Julien Neaves, Editor
Critics have torn apart the third entry in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe (SSU), dark superhero film Morbius. Starring Jared Leto as ailing doctor turned vampiric anti-hero Dr Michael Morbius, the movie really is as bad as everyone is saying. And it is no exaggeration to call it one of the worst Marvel movies and superhero movies ever, and doubly so if we are only considering the modern era. And after the piss poor excuse for a film that was Venom: Let There Be Carnage I am seriously worried for the rest of the SSU.
But we are here to talk about Morbius, and I will admit that like a candle in a crapstorm there are a couple lights in this mess which save the movie from being completely unwatchable. With a big bloody SPOILER ALERT let’s discuss the four reasons this movie sucks hard and then the two saving graces.
Suckage Reason #1 PG-13 Neutering
A superhero movie where the hero drinks his enemies’ blood and rips them apart with his claws? That sounds like some fantastic R-rated fun. Unfortunately, the SSU is a PG-13 universe (mass market appeal and all that) so despite its subject matter Morbius is a relatively bloodless affair. The bloodsucking and violence is quite tame and, save for one goon getting his throat cut, there is no gore to be found.
Now making it R-rated and pouring on the red stuff may not have saved the film, but it could have made it more entertaining.
Suckage Reason #2 Horrifying CGI
Remember the awful looking CGI of the late 90s and early 2000s. Well apparently the VFX team working on Morbius did, because the effects here look super dated and almost laughably bad. Almost. The vampire faces on Morbius and villain Milo (Matt Smith) look super fake and ugly. And yes, they are supposed to look like “ugly” vampiric creatures, but they just look like bad Halloween masks. Every time Morbius transformed I would cringe at how bad it looked.
And things would only get worse when the anti-hero began to move. They do this weird, smoky effect, with each movement which makes no sense in story (his powers are scientific, not magical) and is quite distracting, but I guess it helped to hide how poorly realised all the jumping and flying looked. One scene where old M flies in front of a subway train and does a Matrix on a rooftop are particularly appalling. And they frequently do the whole slo mo effect which is supposed to heighten the intensity of the action but only serves to highlight how dull and uninspired the set pieces are. Even the climactic battles between Morbius and Milo land with all the intensity of a wet wad of toilet paper. If you’re looking for engaging vampire hero action then you would be better off with the first two Blade movies. You’re not going to find any here.
Suckage Reason #3 Paint By Numbers Script
I mentioned the lazy CGI felt like a throwback to films of decade past. Well, the plot feels like a throwback to early MCU films, with its basic, super predictable origin story, threatened love interest, and the hero battling a mirror version of themselves. This may have worked in 2008 or 2009 but in 2022 these trope have long worn out their welcome.
Also wearing out their welcome are the bland characters populating this world. Adria Arjona is gorgeous but her scientist character is as interesting as toast buttered with more toast, and her chemistry with Morbius is as cold as the vamp’s clammy skin. Fast and Furious franchise’s Tyrese Gibson sleepwalks his way through his role as an FBI agent and Al Madrigal is a bit more interesting as his quipping partner, but not by much. Jared Harris as mentor figure Dr Emil Nicholas could have been replaced with a house plant without losing any charisma. And what about Morbius himself? So glad you asked!
Suckage Reason #4 Subpar Anti-hero
I mentioned the Blade franchise earlier and it is apt to mention it here again. In the first film they took care to flesh out the main character and then built the film around him. But with Morbius we get a couple scenes and a few character beats and then we are thrown into the deep end. He’s a doctor with a debilitating lifelong disease. He’s had it from childhood. He really wants to cure it and also cure his childhood friend. He’s a bit weird and emo and quirky. And then he’s a vampire anti-hero. We don’t get time to invest in the protagonist, so when the dramatic turn happens it is difficult to care. And it becomes increasingly difficult to care about anything else that happens to him.
And Jared Leto is a talented actor but he has little to work with here. Even with that little he kind of just resigns himself to full-on brooding. If you check it, there is little difference between the personalities of pre-vamp Morbius and post-vamp Morbius, though physically he does get some ABS which should make the ladies happy. And we are supposed to believe he is haunted by killing all those random mercs, but they were conveniently some gun-toting ne’er-do-wells which, as Milo rightly pointed out, makes it okay to savagely murder them according to movie logic. If he had killed a bunch of innocents then I would have bought it, and that would not only have made him more morally gray but a more complex character study. But no, in the PG-13 SSU our heroes can be bloody, but they can’t have innocent blood on their hands or be too bloody. Why they decided to adapt a vampire comic character and go with basically the conservative network television route is beyond me, but it is a huge waste of an interesting character.
So that’s all the negatives. Now let’s chat about the two positives in the film aka the diamonds in the turd pile.
Saving Grace #1 Post Credits Cameo
I am a huge fan of Michael Keaton (aka the best live action Batman ever) and his turn as Adrian Toomes/The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming is easily the best aspect of that film. So even after suffering through the drudgery of the film I was excited to see him in the mid-credits cameo. Though I’m not sure what route they are going by having him potentially team up with Morbius. The beginnings of an anti-hero Sinister Six maybe? Only time will tell.
Saving Grace #2 Call Me Milo
And here it is folks. The only other reason to watch Morbius besides the two Vulture post-credits scenes. I have been a huge fan of Matt Smith since his breakout role as the Eleventh Doctor on seminal British Sci Fi series Doctor Who (you’ll find a lot of that on this site) and I am always happy when he appears on film and television. And as Lucien “Milo” Morbius he gives the only noteworthy performance in the film. I suspect Smith suspected that he was in something of a stinker with this movie, and so he just lets loose and has fun with his vampire baddie. In villain mode he is wild and over the top and so entertaining. And, unlike our anti-hero, his pain and desire to be cured feels real and palpable. Like Leto he also had little to work with, but he worked every line and scene. And I even felt bad when he died, even if the manner was bland and anti-climactic.
So huge kudos to Matt Smith for making a practically unwatchable film barely watchable. Because if you take him out all you are left with is…
So what did you think of Morbius? Was there anything you liked? Sound off in the comments. And you can check out more Spider-Man related movie content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.