Morbius Review: As Expected, This Movie Kinda Sucks

Morbius Review: As Expected, This Movie Kinda Sucks

If it’s even possible to feel sorry for a fabulously handsome, award-winning movie star who doubles as a rock star and seemingly gets to do anything he wants, spare a thought for poor Jared Leto‘s super-villain movie career. Every time he picks what should be a plum role, studio interference ensures that the movie becomes a mess. Coincidence? Or inherent to the chaotic career of the famously committed thespian who is Jared Leto? His Joker was at least quirky enough to merit a return cameo in the Snyder-verse, but everyone will be better off if Morbius doesn’t make a return appearance. And should Leto ever be offered another comic book role, perhaps he should check to make sure he’s not playing a maniac with white skin again. Otherwise, he should say “no.”

The hour-and-45-minutes of Morbius would work just fine as 30 minutes in a Spider-Man movie. Unfortunately, it’s not that. Like Venom and Bloodshot, it’s a comic book movie seemingly impervious to all of the improvements comic book movies have made over the past two decades. Unlike Venom, its intense lead actor doesn’t make out-of-left-field choices that save the day. Playing a vampire as a heroin addict by way of Jesus and Dracula feels obvious, and that’s a word not often associated with Leto.

RELATED: Morbius Director Drops Some Major Multiverse SPOILERS

Leto’s Dr. Michael Morbius gets pegged as a genius from childhood, when he saved his friend Lucien from a faulty blood transfusion machine by fixing it with a tiny spring. This clearly marked him as the sort of genius who would go on to invent artificial blood, and insist on still calling Lucien “Milo” his whole life because he never wanted to learn his real name. Everyone else follows suit, for some reason, including “Milo” himself.

Ironically, perhaps, Michael and Milo (who grows up into Matt Smith) both suffer from a rare blood condition in which pieces of their DNA are missing. Somehow, he seeks a cure in vampire bat DNA, because of the anticoagulants in their saliva which…do a thing. The movie doesn’t bother to take its science seriously, but at least it doesn’t expect you to either. Both boys should have just taken anti-aging tips from their mentor Nicholas (Jared Harris), who doesn’t look any different when the movie cuts to 25 years later.

Morbius tests out his bat medicine on himself, and in short order becomes a super-powered vampire monster, which he learns to sort-of control. And in case Hulk comparisons don’t come to mind, a bit of wink-wink dialogue will ensure they do. His powers as a vampire feel arbitrary, and made up as the movie goes along. There’s super-hearing, which also turns his pupils temporarily into little asterisk blobs like Rick and Morty. He can glide on wind currents. He maybe talks to bats? And he’s surrounded in action by swirls of CG that don’t represent anything in particular. Maybe a Sony executive thought they looked cool in Bloodshot, and then realized  that nobody saw Bloodshot. But the swirls actually represented regenerating flesh in that movie. Here, at best, one could argue they’re anime motion lines.

RELATED: Morbius Vignette Teases the Larger Expanded Universe

If you liked any of the trailer moments or early preview scenes, congratulations: none of them made the movie itself. Combine that with the extraordinary levels of on-the-nose exposition, including convenient news broadcasts that loudly spell out what just happened, and Morbius feels like the result of some heavy studio hands at play. Lots of key moments cry out for some sort of explanation that probably got lost to a previous cut, and key death scenes play hilariously hammy. Pity poor Matt Smith, after Terminator: Genisys, he is now 2-for-2 at playing major franchise villains in the absolute worst incarnation of said franchise. An old Doctor Who serial predating Smith’s tenure was called “The Brain of Morbius”; this new movie makes that title an oxymoron.

Leto, of course, commits to the role of Morbius, with his crutches, cold sweats, and monstrous hunger pangs. What he lacks is a director like Ruben Fleischer to understand the absurdity herein. Daniel Espinosa, ironically the director of the Venom-esque Life, feels lost to studio mandates and CG fixes. What Morbius needed was a director to get Leto to ham it up even more. Lean into the nonsense. Because half-assed nonsense pleases nobody.

As for all the marketing suggesting more ties to the multiverse…ehhh, not so much. We all know there’s a scene with Michael Keaton; now we can add that it’s rage-inducing and awful. That’s about it, really. Unless the movie includes way more subtlety than it seems capable of.

RELATED: Jared Leto Introduces His Vampire Antihero in Morbius Featurette

The best thing about Morbius is it keeps the utterly obvious plot moving along, and isn’t exactly boring. But that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. Never detestable enough to merit its inevitable Razzies, nor as consistently campy as it occasionally becomes, this living vampire should have stayed dead, at least for now. Let Kevin Feige do a soft reboot of this character — hell, give Leto another shot in a more competent environment — and we can agree to forget this happened. If you want to see a Marvel antihero get possessed and kill people against his will, watch Moon Knight at home instead.

Grade: 1.5/5

Morbius opens in theaters April 1.

Recommended Reading: Morbius Vol. 1

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