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Review: 'Morbius' (2022) Dir. Daniel Espinosa

Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, Tyrese Gibson and Corey Johnson

 

A brand new anti-hero, Morbius the Living Vampire, arrives as part of the Sony Spider-Man Universe (SSU) for his big-screen debut and introduction into a much wider comic book world...


Renowned scientist Michael Morbius (Leto) is dying from a terminal blood disorder. Pushing forward with experiments into solving his condition, he comes up with the idea of fusing human DNA and South American bat genetics.


Using himself as a human test subject, Morbius finds the fusion works, but at great cost. Developing super-human abilities including sonar detection, speed and strength, he also finds the desire for human blood to keep him alive as he battles to contain his abilities.


Morbius is not the only one to receive the treatment however; his surrogate brother Milo (Smith) has developed vampiric abilities after Morbius shares his experiment. But Milo wants to use his powers for evil gain, and it will fall on Morbius to stop him and save the city...

Michael Morbius is the man-bat anti-hero that Bruce Wayne probably sees every day in the mirror, finding peace among the bats and understanding their power of survival. Even composer Jon Ekstrand skirts dangerously close to the Hans Zimmer brass of Nolan’s Dark Knight.


Yet for Marvel, Morbius is a Living Vampire and nothing like a DC cowl wearing vigilante with rules. Morbius seeks the blood of humans to maintain his powers, using the DNA from bats to help cure his terminal condition and is part man, part monster, hacking and slashing down those who get in his way. He’s a worthy anti-hero in the Marvel comics to stand beside Eddie Brock’s Venom. So, after years of development hell, Sony bring their next Spider-Man Universe (not MCU) instalment to the big screen in a dark, often creepy but sadly lacklustre outing.

Jared Leto is the man behind the CGI creature / prosthetic make-up as Morbius, human and monster form. While Leto has had a run of media grabbing performances of late, his turn here feels calmer and subdued given the subject material.

Leto’s performance probably helps us see the radical difference between a frail man battling with the animalistic brute inside. It’s part Jekyll-Hyde, part every other dual identity monster/human superhero we’ve seen before. Leto thankfully keeps his performance engaging to watch, but he’s underdeveloped to really care about, including his relationships with surrogate brother Matt Smith and medical aide Adria Arjona. In this respect, Morbius has a rushed development from exploring his terminal condition, his search for a cure, his new inhuman powers, his reasoning for why it happened and what he needs to do to prevail, all in just 30 minutes from the start.


Smith is allowed to play the brother who doesn’t get to be the genius with superpowers, so takes it for himself and embodies the power-mad, crazy killer he was always supposed to be. There is a natural maniacal side to Smith in these villainous roles, but it’s often too over-the-top to be taken seriously as a real threat beyond battling his vampire-bro. As with Arjona, she is the one who battles her conscious in helping Morbius, but must deal with seeing him suffer, all the while protecting him from the law and harbour a romantic interest. Somewhere in the background there is by-the-book detective Tyrese Gibson who offers little new to the role of anti-hero hunter looking mean and moody always one step behind until the end.

For an origin story at just over 100 minutes long, there is little here to sink your` teeth into (pardon the pun) and nothing new to help introduce Morbius to the mainstream audience. Here, there’s no safety blanket of a wider superhero world and where he fits in, and it resorts to CGI brother versus CGI brother in a flashy display of visual effects clashing. There is no wide-reaching story that feels it could be interesting to see in the future, and Morbius himself doesn’t feel like he can bring something new to audiences to make him memorable enough alongside the potential heroes and villains he shares a universe with.


Director Espinosa has no real grasp of the genre, and for his debut in the comic-book world, it shows by a very formulaic script that doesn’t take any risks and undercooked script that doesn’t deliver what audiences expect from a product associated with Marvel.

Even with Jared Leto doing his best behind the growls and jump-scares, 'Morbius' is let down by everything else including hammy characters, a lacklustre story and a random, slap in the face mid-credit scene.





'Morbius' is a co-production between Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Arad Productions and Matt Tolmach Productions


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