Morbius (Film Review): World Building Gone Wrong
After multiple delays, Morbius, the “highly anticipated” new entry into Sony’s Spider-Man Universe, arrives with some of the worst world-building we have seen in a long time.
During the last couple of years, Sony has been trying to find their box office-hit franchise for almost the past decade. Even in the past three years, you could see their many attempts at a franchise–throwing them to a wall, waiting to see what stuck. While most of them don’t have the punch to stand independently. the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man will never fail them. Some good has come from that venture, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, albeit some bad arrived with it as well, Venom. After the 2018 symbiote “romp”, they didn’t know where to go next. So, their next big move was to “exploit” the rights and make a film about multiple characters to create their own universe – the supporting cast of villains who clearly don’t deserve a solo project. Currently, they have numerous projects at the ready: Kraven the Hunter, Madame Web, Black Cat, Silver Sable, Silk, you name it. Out of all those projects, Sony decided to go with Morbius, the living vampire. And after its multiple delays (it was initially going to be released in July of 2020), it’s finally here.
The film centers around a biochemist named Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), who had a troubled past dealing with a rare blood disease. The only way to tend to this disease is through blood transfusions three times a day. Morbius’ main goal in life, thanks to his unique gift of excellent knowledge, is to find a cure for it so that his best friend, Milo aka. Lucian (Matt Smith, whose pantomime performance steals the show and makes the film partly tolerable) can live an everyday life. Morbius has “found” the solution to all of his problems thanks to some “vampire” bats found in a hidden cave. After multiple tests with rats, he decides it’s time for a human guinea pig to take on the trial: himself. When his experimentation goes wrong, he inadvertently injects himself with a form of vampirism that cures his ailments but causes a side effect: the thirst for blood. All of this sounds somewhat compelling for it to be a solo project, albeit, with the Marvel tag on it, everybody knows there isn’t going to be much breathing space for creativity. And indeed, that is what happens – this is the most precise definition of a “product” rather than an actual film.
The first part of the story is interesting enough for the viewer to hang on for the ride as it deals with a morally complex character, thanks to his ethics regarding science. As he mentions multiple times, Morbius says he will do anything to find the cure that curses him and his friend Milo. Nevertheless, once Michael gets his powers from injecting the bat-blood serum, everything worsens. Action sequences with shoddy graphics that look like they came from a cutscene of a PlayStation 3 game are followed by melodramatic conversations between him and his love interest, Martine (Adria Arjona, who is not given the best to work with), that don’t move the plot along. Things just happen in this film with no thought or context. One could have thought that there would be a “man or beast” scenario while dealing with how his morality shifts, but it isn’t close to such thematics. Another issue that I have, although it may be a minor one, is that there is no sight of blood in the picture. Multiple people are killed in this film, as well as the fact that it deals with vampires, yet there is no presence of it.
Even in the five to ten minutes that Morbius is experimenting with his vampiric tolerance and chugging gallons of blood, we don’t see the red fluid. There is a moment where a throat is supposedly slit open by one of his claws, albeit there is no wound. This sort of moment happens once or twice more during the feature’s runtime. For a film that is supposed to build up the Sony Spider-Man universe, there is no commitment to this character from the director and the production company. Morbius is supposed to be an introduction of a character, and it feels like a pre-curtain raiser for something “bigger” and “broader”. This isn’t the worst thing in the world, nor is it close to being it. I have seen way worse films in the past couple of years, and there are a handful of good aspects. Matt Smith chewing up the scenery for all that he’s worth makes the picture watchable, and I was rather engaged with the first couple of minutes, right until the superhero parts of the story kicked in. However, this type of movie devalues a “well-established” brand. It serves little to no purpose on its own–it’s only worth “something” when in union with its franchise.
Morbius was released in theaters worldwide on April 1, 2022.