Sony is desperate to build a universe out of Spider-Man characters, independent of Spidey himself. With the popularity (if not the quality) of the Venom films, they’re full steam ahead on this quest. With the long delayed Morbius, it sure seems like first making good origin stories is not on their minds. This movie is messy, edited to ribbons, hard to follow (but without much of a plot), and never once makes a compelling case for why it exists. The character itself has a lot of potential, but little to none of it is seen here on the screen. Plus, Morbius somehow might have two of the worst credits sequences of the stinger era. This flick has basically sat on a shelf for three years, but for all the money, it feels like a forgettable relic from the 1990s.
Morbius has such an anonymous feel to it that it’s impossible to work up any strong feelings, one way or another. It’s bad in boring ways. The things it does well it does in such a forgettable key. This is the worst kind of mediocrity, since it’s clear the studio wasn’t sure what they wanted from it in the first place. Nothing set this film up for success, that’s obvious, but the execution still leaves a tremendous amount to be desired.
Biochemist Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) suffers from a rare blood disease, one he’s had since childhood. The leading researcher in his field, he’s been attempting to cure his illness, this time seeing the mixing of human and vampire bat DNA as the cure. Assisted by Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona), Morbius sees his initial failure turn into a success. Inadvertently, however, the process doesn’t just cure him of the disease. It also infects himself with a form of vampirism.
Not only does Morbius now require blood to survive (while gaining superhuman abilities), his childhood friend and financial backer Milo (Matt Smith), who suffers from the same disease, is infected the same way. The only difference is, while Morbius is struggling against some of his new instincts, Milo is giving in and beginning to kill. With the cops after them both, a confrontation is inevitable.
Jared Leto is fine here, but it’s a workmanlike performance that anyone could have done. For better or worse (sometimes both), Leto usually makes big choices. That’s the not the case here. On the other hand, at least Matt Smith is having a blast. He tries to chew as much of the scenery as possible. No one else looks like they’re having fun. This includes the aforementioned Adria Arjona, as well as supporting players like Tyrese Gibson, Jared Harris, Al Madrigal, and Charlie Shotwell. Even the cameo from Michael Keaton doesn’t get out unscathed. In fact, that’s somehow the nadir of this mess.
Director Daniel Espinosa is normally a solid action filmmaker. Here, he showcases very little of that. To be fair, the script from Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless gives him very little to work with. Still, the shoddy CGI, the sometimes incomprehensible editing/plotting, and the general blah-ness of it all is indicative of something having gone very wrong. Cinematographer Oliver Wood certainly is trying something with the action, but nothing about the visuals clicks. Then, there’s the ending. Botching the Keaton cameo and the credits sequences too, which are basically free bits of goodwill to generate, is a mind-boggling mistake for Espinosa and company.
Morbius is a boring and forgettable mess. Any comic book fare that is this much of a slog is never a good thing. If we see a sequel, there’s at least the kernel of something here to build on, but it’s impossible to leave this movie feeling optimistic about the character and his place in this Spider-Man world. Frankly, this film should have just stayed on the shelf, collecting dust.