FILM REVIEW: MORBIUS
Release Date: 1st April 2022
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris
Written by: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
Cinematography: Oliver Wood
``has aspirations of mediocrity that it fails to reach``
Jared Leto plays the ludicrously named Michael Morbius, a superdoctor with a Jesus hairdo. Morbius is a highly-respected doctor with a Nobel Prize for inventing artificial blood. He also suffers from some kind of debilitating and fatal blood disease. In an effort to cure himself, he injects himself with bat DNA, which does the trick, but also turns him into this hybrid monkey/rat thing with long claws and a thirst for human blood. His BFF, played by Matt Smith, is a bit put out when Morbius refuses to share the bat DNA, so Smith steals some. And now there are two monkey/rat vampire things running around the place. There is a combination of words that I never imagined having to write.
Morbius has aspirations of mediocrity that it fails to reach. It is very nearly almost approaching “okay” territory, nothing more, nothing less. Nothing about this is in the least bit remarkable or extraordinary, or even noteworthy. The best compliment is that it’s not the worst movie you are likely to see.
The main problem with Morbius (bar some laughable digital effects) is that it is utterly joyless. Not in the sense that it is dark and brooding, but that there is no hint of excitement or drama at all. Director Daniel Espinosa sets a very low bar, and then fails to jump over that bar.
It must be said that Leto makes for a very poor lead. He plays the role so straight, it’s practically insipid. (“Blander!!! Less intense!!!”). Leto doesn’t have the natural charm or charisma of Marvel’s other leads, such as Robert Downey Jr. or Paul Rudd. He is is more suited to leading a cult rather than leading a movie. Unfortunately for Leto, he’s not even the best Jared in the movie, and Jared Harris is on screen for less than five minutes.
Then there’s the final act. It is genuinely impossible to make out what is happening during the last ten minutes. You will probably be able to assume what’s happening, based on the events leading up to it, but you won’t be able to make any of it out. It is a complete, incomprehensible mess, even by superhero standards.
There is the kernel of an interesting morality play here. Is the cure worse than the disease? Does achieving something great outweigh the cost of human life? At some early point, it was probably the intention to make Morbius something a bit more edgy compared with what has become a very tired and threadbare genre. But that intention is inevitably diluted during the development process, so that what eventually arrives on screen is this unremarkable product.
Perhaps it’s better to produce the same thing over and over again and break even, rather than trying something different and risk making a loss. Leave it open for a sequel? Check. Imply heavily that any big character deaths weren’t actually proper deaths? Check. Leave everything so that the status quo is not disturbed? Check. Like every other Marvel movie of the last decade, Morbius is nothing more than a box-ticking exercise.