Morbius) already at the cave audiences saw in both the film’s trailers, where he intends to trap vampire bats in order to extract their blood for medical research, and then immediately jumps back almost thirty years for the tiniest morsel of backstory before whiplashing us back into modern day with no reason why. The structure of this movie is so out of sorts that entire scenes take place without needing to, and those that are necessary don’t seem to take place in the order they were meant to. The cave scene itself seems to have been an afterthought to the whole proceeding, or shot as part of an entirely different telling of the story, one of two different versions that both show up here, forced together as if the puzzle pieces were made to fit, rather than designed to. In fact, the first third or so of the movie is structured this way, as if two different versions of the story were written but unfinished, and thus Jane the Virgin’d into the same film when that method rarely – if ever – works in storytelling.
Morbius is either all plot with no character or no plot with an anti-character agenda. Not only does the movie itself not seem to have any identity beyond “character for universe,” the characters themselves leave no lasting impact or legacy beyond their time on screen, and even then, the impact is generously dull. In the scene I mentioned where the audience is jumped back almost thirty years, we meet Matt Smith’s character, who is meant to have grown up with Leto as the rich kid with the same disease because there needs to be an excuse for him to be in the movie, but the film never really does anything with him beyond what it telegraphs in that scene. Ditto the film absolutely wasting the immense talents of Jared Harris by having him simply stand around and talk a little bit to Smith’s character about some things but giving him no actual motivation, no pathos, no depth, try as Harris might to infuse something of note into his dialogue.
And that’s the largest problem with this movie: no matter how hard Leto tries, or Harris, or even Smith as he and Leto let their decent chemistry carry a single conversation – no one can save this movie from its colossal level of inconsistency, of ideas, of writing, of character motivations, of essentially anything. Perhaps most hypocritical about the movie is how rushed its pacing is, given how simultaneously tedious sitting through it feels. There is not one single thru-line of the film that makes any impact on the world it inhabits, and no subplot it either seems to just skip to the end of or drop entirely. Characters contradict the very ideas the film is asking the audience to take seriously multiple times, up to and including the insinuation that because Leto’s character doesn’t mean to kill eight people, he’s assuaged of his guilt for doing so, even going so far as chastising another character for killing one on purpose. The film’s shooting style, occasionally finding some sort of sleek and modernist identity, abandons it every time an action sequence comes up, choosing instead to bring in everything trick people remember from 2005; in short, the action sequences look like shit, if you can see them at all, with visual effects so bad that everyone who complained about Black Panther should be required to pen a ten-page apology letter to Ryan Coogler for ever deigning to say so out loud. Even the film's two credits scenes (which both take place before the credits end) ring as completely nonsensical given the already established multiverse rules of Spider-Man: No Way Home. To dive further into why the movie doesn’t work may require spoilers, but honestly, doing a spoiler review for this one would mean watching it again, and right now I can’t think of anything I’d like to watch less.
Morbius may not be offensively terrible, or even all that batshit a comic book film on its face, but it is without doubt the emptiest to come out in quite some time to take itself as seriously as it does. Inconsistent writing and no characterization combine with a rushed pace to make a tedious film that doesn’t seem to have any actual ideas, of its own or even that it’s stolen from other, more successful creations of its kind. It has nothing to say, nothing that matters, and no identity. Theaters all over the world need movies right now that people can get excited to go out and see, that will get them pumped about going back to the theater, and there are a myriad of experiences worth having in theatrical settings – but this won't be one of them.
I’m giving “Morbius” a 3.8/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
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Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.