Morbius Review: Cut to shreds and left a total mess
While most may not know him off-hand, Morbius is a special entity in Spider-Man’s rouge’s gallery as he adds a more horror-driven persona for Spider-Man to face and has even led his own story that’s established quite a celebrated legacy for character. It’s what makes Sony’s attempt at bringing the character to life for their growing cinematic Spider-Man universe such a shame.
It’s actually baffling to me how a movie as high-profile and important as Morbius comes out as cut-down and thin as it is. Outside of Venom, Morbius is the only character that Sony really has for its cinematic universe, especially given that there’s still no clear Spider-Man for these two to face, and while Venom has been able to be engaging through its charming comedic dynamic between Eddie and Venom, Morbius doesn’t lean into the character’s best qualities or provide enough support for its stronger performances.
The story of Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), a scientist suffering from a rare blood disease whose latest experiment using vampire bat DNA ends up making him into a blood-thirsty vampire, is incredibly lacking in strong horror vibes. The PG-13 rating is an absolute killer on Morbius as it’s a mostly bloodless vampire movie and does nothing to try to push the boundaries of its rating. The horror sequences are either incredibly generic scare setups with little pay off or just simply lack spatial logic to keep you engaged in the scene. There’s rarely any meaningful suspense being built and Morbius’ presence in action scenes isn’t as horrifying and daunting as it should be.
The action, in general, is pretty lackluster as it’s muddied up by an overuse of digital effects. There’s this smoke effect added to Morbius’ movement and his sonar detection that’s meant to elevate the visual experience, but instead is immensely distracting. It feels confusing as it changes colors based on what it is distorting and just causes a visual congestion on the screen that covers up a lot of the action. There’s also an overuse of slow-motion that unnecessarily puts the brakes on in more action-driven moments.
Worst of all is how Morbius is betrayed by its thinned-out story that stops any potential for the best aspects of the story and its central protagonist and antagonist to be compelling. Although the film completely rushes through Morbius and his childhood companion Lucien’s (Matt Smith) personal arcs as they meet as orphans with the same blood disease and end up remaining friends as adults, there are some emotional moments that show strong potential for these characters. Leto delivers a really strong portrayal of Morbius in how he’s able to mix his admirable charm and scientific mind and the characterization of Morbius, himself, has some great aspects.
It’s interesting to hear him chronicle his experience like a scientist as he comes to terms with his new vampiric abilities and there’s some good emotion between him and Lucien that comes from Leto and Smith’s performances. There’s a great sequence of the two of them walking through a park where you really relate to the emotions of these characters and feel their connection as life-long friends. Lucien even shows some potential for his motivations to have a deeper personal meaning that reflects his hatred of his current existence and fear of death. Sadly though, all of Morbius’ potential is severely undercut by how this film has been gutted story wise.
Morbius barely feels like a completed film given how most of the side-characters are completely pointless in this story. Most of them simply act as weak motivations or obstacles for Morbius and really just exist for exposition. None of them make any sort of real impression and add nothing to this story that desperately needs depth. Not only does Morbius feel completely rushed and underdeveloped, but it gets in its own way when it comes to letting its best qualities flourish. Lucien’s motivations are completely cut down, so he ends up being a cartoonish villain that’s embarrassing to watch at times and Morbius’ personal arc is so choppy that it’s tough to connect to him. This film is also riddled with plot holes that make for a confusing viewing experience that only gets more confounding with some of the worst post-credit scenes of all time that badly put the future of Sony’s cinematic universe in question.
Morbius is a chopped-up mess that sees most of its story and strong character potential left on the cutting room floor. It’s massively disappointing in how it fails to bring one of Spider-Man’s more unique characters to life and definitely doesn’t establish a strong future for Sony’s Spider-Man universe.