Vampire Batman meets The Matrix in a rote and predictable anti-hero blockbuster. Morbius has a brilliant doctor with a crippling blood disease injecting himself with Chiroptera DNA. The film looks and sounds like a retread of special effects classics. If only the filmmakers had copied the quality of those scripts. The film’s talented lead actors go through the motions of a textbook plot. Morbius has serviceable action but zero surprises.
We first see Michael Morbius (Charlie Shotwell) as a sickly child in a Greek medical facility. He meets the equally infirmed Lucien (Joseph Esson); who he nicknames “Milo”. Both boys suffer from a rare and debilitating blood disorder. Their doctor, Nicholas (Jared Harris), recognizes Michael’s astonishing intellectual aptitude. Twenty-five years later, Dr. Michael Mobius (Jared Leto) is the world’s foremost blood expert. Having perfected artificial blood and saved countless lives.
Michael becomes obsessed with the powerful immune systems of bats. He believes he can combine their DNA with humans. Thus curing himself and his best friend. Michael’s colleague, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), thinks this is a terrible idea. She decides to help him anyway. Their efforts succeed with ghastly consequences. Michael develops incredible abilities. And a thirst for blood that transforms him into a monster.
Morbius Plays Out Exactly as Expected
Morbius could have been written by a robot that scanned the comic book source material. Everything plays out exactly as expected. The one-note characters follow a path that’s evident from the opening minutes of the film. Jared Leto and Matt Smith, superb actors, needed a whole lot more to chew on. They are convincing as sick besties. That relationship sours on a coin flip. Their adversarial turn is contrived and poorly handled. Love can turn to bitter hate. There needed to be a better reason than the obvious lust for power. An opportunity was lost to explore the changing dynamics between lifelong friends.
Morbius, in vampire rage mode, moves fast and sees slow. The bullet time effect is used continuously during solid action scenes. He shreds baddies with bat-like movements. Then dodges their fired projectiles like Neo on his best day. The visual effects get progressively better as Morbius hones his powers. This skill evolution is the best aspect of the film.
Imitation is the Biggest Form of Flattery
The score and bat imagery is too similar to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy. There are many scenes of Morbius surrounded by frenzied bats. We hear a rising crescendo that sounds exactly like Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack. Christian Bale could have subbed in for Jared Leto. Imitation is the biggest form of flattery. But director Daniel Espinosa (Safe House, Life) and his composer, Jon Ekstrand, lack originality here.
Morbius should have been an R-rated film. The vampiric nature of the characters and narrative lacks a bloody edge. The film skirts the bloodsucking and graphic violence as much as possible. This was done for box office reasons. A PG-13 rating caters to a wider reach and younger audiences. I think a genuine, hardcore adaptation would be just as successful. Imagine Jared Leto and Matt Smith unleashed as ravenous super carnivores. Daniel Espinosa needed to take a page from Guillermo Del Toro’s Blade II. Stick around during the credits.
Morbius is produced by Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, and Arad Productions. It will have an April 1st theatrical release for Sony Pictures.
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