Those confused by the continuing random randomness of Sony Pictures’ Spider-Man business plan aren’t likely to get a clearer view after a viewing of Morbius, a non-awaited adaptation of yet another Spider-Man foe that contains virtually no mention of the erstwhile wallcrawler.
Now, I could understand (and barely forgive) the studio’s decision of forging ahead with two Venom movies in a Spider-Man-adjacent universe when you consider the symbiote’s sizable cult following, but as a huge fan of Peter Parker’s swinging alter ego and the world he lives in, even I was confused as to why there’s now a movie out featuring the decidedly C-list living vampire.
Still, I’m sure Blade – Marvel’s other fanged anti-hero – had people wondering the same thing back in the 90’s, so maybe we’ll all get lucky and enjoy a comic book vampire movie that ironically doesn’t suck…
After a lifelong, blood related illness that requires multiple top ups of the red stuff a day, Michael Morbius has grown into a prestigious biochemist who has vowed to cure himself, his childhood friend Milo and anyone else who suffers the from the same affliction. After whipping up a serum that involves the DNA of vampire bats, Morbius proves he has the same grasp of basic, scientific health and safety as every other Spider-Man villain and tests the antidote on himself on a boat in the middle of international waters under the supervision of friend/colleague/romantic interest Dr. Martine Bancroft. To the surprise of no one, Morbius undergoes an instant, monstrous transformation as he essentially becomes a living vampire with the urge to guzzle blood, but after finding a temporary fix by stuffing his face with artificial blood instead, he hopes to find a cure for his cure.
Aided by Martine, Michael finds that his new condition grants him super strength, speed and the ability if echo location which I assume would be priceless if you regularly lost your keys, but pros doesn’t stop him from lamenting the cons. Milo, however, is sick and tired of being tired and sick and as the money man behind Michael’s experiments, he steals the serum with no regard of the blood sucking side effects and takes to life as a living vampire like a duck to water.
Initially framed for the blood drained deaths Milo leaves in his wake, Morbius realises that he has to stop his childhood buddy before things get bloody and he evades the police as he seeks to end both the life of his friend and himself in order to bring this man made curse to a halt. But Milo isn’t going to give up immortality so easily and the ensuing grudge match will place the lives of their mutual loved ones in mortal danger.
While not quite the unwatchable, re-edited, car crash some might have have you believe, Morbius still stinks of the same, cynical, hack job inflicted on David Ayers’ Suicide Squad that constantly has only one eye on trivial things like story and characterization while the other is leering over the things that really matter – shoehorning a couple of truly dreadful post credit sequence to tease a team movie that will most likely never happen. It’s Amazing Spider-Man 2 all over again…
So, before I put the boot in, does anything work about Morbius at all? Frustratingly, yes. The opening twenty minutes sets things up rather competently (aside from Michael choosing to attract bats by carving open his palm with a buck knife – you might be needing those tendons, chief), we chart a direct line from Morbius’ pained childhood to his early friendship with Milo. However, the moment he jabs himself with his wonder serum and turns into a CGI-faced ghoul with the nose of Tubbs from League Of Gentlemen, something noticably goes wrong with the editing and suddenly plot logic and scene coherence make like Spider-Man in a locked room and promptly goes out the window.
All the plot inconsistencies and sizable kinks in logic that could derail a story is something Marvel Studios have managed to perfect ironing out of scripts for around ten years now, Sony on the other hand gives us a scene where the stealthy villain tells the easy to track female lead that he intends to kill Michael and she immediately goes to see him immediately after. There’s no progression to Morbius’ shakily defined powers either – he stumbles upon them in a montage and then immediately is a pro just to give the pace a kick in the arse it regularly needs. Another problem is that with his super speed being realised as leaving whispy smoke in his wake and his echo location sending CGI ripples coursing through the screen, you’ll need some bloody sonar yourself to squint through the computer generated muck to have any idea what’s going on during the murky, final confrontation.
The leads are all serviceable with Jared Leto – freed from the mounds of latex and weird accents of House Of Gucci – making his anti-hero surprisingly level headed and sensible while Matt Smith and Adria Arjona play basic friend-turned-enemy and love interest respectively. However, while the former seems to be having a legitimate giggle chew the scenery along with the odd jugular, his CGI vampire visage is worse than the ones featuted in the Fright Night reboot and which distractingly give him the hollowed out cheeks of Abraham Lincoln’s ghost.
Stupid, slapdash and, worst of all, blatantly unnecessary, Morbius also comes saddled with possibly the most shitty post credit stings we’ve seen in quite a while with them being noticably cobbled together from footage that featured in the tailers that suspiciously don’t show up in the movie.
Whether Sony manage to finally get their wish and make the Sinister Six team movie no one actually wants is unknown, but with Kraven The Hunter being filmed as we speak and a Madame Web movie on the horizon, nothing seems to be able to stop the studio from compiling these random titles together even though they have no Spider-Man to connect them. It’s kind of like collecting all the Infinity Stones but forgetting to forge a gauntlet and it feels the only way they can restore any goodwill is to steal some from Spider-Man: No Way Home and announce Andrew Garfield as this universe’s Spidey.
Anyway, whatever they do, Morbius is another entry that will leave what little faith you have in Sony’s Spiderverse ending like one of the living vampire’s unfortunate victims.
Drained as fuck.