Three years after the film was shot, two years after it was originally due in cinemas, and having been shifted around the schedules a whopping seven times, comic book horror movie, Morbius, finally makes its big screen debut this week. The movie – about a vampire anti-hero and occasional Spider-Man villain – hits UK cinemas today, before opening in the US tomorrow.
Morbius is directed by Daniel Espinosa and stars Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Adria Arjona, Al Madrigal, and Tyrese Gibson. The movie follows the story of a doctor who inadvertently transforms himself into a vampire, after he attempts to cure himself of a rare blood disease.
In the film, Dr. Michael Morbius is a gifted doctor, struck down with a seemingly uncurable health condition. But convinced that one day he can find a solution to his problem, he devotes his life to studying blood diseases.
After taking a trip to Costa Rica, to acquire some vampire bats to use in his experiments, Morbius develops what he believes to be a cure. However, after he is injected with the cure, Morbius finds himself transforming into a blood-thirsty living vampire.
During his initial transformation, Morbius lashes out and commits murder, but he is soon able to keep his vampire side under wraps. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Morbius’ best friend, Milo, who also took the cure, and is transformed into a fellow vampire.
While Morbius searches for a way to undo his vampirism, Milo leans into his transformation, leaving a stack of bodies in his wake. But can Morbius find a way to help himself and his friend overcome their affliction, or are they destined to exist as creatures of the night forever?
As mentioned above, Morbius has taken a long time to get to the big screen, having been shifted around the release schedules multiple times due to the COVID-19 pandemic – something I don’t need to tell you about. However, what I do need to tell you is that Morbius is a sort-of spin-off of the Spider-Man movie franchise, albeit without Spidey.
The film is part of Sony’s Spider-Verse and exists in the same movie universe as Venom (2018) and Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021). It doesn’t sit within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so is not part of the Tom Holland Spidey films, but thanks to the recent multiverse shenanigans of Spider-Man: No Way Home (2022), which has blurred the links between movie properties, it is sort of connected to the MCU in a roundabout kind of way (see the credit scenes for details).
However, if you’re planning on watching Morbius, you don’t need to view countless Marvel movies beforehand. This film is entry level stuff, framed as an origin story for Dr. Michael Morbius, and is in essence a standalone tale.
The question of course is: Should you bother watching Morbius? Well, that’s a whole different conversation entirely, and if you want my opinion, which I presume you do as you’re reading this review, it really wouldn’t hurt too much if you skip this film.
The reason I am suggesting you skip Morbius is because it’s not very good. There are worse films out there, and it’s certainly not the worst movie to be based on a Marvel Comics character, but it is most definitely not a great one.
There are a number of reasons why it falls flat, but the most significant one is that Morbius is monumentally dull. The film is a complete snooze-fest, that operates at one level and never pushes beyond this.
When I say this film is entry level stuff, I mean it. This movie feels very basic, with an uninspiring plot, no particular flair, and zero originality.
Remember some of the less than stellar Marvel movies from the early ‘00s, such as The Punisher (2004), Elektra (2005), or Ghost Rider (2007)? Well, Morbius could sit alongside these films quite comfortably.
This is a very, very bland movie. The script feels as if it has been thrown together without any real thought, and parts of the film feel this way too.
In terms of the special effects, they simply aren’t special at all. In fact, at times they are quite ropey.
Some of the vampire facial effects, specifically those used to depict Morbius’ transformation from man into monster, look pretty bad. The climactic fight scene is also dreadful, with the action largely obscured by CGI bats, which makes the action incomprehensible.
If you end up watching this movie at home when it gets released on home video, and it’s a sunny day, good luck trying to make out what happens at the end of the film. Even if you shut your curtains and position yourself directly in front of your TV screen, I doubt you’ll be able to make out what is going on.
Put simply, the visual effects in this movie are not up to scratch and at times are very unconvincing. For a film that has been sat on a shelf for a couple of years, waiting for a release date, there really is no excuse not to polish up this area of the movie.
