It’s been clear for a while that Sony has been struggling on what to do with the Spider-Man characters outside of the MCU. After the disaster that was The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony have been throwing pretty much everything at the wall to see what will work. Sometimes this results in something great like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which is still my favourite Spider-Man film, but most times you get something bad like Venom. Now we’ve got Morbius, another attempt to do more of an anti-hero spin on the Spider-Man villains, which is probably the worst of these films that Sony has made.
The film follows Michael Morbius, a highly respected doctor suffering from a rare disease which requires constant blood transfusions, trying to find a cure for the disease. After studying vampire bats in order to splice their DNA with human DNA, he is able to create a cure, but has the side effect of turning him into a vampire. Whilst he is able to subsist on artificial blood he has invented, it is only a matter of time before he has to turn to human blood. At the same time, Michael is being hunted by the FBI for murders he committed when he first transformed into a vampire and has to deal with a childhood friend, who suffers from the same disease, who took the cure, but doesn’t have the same scruples over killing that Morbius does. Now this could have created an interesting vampire film, focusing on the moral dilemma of Morbius and making the character an anti-hero, providing a contrast between his life as a doctor and his life as a vampire, but the film doesn’t really get into that. The whole thing feels really cliched, feeding on the tropes of more successful vampire films and I never really got a sense of who any of the characters were. The whole thing felt to me like a case of contractual obligation rather than artistic expression and I spent most of the runtime thoroughly bored. It’s the kind of bad superhero film that we used to see a lot in the 90s and 2000s and doesn’t do anything to stand out in the current age of the MCU.
The performances meanwhile do not add any charm to the film. It’s getting to the point where I am starting to dread seeing Jared Leto’s name in the credits of a film. You either get a wildly overacted performance, clearly designed to appeal to awards voters, but which ends up coming across as cartoonish, like with House of Gucci or The Little Things, or you get a very underplayed performance that makes Leto sound like he’s bored throughout the film. In this film we get the latter. I never found myself connecting to Leto’s performance and the lack of energy he brings throughout the film contributed to my feelings of boredom. At the very least though, Leto is given a character to play. Adria Arjona and Jared Harris are stuck with completely thankless roles that waste their talents, giving them nothing to do but be window dressing throughout the film. There are elements that could have been developed to make them more interesting characters, but the film doesn’t focus on these and it makes it so none of the decisions made with the characters land. The only person in the cast who knows what type of film this should be is Matt Smith. As Last Night in Soho proved, he can play a great villain and he puts his talents to good use here, even if the script and direction fail him. His performance has the right level of camp and Smith brings across his charm really effectively in the first half of the film, before the CG takes over, even when the script doesn’t develop the character as much as it should and in the scenes between Leto and Smith, Smith easily acts Leto off the screen, showing what this could have been if there was a bit more camp. Ultimately, this is another case of a film, like with Terminator Genisys, where the film would have been better if Smith was given the lead role.
The technical elements of the film though are pretty bad throughout. There’s no life in the way the film is directed, shot or edited, having the whole thing blend into a dark, amorphous mess that I found pretty hard to see at times. The music, at quite a few points, reminded me a bit too much of the score for the Christopher Nolan Batman films and this took me out of the film at a few points. The big technical issue though is the CG. This is some of the worst CG I’ve seen in a big blockbuster for a while, with the effects work to turn Jared Leto and Matt Smith into their monstrous vampire forms looking incredibly fake and, ultimately, it would have been more intimidating without the effects, or if it was done through practical make-up and prosthetics. It also falls into the same issue as the first Venom with the final action scene devolving into a fight between two, nearly indistinguishable, CG blobs, which made the ending hard to follow.
Overall, Morbius is representative of the worst corporate elements of superhero franchise building right now. Say what you will about the Venom films, there is some fun and camp value to be had with those, especially with Tom Hardy’s gonzo performance showing a lot of commitment to the character. Here, the only life the film has is when Matt Smith is on screen. Otherwise, this is a thuddingly dull film that represents what will probably be another failed attempt by Sony to make a Sinister Six movie.
My Rating: 1/5