Sony’s Spider-Man Universe has longed hoped to reach the same level of success as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, the films have felt more like a quick attempt to cash in on the superhero craze dominating cinema, rather than methodically constructed and engaging stories. While Venom managed to defy the odds and find box office success, neither the film nor its sequel was anything to write home about. They lacked originality and personality to distinguish them from the plethora of superhero films that have flooded the market. The same can be said for Daniel Espinosa’s Morbius, a vampire film that lacks any real bite.
Part Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tale and part anti-hero comic book film, Morbius revolves around Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a brilliant mind who is crippled by a rare blood disorder. Dedicating most of his life to his groundbreaking work with synthetic blood, Morbius believes the vampire bats he captured in Costa Rica hold the key to unlocking the final component that will cure his condition. Due to the experimental and morally questionable nature of his research, Morbius and his colleague Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) risk it all by conducting their human trial in international waters. While the serum they created cures the ailing doctor, it comes at a horrible cost.
Trading physical crutches for ones even harder to break, Morbius gains an insatiable thirst for blood.
Before he even has time to understand his vampire abilities, the doctor finds himself fleeing two FBI agents, Alberto Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) and Simon Stroud (Tyrese Gibson), investigating a series of dead bodies with their blood drained. Of course, it does not take long for Morbius to realize that he is not the only blood sucker in town. It turns out his childhood friend Milo (Matt Smith), who has the same blood illness, also took the serum and is reveling in his new powers.
As with many Marvel origin stories, a large part of Morbius consist of the hero coming to terms with his powers while mustering the strength to battle a more evil version of himself. However, the film’s paint-by-numbers approach lacks any real colour. The script is filled with half formed ideas and thinly written characters. For example, Milo is the villain simply because he had rage issues as a child, a trait that is understandable since he was brutally bullied by the able-bodied kids. His shares the same desperate desire for a cure as his longtime chum, but somehow Morbius’ questionable morals and actions are deemed more forgivable than Milo’s.
It is in the negligible differences between Morbius and Milo that it becomes apparent how bland the former is as a character. The best vampire films and/or monster movies depict the layers of conflict that occur between the person’s humanity and the creature residing within them. However, this conflict is barely touched on in this film. Outside of his fight to resist blood, the lowest common denominator of any bloodsucker flick, there is very little depth to Morbius. Instead of a character driven superhero film like 2008’s Iron Man, or better yet 1998’s Blade which covers similar terrain, Espinosa’s film relies heavily on the CGI action beats to drive the narrative. One learns more about the character’s echo location (aka. bat radar) than anything about how Morbius will exist in the world moving forward.
All of this makes for a lackluster work that drains any excitement viewers might have for superhero films. While the Blu-ray comes with several bonus features, including several where Leto and Espinosa explain their methods when making the film, they will do little to change one’s perspective on the film. In an age when comic book fans have become accustomed to more sophisticated and engaging cinematic interpretations of their favourite characters, Morbius misses the mark on multiple levels.
Bonus Features: Outtakes & Bloopers; Lights, Camera, Action; Defining the Anti-Hero; Doing the Stunt Work; The Good, Bad & Ugly – Supporting Cast; Nocturnal Easter Eggs; From Human to Vampire: Visual Effects, Theatrical Marketing; Previews