But it’s not just some effects that are a bit hit and miss, so too are the performances. Leto is fine for the most part as Morbius, as too is Matt Smith as his best friend Milo, but when the two are on screen together, there are moments where it seems as if they are ‘doing a bit’ or performing some kind of rehearsal.
You may recall in my review for House of Gucci last year, which also featured Leto, that I highlighted his performance in the film as being odd, specifically when acting opposite some of the movie’s high-profile stars. Well, in a couple of scenes in Morbius it feels like he’s at it again, and dragging Matt Smith along for the ride.
There are at least two scenes in Morbius with Leto and Smith, that feel very wooden. Presumably these are the best takes from that day’s filming sessions, so they simply had to be used in the finished film, but I dread to think what remained on the cutting room floor.
And speaking of the cutting room floor, this is where I should point out that this movie has clearly been edited in recent months. Sometime between the film’s initial shoot, the various advertising campaigns that have taken place over the past couple of years, and the film I watched today, a few scenes have either been snipped from the finished picture, reshuffled, or reshot entirely.
Now, while this rejigging won’t be noticeable to everyone, it will be noticeable to those who have been sold on this film after watching some of the trailers. There are scenes in the trailers which do not appear in the movie, so Morbius is not quite the picture that Sony have been promoting.
What I am referring to are the many references to the wider Spider-Verse and the MCU. While this film has always been intended to be a Morbius origin story, and one that is largely about the character alone, Sony have been playing up the Spidey connection in the ad campaigns.
You may recall one trailer contained a poster of Spider-Man, featuring the word ‘murderer’ written on it. You may also recall a glimpse of Oscorp which also featured in the trailers.
Well, none of these things are in this movie. There are a couple of nods to things here and there, but it’s certainly not the geektastic film that some might expect.
There is also a heavily promoted cameo, that does still feature in the film, but it has clearly been shifted around the picture, and reworked, so that it appears at a different point in the story than originally planned. Those who have seen the trailer will know exactly where it was supposed to be in the original cut of this film, and will spend the majority of the movie’s run time wondering where it has gone.
I can only presume the reason for all these changes is to do with Morbius’ shifting release dates over the past two years. This film was originally intended to be released before Venom: Let There Be Carnage and Spider-Man: No Way Home, but because it is debuting after these pictures, some last-minute editing has had to take place.
As I say, some audiences won’t necessarily notice these changes, as they don’t really impact the story. However, if you are going into this movie expecting to see all the stuff you saw in the trailers, you will be disappointed.
But putting the editing aside, I’m going to circle back to my first criticism, because I feel it really is the most important thing to say about this movie: Morbius’ biggest gaffe is that it is just uninspiring. This film doesn’t work as an important addition to the Spider-Verse because it doesn’t challenge itself and it doesn’t work as a piece of entertainment because it’s boring.
Sure, there are the occasional attempts at humour, and when Leto and Smith aren’t trying to act each other off the screen, they are both entirely watchable, but nothing about this film feels satisfying. And perhaps worst of all, in an age of sequels and crossovers, nothing about Morbius makes me want to revisit this character for a follow-up.
When Venom came out in 2018, I was incredibly critical of the movie, pointing out its many flaws. However, over the past couple of years, I’ve softened somewhat on the picture, and while I still think it is rubbish, I do now see it as entertaining rubbish at the very least.
But I can’t see me ever softening on Morbius. Venom got a second chance because even when it was bad, I could see it was at least trying; but I don’t see anything even remotely interesting in Morbius.
Perhaps my most damning criticism of this whole film is that when it was all over, I simply didn’t care. I got up out of my seat, left the auditorium, and didn’t really think too much about until I started typing up these words.
I was very interested in Morbius when the movie went into production. Parts of it were even filmed in my home city of Manchester, which got me even more excited (even if some of those scenes have now been dropped from the movie).
But now that I have seen it, I feel disappointed. It’s not because the film didn’t meet my expectations, it’s more that it is so lacklustre it all feels like a waste of time.
Such a shame. This film could have been something special.