‘Morbius,’ The Living Vampire, Sucks (Movie Review)

Three years after filming began, two years after the first trailer, Sony’s latest “In Association with Marvel” feature, Morbius, finally opens this weekend. Based on one of Spidey’s legendary Sinister Six, Dr. Michael Morbius is a “living vampire” (much like star Jared Leto), which might make you think of the Blade trilogy. Is this how the MCU gets the Day Walker? No, since this is exclusively Sony’s property, but as it’s been nearly two decades since the last Wesley Snipes outing, there’s an inherent curiosity for how our current era will handle the balance between bloodsuckers and superheroes. The cast also includes Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Tyrese Gibson, and another Jared… Harris. Was Morbius worth the wait? Grab a pack of blue-colored artificial blood and drink up!

Opening in the mountains of Cerro de la Muerte in Costa Rica, a solid first act introduces the crippled, blood sick Dr. Morbius (Leto) searching for a cure to his ailments. Right away, the vibe is definitely more horror than a straight-up comic book flick. Ample use of shadows, bloodthirsty bats, and outright carnage (sans Venom) favors director Daniel Espinosa’s (Life) creature feature.

Morbius is quickly established as a morally compromised but brilliant scientist who fears what he’s become after an experiment has gone wrong. There’s a bit of science mumbo jumbo to explain what leads him to need blood and his incredible physical transformation, but it works well enough to keep the narrative going.

Add to that a charming scientist/love interest Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), and a fellow orphan Lucien (Matt Smith), who’s also suffering the same ills as the bloodsucking doctor, and all the boxes are sufficiently checked: charming actors, an easy to digest plot, and serviceable action.

The script by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless lets all of that down after the admittedly fun first forty minutes. Having an actor like Leto play a person whose need to kill gets stronger when artificial blood (why is it blue?) will no longer work is a good start. As an actor, Leto can be the right choice for eccentric types as long as the narrative doesn’t just let him go all Leto and chew the scenery like his Joker in David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. His role as WeWork founder/con man Adam Neumann on Apple’s WeCrashed is a much better fit. Here, the later parts of the film unwisely reign him in to make room for another. Without giving too much away, Morbius is not the craziest character in the movie.

Sadly, that means the all too familiar “villain with the same powers” schtick rears its undead-looking head. The problem isn’t with the actor playing that particular role as much as it’s a total copout. Morbius is far from a heroic character. If anything, he’s a person that tries to be good despite his “new” nature and sometimes fails. Allowing another character to literally suck up all the evil robs the story of invention and, worse, surprise. We’re all just waiting for the inevitable sibling showdown.

The film’s production borrows from early 00s studio features with blue filters, shoddy editing to hide FX, and flat line deliveries. Morbius flies with the aid of hazy bat-like filters, which feel like an unneeded design decision from the visual effects department. The stronger moments occur in less cluttered, more confined spaces like an endless hallway with lights flickering on and off.

While I liked Arjona’s Martine as the human side Morbius wants to cling to, nearly everyone else is wasted. Jared Harris as scientist/father figure Nicholas was better utilized in a similar role in 2004’s Resident Evil: Apocalypse. The fun banter Tyrese Gibson provides in the Fast films is gone. He’s just a boring detective on a “blood drained bodies” case. Matt Smith as Morbius’ surrogate brother, Lucien, gets the most to do (he’s almost a co-lead), but it’s a pretty cliched role.

Other odd choices abound, like how the score by Jon Ekstrand is so close to Hans Zimmer’s for Batman Begins it could be considered parody. The rise in horns as Morbius gets swarmed by bats is nearly shot for shot.

Any potential Spider-Man MCU-like connections are relegated to two mid-credits scenes. Worse, they’re poorly shot and tossed together. Leto’s hair and makeup in one of the scenes is so different than the main film it’s hard not to think it was shot a few months ago. And I might be wrong, but these scenes don’t make narrative sense considering what occurred in No Way Home or the Venom sequel.

It’s not all bad. The best aspect of Morbius is the potential concerning Dr. Morbius as a character. Though not the disaster that was Ayer’s Suicide Squad, there’s the feeling that the main bloodsucking anti-hero could be better utilized with a stronger script and direction in a sequel/soft reboot like last year’s The Suicide Squad. Here’s hoping if Dr. Morbius gets another chance, it’ll be one worth sinking his teeth into.


  1. No Comments