Morbius Isn’t Awful

Dept. of Comic Book Fatigue


William Goldman, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, once famously quipped: “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.” And he was right. Box office success is something impossible to predict or plan for. No one really knows what the public wants. A great idea on paper may not translate well on screen. A popular actor may not strike a chord. Failure, on the other hand, is a lot easier to spot. Now, studios aren’t stupid. They know when they’ve got a dud on their hands. They know when a movie is bad. And so, I’ll let you in on a little secret. When the review embargo for a movie is lifted only after it premieres, it can mean one of two things. Either there is some mind-blowing surprise that the director doesn’t want spoiled by the Internet, or the studio has absolutely zero confidence in the movie they’re about to release. I will tell you that there is no mind-blowing surprise in Morbius.

We were allowed to publish this review at 12:01AM on Thursday, March 31. By that point, the movie had already been out for just over 24 hours. There had already been multiple public screenings. All of them unhindered by anything that the press had to say. This is a strategy rooted in the belief that the moviegoing masses are a lot more forgiving than your average film critic. And that their reactions on Instagram, and Twitter, and TikTok, might drown out any negative reviews the movie might garner.

Which might be something of an overcorrection for Morbius. Because you know what? This movie isn’t terrible. It isn’t nearly the train wreck that early reactions seem to imply. It isn’t great. But it is competent. And by that, I mean that the camera is mostly in focus and mostly pointed in the right direction. (I say mostly, because like both Venom movies, the third act is a muddy CGI mess.) There is some semblance of a coherent plot, and action that might even have passed for exciting in the early 1990s.

Jekyll and Hyde


In fact, the 1990s are a good indicator of where this movie is coming from. Plot wise, all you need to know is that Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is a noble and brilliant scientist, born with a congenital blood disease, who experiments on himself and turns into a vampiric monster. Like all “good guy” vampires of fiction, Morbius’ struggle is how to sate his hunger without giving into his blood lust. There is no real story here beyond that. Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal show up as FBI agents whose actual parts seem to have been left on the cutting room floor. (Didn’t Gibson have a robotic arm in one of the trailers?) Adria Arjona isn’t as much a female lead as she is yet another underwritten love interest. And Jared Harris (Jared Harris!) is completely wasted as a father figure to both men who is given no real “fathering” material to sink his teeth into.

In terms of execution, the movie plays out almost exactly the same way as Sony’s first Venom movie. This is a paint-by-numbers comic book movie. There’s a good-ish Morbius and his bad guy mirror (played with glee by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith). The both of them do the whole cat and mouse for a while before CGI versions beat each other to a pulp during the last 10 minutes of the movie. (Director Daniel Espinosa is also clearly a big fan of Christopher Nolan seeing as he liberally borrows a lot of imagery from his Batman movies.)

If all Sony was looking to do was put out a quick and dirty introduction to a character that no one really knows, then this movie does precisely that. At about 104 minutes, it just about gives you an idea of who Morbius is and what he’s all about.

Minum Milo Anda Jadi Sihat dan Kuat


There are, however, two bright spots in this movie and they are Jared Leto and Matt Smith. The both of them seem to be having an absolute blast, with Smith gurning for the camera and every opportunity, and Leto using his entire body in order to give us a convincing performance.

With Morbius, Jared Leto continues to validate just how versatile he is as an actor. In the last three months alone we have seen him play such drastically different parts. One great (WeCrashed) and one downright awful (House of Gucci), but all of them proof that he refuses to let himself be pigeonholed. Leto inhabits all of these parts so completely that you can’t help but be in awe of his commitment.

Hello, Is it Me You’re Looking For?


That said, we’ve reached a point in our cinematic canon when studios should no longer be making superhero movies like this. Morbius is a movie so disconnected from everything that has come before that it feels like no one was paying any attention to just how much the genre has evolved over the last decade. We are now experiencing what can only be referred to as a glut of superhero movies. So much so that if you don’t find different canvases to paint on, these things are going to look and feel incredibly repetitive.

Even the most cursory read of the comics will give you an idea of just how much narrative potential this character has. The story of a man, plagued by an uncontrollable hunger of his own making, treading that fine line between hero and villain, seems like it would make for quite the tragedy. Morbius could have been a modern day vampire movie. It should have been an out and out horror.

Watching this, however, you can’t help but feel there was a riskier movie that somehow got sanitized. The trailers to this movie were selling us something that never quite came to pass. Instead, what we got was something basic and predictable, uninspired and unenthusiastic, the kind of movie that just needed to be put out there as a placeholder for whatever grand plans Sony has for the franchise in the future.

Note: There are two mid-credits tags in this movie. Both of them gratuitous. Neither of which make absolutely any sense in relation to what actually happens in Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Morbius is now showing in Malaysian cinemas.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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