A bland, poorly directed, poorly written mess of bad VFX and shoddy editing that wastes its otherwise talented cast on a movie that can't even be enjoyed for camp appeal.
- Decent emotional subplot between Morbius and Milo/Lucian
- Matt Smith
- Incomprehensible action scenes
- Cringe-worthy, cliched dialogue
- Bad-looking VFX
- Bizarre editing choices
- Waste of a big-name cast
- Self-serious tone, with lack of self awareness
- Lame, nonsensical post-credits scenes
Oh wow. I haven’t seen a superhero movie as bad as Morbius since the early 2000s. In an era comprising of legitimately bad comic book movies like Elektra, Ghost Rider, The Punisher (2004) or Catwoman, Morbius would perfectly fit like a disposable glove.
At least Venom, as a throwback movie, had the good sense to recognize it wasn’t a good movie, and treated itself with a sense of self-awareness that made the nonsense campy fun. The same cannot be said for Morbius. How this is possible in a post-MCU, post-Dark Knight world is astonishing.
The film centers on Dr. Michael Morbius; a brilliant jerk with a rare blood disease who thumbs his nose at the Nobel prize and tries to cure himself, but ends up "Jekyll and Hyde"-ing after his miracle cure turns him into a vampire. Unfortunately, it also turns his sickly buddy, Matt Smith (aka Milo/Lucian) into one too. But since he’s the bad one, Morbius has to stop him. That’s the full story.
Much of the film is unwatchable. I’m not necessarily talking about acting or writing (we’ll get there), I mean that in the literal sense. Every action scene we are "treated" to is filmed with a hyper-kinetic style that makes what you’re viewing virtually incomprehensible. I literally couldn’t tell what the characters were doing half the time, whether it was dodging bullets or clawing, scratching and hissing at each other as the camera spins upside-down and right-side up. Between that and the shoddy VFX work, in which literal blurs that are supposed to represent characters can’t stop moving around on screen, it’s a wonder how the hell the movie made it into the light of day. After over two years of delays that Sony could have used constructively to fix this, it feels like they didn’t do squat.
I can only assume the blame will go to director Daniel Espinosa (Life). His visual style makes the movie feel like it should be renamed "Morbius, the Living Seizure." But beyond that, this movie is also bizarrely edited. You have these terrible cuts in the final scene where random shots are meant to establish future sequels, the weirdest spliced post-credits scenes ever, subplots involving Tyreese and Al Madrigal that go nowhere (and were probably trimmed) and exposition scenes in the beginning that are oddly, non-linearly constructed. It’s a grand mess.
Speaking of messes, let’s talk about the screenplay by the Gods of Egypt team of Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. The film’s script teeters between joylessly bland/dull and cringeworthy. When you have strong actors, like Jared Harris spouting out derivative lines like "I’m disgusted (dramatic pause) at what you’ve become," combined with really terrible comic relief one-liners from Madrigal or Leto (his "I am Venom" scene makes zero sense, among many other things), you come out flabbergasted that any actor agreed to repeat these lines on film.
The movie is littered with bad science scenes and cliched moments that take their cues from better films. There’s literally a scene in this that’s such a rip off of Batman Begins, down to the copycat score, that I gave myself a migraine from how hard I rolled my eyes (though that may also just be an overall side-effect of watching Morbius).
Ironically, if the movie were as self-aware as Venom it would be able to get away with such flaws, and actually be enjoyable. Unfortunately, it’s so horribly self-serious, that it’s reduced Leto into a fate worse than camera mugging — boredom.
Leto gives a very flat performance, which is uncharacteristic of him. Say what you will, but Leto’s reputation is such that he never does anything this straightforward. But his Michael Morbius is a boring character. In between the blurry, hissy scenes, he’s basically just vacantly starring at lab equipment and making sarcastic cracks that fall as flat as his performance.
As for the supporting players, I’ll just summarize the state of the roles for some of the film’s biggest stars: Jared Harris does nothing. Tyreese does nothing. Al Madrigal does nothing. Adria Arjona is reduced to being the girlfriend and damsel in distress. The only one who seems to be livening up the proceedings is Matt Smith, whose Lucian is arguably one of the more sympathetic characters in the film; certainly the one supporting character we get the most character development on. Smith hams up scenes of himself dancing and screaming to the top of his lungs. He clearly knows what movie he’s in.
On an actual positive note, the relationship between Smith’s character and Morbius’ is something of the heart of the movie. Though it could have used a bit more development, it is the most defined relationship and something of a tragic one. It may be the one redeeming quality the movie has going for it, even if the abrupt change to Smith’s character midway through the film sinks it and the film never again attempts to make the character or his situation sympathetic.
Morbius is a rarity in the modern age of comic book films, and not in a good way. It is a testament to how, while some studios might learn from their mistakes, others learn very little from the negative impact of bad comic book movie adaptations. This one stands out as a dated, boring film with bad visual effects, nonsensical writing, bland acting and dizzying direction. Add to that infuriating post-credits scenes that laughably make zero sense, other than once more exposing Sony’s impatience at setting up some Sinister Six crossover event, and you have another major setback in the long line of failed attempts to legitimize the Sony Spider-Man Universe.
Morbius will debut in movie theaters on April 1 worldwide.
Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland.
You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.
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