«Morbius» is one big disappointment

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 31.03.2022
Translation: Veronica Bielawski

The cinema release of «Morbius» was postponed a whopping six times. Has the wait for the Marvel superhero been worth it? The sobering reply is no.

First off, my review contains no spoilers. Any information stated here is featured in trailers that have already been released.

While Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is enjoying much success thanks to the collaboration between Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures, Sony Pictures is simultaneously trying to build its own exclusive movie universe. Without Marvel. Without Spider-Man. Instead, with the baddies from the Spider-Man comic books. Welcome to a licensing hullabaloo with Tom Hardy’s Venom at the centre of it all.

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    Venom 2 fits the bill: but don’t expect anything more than mindless fun

There are already two «Venom» movies. Now, it’s time for a new character to be added to the Sony «Venomverse». Enter Morbius, played by Jared Leto. His road there was rocky. Shooting for the film was completed almost three years ago. But then the pandemic hit – and bore with it a lot of bad news. The movie launch, originally scheduled for July 2020, was postponed a total of six times. But the really bad news is of a rather different kind.

The movie wasn’t worth the wait.

What «Morbius» is about

Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) is arguably the most brilliant biochemist the world has seen. Brilliant enough that he can afford to turn down the Nobel Prize. «I cannot accept an award for a failed experiment,» he says. The result of said failure is artificial blue blood that saves not just his own life, but the lives of millions of people around the world.

Morbius suffers from a rare blood disease that should have killed him long ago. And yet, he lives. Though just barely. Gathering the last remnants of his strength, he desperately searches for a cure to save himself and his best friend and investor who suffers from the same disease, Loxias Crown aka Milo (Matt Smith).

As luck would have it, Morbius appears to find the cure – in the DNA of vampires. But the experiment he performs on himself goes horribly wrong. Morbius, an otherwise kindhearted doctor, turns into a blood-hungry vampire.

That bad feeling

Picture this: you’re at the cinema. The lights turn off and the movie begins. You’re looking forward to it – you really are. But after just five minutes, a bad feeling starts creeping in. At first, you can’t quite put your finger on it. But then it shifts into focus:

the movie you’re watching is destined to be a flop.

That was my experience watching «Morbius». And I can’t really explain why that is. My mood that day? False expectations? Could be. Maybe on the day of the press screening I just wasn’t in the mood for the average «Morbius-like» movie. It’s tempting with its potential for an ultra-exciting character full of conflict and difficult decisions. But in the end it all feels totally trivial. For instance, when the now-vampire Morbius says, «I'll get to choose soon – either blood or death.» That literally screams super-exciting premise – far too exciting to squander on a film length of just 104 minutes. I hate it when movies waste their potential in such an amateur way.

This is how I’d picture myself giving the director a Will Smith-style slap – which, of course, I’d never actually do.
This is how I’d picture myself giving the director a Will Smith-style slap – which, of course, I’d never actually do.
Sony Pictures

It’s really no wonder I struggle to find anything good in the film. With a movie like «The Meg» by Jason Statham, I have no expectations. All I’m after is a bit of ambient cinema to go with my popcorn. The sillier the one-liners, the more absurd the story, and the duller the characters – the better. It means I’m free to pop over to the kitchen and grab some chips without having to hit the pause button.

But for «Morbius», I had different expectations. Higher ones. Not least because of its top-tier cast. There’s Oscar winner Jared Leto, for one. His talent has been beyond question since «Dallas Buyers Club». Or character actor Jared Harris, who really is terrific in every movie. But here, he’s ... just present, at best. And then there’s British actor Matt Smith, who formerly played «Dr. Who» (but I mainly remember him as Prince Philip from Netflix’s «The Crown»).

I thought that even if the story ended up harebrained, the cast alone would be enough to save the movie. Alas, I was wrong.

No surprises – none at all

Alright, so what exactly went wrong? First of all, the weirdly constructed and not very natural-feeling story by screenwriter Burk Sharpless (his name really says it all in this case).

An example of this is a scene in Morbius’ hyper-futuristic lab. We see him perform experiments on a poor albino mouse. Of course Morbius is frantic. His physical condition is very obviously bad. So, it makes sense that he’s justified in using any and all means necessary. But then – suddenly – there’s an emergency in some side room of his lab where he’s treating a little girl.

Why’s he treating her? Does she have the same disease as him? I don’t think so ... And who is this girl to begin with? Why is she there with Morbius and not in a regular hospital? Never mind that. She’s there so that Morbius can take care of her in a caring way. So that we, the viewers, immediately forget that he was just experimenting on the cute little albino mouse. The girl doesn’t play any significant role in the rest of the movie – she’s fulfilled her narrative function.

Yep, Morbius is a good guy. Thanks for the info.
Yep, Morbius is a good guy. Thanks for the info.
Sony Pictures

This pattern continues throughout the film. Not once did I manage to immerse myself in the story; I was too busy facepalming. Repeatedly. Who the villain is – and why – is immediately clear. Yet the movie still attempts to sell us a big, surprise reveal. The love story is so far-fetched that it completely misses the mark. The motivations of the characters only ever serve to move the story along – rarely do they actually make sense. And the decisions they make also rarely feel like ones any normal person would make under similar circumstances.

But you know what the worst part is? That none of it really matters. I’m serious! If I can see the whole plot coming from miles away, a few better-written characters won’t change the end result: failure. And then there are two scenes in the end credits that absolutely take the cake and make my blood boil. In fact, they tempt me to accuse Sony of fraud. Oh boy.

Cool off, blood – not all was for naught

«That bad?» you may be wondering. Not entirely. «Morbius» shows off nice computer effects and grippingly staged action scenes. At least in that respect, «Life» director Daniel Espinosa does an impeccable job. He even manages to pack an astonishing amount of violence into a film that’s rated PG-13. And not just for the sake of violence. If the film wants to convince us that there’s a bloodthirsty monster running around and causing fear and terror, it has to show us this. Morbius in his vampire form also looks legitimately scary. It fits the dark Morbius from the comics.

The makers did a good job capturing Morbius’ look.
The makers did a good job capturing Morbius’ look.
Sony Pictures

And yes, Jared Leto plays a good Dr. Michael Morbius. He may have made few friends with his overacting in recent years – think «Suicide Squad» or «House of Gucci» – but he holds back nicely here. This is a service to his quiet, introverted character, who lets virtually no one but his friend Milo get close to him. Well, and a specific woman. Why her of all people... As I said: the love story is dumb.

Unlike the intimate friendship between Morbius and Milo. After all, the two suffer from the same disease of the blood. They share their pain. I buy it.

Verdict: frankly anaemic (sorry for the bad pun)

No, «Morbius» is definitely not a good movie. As far as I’m concerned, so much potential is squandered. So much that I keep getting upset about it and can’t enjoy the few but well-executed action scenes. The culprit is a really lousy movie script with its story that’s far too stupid and predictable – which the talented actors try to get make the most of, mostly in vain.

What do you think: am I being too harsh, or are y’all as disappointed as I am?

«Morbius» hits theatres on 31 March 2022. Runtime: 104 minutes.

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I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.» 

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