Sony is expanding its cinematic universe beyond the Venom films with the introduction of another Spider-Man villain, Morbius. The movie presents itself as an origin story for the anti-hero using the same formula from previous films that Marvel has done in the early days of superhero films. Director Daniel Espinosa tries to frame this as a horror film mixed in with superhero tropes, but it ultimately leaves the story to be underwhelming and plays it safe without going out of the box.
As an origin story, we see Jared Leto tackling the character of Michael Morbius, a doctor who was born with a rare blood disease and is in search of a cure. Thanks to his scientific research, he has created artificial blood that has saved many lives. On his side are his co-worker and love interest Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) and his childhood friend Milo (Matt Smith) who also shares the same ailment as him. In a desperate attempt to cure his blood disease, Morbius tries an experimental treatment that mixes vampire bat DNA with his own blood. What results is a monstrous transformation into a vampire-like creature that craves blood in order to survive.
One of the issues that the film has is a lack of buildup with Morbius as a character and follows a simple outline. We don’t get much background into Morbius’ condition and we go straight into his transformation without any explanation. We have many superheroes and villains who thread similar origin stories and it seems as if Morbius is struggling to set itself apart. As far as how it relates to the future of the character and his role in the wider universe, Morbius ends abruptly just as things get interesting. The film serves more like a set-up for sequels as the story fast-tracks through without any way to advance the character.
It is also visually heavy in CGI where it is easy to see that the film relies on it more than usual. It doesn’t appeal to the eyes when we see Morbius speeding through enemies like a blur and how dark everything is on camera, making it hard to follow where he is. When we see his vampiric transformation, it’s clear as day to see that the visual effects were done on his face to give him that appearance rather than anything practical. Most of the misty atmosphere that surrounds Morbius can be a little off whenever he uses his abilities like sonar hearing or flying. We don’t feel that awe of excitement whenever Morbius flies through the streets of New York like we do a certain web-slinger.
Morbius is like a piece of a puzzle that doesn’t fit where it needs to when it comes to the plot and its characters. However, Matt Smith does bring a certain gravitas to his performance as a power-hungry opposite of our hero. With his flamboyant energy, Smith’s Milo goes on a journey of his own that puts him in collision with Leto’s Morbius. We see these two friends become foes, with Smith delivering a great performance as a villain in the scenes he was in. However, it just wasn’t enough to match the film’s overall dark tone. It also suffers from being very serious when most of the material here can be silly and ends up not embracing how goofy the situation in the movie can be.
Even the other supporting characters don’t serve much of a purpose in the film. Actors like Arjona or even Tyrese Gibson don’t get enough screen time to see the connection with our main character. Visual effects work great when you deal with characters like Venom since he is a monstrous character that relies on CGI to make him interact with others. Having that be the same with Morbius just doesn’t have the same effect. It seems like the film focuses so much on Morbius’ connections to Sony’s Spider-Man Universe that it forgets to tell a cohesive story about a man trying to do right in the world at the cost of his own humanity.
Morbius ultimately doesn’t bring anything new to the table in the superhero genre, failing to see the potential to mix in some horror elements into a film like this. The story feels out of place in certain scenes, as if there is more that was shot that never made it to the final cut. Much of the movie feels like an afterthought and only makes us interested in seeing how this character hits into Sony and Marvel’s plans in the multiverse of things. What is most infuriating is how unnerving Morbius ends up being. It seems like not enough work has been put into the film to satisfy Marvel fans, which is what seems to be what the film suffers from.