Cert – 15, Run-time – 1 hour 44 minutes, Director – Daniel Espinosa
Revolutionary doctor Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) begins to experience vampiric abilities and behaviours when attempting to find a cure for his rare blood disease.
As Jared Leto’s Michael Morbius gazes upon the colony of vampire bats circling in flight around the glass enclosure he’s made for them in his lab he says to his recorder “I feel a kinship with these creatures. They would tear anyone else apart, but they welcome me; like a brother”. It’s a somewhat emotionless reading, and yet shows more borderline romantic feelings than any form of horror within this latest adaptation within Sony’s Marvel canon. The reason for the bats being present is that acclaimed Dr. Morbius believes that they can help him cure the rare blood disease which has rendered him in pain and disabled for much of his life. However, when he executes his plan he finds himself gaining vampire abilities and behaviours. And with his revolutionary artificial blood having reducing effect he soon finds himself having to resort to actual human blood.
Yet, with all the vampire possibilities and alleged darkness that the film tries to create there’s little in terms of an actual fear factor throughout. The biggest sense of anything scary being emitted from the film is that from the studio, which feels too scared to actually stray into any effective horror territory – it is still possible with a PG-13 rating, it’s possible with a PG rating! – and to show any proper glimpses of gore, only coming close to teasing it before moving quickly on. The core feeling that the film ends up emitting is something quite drab and toneless. Providing something that simply falters and never manages to grab your attention amongst a generic narrative which feels more suited to a comic book adaptation of 15-20 years ago.
As Leto’s character battles his own growing inner-demon (or rather, vampire) he finds an adversary in former friend Milo (Matt Smith) – who everyone, including the screenwriters, appear to forget is actually called Lucien. As the two begin to feud and scrap with their new abilities, Milo/ Lucien having had the same disease as Michael, we’re shown a blur of lacklustre CGI-infused fight and flight sequences, where the poor CG becomes the main focus for the viewer. Leto is often accused by some of ACTING, however here he’s somewhat restrained from what the perception of his performances can sometimes be. However, in the case of Smith he certainly seems to have been passed at least the Acting baton. Following on from a villainous turn in Last Night In Soho he slightly brings some of that role in here (although the latter was largely filmed after primary filming of Morbius had concluded), however here he brings in hints of a character from Last Of The Summer Wine turning into a panto villain crossed with a 90s Batman villain without the campness. While not exactly terrible it’s not always the most subtle of performances.
While Sony’s previous two Marvel character features (both Venom films) at some point understood their own ridiculousness and managed to create a sense of amusement and entertainment within Morbius never grasps that. Instead it aims for a sense of darkness and drama without ever drawing upon any effective tone and themes. Too afraid to lean into horror it constantly feels hesitant and held back, to the point of feeling like something from another era of comic-book adaptations. There’s never anything in terms of tone and style to grab you and bring you in to the quite drab and unappealing look of the film, particularly when coated in poor CGI. All leading to something which feels as emotionless as the titular character’s alleged kinship with the bats that have provided him with his vampiric powers. Powers which only really feel present for plot necessity.
Dated and toneless, Morbius’ biggest issue is that it feels afraid of itself. Scared to step into proper horror territory the final product simply feels bland and lacking in any proper substance. It needs to do more to be less boring.