Morbius review: A drab superhero flop
Clarity of vision2
Ian Loring | On 19, May 2022
Director: Daniel Espinosa
Cast: Jared Leto, Matt Smith, Jared Harris
Perpetually delayed, Morbius’ six different release dates were always followed around by a trail of “its gonna be bad though, right?”. Venom managed to escape from that stink by being genuinely unhinged at moments, allowing the audience to be in on the fun. You can see Sony using this in the marketing for Morbius – Dr Michael Morbius at your service, indeed – but it always felt like a stretch, a film dying to be one of the cool kids but based on a lower-tier character.
Morbius opens promisingly. The title sequence has a cool vibe with fantastic use of purple. The opening minute or so? A+ stuff. The end credits also follow this style and they’re equally terrific (before any mid-credits stings occur, at least). The content between the opening titles and closing credits, however? Oh dear.
Morbius is a film that emphatically does not know what it is. A key part of this comes down to Jared Leto, a man who really puts his all into material elsewhere, for better or worse, but here seems to have taken the sickly nature of his character pre-vampiric transformation and applied it to the rest of the runtime. He looks good without a shirt on but the performance is that of a man who is just so very tired. Barely getting above a monotone register throughout, it is hard to care about him or his problems.
Further impacting this is Matt Smith who gives, by a stretch, the best performance in the entire cast as the villainous Milo. Smith doesn’t seem to understand the dour assignment given to him and instead comes to play. He’s vicious, he’s a dick but he’s charismatic and you’d be hard pressed not to wish that he was Morbius by the end of proceedings.
There’s also a choppiness to the film. It feels like, despite the Covid-19 delays, it needed more time to cook. While the first half or so runs along at a sensible enough clip, the further the film goes on, the more it seems like every other scene was just cut. Adria Arjona’s Martine is a kinda-sorta love interest at first but we’re suddenly supposed to believe that they have a great love (the lack of chemistry doesn’t help), as it just escalates incredibly quickly.
Jared Harris’ character also seems to have got lost in the shuffle. Who exactly is he? A doctor, a psychiatrist, a day nurse? All could be true and, despite the beginning flashback setting him up as Morbius’ father figure, he spends most of his time with Milo. Also, pity poor Tyrese Gibson, a far too big name for the role afforded to him here, again with a lot obviously cut to achieve a runtime designed for maximum amount of plays per day on the big screen.
Daniel Espinosa’s handling of the material feels like it just got away from him. What he was able to control isn’t particularly impressive. There are a couple of interesting visual motifs but they’re rather lost in drab cinematography and what little action there is is competently staged but buried in CG.
Morbius feels like a creative team harkening back to the pre-MCU days where Fox would spit out an Elektra film in the hopes of getting some quick, creatively bankrupt cash. It seems to exist purely to try and get people to watch another one. It is aggressively drab stuff that could have been interesting but constantly gets in its own way.