SYNOPSIS: One of the most compelling and conflicted characters in Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters comes to the big screen as Oscar® winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder and determined to save others suffering the same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. While at first, it seems to be a radical success, a darkness inside him is unleashed. Will good override evil…or will Morbius succumb to his mysterious new urges?
Morbius, directed by Daniel Espinosa and starring Jared Leto, is – well, there’s just no other way to say this – surprisingly dull. Surprising, because it should have been a much better film with the cast it has and the opportunity to do some really outstanding effects. As it is, the CGI comes off as sub-standard and repetitive. As for the cast, only Jared Harris, who plays Michael Morbius’s guardian and mentor Emil Nikols, seems really invested in the narrative.
Jared Leto, who’s famous for being a method actor, has said in interviews that he didn’t need to go “method” for this role since it was so close to his own personality. For his sake, I hope that’s not true. If so, he’s a pretty bland guy. He’s not alone, though. None of the actors really seem like they want to be there. Perfunctory is how I’d describe most of the performances.
The film begins with a quite dramatic helicopter landing in a remote jungle somewhere unspecified. Dr. Michael Morbius and his crew are trying to reach a cave populated with thousands of vampire bats. It appears they want to capture them. With no transition other than the words “25 years earlier” on the screen, we’re transported back to Michael’s childhood in a hospital where he has spent most of his life due to a rare and debilitating blood disease that requires multiple transfusions every day to keep him alive. Another child, Milo, with the same disease, arrives and they become friends until Michael is sent away to a school for the uniquely gifted.
Again, with no real transition, he’s an adult, super scientist winning the Nobel Prize for inventing artificial blood. He had spent his career trying to find a cure for his condition as well as Milo’s and the few others suffering from the same disease. Adult Milo, played by Matt Smith, is also still alive, but in worse shape than Morbius. He is quite wealthy, though, and able to finance Michael’s research – hence the trip to find the bats. Michael has discovered that vampire bats have a unique enzyme that could be formulated to cure their disease, so Milo is all in.
Back in the laboratory, Michael’s colleague and love interest, Dr. Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) is working feverishly on the project. She’s not particularly believable as a scientist, and as a girlfriend, it doesn’t help that she and Leto have no chemistry.
Michael demands that Martine help him test the formula on himself, she warns him about the obvious danger but does it anyway. No surprises here. Of course, the formula “works” but has an alarming downside. Michael is suddenly feeling well and is amazingly buff – for a while. The cure is temporary. It requires that he ingest human blood or else he morphs into a monster that will go after it with no inhibitions. After all, the formula came from vampire bats. Morbius does not become a vampire in the traditional sense. He’s not charming and seductive. He’s hideous with a mouth full of dagger-like teeth. He tries using his artificial blood but soon realizes that it won’t be enough.
Milo learns of the formula and somehow doses himself with it – without Martine’s help – and shows up to thank Michael. Let’s just say that the two men have very different attitudes towards the cure. This is when the whole antihero thing kicks in for Michael. He vows to stop Milo no matter what it takes. Chases and battles ensue.
All of the rather lengthy chase/battle scenes expose the disappointing CGI used in this film. Bats’ power to use echolocation is the basis for Michael and Milo’s superpower. The formula gives them an enhanced ability to project forward to avoid obstacles and to be able to ride the sound waves. The effects consist of making the screen distorted and wavy and accompanying it with a loud, but distorted, booming sound – over and over again. The excessive repetition dilutes the effect to the point of annoyance. The outcome is predictable, as is just about every line in the script. If you think I’ve given away too much, just know that you’ll be able to know what the next line will be in most cases.
Tyrese Gibson is wasted as the police detective trying to nab Morbius. He phones in his performance and mostly looks like he doesn’t want to be there. His partner detective, Agent Rodriguez (Al Madrigal) is supposed to be the comic relief, but isn’t funny.
Michael Keaton gets prominent billing as Adrian Toomes – remember him from Spider-Man? In reality, he only has a cameo that foreshadows possible sequels. The cameo doesn’t do Keaton justice and is lackluster at best.
I was so disappointed in Morbius. I can’t in good conscience recommend it, but I am interested in how audiences will react.