Last year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home was an incredible feat of storytelling that brought together three generations of the famous webhead. Not only that, but it became one of the most successful movies of all time. Given this critical and financial win, many might see it as a sign that Sony Pictures could be back on track with its own Spider-Man plans, the next of which being Morbius.
The Jared Leto-led film sees Doctor Michael Morbius accidentally turn himself into a vampire after trying to cure his rare blood disease. The character is originally known as one of Spidey’s many enemies in his vast rogue gallery—though, don’t expect to see any red and blue spandex here.
The biggest question, however, is: will it be any good? Well, the blunt answer? No, not really.
Let’s say this right out of the gate: the marketing for this film was ethically questionable at best. Sony threw in references to every live-action Spider-Man, yet most of them didn’t make it into the final product; no Tobey Maguire graffiti or Oscorp building being two of those examples.
A reference that did make it in was to Tom Hardy’s Venom, but it doesn’t make logical sense, seeing as Michael Morbius would have no idea that what he quoted was ever even said in the first place.
It’s pretty evident that the studio wanted to put all of those nods in the trailers to lure viewers into theaters, and not because any of it was organic to the story being told. So, if that happened to be anyone’s reason for seeing the project in the first place, it might be better to save the gas.
A Story That Doesn’t Stick
As for the film itself, the story moves at a fast pace; to a fault. The narrative breezes by every plot point, never giving enough time for anything to sink in. Many character motivations and relationships are short-changed because of this, leading to people making choices that don’t make much sense.
Watching the movie almost felt like sitting in a haze—nothing stuck. The story being told went through the usual motions, but absolutely none of it made an impact.
If audiences were hoping for a quality bump compared to Sony's previous entries, Venom and Venom: Let There Be Carnage, they won’t find any here; which is sad, given the bar isn’t very high to begin with. Though, it doesn’t hurt to dream.
Morbius the Heroic Vampire
Jared Leto as the leading character is, to be fair, simply okay. There’s nothing outright bad about his performance, but there’s also nothing remarkable either.
While the character comes from villainous origins in the comics, there isn't anything evil about Michael Morbius here. Sure, he may partake in some questionable science, but it’s clear he’s not a bad guy—which makes it harder to see him ever going up against a Spider-Man; why would he want to?
Comparing Morbius to what was done with Tom Hardy’s Venom character, the symbiote, while portrayed as the story’s hero, still retains enough of his villainous roots, keeping him firmly in that Anti-Hero category. Leto’s hero, however, doesn’t ever lean towards being a villain—anything terrible he happens to do in the story is because of a lack of control and is not any conscious choice by him.
The Side Players
Leto isn’t alone in his struggles. Next to him is Doctor Martine Bancroft, played by Adria Arjona. For anyone looking for a deep character, sadly, this isn’t the place.
It’s not a mark against Arjona’s performance—the actress does the best with what she’s given. Sadly, in the end, her purpose is only to give exposition, help out Morbius when needed, and be the damsel in distress.
Then there’s Tyrese Gibson and Al Madrigal, both of whom play FBI officers investigating the strange events throughout the film. Not only are they awful at their job, but the two of them could have been completely taken out of the movie and absolutely nothing would have been lost. Everything would have played out exactly the same way.
Matt Smith vs. The Script
Matt Smith plays a character named Milo, who ends up becoming the villain of the film. He isn’t a direct adaptation of anyone in any comic source material but does bear some similarities to Loxias Crown.
Smith is a fantastic actor, something he’s showcased time and time again. But just don’t take this performance, or character, as an example of his talents. All the fault here, however, goes to the writing and direction given to him; his antagonist simply isn’t good.
The story wanted so badly to have viewers connect with him and his relationship with Michael Morbius. Yet, an adequate amount of time and attention wasn’t given. Instead, it was all rushed into play, causing characters to make drastic choices simply because the plot demanded it.
The Vampiric Effects
Before getting to the bad stuff, it’s important to give credit where credit is due. The fluid way Morbius moves in action, with the wispy smoke trails following him, was a fantastic choice that made his abilities visually pleasing for audiences to watch.
Also, the design of Morbius is fantastic. Jared Leto’s Vampiric persona looks incredible; the catch being that the sentiment only applies to a small fraction of the times he’s on screen.
The special effects, in the end, fail more often than they succeed. The vampire faces can look really silly, and make it hard to latch onto any tension, or air of danger, that the story is trying to create.
The Nonsensical Conclusion
Morbius is filled to the brim with generic mediocrity, with more than a few straight-up bad bumps in the road. But the finishing act is where it all crashes down the hardest.
It is hard to make out what was happening in any of the final action sequences as they unfolded on screen. It's hard to discern what the surroundings were or what was even happening as characters threw punches. It was all just an uninterpretable and bombastic finishing set piece.
To cap it all off, certain events occurred that seemed out of the blue, and also had no logistical backing in the previous hour-plus of screen time. What was meant to be a triumphant moment ended up being one of immense confusion.
Sony Pictures Flailing About
It may seem odd to put focus on the post-credits scene for a review of the whole film, but here, it’s absolutely necessary. They are awful.
There are two scenes shortly after the credits begin rolling. The first logistically makes no sense at all and showcases that the powers at be may not have even watched their past Marvel projects.
The second one is above and beyond the worst. It felt like it was written by a six-year-old—and it’s not worth mincing words because it’s simply that bad. On top of being miserable writing, the logistical issues shine brightly here as well.
They will make many fans want to tear their hair out.
It’s all a very clear indication that Sony Pictures has no idea what they are doing with its Spider-Man properties. It wouldn't be surprising if another serious evaluation of the studios' future plans may be in the cards.
A Frustrating Disappointment
Despite all the harsh words, it isn’t the worst piece of cinema to grace the big screen. However, it is immensely frustrating, and ultimately a forgettable experience. That is, aside from those mindbogglingly bad after-credits scenes, which will make you want to claw out your eyeballs.
Having only seen the film hours ago, the experience is already fading from my memory; something I’m sure many audiences will relate to here in the coming days.
It’s sad that Sony Pictures doesn’t seem to be able to get any of its live-action projects right without the guiding hand of Marvel Studios. Maybe it's time they give in and allow some guidance from creative teams that know what they are doing.
Needless to say, this outing isn’t likely to get people excited for what comes next in Sony’s Spider-Man Universe—nor will many people be clamoring for more of the Living Vampire.
Morbius hits theaters on April 1 in theaters worldwide.