Moribund superhero franchise
With its lifeless plot and dearth of inspiring characters, Morbius will leave viewers disappointed
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Morbius, in theaters, is the latest installment in Sony’s quixotic attempt to create a shared cinematic universe of Spider-Man-adjacent characters without Spider-Man. But this movie’s so awful, everyone’s favorite webslinger might not have been able to save it.
Jared Leto plays Michael Morbius, a brilliant doctor who’s saved millions of lives and achieved wealth and fame with his invention of artificial blood. But all his accomplishments are just a byproduct of his real goal: He’s spent his life trying to cure himself of a debilitating blood disorder. Time is running out for Michael and his friend Milo (Matt Smith), who suffers from the same rare genetic condition.
Michael, with the help of his love interest, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), fuses his DNA with the DNA of a vampire bat, turning himself into a chimera. Things go terribly wrong—and by “things” I mostly mean the script.
Morbius—rated PG-13 for frightening scenes and brief language—begins as a classic tale of a doctor playing God and violating ethical standards in the name of science. Michael turns himself into a vampire who must consume human blood to survive—no one ever explains why it must be human blood, just one of many plot holes. These kinds of movies are supposed to be morality tales in which the protagonist comes to a tragic end. But a tragic end can’t become a franchise, so Morbius flinches from its necessary conclusion, leaving an already confused movie without a payoff.
In the comics, Spider-Man is the hero, and Morbius is the villain. Without Spider-Man, this movie tries to make Michael the hero, even though he kills a bunch of people after becoming a vampire. There’s an unsuccessful attempt to make these casualties of the scientific method seem like they might have deserved it. Michael’s heroism never rings true, and Leto’s portrayal of Michael is understated to the point of being lifeless. When he’s not voicing hackneyed dialogue in dull tones, he stares impassively.
Michael is a genius who creates DNA splicing equipment from junk—that scene might be more ridiculous than the fact that his teeth change shape—but he’s also egotistical and unlikable. To make Michael seem remotely heroic, Morbius turns Milo into a vampire who plans to eat everyone. There isn’t any narrative explanation for Milo’s bloodthirstiness other than the film desperately needed someone more wicked than its hero.
Sometimes special effects and action sequences can make up for a bad script, but that’s not the case with Morbius. The movie contains a couple of well-executed sequences that pay homage to the suspense genre, but most of the effects are lackluster and incoherent. Action sequences are so full of echolocation visualizations that the audience can barely see what’s happening. That might be for the best. The finale is both nonsensical and anticlimactic.
In a couple of mid-credit scenes, Sony promises a follow-up movie. If this franchise is ever going to be successful, it’s definitely going to need a revamp.
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