Morbius Review: This Superhero Vampire Movie Sucks

Sony so badly wants their own cinematic universe that they've wrought "Morbius," an absolutely dreadful piece of pre-packaged junk that throws a bunch of CGI ghoul faces our way and hopes for the best. A mash-up of vampire movies and '90s superhero flicks, "Morbius" is officially part of the studio's clunky, cobbled-together, ever-changing Sony's Spider-Man Universe, which no one will ever confuse for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Sony still has their grip on Spider-Man, they also have a whole slew of other Spider-adjacent characters at their disposal. They got lucky with "Venom," which succeeded despite its many flaws thanks to a highly recognizable main character and a more-than-game performance from Tom Hardy. No such luck this time.

"Morbius" star Jared Leto can go big and over-the-top if he wants to (just look at his recent turn in "House of Gucci"), but he's sleepily subdued here. So is everyone, really. There's no energy to be found in the film; nothing even close to a spark. Everyone shuffles through their scenes as if they're suffering from a cold medicine hangover. "Venom" is not what I'd call a good movie, but it never got boring. "Morbius" might very well put you to sleep. 

"Ah well," you might be saying. "Are the special effects good? Are we at least distracted by some big, cool superhero spectacle stuff?" Absolutely not. This is an ugly film, staged in non-descript rooms and sterile labs. Everything is awash in a Windex-like blue tint. There's no sense of scale — or place. If it weren't for several establishing shots of the New York skyline, we'd have absolutely no idea where "Morbius" is set. As for how, or why, this film connects to the larger Sony Spider-Man Universe, well, I'll leave that for you to discover, reader. Just know the results are about as dumb and disappointing as everything else that goes on in this puddle of garbage juice disguised as a movie. 

Leto is Dr. Michael Morbius, the type of brilliant scientist who is constantly being reminded of his brilliance by everyone around him. He also suffers from a deadly, and cinematically vague, blood disease that should've killed him by now. Instead, Morbius has devoted his life to trying to find a cure, for both himself and his life-long friend, Milo (Matt Smith), who suffers from the same ailment. During his acclaimed career, Morbius has gone ahead and invented life-saving synthetic blood — but he's still been unable to cure himself (and Milo). Finally, Morbius thinks he has the answer: crossing human blood with vampire bat blood and testing it on himself! The movie gives us some iffy explanations as to how this might work, but honestly, I didn't need them. It's fine. I know this is a ludicrous premise, and I have no problem with that. By all means, get silly! Unfortunately, there's no room for silliness here. "Morbius" doesn't want to stop for a single second and admit how goofy it is. Instead, it plows ahead with a Very Serious Tone constantly at war with what's actually happening up on the screen. 

In true "mad science run amok!" fashion, things don't go according to plan, and Morbius is transformed into a monster. He's sort of a vampire, in that he can fly around and sprout fangs and wear a trench coat like a cape. And oh yeah, he gets some superpowers! He's strong, and fast, and he can hear things really well now! He can turn into a cartoonish blur that blasts around a room. And he's also really, really close with bats. "They welcome me as a brother!" he narrates at one point, referring to his new winged pals. Sure, whatever you say, Morbius!

An inferior product

While all of these new skills might be seen as a blessing, they also come with a heavy burden. For one thing, Morbius can't quench his thirst for blood, which puts others around him in danger. For another, when he gets angry, the character is prone to having his face morph into a CGI mess, all ghoulish cheekbones, oversized fangs, and a snout-like nose. This is probably moot at this point, but gosh: what the hell ever happened to practical make-up effects? Remember the glory days of Rick Baker and those in his field? The type of artists who could take tangible materials and transform a human being into something otherworldly? That used to be magical. Movies used to be magic. And I want that magic back. 

But more often than not, it feels like those days are pretty much long gone, never to return. Why hire a creature makeup artist when you can just bury Jared Leto in digital nonsense? Maybe I'm grasping at straws here. But a film as shoddy and poorly planned as "Morbius" requires one to reach out for dear life, looking for something, anything, to cling on to. If we must be subjected to this drivel, can we at least have a sliver of relief here and there? Bring the magic back, that's all I'm saying. Give me something, people. Work with me. 

Morbius' new monster form leads to some deaths, which convinces the good doctor that this was all a mistake. But Milo doesn't care. He wants to be well again, and so against Morbius' advice, takes the human/bat blood cocktail himself. This allows Milo to become the film's villain. Why? Because that's what the plot calls for. Everything here is paint-by-numbers, and a hero needs a villain. Never mind that there's absolutely nothing to explain why Milo becomes a full-blown bad guy and Morbius remains noble. It doesn't matter. Smith, bless his heart, tries really hard to inject some sort of life into his character. But there's only so much he can do. He at least fares better than Adria Arjona, who is utterly forgettable as Morbius' fellow scientist, Martine. Since she's the main female character, that aforementioned paint-by-numbers approach requires her to become Morbius' love interest, even though Arjona and Leto have nothing even resembling chemistry. Characters will show up and attempt something resembling banter now and then, but the dialogue and delivery have all the cadence of a parakeet mimicking words. Scratch that; a parakeet would probably sell the lines better. And scenes in "Morbius" don't so much end as fizzle out. It's as if everyone runs out of things to say and then the editor gives up and cuts to something else. 

Perhaps the most infuriating thing about "Morbius" is how inert it ultimately is. This movie isn't aggressively bad, or bad in a fun, entertaining way. It's just plain old regular bad. It's bad in the way something uninspired is bad. Something that was constructed without an ounce of love, care, or interest. It's abundantly clear that no one involved here — not Leto, director Daniel Espinosa, nor writers Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless — has any investment in what they're creating. I'm guessing all of these folks have sat for interviews at one point or another during the film's marketing campaign and said "I love the character of Morbius and I'm excited to bring him to life!" or something close to that. If so, I assure you, they're not telling the truth. They're running through talking points. This is not a work of art made by people who care. This is a product. To be fair, all Hollywood movies are. But so many of them are better at convincing us otherwise. "Morbius" offers us nothing worth savoring. It exists simply to spawn sequels and spin-offs in true mercenary fashion. But just because we're being spoonfed this gruel doesn't mean we have to happily lap it up and ask for seconds. 

/Film Review: 4 out of 10