Morbius’ Rushed & Muddled Story Won’t Quench Audiences' Thirst
After years of delays, Morbius is finally coming to theaters and bringing the Living Vampire to the big screen. With Academy Award winner Jared Leto starring as the bloodthirsty antihero, Morbius is a rushed affair that hits all the beats of a superhero origin story as quickly as possible before giving Michael Morbius the ultimate test of confronting his very first supervillain. With a nonsensical narrative, uneven pacing, and dated special effects and storytelling sensibilities, Morbius is one of the weaker licensed superhero films in recent memory and could derail Sony's plans for their own Marvel shared universe.
For all their lives, Michael Morbius and his best friend Milo (Matt Smith) have suffered from a chronic blood disorder that left them physically weakened and facing the certainty of an early death. In order to develop a cure, Morbius dedicated his life to becoming the foremost blood expert in the world, undergoing radical experiments with vampire bats in his research. However, Morbius faces the dark price of his unorthodox gene-splicing techniques, effectively transforming into a superhuman figure with a persistent and deep hunger for human blood that puts him in a moral dilemma about his new lease on life.
Morbius hits the ground running, with the eponymous scientist and aspiring superhero already well along the way towards developing the serum that will transform him into a living vampire by the time the movie starts. This breakneck pacing continues throughout the film, with characters quickly descending into villainy or Morbius himself developing alternatives to his condition rapidly across the story. This movie wants to get through its story, leading to all manner of lapses in logic and glaring plot holes that not even an overuse of bad slow-motion in its action sequences can fix.
The big problem is that Morbius doesn't quite know what it wants to be. On the one hand, it takes direct cues from Venom as a good man is tortured by the monster that he has become before learning to use this against evil. Morbius feels much more derivative than Venom, however, with an uninspired approach. On the other hand, the movie wants to lean into vampiric horror but can only go so far within the content permitted by its PG-13 rating. Given the sheer amount of footage in its trailers but not in the final film, Morbius feels like a movie that was tampered with extensively throughout its stalled production.
Most of the cast members of Morbius aren't unwatchable, and there is a level of earnestness to their performances. Matt Smith is visibly having a blast with the opportunity to cut loose and embrace his inner villain as he plays off Leto's Morbius, with that unhinged energy giving the film a much-needed boost in its latter half. There is a talented cast and crew working on this project, which unfortunately isn't enough to save Morbius.
Morbius tries to recapture the magic of Venom and its sequel and build onto the shared cinematic universe, but the lackluster movie instead threatens to stop such ambitions dead in their tracks. There has already been much discussion about the clumsy handling of its ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which just highlights how confused Sony appears to be about its direction with its licensed Marvel properties. More than just uncertain of where to take its motley crew of antiheroes next, Morbius suggests that Sony doesn't know what to do with its growing line of Spider-Man spinoffs at all.