The newest Sony Marvel film is a messy slog
Despite having some of the more interesting Marvel characters (Spider-Man and its surrounding villains), Sony Studios has been incapable of milking them with the success that Disney has with lesser-known properties (Ant-Man? Guardians of the Galaxy?). In the ambiguous new stage of cinematic universes colliding, Sony continues to build out its Spider-Man villains with standalone movies. First came the surprising success of the mediocre Venom films, and now a new entry has come in the vampiric Morbius (2022).
Morbius follows the eponymous scientist Michael Morbius (Jared Leto), who is crippled with a blood disorder, but decides to push the limits of science and sequence his own DNA with that of a bat’s to find a cure. This works in curing him of his disease, but also turns Michael into a super-powered vampire. He will have to fight his own urges of feeding on human blood while he seeks to take control of his situation.
Morbius is directed by Swede Daniel Espinosa, who has delivered some sub-par films from great premises, such as a serial killer of children in Soviet Russia with Child 44 (2015) or the claustrophobic alien movie in a space station with Life (2017). With Morbius Espinosa seems to have become completely undone. This Sony picture feels like an absolute mess that could not have come from the mind of a single man. Much of Morbiusfeels as if an amateur editor had found partial footage of a film and spliced it together without having read the original script. The entire structuring of Morbius is a complete jumble, neither striving for character or plot clarity. There is no clear vision with the narrative, no message, journey, or arc that the film is seeking to show. Instead, Morbius seems like the type of last-minute homework assignment that was thrown together without even reading the prompt.
Morbius has had innumerable delays of its release date. Originally slated to come out in 2020, because of COVID-19 it has been continually pushed back until today April, 2022. With all this added time, perhaps a re-edit by the studio was forced, however, this seems to have worked against Morbius rather than providing clarity or simplification. Likewise, with all the added time, the actual editing and visual effects of the film look extremely outdated. The shaky-cam and CGI effects used that were cheekily of the times in the early 2000s, but make unwarranted appearances in Morbius, cheapening its tone and action sequences to a laughable degree. This call-back to the early 2000s, also reminds viewers of the type of tacky superhero fare we used to have. Morbius seems to have taken a page out of those films and created the blandest and most generic origin story that could be thought of today. Superheroes and vampires have been done to death (no pun intended) in the last twenty years; instead of trying to spin something new with its two premises (like the cheesy Blade films did in the 1990s), Morbius sticks dully to its mold.
The greatest tragedy of Morbius is the let-down that star Jared Leto must feel. Leto had been a big fan of the comic book character and had wanted to bring him to the screen for years (he also executive producedMorbius). You see a certain commitment from the American actor to the role, but the terrible lines, absent directing, and chaotic editing completely relegate his participation to a footnote in the experience of the film. Likewise, the supporting cast is completely misused, from an exaggerated Matt Smith as the villain, to a criminally underused Jared Harris as parental figure. Sony and Espinosa had all the pieces for an intriguing take on worn-out tropes, yet they fall below the worst expectations.
Morbius is an absolute mess of a film, it can’t decide what it is, or even what story it’s trying to tell. From the cheap plot, to the nauseating editing, and even worse directing, Morbius is the worst superhero film since Fantastic Four (2015) (another film which was reportedly taken over by a studio against a director’s wishes). Morbius can’t even get its classic post-credits scenes right, confusing viewers as to the future of the character rather than making them excited for what’s to come. If you can’t even get such a streamlined concept correct, how could you have any hope for the rest.